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Northern Cyprus

Volume 734: debated on Wednesday 1 February 2012


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the United Nations Secretary-General’s comments on the lack of progress of talks on the future of Cyprus, whether they will now consider recognising Northern Cyprus.

My Lords, the United Kingdom remains committed to supporting the UN-led process on Cyprus. Although only limited progress was achieved at the latest round of talks between the two leaders and the United Nations Secretary-General, the process has not ended. The UN Secretary-General has called for a decisive move to reach a final agreement, and will provide a report to the Security Council at the end of February.

My Lords, the Minister may recall that, writing in the Times on 8 November 2010, Jack Straw said:

“It is time for the UK Government to consider formally the partition of Cyprus if the talks fail”.

The talks he referred to did fail, as did the next and latest. In the same article, Jack Straw also said that,

“the chances of a settlement would be greatly enhanced if the international community broke a taboo, and started publicly to recognise that if ‘political equality’ cannot be achieved within one state, then it could with two states—north and south”.

Does my noble friend the Minister agree with Jack Straw on this point?

No, I do not. Jack Straw is not a member of the current Government, of course, and his comments were made in a private capacity as an MP. The guarantor power, the UK, has undertaken by treaty to prohibit any activity aimed at promoting, directly or indirectly, either the union of Cyprus with any other state or the partition of the island; so I repeat—a pretty emphatic no.

My Lords, I beg leave to take the opportunity to pay tribute to my late and dear friend, Rauf Denktas, whose courage and leadership frustrated EOKA-B’s Akritas and Ifestos plans for ethnic cleansing. After 49 years’ discrimination against Turkish Cypriots and 38 years of successive Greek Cypriot rejections of resolutions, including the 2004 Annan plan, is it not time for the United Kingdom to cease its systematic humiliation of Turkish Cypriots?

On the first point, our high commissioner sent a letter of condolence to the leader in the north of Cyprus and to Mr Denktas’s family. I personally associate myself with those condolences, having had an opportunity to meet him in the past. I do not think that the other language used by the noble Lord is justified. “Humiliation” does not come into it. The aim, and it is a noble aim, is to see equality of treatment and the bizonal federal ambition for a peaceful Cyprus achieved, with all citizens on an equal footing. There is no question of humiliation being involved.

My Lords, I start by expressing our agreement with the position that the Government have expressed this afternoon. It reflects a long-term policy and desire to see equality of treatment. I agree strongly with all those propositions. Does the Minister agree that if any process was inaugurated towards recognising Northern Cyprus, it would flow in exactly the opposite direction to any prospect of achieving the objectives that he has set out?

I am just trying to fathom out that question. First, I thank the noble Lord for his agreement and support for what we are all trying to do. This matter rises well above political parties and differences. As I was reminded this morning, these negotiations have been going on for 43 years. It really is time that we encouraged, by every effort possible, a resolution of these differences for the island of Cyprus. The noble Lord says the pressures go in the opposite direction to everything that we are trying to achieve, but I am not sure they do. I think the pressures, throughout the world and certainly from the United Nations Secretary-General, are that there can be some reconciliation and resolution. The main issues involved are to how to share power; the question of property, which is very sensitive; citizenship; and elections. On all these, I think it is possible for there to be progress, although I have to admit that for the moment it has been very modest.

My Lords, I am chairman of the group for Northern Cyprus in this House and I recently led a delegation there at the invitation of that country. Since the Minister has mentioned the length of this dispute, will he also bear in mind that every one of those 43 years has meant pain and suffering? Even today, if a Turkish Northern Cyprus group should visit the south, even on a sporting occasion, it is set upon and viciously attacked. This situation goes on and on. Surely some really hard effort must be put towards ending it.

I fully agree with my noble friend. Of course, these are unacceptable conditions for any citizen. The whole aim of working for a comprehensive settlement must be to make all those kinds of treatments and suffering, and the anecdotes associated with them, a matter of the past.

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that since the deadlock in the talks at the moment is at least half the responsibility of Mr Eroglu, it is pretty odd to be discussing the matter on the Order Paper today?

First, I defer to the extreme knowledge of the noble Lord on this matter. It is very hard to apportion the blame. All the parties concerned say that they want to make progress. The Governments, as it were, of the countries concerned, Turkey and obviously Greece—which are not directly involved because clearly this matter must be left to the people of Cyprus to sort out—have indicated a positive attitude. We have a positive attitude, as does the United Nations, and we just have to take our opportunities as they come. At the moment, the talks of the other day have come to a halt, but the Secretary-General is pressing ahead. He has asked Alexander Downer to do more work and to create a review. If the review is positive, he has said that he would like to move towards a multilateral conference in late April. So there may be hope on this front, but I do not want to raise those hopes too high.