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Cyprus

7. Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): If he will make a statement on the contribution of Her Majesty's Government to efforts to achieve a solution to the Cyprus problem. [R] [69426]

12. Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne): When he next plans to visit Cyprus to discuss with the parties the end of the division of that island. [69431]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Ms Joyce Quin): We remain committed to resolving the tragedy of Cyprus's division. We continue to believe that the best means of achieving a solution is on the basis laid down in UN Security Council resolutions for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. Therefore, we welcome UN Security Council resolution 1218, adopted on 22 December 1998, which sets out clear and far-reaching objectives for reducing tension and for progress towards a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement in Cyprus.

Mr. Dismore: Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was some concern on the island at the recent comments of Sir David Hannay? Therefore, I welcome the Government's reaffirmation of the policy of looking to a settlement based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation and on a single sovereignty. Does my right hon. Friend welcome, as I do, the decision of the Cyprus Government not to take S300 missiles on to the island? Also, does she agree that one of the best ways forward is to work towards a more general demilitarisation of Cyprus as a step towards a settlement of the tragedy that has been taking place there for 25 years?

Ms Quin: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. He is right to welcome the decision of President Clerides not to deploy those missiles, which will both reduce tension and help Cyprus to accede to the European Union. Having seen the transcript of what Sir David Hannay said, I am satisfied that his remarks were misrepresented. Indeed, in various meetings, including one with the high commissioner for Cyprus here in London, he and I have reaffirmed that there is no change in our policy on Cyprus.

Mr. Waterson: Does the Minister agree that, given the unilateral decision of the Cypriot Government not to deploy missiles to reduce tension, as she put it, and the complete lack of any countervailing contribution from the regime in the north of Cyprus to reduce any part of the military presence there, the only answer is to press forward as fast as possible towards accession to the European Union at least for the south of the island--hopefully, to be followed one day by the north?

Ms Quin: The accession process is on track in terms of the examination by the European Commission of the various dossiers. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have

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always hoped that the accession process could provide a catalyst towards the settlement of the Cyprus problem, and we still want to concentrate minds on that possibility.

Mr. Eddie O'Hara (Knowsley, South): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the most useful ways in which we could ease the situation in Cyprus is through increasing the number of intercommunal exchanges? Therefore, will she join me in commending the recent successful visit of 1,280 Turkish Cypriot Muslims to the Hala Sultan Tekke shrine in Larnaca and in hoping that there will be similar exchanges for Greek Cypriot pilgrims, for example, to visit the Apostolos Andreas monastery in the far north of the Karpasia peninsula, and even the church of Ayios Mamas in Morphou?

Ms Quin: I agree that initiatives to try to increase contacts between the communities are worth while. Those initiatives, along with others with which the friends of Cyprus, including Members of Parliament, have been involved are welcome and we wish to encourage them.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): In seeking to follow up the constructive question of the hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara), does the Minister accept that, if we are to achieve lasting peace and unity in Cyprus, we must carry with us in achieving that objective not only Turkey but the Turkish Cypriots? Cyprus has had a sad history in the past 30 years. What action are the British Government taking to work more closely with Turkey, which is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and has given that body great support, and with those responsible Turkish Cypriots who want a united Ireland--[Interruption.] That was merely a Freudian slip, Madam Speaker. I should have said a united island--hon. Members misunderstood my Cheshire accent. What action are the Government taking to work more closely with Turkey and with the Turkish Cypriot Administration to get greater co-operation on the ultimate unity of Cyprus?

Ms Quin: I was wondering whether the hon. Gentleman's comments signalled a dramatic shift in his party's policy on a variety of issues. He and I can at least join in saying that we are interested in promoting peace processes; and we are certainly interested in doing that in Cyprus. We engage in dialogue with Turkey and try to promote measures to build confidence between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. We support the work of Sir David Hannay and of Dame Anne Hercus, who is doing a good job on the island of Cyprus trying to bring communities together and to find ways of solving the long-term problem.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting): The whole House will welcome my right hon. Friend's comments. She will be aware that there have been many disappointments in attempts to achieve a settlement in Cyprus, none more acute than on the return of Famagusta, which would benefit both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Will she give an assurance to the House and to the people of Cyprus that the return of Famagusta is a Government priority?

Ms Quin: We have raised the issue of Famagusta and Varosha on many occasions, but my hon. Friend will

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accept that the best way to make progress is to continue to press the various initiatives taking place within both the United Nations and the European Union towards a comprehensive settlement.

Pakistan

8. Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): What steps he is taking to monitor human rights abuses in Pakistan. [69427]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Derek Fatchett): During my visit to Pakistan last week, I raised with the Minister for Justice a number of concerns about human rights.

Mr. Brazier: Is the Minister concerned about the arrest earlier this month of four leading members of Pakistan's third-largest party, the Mohajir Qaumi Movement; and about the considerable evidence of religious persecution side by side with political persecution, including the fact that five Christians currently await trial under Islamic blasphemy laws? Is the Minister willing to use this country's considerable leverage--Pakistan is a recipient of aid from us and is a full member of the Commonwealth once more--to make those points strongly to the Pakistani Government? Is he willing to receive written representations from the MQM on the political matters and from Christian rights organisations?

Mr. Fatchett: Last week, I took the opportunity to stress our concerns about the need to maintain religious freedom, which is part of Pakistan's written constitution. The Minister for Justice reassured me that the Government were committed to that constitution and would try to implement it. What is important is that practice coincides with the written letter of the law, and we shall certainly take every action possible to ensure that that step is taken and that there is religious freedom in Pakistan.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): Has my right hon. Friend had time to read last week's debate on human rights for women, which was initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mrs. Cryer)? May I draw the House's attention to the fact that, under the Zina laws and Huddood ordinances, women in Pakistan are quite often denied basic human rights? Dreadful practices often take place. Will my right hon. Friend the Minister take up directly with the Government of Pakistan the need to get rid of those unjust laws?

Mr. Fatchett: I assure my hon. Friend that I took up those points last week: I expressed our concern that there should be equality before the law and that women in Pakistan should enjoy the same rights as men. I also stressed to the Ministers I met that the increasing influence of the Taliban on Pakistan is a detrimental and negative influence, on which the Government in Pakistan should keep a close watch.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (South-West Surrey): The Ahmadiyya community have their European conference centre in my constituency, and they report a series of deplorable human rights abuses, including lack of freedom of religion, speech or assembly. They know that

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the Government have said that human rights are at the heart of their policy, but what substance is behind the rhetoric? Is there any hope for practical improvement for them and their families in Pakistan?

Mr. Fatchett: I can only repeat to the right hon. Lady the point that I have just made to the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) and my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon), which is that we are concerned about religious freedom in Pakistan. Pakistan's written constitution states that individuals should have a right to practise their faith, but clearly that right is not always honoured in practice. I assure the right hon. Lady that we shall continue to make the strongest possible representations to the Government of Pakistan that people should enjoy their rights under their country's constitution.


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