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10 Nov 2009 : Column 32WH—continued

To conclude, the choice, which is still not accepted in the south, is really between a settlement, if one can be negotiated, and the drift to partition, under the status
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quo. However, the situation is not a status quo. It is changing in a negative direction, year by year, as more development takes place in the north and there are more settlers, and as more Turkish Cypriots emigrate and the demography changes, with an increase in the number of young people who have no knowledge of the other side, compared with those who lived bicommunally before 1964 and 1974.

The International Crisis Group has commented that failure will lead to de facto partition. Martti Ahtisaari, the 2008 Nobel prize winner, writing for the Independent Commission on Turkey, also believed this to be the last chance. Failure will mean that Cyprus is likely to slide into hostile partition, with further strain on the EU-Turkey relationship, new frictions in the eastern Mediterranean, damage to EU-NATO co-operation, acceleration of Turkish Cypriot migration and continuing questions over the future of UNFICYP. Plan B for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus if the talks fail seems to be to press the EU to reopen issues of trade, and to seek recognition, probably in the first instance, from Islamic countries.

The 50th anniversary of Cyprus's independence from British colonial rule will be marked in 2010. Throughout its short history as an independent country Cyprus has been subjected to outside pressures and division: Enosis and EOKA-B, Taksim and Turk Mukavemet Teskilati, bicommunal villages divided, the Greek junta-backed coup against President Makarios and the Turkish Cypriot invasion and occupation, with the green line splitting the island. Time is running out and surely now is the time, after so long, for the lasting settlement that is the birthright of all Cypriots, to enable them all to live in peace, security and prosperity.

Mr. Bill Olner (in the Chair): Two hon. Members are waiting to speak in the debate. It is a very important subject and I want the party spokesmen to have adequate time to sum up, so I intend to call the Liberal spokesman at 11.55.

11.31 am

Mrs. Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on obtaining the debate, and draw the Chamber's attention to my entry in the Register of Members' Interests about a recent visit to attend the Morfou rally in Cyprus.

During a week when across Europe we are celebrating the incredible day in 1989 when the Berlin wall came down, it is right and timely to consider Europe's last divided capital, which is of course in Cyprus. It may now be possible for Cypriots to cross the green line, but it still divides Cyprus in a deeply painful way, not least because it still prevents the refugees who fled in the face of the 1974 invasion from returning to their homes.

The fact that a European country, now a full member of the EU, was forcibly partitioned 35 years ago should be a matter of huge concern and regret for world leaders as they meet to celebrate the upsurge in freedom that occurred when the Berlin wall was brought down by people power. The fact that Cyprus remains partitioned after 35 years is nothing less than a tragedy. We should not forget, of course, that the wall divided Berlin between 1961 and 1989-a mere 28 years, which is seven years less than the green line has divided Cyprus.

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I do not suppose that Hansard is regular reading for the world leaders in question, but I hope that they will listen to our pleas to use this week's celebrations as an opportunity to give a push to the search for a just, lasting and balanced settlement, to reunite Cyprus. I hope that they will recognise that although the international community-the UN and the EU-can help by facilitating and encouraging the finding of a solution by Cypriots, willingness on the part of Cypriots to negotiate is not enough. If Cypriots are to reach a settlement to reunite Cyprus, Ankara needs to give them the freedom that they need to make their own choices about their own country. If we are to achieve the goal of a peaceful and united Cyprus, we need to demilitarise the island. A just, lasting and peaceful settlement is incompatible with the location of thousands of Turkish troops in the country.

Mr. Burrowes: My hon. Friend has made her point about the division clearly. That division is nowhere clearer than in Nicosia itself-a divided capital. Is it not unacceptable that there should be that division in a European state? We have been commemorating the reunification of European capitals; is not reunification something that should happen in this context?

Mr. Bill Olner (in the Chair): Order. That was a long intervention, and the hon. Gentleman is hoping to be called next.

Mrs. Villiers: I am grateful to you, Mr. Olner, and to my hon. Friend for an intervention with which I wholeheartedly agree. Those issues were one reason for my writing to the Prime Minister and Chancellor Merkel this week, to ask them to use this week's celebrations as an opportunity to push forward with progress towards a settlement, and to put pressure on Ankara. They need to make clear to Ankara that it is vital for it to comply, first, with its obligations under the Ankara protocol to open its ports and airspace to Cypriot aviation and shipping; secondly, with the UN's repeated resolutions calling for freedom and justice for Cyprus; and thirdly, with the repeated resolutions of the European Court of Human Rights on Cyprus. Only when the Turkish Government do that will we see freedom and justice for Cyprus.

I want to keep my remarks short as I know that many others are pressing to take part in the debate, but I reiterate that it is vital to get progress on locating the remains of missing persons. That is one of the saddest and most distressing aspects of the division of Cyprus-that after 35 years, the remains of only 10 per cent. of the missing persons have been located.

During my recent visit to Cyprus for the Morfou rally, it was my great privilege to meet several relatives of those who are missing. It was also a privilege to meet them in north London, a few days ago, at an event organised by Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis. The matter is one of real distress for those people. We need the truth quickly; sadly, many of the relatives of those who are missing will not be with us for much longer. They need the truth about what happened to their loved ones 35 years ago; that is a key part of pressing forward with a solution in Cyprus. Such a solution could be of major benefit to all Cypriots, regardless of the community from which they come.

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11.36 am

Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): It is a pleasure to take part in the debate, and I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) for securing it. I welcome the new Minister for Europe to the debate. We have had a change of envoy and several Europe Ministers in a short period, which has not necessarily helped with our focus on the Cyprus issue, but I welcome the fact that the Minister, like previous Ministers, is committed to making an early visit to Cyprus. It is important that, among all the competing priorities, the concerns about the need to reach a solution should be heard loud and clear.

I declare an interest, to the extent that I visited Cyprus last year as part of the Friends of Cyprus delegation; there is also a primary interest in my constituency, where I represent a large number of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, to whom progress is a matter of vital concern.

Other hon. Members have mentioned the positive attitude of the leaders, and their engagement in talks. Their relationship is perhaps one of the best aspects of the situation as we look to make progress. Their personal commitment is no doubt sincere, and it is something that we should all support. It is important that all noises off, outside the negotiations, should be sensible and positive, and be built around the UN framework. It is therefore also important that Turkey should play its part. Noises off about confederation are not welcome in the context of pursing the bicommunal, bizonal federation solution.

The report from the UN Secretary-General is also welcome. He welcomed the constructive dialogue between the leaders and made the point, mentioned in this debate, that the status quo, which is leading further away from a solution, is unacceptable. A settlement becomes harder with each day that passes without a solution. An increase in the frequency of talks is welcome, and the fact that they now take place twice a week is a sign of real progress, but it is also important to recognise the point made by the Secretary-General. He said that the need to rationalise the process to deliver results and bring negotiations to a successful conclusion is becoming more pressing.

Where can the results be seen? My hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers) mentioned the work of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus. That is one of the lights in the darkness of the Cyprus problem. When I visited Cyprus last November, I saw the great progress that the scientists had made in that most welcome of bicommunal projects, and how hard they are working to ensure that the remains are identified and that families receive the truth that they need to enable reconciliation to happen.

However, the task is large. As the hon. Member for Hendon said, 2,200 Cypriots-both Greek and Turkish-are missing. The latest information is that 562 individuals have been exhumed, and 172 have been identified. It is a slow, difficult and painstaking task, but it is of absolute importance to achieve reconciliation and unity on the island. In political terms, we also need to see truth and reconciliation for the families; it is therefore important that information is passed on. Turkish authorities and the authorities in the north must recognise people's real concern about the remains that are to be found on military bases; we should ensure that access is provided
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and that information is passed on. The many relatives who come to the House every July to campaign on behalf of their loved ones need to see the truth.

It is also important that there should be proper compliance with European Court of Human Rights rulings. Turkey should recognise the need for effective investigations, which goes beyond the work of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus. It needs to carry out its own investigations and ensure that answers are given. That is a key element to building confidence. It is important that we reach a solution. It needs to happen for Cypriots, including my constituents, and for Cyprus itself. It is also important to secure regional stability. Turkey is interested in EU accession, but that can happen only if the Cyprus problem is solved.

Opinion surveys say that there is a great deal of pessimism among Cypriots and that it is increasing. It is increasing particularly among the younger generations, who have little knowledge of an undivided island. However, on the other side of the equation, opinion polls say that there is a wish and respect among people that the leaders should reach a settlement. The diaspora in my community also want to see a settlement. It is evident that they work and socialise together, and that they have the Cypriot identity and culture. That must be retained; it is part of the solution.

Mr. Love: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the air of pessimism evident in Cyprus could be turned around if only we could engage in confidence-building measures such as dealing with the missing people and opening a dialogue about the history of the conflict? If we were to do that, we could create the sort of atmosphere that would lead to more positive negotiations.

Mr. Burrowes: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. On a cross-party basis, we very much share the concern that a solution should be reached for Cyprus. The amount of talking is increasing, but it is important that we see real confidence building. We talk about it a lot, but we need a real result. Confidence can come about only through dialogue and access.

I mentioned in an intervention that one important aspect of access is access to worship-for those from Maronite villages, for example. It is extraordinary in this day and age that individuals cannot go to their own church to worship, but have to go through military zones, which are often restricted. It is important that measures are taken; if such matters are kept distinct from the other negotiations, real progress could be made. Over the next months, while the extra talks are in progress, we need to focus on aspects such as Maronite access and the missing persons.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet said, we are remembering the fall of the Berlin wall. However, we still have a divided city in Cyprus; Nicosia is a city of great heritage, but it is impaired by the divisions that we see every day. Although the crossing has given us an opening, the city is at a great disadvantage and is scarred by division. We must ensure that, in 12 months, we return to celebrate a united city and a united island.

When one considers the conflicts that are being dealt with by the United Nations, the Cyprus problem should not be seen as an irreconcilable conflict. It is important
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that we recognise the need for sacrifice and compromise, but we also need proper integrity for the process that is based on the UN framework.

Finally, the Economist Intelligence Unit says that the chances of Turkish and Greek Cypriots reaching a settlement are about 40 per cent. The reality is that that is a 40 per cent. greater chance of a settlement than there would be if talks were not taking place. We need to support those talks; it is the best option. The House should be 100 per cent. committed to seeking a solution to the Cyprus problem.

11.46 am

Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): I had not intended to speak today, Mr. Olner, but as we have a modicum of time before you call the Front-Bench spokesmen, I wish to raise one or two important issues.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on his most comprehensive survey of the situation in Cyprus, based on his recent visit to the island. I join the hon. Members for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers) and for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes) in saying how appropriate it is that we should be debating the subject during the week when the international community is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ending of the division of Berlin. However, we in the European Union still have a divided capital in Nicosia. The international community should focus more on what needs to be done to end the long-standing division of the island of Cyprus.

The Berlin wall was erected in 1963 after a long period of turbulence. That was when we saw the first divisions in the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot community in Nicosia. Both problems date back a long way. If we had the time, I suspect that we could debate for a significant period the opportunities over the years to find a resolution, many of them missed. I think of the high-level agreements of 1977 and 1979, when there was a real air of optimism that a solution could be found; I think also of the 1980s and 1990s, and even the present decade, and the opportunities that have been missed because of the failure of all concerned. I think particularly of the failure of the international community to give the problem the prominence and effort needed to find a solution.

That brings me to the role of the United Nations, which has been critical to all developments in Cyprus since 1974. It has conducted various negotiations which reached various stages. Indeed, it was successful in bringing together a plan that was put to both communities-the so-called Annan plan. I do not want to rehearse everything, but simply to recognise that the UN has done a great deal and that it understands the critical issues involved. However, I am here today because I would like to see it do more; confidence-building measures are necessary if we are to create the atmosphere in which negotiations could be successful.

There are many ongoing joint initiatives. Work is under way to address the long-standing issue of missing people, which goes back to 1974 and before. I welcome all such initiatives, but more needs to be done. For years we have talked about taking an initiative on Famagusta and on various other issues related to airports. Although I recognise that the situation on the island has changed remarkably and that progress has been made-the green
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line has been opened up and there is more interchange between the two communities-we must do even more. The United Nations has a big role to play in creating an atmosphere in which negotiations can take place.

Historically, the European Union has not had a central role in finding a solution in Cyprus, but Cyprus is now a member of the EU. Given that the EU recognises the continued division of one of its member countries, it must take on an important role. Such an issue, however, is tied up with the negotiations for Turkey, and I will not go into the Ankara protocol now, except to say that the EU must find some movement. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon said, there was a period when its ports were open to Cyprus shipping, so it is not impossible for such a thing to happen again. The European Union has a critical role to play in facilitating a solution. It may be that, in the future, it plays a role as a guarantor. It is a guarantor for democracy and for all sorts of human rights and the rule of law. Perhaps it could play a more prominent role as a guarantor of the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus.

That brings me to the guarantor powers themselves, namely Britain, Greece and Turkey. The guarantor powers have not played as central a role as they should. Although I accept the comments made by George Papandreou that perhaps Cyprus should be moving away from its connection with Greece and Turkey, that can only happen if both those guarantor powers facilitate the process. It is only with their help and assistance that that could take place.

Finally-I hope that the Minister will take this on board-the United Kingdom continues to be a guarantor power. Historically, we have a legacy of involvement in Cyprus. There is a large Cypriot community-both Greek and Turkish-living in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom must play a more prominent role in the current negotiations. I know that the European Union looks to the United Kingdom as the country that has been critically involved over the years. We must exercise more influence and do so in a way that will help to build confidence between the two communities.


Mr. Bill Olner (in the Chair): Order. I think that that is the third time that you have said "finally".

Mr. Love: Mr. Olner, you said that I had until 11.55, so I will exercise my right to say "finally". There is a lot of talk about a settlement being further away than ever, and the general attitude is very pessimistic. As has been said earlier in this debate, the two leaders of both communities are very much committed to a settlement. Progress is being made, although it is slow. It is for the international community, and particularly the guarantor powers, to give fresh impetus to the negotiations. If that can be done, we can turn around the negotiations and perhaps reach agreement on the final date-it will be around May next year-when we can look towards a settlement. However, without that impetus, progress will not be made at sufficient speed.

11.55 am

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