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Cyprus

Volume 762: debated on Thursday 2 July 2015

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent reconciliation talks between the President of Cyprus and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community in the North of Cyprus.

My Lords, we welcome the renewed sense of optimism around the settlement talks in Cyprus. Both President Anastasiades and Mr Akinci are committed to a settlement and their positive leadership is creating a real sense of momentum. There is now an opportunity for the sides to reach a just and lasting settlement. We hope the leaders will use the impetus to make progress on the key issues. The United Kingdom will continue to support the UN-led process and both communities.

My Lords, Cyprus is a valued member of the European Union and the Commonwealth and a haven of relative stability in the eastern Mediterranean. Is it not really good news, as the Minister said, that at last, thanks to President Anastasiades and Mr Akinci, the elected leader of the Turkish Cypriots, there is now a new atmosphere and a new move forward? Two days ago, serious negotiations began. Can the Minister confirm, first, that the offer to release part of the sovereign base area remains on the table? How is it that the guarantor power status—post-colonialism and post-1960—still appears relevant when it is not and Cyprus is now a full member of the European Union?

On the first part of the noble Lord’s question, concerning the sovereign base area, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary confirmed to Parliament on 1 June that the UK has made this generous offer as part of a proper and comprehensive settlement. We will surrender nearly half the land mass of the sovereign base area territories. The noble Lord then went on to ask about the guarantor power situation. The United Kingdom meets its current obligations under the Treaty of Guarantee through support of the UN-facilitated settlement process, which is aimed at achieving a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality as defined by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. This arrangement is not altered by Cyprus’s membership of the European Union.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the very helpful coincidence of two leaders in Cyprus who are genuinely committed to a settlement provides an opportunity to lay to rest one of the most prevalent myths in Cyprus; namely, that it is not Cypriots who decide these things but the great powers outside? Will the Government take every step that they can to discourage any other outsiders from doing other than what the noble Earl said we would do, which was to give full support to the UN process?

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, with all his experience in this area, is absolutely right. We have a situation whereby two community leaders in Cyprus are willing to talk and try to reach a settlement. All the encouragement that we can give them to make that come to fruition has to be a good thing.

My Lords, in April, the Turkish Cypriots demonstrated that they were willing to go ahead and that they want peace. They want change from 50 years of embargoes and isolation. The talks are very much to be welcomed. Will the Minister say whether the British Government, as a guarantor country, will now, in bringing forward some confidence-building measures, address the inequality in both communities? The economic situation in the north is quite dire. If there were to be a peace agreement later this year, there would be real problems in bringing equality to both communities. What will the Government do to lift some embargoes to allow some trade and economic prosperity for the north?

The noble Baroness poses a number of questions. Basically, we are prepared to consider options that would help to encourage progress in these talks.

My Lords, is there not a predisposition in some circles to overlook the 1974 Greek-Cypriot rebellion against President Makarios, led by EOKA-B under Nicos Sampson’s leadership; and to ignore EOKA-B’s Akritis and Ifestos plans to ethnically cleanse all Turkish Cypriots? Would it not be more realistic and helpful if we were to cease to refer to the so-called Turkish invasion as though it were the beginning of history and recognise that 1974 brought 40 years of relative peace after the previous 11 years of ethnic cleansing? Is it not time that we had balance in how we approach this problem?

The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, makes some points on this very serious issue. The events of 1974 continue to cast a long shadow over Cyprus. We hope that the UN-facilitated settlement talks will enable both communities to secure a just and lasting settlement to these issues. The United Kingdom will continue to fully support their efforts towards this end.

Perhaps I may tell the Minister, from the opposition Benches, that we very much support the line that he has taken from the government Benches today on this important and serious issue. We, too, support a comprehensive, just and lasting solution. Do the Government still believe that, subject to certain conditions, as set out by the EU Commission, it would be helpful to repeat that this country supports Turkey’s eventual entry into the EU?

The noble Lord mentioned Turkey’s entry into the EU, on which there have been recent talks. We still support its entry and it still wishes to join the EU.