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Brexit: Northern Cyprus

Volume 783: debated on Thursday 14 September 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the context of revising the United Kingdom’s trading arrangements when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, they will consider the promotion of further and simpler trade relations with Northern Cyprus.

My Lords, the Government see a settlement deal that protects the interests of both Cypriot communities as the best way to improve north Cyprus’s trade relations and overcome the isolation of those residing in north Cyprus. As we leave the European Union, we will continue to look at ways to support the economic development of north Cyprus within the constraints of United Nations Security Council resolutions and international law. We will also continue to work for a just and lasting settlement.

I thank my noble friend the Minister for her Answer. However, the settlement talks in north Cyprus have now effectively broken down, although the north Cypriots did everything they could to make them a success. In response to a previous question, I was told that one of the obstacles to freer trade relations with north Cyprus was our membership of the European Union. Now that that is coming to an end and we are no longer bound by the common positions, will Her Majesty’s Government look carefully at giving north Cyprus the same status as, say, Taiwan, another country which has difficulty in certain international institutions?

We are sorry that the attempts to reach a settlement in Switzerland broke down. On the specific question posed by my noble friend, we are unable, obviously, to give a detailed commentary on future trade deals as we leave the EU. However, we have no current plans to review policy on UK trade with north Cyprus. My noble friend raises the issue of Taiwan. Taiwan and north Cyprus are two very different political realities. To be honest, I do not think it is helpful to compare the two; each situation needs to be addressed in its own context.

My Lords, I agree totally with the Minister’s response: of course, the conditions in Cyprus and the social and community divisions can be resolved only by the two parties ultimately coming together. Any action that could frustrate that would be wrong, so I support the Minister. However, this week at the opening session of the General Assembly, the United Nations Secretary-General talked about his willingness for talks to resume. We have also heard the Cypriot president say that he is willing for talks to resume, based on the United Nations conditions. Can the noble Baroness update us on what has been happening at this week’s General Assembly?

The general position of the United Kingdom is that we continue to support all efforts towards a just and lasting Cyprus settlement on both a bilateral basis, in so far as that is available to us, and, of course, within the forum of the United Nations. We are encouraging both sides to reflect calmly on the way forward and see rhetoric as serving only to limit the possibility of future talks towards a settlement. The UK is contributing in a number of ways, including through our deployment of military personnel to the peacekeeping force.

My Lords, since April passengers on flights to the UK from Northern Cyprus have had to deplane in Turkey and go through additional security checks. I understand that is necessary because our aviation security people do not have sight of the security arrangements in Northern Cyprus. Can the Minister say what conversations we have had with officials in Northern Cyprus to remedy the situation so that normal flight arrangements can be restored?

The safety and security of the public are the primary concern of the United Kingdom Government, and we will not hesitate to put in place any measures that we believe are necessary, effective and proportionate. As a result of consultations with the Department for Transport, Pegasus Airlines took the decision to introduce additional security checks on passengers transiting in Turkey on flights from Ercan to Stansted. I repeat: the United Kingdom’s primary focus is on the safety and security of the public.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the people of Northern Cyprus are part of the European Union but that they are not enjoying the full rights and opportunities of so being?

As the noble Lord is aware, the situation is the subject of both international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions. The important influences are not just the leaders of the two communities on the island but also, obviously, the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey, and the United Kingdom as a guarantor power. Although we believe that we can try to facilitate discussions and proffer advice, we cannot impose a solution. The matter has to be resolved by agreement between the two communities on the island.

My Lords, I suppose that I should by now be used to platitudes and avoidance in answers and debates on the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. However, I remind noble Lords of how we surrendered Cyprus to our enemy, EOKA-B, when it betrayed the 1960 Cyprus agreement. When and how will we now meet our historic and moral obligations to the Turkish Cypriot community, who have been horribly betrayed?

The United Kingdom, along with Greece and Turkey and the two communities on the island, not to mention other global partners, is concerned about the situation as it now exists. The UK is very keen to support confidence-building measures between the two communities. Frankly, the only way forward on this is for the two communities to come to an agreement on how best to take forward the objective of a united Cyprus.

My Lords, the Minister made it quite clear in her Answer that she thought that the solution lay with the two communities on the island. Can she confirm that that is the case? Clearly, one problem with relations in terms of the Turkish Cypriots is that this remains an illegal occupation following an invasion some 40 years ago. Can the Minister tell us what is, or should be, being done to stop the frustration of these talks by, on the Greek Cypriot side, diaspora who no longer live on the island and, on the Turkish Cypriot side, the influence of the Turkish Government?

I reiterate what I said in response to other questions but I also emphasise that the United Kingdom is a willing partner in trying to help the situation move forward, and there are other parties that have a role to play. The United Kingdom believes that the solution rests with the two communities on the island. We are very sad that the recent talks in Switzerland did not make progress, although some positive issues emerged from them, and that can introduce a note of optimism. However, at the end of the day, we cannot impose solutions.