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Cyprus

Volume 713: debated on Wednesday 28 October 2009

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken, in co-operation with other European Union member states, to press both sides in the current negotiations for a resolution of the Cyprus dispute.

My Lords, the current negotiations probably represent the best chance that Cypriots have to resolve the Cyprus conflict. It is important that a solution to the ongoing division of the island is agreed by Cypriots, for Cypriots. The process has the strong support of the UK, the European Union and the wider international community. The UK Government continue to meet with representatives of both sides on a regular basis in order to reinforce our support for a solution.

I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. I am conscious that after 45 years of on/off negotiations this looks to be a possibility of a negotiation, but the arguments for failure are still there on both sides. We have a new Greek Government who are much more favourable to a settlement. We have a Turkish Government who are less in hock to the military or what the Turks call the deep state than before, but the locals have some difficulty in agreeing.

Are the British Government and their allies in the European Union pushing hard enough to persuade both sides in the Cypriot debate to overcome their local opposition?

I thank the noble Lord and point out that, as I said in my Answer, the entire international community is intent on giving every possible support to the negotiators working hard in Cyprus. We very much welcome the number of weekly meetings—they have doubled—that now take place between the leaders. The European Union is actively supporting the process through the provision of technical advice through the good offices mission, which will help to facilitate this process and has contributed €259 million in an aid package to the Turkish Cypriots. Everyone is making a concerted effort at this time.

My Lords, perhaps I may ask my noble friend shortly and succinctly precisely what the United Kingdom is doing to help relieve the isolation of the Turkish community. Has the EU done enough?

Clearly, my noble friend makes a very important point. The isolation of the Turkish community concerns them very much and all of us who are observing the process. This is one of the difficulties we face, as well as property issues, the isolation of the north and trade. But the answer has to be that the only way to resolve all these difficult issues is to have a comprehensive settlement agreed by both sides. Those discussions are, thankfully, going on.

My Lords, following the admirable example of brevity set by the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, have we the British Government done enough? Are we backing President Obama who took special efforts to support Turkey and the increasingly crucial role of Turkey in the Middle East and, in energy terms, supplying Europe? Are we right behind him in seeing that the Turkish Republic—

Are we right behind President Obama in seeing that the Turkish Republic gets a proper and fair deal in coping with the Cyprus situation?

We have clear evidence from both the President and the Prime Minister of Turkey of their commitment and engagement with this issue. They have regular discussions and they are in total support of the negotiations taking place between the north and the south. Like all of us, they hope that they have a successful outcome.

My Lords, given that the membership of the European Union includes Greece and the Greek Cypriots, and not Turkey or the Turkish Cypriots; given that the European Union dishonoured its promise to allow the isolation of Turkish Cyprus to end if it voted for the Annan Plan; and given the fact that several European Union countries are now carrying out joint military exercises with the Greek Cypriot forces, is it not better that our Government give full support to the United Nations sponsored talks in Cyprus for a settlement and do not involve an organisation which is perceived in northern Cyprus to be biased?

My Lords, what I can say to the noble Lord on this issue is that the United Kingdom and the European Union are supporting and facilitating all the efforts that have been made for the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging economic development in the Turkish Cypriot community and bringing Turkish Cypriots closer to Europe through financial aid and trade liberalisation.

My Lords, does my noble friend accept that a resolution to the Cyprus problem is essential to a better working relationship between the EU and NATO? Will Her Majesty’s Government give their full support to that resolution?

I thank my noble friend for the question. In terms of a closer relationship with NATO and many other issues, including those concerning the European Union, naturally a resolution settlement would bring all those things within our sights.

My Lords, does the Minister not agree that a key factor in the negotiations for Cyprus is the progress or lack of it in Turkey’s own application to join the European Union? If she does agree, will she say what the Government are doing to bring home to those members of the European Union who are blocking the accession negotiations that they are actually putting at risk the best opportunity there has been for some time to reach a settlement on the Cyprus problem?

I thank the noble Lord and I know well his very strong commitment to the issue of Turkey’s accession to the EU. Turkey’s accession would of course contribute to our future security, stability and prosperity too. We have to establish a clear path towards EU standards in these negotiations. The recent European Commission report on enlargement paid particular attention to what is happening so far as Turkey is concerned and said that while serious progress is being made, we need to see acceleration on a number of points of which the noble Lord will be aware. We are conscious of a certain disaffection in some member states on this issue, but that is not the case for the UK Government. We will continue to maintain our position in the hope that in the future we can ensure that Turkey accedes to the European Union.