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Volume 777: debated on Tuesday 20 December 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the progress of the reunification negotiations between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus.

My Lords, we welcome progress in the Cyprus settlement talks and commend the courageous leadership of President Anastasiades and Mr Akinci. We encourage the leaders to take this opportunity to secure a just and lasting settlement. As the Prime Minister said when she spoke with President Anastasiades, the UK will continue its steadfast support for the settlement process and stand ready to help to bring it to a successful conclusion.

I thank the Minister for her reply. I look forward to the UK Government joining the five-party talks in Geneva on 12 January. Will the Government bear firmly in mind the concerns about territory and security expressed in particular by the Turkish population, and the fact that any settlement will need to be passed in a referendum by both communities? Both communities need to feel confidence that any settlement reached is fair to their community.

My noble friend raises an important point, naturally. The UK is willing to consider whatever arrangements the sides can agree upon to meet the security needs of a reunited Cyprus. Indeed, both sides recognise that future security arrangements will need to enable both communities to feel safe.

My Lords, does the Minister recognise that in the run-up to what could be a very important meeting it is necessary that countries such as Britain, which is a permanent member of the Security Council, pursue an active diplomacy in support of the United Nations, which needs support at moments like this? Further to what she said in reply to the noble Lord, will she confirm that, were issues relating to the guarantee treaty—to which we are a party—to arise, we would be prepared to show flexibility towards any solution that had the agreement of Turkey, Greece and the two parties in Cyprus?

My Lords, this is, of course, a Cypriot-led process. I assure the noble Lord, as he wished me to, that we are willing to consider whatever arrangements the two sides leading this process can agree on to meet the security needs of a reunited Cyprus. We do not take a particular role for ourselves, except the one the noble Lord rightly stresses, which is our relationship with the United Nations and others involved in this process to bring it to a successful conclusion.

My Lords, key to these talks is the success of the two leaders in Cyprus. We have to give our full support to them, but as the noble Lord who asked the Question said it is ultimately for the people to decide. I hope that in the forthcoming period we put all our effort in supporting the two Cypriot leaders—the leaders of the two communities—and the last word must be with the people.

I entirely agree with the noble Lord. We not only stand ready to assist, but actively support any moves to achieve a settlement.

My Lords, will any agreement that may be reached have any effect on the sovereign base arrangements that the United Kingdom currently enjoys on the island of Cyprus?

My Lords, I assure the noble and gallant Lord that if we were to make the offer that we can cede up to half of the sovereign base area in terms of its space, it would not in any way undermine our security position in the sovereign base itself.

My Lords, the Minister quite rightly points out that this is a Cypriot-led peace initiative, backed by the United Nations, but the United Kingdom as a guarantor power plays a very important role. As she will know, the people of Cyprus look to us as a power of influence. We can do far more to lend our support to any peace process. Will she say that, when—I hope if—we get to a referendum, something we know a little about, we can lend a bit more support in ensuring the outcome will be a positive one?

My Lords, the noble Baroness tempts me to forecast the future. What I will forecast is that the United Kingdom’s support for this process will continue unabated. As the noble Lord speaking for the Opposition said a moment ago, it is important to recognise the bravery of the two leaders taking part in the process. They deserve our support.

My Lords, it is clear that the process going on is extremely important, and we all wish it success. Can the Minister comment on the extent to which the consent of the people, to which my noble friend referred, relates to the people of Cyprus or to the wider diaspora of the various communities and, if so, how that is to be managed?

My Lords, it will be for the parties leading this process when they meet again in the new year to discuss and determine such matters. I appreciate that when they meet they will come forward with proposals from the point of view of the two leaders before it goes to the more open or wider process, if I may call it that, from about 12 January, when the guarantor powers and perhaps one or two other representatives will be present.

My Lords, Turkey is rather in our minds with the horrific assassination there the day before yesterday, but have Her Majesty’s Government talked to the Turkish Government in recent weeks—indeed, since the attempted coup in the summer—about their attitude to the reunification? Their support in the background is vital if any progress is to be made.

My Lords, my right honourable friend Sir Alan Duncan has visited Turkey. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has also done so and spoken to all those involved. My noble friend is right to stress that it is important for Ministers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be in regular engagement with those in authority in both Turkey and Greece.