|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
5 Nov 2002 : Column 25WHcontinued
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): I shall begin by declaring an interest, in that I have just returned from a visit to Cyprus as Labour vice-chair of the Friends of Cyprus with a delegation. The Cyprus House of Representatives met our expenses. We also visited the Morphou rally, for which the Barnet Friends of Morphou and the Morphou municipality met our expenses.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe on his well-deserved promotion. I look forward to working with him on this issue. It is rather strange for me to be making a speech about Cyprus in English; usually I speak about it in Greek, so I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I lapse into the demotic.
Our debate could not be more timely: a series of factors are coming together to create probably the best and the last window of opportunity for a settlement for a very long time. Failure this time would be extremely serious. At long last, the European Union accession process is acting as a catalyst to try to concentrate people's minds, particularly those of the Turkish Cypriots. The Copenhagen summit takes place on 12 December and, if all goes to plan, the accession treaty will probably be signed in April. There have been elections for a new Government in Turkey, and the United Nations is likely to launch a new plan, probably in a matter of days, through the UN special representative, Mr. Alvaro de Soto. I met him in Cyprus and found him to be a very impressive diplomat.
The Greek Cypriot presidential elections are scheduled for February, so that is also part of the time frame in which we are working. Once we get beyond the Copenhagen summit, the opportunity for manoeuvre will become increasingly restricted, because of those elections and the April accession treaty process. I believe that the Greek Cypriot elections could be postponed if a settlement framework were in place and the Cypriot National Council agreed. This is the last term for Mr. Clerides, and I am sure that he would like to go out having seen a settlement of the Cypriot problem, which has bedevilled his life in politics for so long.
One cannot talk about Cyprus without coming to the situation in Turkey, which I know is of particular interest to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Turkish EU accession process is extremely important, and there were three major developments in the summer, with the changes in Turkish law to allow for minority rights, the end of the death penalty and press liberalisation. We will have to see how those changes work out in practice.
The Turks have in the past used Cyprus as a pawn in their negotiations with the EU. Indeed, there has been great brinkmanship over these issues, including at Helsinki. With the old Government in Ankara, that brinkmanship continued as part of the lead-up to Copenhagen. The Ecevit Government somewhat overplayed their demands, as far as the domestic audience was concerned, in asking for a date for accession talks to begin. Even setting a date for a date will be difficult. That raises the question of how much progress has been made on the Helsinki track.
I hope that the new Government in Turkey will be reformist on human rights issues, not least over the party's own leader, Mr. Erdogan, who is barred from being a Member of the Turkish Parliament because of a poem he read out several years ago. Inevitably, the AKP will need to keep one eye looking over its shoulder at the army, whose role is always a factor in Turkish politics, as it sees itself as the defender of Kemalism and the secular state.
Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton): Does my hon. Friend accept that there are some concerns about the Islamist element within the AKP? There also appears to be something of a vacuum over who the Prime Minister of the AKP Government will be.
Mr. Dismore : My hon. Friend makes an important point. There is clearly a vacuum now, although I hope that the early statements made indicate how the AKP is to develop. We will have to wait to see to what extent the Muslim aspect of the party's background plays a role in policy development, but it has tried to make it clear that it does not see itself as a Muslim party but as the equivalent, perhaps, of the Christian Democrat parties in the European Union.
As I understand it, the AKP has not so far made any public statement of its position on Cyprus. That is probably a good sign, because it suggests that it might not be carrying some of the baggage of the Ecevit Government, which has made development so difficult. There is a clear indication of a desire for settlement across the island. Among the Greek Cypriots, President Clerides' Government have shown great flexibility. They see the prize as demilitarisation of the island, with an end to the unpopular policy of universal conscription, and the peace dividend, which would avoid using so much of the island's resources to pay for armaments. They want an end to the long-term tensions and instability on the island, which have, from time to time, flared up into incidents on the green line.
Above all, the difficulty is the changing demography of north Cyprus. I am sure that the Greek Cypriots are very concerned about that. They do not want Turkey as their neighbour to the north, but the Turkish Cypriots.
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): As the hon. Gentleman knows I have been a long-standing friend of Cyprus, as has he. Does he agree that one of the most positive things reported in the western coverage of the Turkish elections during the past few days has been that, for the first time, more than 80 Turkish Cypriot
We now see a real desire for settlement among the Turkish Cypriots, too. They are now, again for reasons of demography as much as anything else, possibly a minority in their own land. When their young people go to study overseas, they stay away because they see no future for themselves in Cyprus. Many Turkish Cypriots are now applying for Republic of Cyprus passports, even though that is illegal under the Denktash regime, with a view to emigration. There are now more Turkish Cypriots in London than in Cyprus. The economy is desperate, with the bank failures of the past couple of years. If anyone has anything to gain from the European Union, it is the Turkish Cypriot community.
That is reflected in the support for the opposition to which the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) just referred. It is significant that support comes from not only Turkish Cypriots but some Turkish settlers, who see their own futures likely to be blighted by what is going on in occupied Cyprus. That is evidenced by the Opposition parties' very good showing. For once, they were able to co-operate in the local elections, in which they won all the major prizes earlier this year. However, the problem remains that the Opposition in northern Cyprus is fragmented, which is unhelpful in trying to achieve a settlement.
It is fair to say that the Denktash regime is under much pressure. It is embattled, and does not seem to be acting in the interests of its people. As a result, it is increasingly resorting to oppression, including the jailing of journalists such as Shener Levent, whom I had the opportunity of meeting while I was in Cyprus. There is a rumour going round diplomatic circles that he tried to get himself jailed on purpose. He absolutely refutes that allegation, and also says that there are far easier ways of getting jailed than what happened to him. His newspaper, Evropa, was firebombed twice. Increasingly military courts are used for political oppression, with opponents of the regime like Izzet Izcan and Oskar Osgur facing many trials during the next few months.
While we were in Cyprus, 15 Spanish journalists were in the north, visiting the editor of Kibris, the Denktash-supporting newspaper. While they were attending a lecture on press freedom, representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Administration turned up and ordered them to leave the north immediately under pain of arrest. We have to make it absolutely clear to the Denktash regime that that sort of behaviour is not just unhelpful, but downright unacceptable.
The harassment and prevention of bi-communal contact on the island by the Denktash regime is extremely serious. It is bizarre that business people can only meet off the island to discuss common interests. Only last week, representatives of seven Cypriot trade unions were prevented from attending the fourth trade union forum on the island at the Ledra palace. Mr. Denktash has indicated his hostility towards the
The United Nations process has moved on. It is a difficult one, but two technical committees have been half established. One is considering the continuity of legislation after settlement, the other is considering the question of international treaties. The Greek Cypriots have already started work. They are ready, and their work is advanced. The Turkish Cypriots have yet to nominate their representatives to those committees. We were told that that would happen when Mr. Ergin Olgun, Mr. Denktash's chief of staff, returned from New York where he has been with Mr. Denktash, who is recovering from a recent operation. However, that still has not taken place.
I take comfort from the assurances given by Mr. Hakki Muftazade, that in the absence of Mr. Denktash someone else will have to conduct the negotiations if the worst comes to the worst. I am concerned that the suggestion of a third committee was not accepted by the Turkish Cypriots. It would probably have been the most important, as it would deal with the effects on individuals, bearing in mind the need for the approval of any solution by both communities in a referendum. The UN plan and discussions have been conducted under a news blackout. It is important that that continues, although it inevitably leads to press speculation, leaks and great difficulties in preparing the respective communities for the outcome of the negotiations. It is important that the UN process produces a package as a whole, with good and bad for both sides. It must not be presented as a take-it-or-leave-it plan to the two communities. They must have the opportunity to discuss their concerns. Far too often, we have seen take-it-or-leave-it plans introduced, particularly by the Turkish Cypriots, which have simply led to discussions running into the ground.
The plan must not be technocratic. It cannot work on the basis of splitting the difference between the two communities. We have to recognise that the Denktash regime is a rejectionist regime, whereas the Government of President Clerides has indicated great flexibility and a willingness to make concessions. We must recognise that both sides have to accept the settlement in a referendum, and each community will have to vote.
I think that it is fair to say that Turkish Cypriots would accept virtually any UN plan to alleviate their position if they were given a chance to do so. However, there is a risk, if the plan is not acceptable to the Greek Cypriots, of a rejectionist faction of Turkish Cypriots exploiting that for its own ends. We were questioned quite firmly by some who suggested that if the Turkish Cypriots voted yes, and the Greek Cypriots voted no, it would effectively mean that the EU should not let them in, thus creating through the back door the linkage that has been rejected on so many occasions in the past.
We must recognise that Greek Cypriots would see further compromise as painful. Many believe, particularly in the diaspora in the UK, that too much has been conceded already. The plan has to recognise the sensibilities of the dispossessed, the vigorous democracy that is Greek Cypriot political life, and the
Turkish Cypriots have expressed concerns about the nature of the state and have become hung up on the question of two states. We should remember that the state of Cyprus was created in 1960 after decolonisation. The republic of Cyprus joined the UN and the Commonwealth and started the European Union accession process. That state must not be succeeded in international law, but continue as it is in relation to the outside world. It would be absurd to suggest otherwise, so that Cyprus had to reapply to join the UN, the Commonwealth, the EU and all the international treaties and obligations to which it is party. However, any settlement will inevitably involve changes to internal state arrangements to reflect the bi-zonality that must be its essence, in that it will be necessary to decide which functions of the state are federal and which are devolved to the two communities. In that connection, we must consider the electoral system and whether cross-voting will be possible. Without cross-voting, there is a risk that rejectionists on both sides could create problems, as we have seen in Northern Ireland.
The UN third committee, which was not established having been vetoed by the Denktash regime, was probably the most crucial in relation to issues that touch people's lives. It was intended to consider property rights and the boundaries between the two zones. Any settlement must be based on individual property rights. It must recognise the rights of refugees, not retrospectively permit what is now euphemistically called ethnic cleansing. It must provide freedom of movement around the island.
In relation to property rights, we must consider where the new boundary between the zones will be. Clearly, it must be north of Morphou and Famagusta. The right to return must make provision for refugees from Kyrenia. At least in the short term, freedom of movement is a way of making progress in that regard. There must be compensation for lossesthat is a live international legal issue, as we have seen in the Loizidou casebut equally there must be recognition of the investment that has taken place over the past 28 years. If someone has spent considerable sums of money building on a bare plot of land, the settlement must recognise that additional property right. The way forward is to offer a variety of options to try to provide for as many eventualities and choices as possible. Ultimately, the rightful owner of a piece of land or home should be able to decide what they want to happen.
The issue of Turkish settlers is problematic. They, too, have human rights that must be recognised. It would be wrong if they were to be forcefully dispossessed from homes where they have lived for some
Many serious practicalities will be involved in achieving a settlement. People will have to be moved before a territorial adjustment can take place. Millions of mines will have to be removed, which will take many years. Some of the abandoned buildings, especially in Varosha, are in a terrible condition. It will be necessary to rebuild the infrastructure; the Americans have signalled that they are willing to help with that. Another difficulty is the healing process. A Cypriot-style truth and reconciliation commission might be a way forward. There is undoubtedly a case for letting relatives know about the fate of missing persons. Without progress on that, the situation will be very difficult.
Mr. Love : Does my hon. Friend agree that a good start in confidence-building would be a readjustment of the green line to take into account Varosha and some of the other areas that were strongly within the Greek Cypriot community prior to 1974?
Mr. Dismore : My hon. Friend makes an important practical point. That could happen quickly, because no one would be displaced as a result. However, a lot of money would need to be invested in Varosha given the condition of the buildings, which have been neglected for 28 years. Many of them suffered severe damage during the Turkish invasion and were never repaired.
It is important to stress that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can live together. We know that from London: there is no green line down the middle of Green lane. At the German Cypriot forum, the Bishop of Morphou indicated a willingness to go back to Morphou, even under the Turkish Cypriots, to worship at Agios Mammas and to meet with "his brother the Imam".
I found one thing particularly touching. After the Morphou rally, I went to the United Nations open day at the Ledra Palace hotel, and while I was there I met two people from Morphou whom I had seen at the rally. They were friends. At the bi-communal event they met two Turkish Cypriots who were living in their houses in Morphou. The process was obviously painful, but they were able to discuss the matter in a sensible way and to recognise the realities of both sides. One of the Turkish Cypriots was herself a refugee from Limassol. She would like to return to her home, should a settlement permit that.
The fact that people are coming to terms with extremely difficult situations and can talk in a civilised way to the very people who they may perceive as having deprived them of their homes, provides great hope for the future. People are speaking as a result of bi-communal contact, however hard it is and however difficult Mr. Denktash may make it. The politicians on the island, and Mr. Denktash in particular, must allow these contacts to flourish. They must allow all the people
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): I also declare an interest. Together with the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), I travelled to Morphou recently. That was facilitated by the House of Representatives in Cyprus and by the municipality of Morphou. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing a debate on an important subject at a key time.
Nobody present needs a lesson in Cypriot history. Many hon. Members know the island even better than I do, but just occasionally these debates reach a wider audience and so there are certain things that I would like to sayto remind myself, if not others.
About 15 years ago I travelled to Berlin with the excellent former Member of the European Parliament, Christopher Jackson. It was my first visit there. On a very warm summer's night at about midnight, I went to the viewing platform at the Berlin wall with my MEP. On the free side of the wall there were rabbits playing on the grass and crosses to mark where people had died. We climbed to the top of the wall. It is impossible to forget the sight. It looked like two miles before there were any lights at all. Gun tyres and bleak concrete were all that could be seen in both directions.
I hoped then that the Berlin wall would come down within my lifetime and, of course, it has. If I were to say to most people in America, in this country and in the European Union that effectively there is a Berlin wall in a free western state, they would look at me in blank amazement. However, one can go to Astromeritis and lay wreaths in memory of those who died during the invasion of that little church, and then go down the dusty track for a mile or so until reaching the barbed wire. One can meet the UN soldiers on duty, and I pay tribute to the tremendous job that they do. If one stares into the distance and sees the church of Morphou and the houses that some of the people own and would like to return to, one begins to realise what division really means.
It is a shame on this country, the European Union and the western world that the island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974. It is a shame and a disgrace that there are Turkish Cypriotsthe hon. Gentleman said that there are more Turkish Cypriots living in London than are living in their own landand Greek Cypriots, many of whom live in London, who are unable to live in their own homes or visit their own churches or the graves where their ancestors are buried. We have tolerated that for 27 years.
I ask the Minister to clarify a position and give a reassurance this morning. In the main Chamber of the House of Commons the other day, the Prime Minister made a statement following the European summit. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and I questioned him about Turkey's desire to enter the European Union, its desire to secure what has become known as a rendezvous datea date for talks about talksand the need to reach a settlement in Cyprus.
I confidently expected the Prime Minister to say that there could be no further progress on Turkish entry to the European Union until there had been a settlement in Cyprus. It was made plain at Helsinki that there was a pathway. We wanted it and fought for it. Many of us would like to see a free, democratic, human rights respecting and economically sound Turkey in the EU, but that cannot happen unless the prerequisitea settlement in Cyprusis achieved. That was made abundantly plain in Helsinki but now, without further progress, the begging bowl is out for more.
The Prime Minister clearly indicated that he did not regard a settlement in Cyprus and Turkey's progress towards inclusion in the EU as directly connected. He may not have meant to, but he gave that impression. When he summarises the debate, I would be grateful if the Minister would clarify precisely the position, because many of us and many of our friends in the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities strongly believe that the wrong signals are being sent out.
The hon. Member for Hendonmy hon. Friend, in this contexthas made it clear that time is running out. Concern has been expressed that Cyprus is about to be sacrificed on the altar of expediency: the human rights of Turkish and Greek Cypriots to live in their homes and to travel where they wish without having to go through barriers and barbed wire, and the rights of the united communities to live in peace on their island and to trade where they wish on their island and beyond it, are about to be sold down the river because the United States and the United Kingdom require the use of an air base in Turkey for other fairly obvious purposes. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a clear assurance this morning that that is not the case.
We have a few short weeks, as journalists sayI am never quite sure what a short week is, as opposed to a long week. Nevertheless, there is very little time between now and Copenhagen in December in which to reach a settlement. It can be done. As mentioned earlier, two committees have been set up. However, a third must be set up, because the issues that affect real people's real livesparticularly their homes and propertymust be resolved.
If a framework agreement is to be reached between now and December that allows a united island of Cyprus to join the European Union on 1 January 2004, which is what we all want, it will have to be sold to the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities in referendums. Unless those communities are confident that their fears, concerns and aspirations are being addressed, they will not vote in favour and the deal will fall. I fear that if that window of opportunity is not taken, we shall not see an agreement in Cyprus, possibly for many years.
On the positive side, we know from our visitwe visited both sides of the green linethat there are very many people of good will. We met Turkish Cypriots of good will; some brave people who are prepared to stand up to say and print what they believe. The Greek Cypriots of good will want a settlement; they are being denied it because once again politicians are getting in the wayI cannot think where we have heard that before.
I should like to say to the Minister, who I am sure has maintained his paid-up membership to the National Union of Journalists, as I have, that some of the brave people need help. Shener Levent, the editor of Afrika in the northern occupied part of the island, wryly said that he was likely to spend Christmas in prison. I said that I hoped he had sent his Christmas cards and written his articles before being jailed yet again for saying what is true. He has dared to say that the regime is getting in the way of what real people wantthey are crying out for a settlement. Those human rights issues must be settled before Turkey can make any real progress towards the European Union. Economic issues must also be settled.
My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) referred to the Turkish military, and thus to what is known in diplomatic parlance as the deep state: the state behind the state, which runs the country no matter what the electoral process delivers. However, we have an opportunity because in the past two days, the Turkish people overwhelmingly elected a new Government. That creates a chance for the Minister and his colleagues, the emissaries of the United Nations and the United Kingdom along with Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots to move rapidly forwards, between now and Copenhagen in December, to reach the settlement that so many people so badly want. If that is not done, I do not believe that history will forgive those of us in the Chamber this morning.
I declare a similar interest, having also been on the Friends of Cyprus visit to the island a couple of weeks ago. I have previously been to Cyprus, but this was my first visit as a parliamentarian. I have been interested in these matters for some years, and Birmingham has a substantial Cypriot community. As it was my first visit as a parliamentarian, I was acutely aware of the danger of returning and drawing too many conclusions from what is inevitably a snapshot picture obtained from being there for only a couple of days. With that health warning, I want to make a few observations.
The first concerns the impact of EU accession. It is absolutely rightmy hon. Friend referred to thisthat there should be no preconditions in the way of Cyprus's accession. However, the prospect of that accession has successfully concentrated minds on the negotiations. This is a time of great opportunity, but there is also a danger that that opportunity could be wasted. Both my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) have said that we must not let that opportunity go by and that any settlement proposals
I shall address my observations to that issue and three matters that are important to recognise if we are to ensure that people in Cyprus are confident about the future. They are practicality, identity and vision.
It was absolutely right to refer to the third committee. There are huge issues in Cyprus and the principle of property rights is vital to any settlement if it is to stick, but those matters must also have a practical application for people and make sense to them. People must understand that. Some of the discussions that we had during our visit suggest that the ways in which to achieve that may not be as difficult as they appear to be at first sight. That will be realised only if the work is done now to ensure that the details of the way in which people may be affected by the settlement are sorted out so that when the package is available it makes sense to them, they can see how they relate to it and they can see a future for themselves and their families. That applies to people on both sides of the green line. It must make sense and that means detailed discussion on issues of practicality now, not in future.
The second matter concerns identity. As in so many conflicts, symbols are important. My recent visit to Cyprus was my first as a parliamentarian. I was simply on holiday the previous time, but one of my abiding memories was driving along the road from Larnaka to Nicosia and seeing the huge Turkish flag in the hills. Everyone on the other side of the green line saw that symbol of occupation and dispossession every day. If a settlement is to work, it is important that there is a process of coming to terms with that past and recognising that identity.
My hon. Friend referred to a Cypriot version of the truth and reconciliation commission, and it is important to understand and recognise in the settlement the reality of the occupation and dispossession. The hon. Member for North Thanet described graphically the reality of not being able to go to one's home; of knowing that it is there but not being able to reach it. I chair the all-party group on Palestine, and know the huge importance that people feel and attach to being denied the right to go to the place in which they or their parents were brought up. I am sure that that feeling is no less real in Cyprus. I am aware of the reality of checkpoints and the impact that the prevention of freedom of movement can have, and that will be no less real in Cyprus.
It is important that Turkish Cypriots and the regime come to terms with the reality of what has happened over the past 28 years. It is positive that an increasing number of Turkish Cypriots are speaking out. That is why it is unacceptable that action was taken against the likes of Izzet Izcan and Oskar Osgur and, as the hon. Member for North Thanet said, why it is particularly
Symbols are also important the other way round. Turkish Cypriots need to know that when we talk of a bi-zonal federation we, and everybody else, mean that in practice as well as in theory. They have to be confident that their rights will be respected. I attended an interesting meeting of people in the north who do not support the Denktash regime and want to see a settlement. However, somebody attending that meeting had his own agenda and was not interested in a settlement. He easily deflected the views and positive hopes of others, and was able to sow seeds of doubt on what the Cyprus of the future would be like. We can take two lessons from that. One is that people who have that sort of agenda need to be confronted. The other is that we need to understand that it is easy to deflect discussions and conversations, and that in order for that not to happen we need to ensure that people feel that their concerns are being addressed.
The other difficult question that needs to be taken on board is that of Turkish Cypriot identity. There are people born in Cyprus whose parents came over from Turkey, who are now adults, and who have known no life other than that on the island of Cyprus.
In order to move forward, we need not only to come to terms with the past and identity, but to have a vision of what the future can hold, which is why bi-communal activities are vital. That is why the work of the bi-communal choir, which visited Istanbul earlier this year, is so positive. It is entirely unacceptable that veiled threats, and sometimes not-so-veiled threats, from the Turkish Cypriot regime should be put in the way of people involved in bi-communal activities. As is often the case, non-governmental organisations are showing the way forward, and some 86 Turkish Cypriot NGOs are engaged in that work. Friends of Cyprus organised the visit that we made a few weeks ago, and its work in international affairs is important.
We also need to be cautious about the way in which we use language and terminology. I want particularly to refer to the difficult word "new". My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon is right that there should be no question of trying to go back by assuming or implying that the Republic of Cyprus is anything other than recognised and internationally legitimate. When some people refer to the prospect of a new Cyprus they mean casting doubt on that recognition, legitimising the occupation or ignoring what has happened over the past 28 years, but their version of newness has no place in Cyprus's future. But there still can be a new future for Cyprus that can be greater than its past. As part of the European Union, a great deal can be built out of the common heritage of Greek and Turkish Cypriot: Cypriots.
We must be clear what we mean by "new", but we should not be scared of the word. I say that having met the former mayor of Famagusta, who has spent his entire adult life engaged in the politics and development of Cyprus. He knew those in the British Labour party such as Ernie Bevin and has been involved, or has known somebody who is, in virtually everything that has happened in Cyprus since the 1940s. However, when
What was encouraging about him was not only that he was acutely aware of the heritage of injustice, which he wanted to put right, but that he had a positive vision for the future. He was not hidebound by the past, nor scared of a new future for the island. If, as an international community, we are to promote a settlement based on justice, it is important for us to recognise what has happened in the past. However, we should not allow the ghost of the past to get in the way of our building a common future for Greek and Turkish Cypriots, based on existing resolutions. They should then be able to find a way forward that is new for both communities and better than anything that has happened before.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. It is customary to commence the first of the three winding-up speeches 30 minutes before the conclusion of the debate, which will be at noon. I am anxious that all right hon. and hon. Members should have an opportunity to express their views. I ask Members to keep their contributions concise and to be cautious about accepting interventions.
Bob Spink (Castle Point): I shall register an interest, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have visited Cyprus with the parliamentary Friends of Cyprus, and I am sure that I will do so again. I congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on having secured the debate. It is extremely timely and he showed great foresight in applying for it. We have been treated to three exceptional speeches this morning. My hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) spoke passionately and insightfully about a subject on which he is recognised to be a great expert, and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) spoke with deep understanding in a very thoughtful speech that raised some interesting points.
This is a good time for the debate, thanks to the perplexing Turkish election result. It could be helpful, but that remains to be seen. The new AKP Administration have given some promising early signals, which I welcome. It looks as though they want to face west and will not embrace the fundamentalist-flavour Muslim tendencies that have occasionally been unhelpful to the international community. I hope that those are good signs and that they are accurate indicators for the future. It would be helpful for the new Turkish regime if the European Union were to give positive signals back, particularly with regard to Turkey's possible accession. That would represent an offer of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Turkey must feel that it has a real choice and that a future path in the EU will be hugely more beneficial than any other route that it might take to its destiny. I hope that Europe is listening carefully to the current signals and that it will respond appropriately. I am sure that the Minister and the other Front-Bench spokesmen will be discussing that.
It would be good not only for Turkey if it faced west. Not only would it help Turkey to tackle its human rights issues and get to grips with developing a true and genuine parliamentary democracy, which would give the people more prosperity. It would be extremely good also for the international community and for geopolitical stability if Turkey were to come into the bosom of Europe, which is where it should be. That is much more important than the economic factors, although they are important. Nevertheless, the total demise of the common agricultural policy may be another helpful move in allowing Turkey to make progress in that direction. However, if I progress down that track, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will call me to order.
There is a desire for settlement throughout the beautiful island of Cyprus. Of course, that settlement must be a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation with a plan for single sovereignty, and it must include ingredients such as flexibility and good will. Give and take on both sides will be needed to achieve a settlement. The Greek Cypriots could be forgiven for being rather cynical because, over previous years, we have seen Mr. Denktash and the Turkish Cypriots operating ratchet diplomacy. Rather than give and take it has been take, take and take; the Greek Cypriots are rightly cynical about that. However, although one can understand their sense of injustice, they must be prepared to approach this new window of opportunity with a fresh heart and with good will.
Mr. Denktash is about to return to Turkey after undergoing heart surgery. We must send our good wishes to him for his future health. However, if he is not well enough to move the talks forward, particularly the work of the technical committee on property and territory and so on, those talks should not be frustrated: other people must take over. For instance, funds must be made available for new building, so that settlers can be accommodated in the Turkish-occupied part of the island when, if appropriate, property is returned to its owners. We must not forgetI know that most Greek Cypriots will not forgetthat the Turkish settlers, too, have human rights.
The last few weeks in the run-up to Copenhagen will see many of these issues developing quickly, so I shall not trail through them now. No doubt the Front-Bench spokesmen will clarify the position on them and on progress with the accession process. Like other hon. Members, I have friends in the business community and personal friends in Cyprus, and they give me the strong impression that the majority of Cypriots, whether Turkish or Greek, simply want a solution. They have the good will and warmth of heart to find a solution. I hope that the politicians and pressure groups will allow it to emerge, because it sometimes seems that they are standing in the way of the people. There will of course be a tremendous temptation for the rejectionists on both sides to try to score points, but I hope that that will be dismissed.
Cyprus is at the most challenging point in its recent history. The accession of Cyprus must proceed, and I believe that it will act as a catalyst to solve the problems. I do not have real faith that a solution will be found before accession, although I hope and pray that that will be the case. If it would help to make progress with the settlement, and if the settlement seemed to be on the
Finally, I call on Mr. Denktash to be open and honest on the missing persons issue. Progress on that matter would cost little to either side, and any concept of humanity and human rights demands that it should be made.
Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton): First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on securing the debate. It is timely. I also congratulate the Minister on his promotion. He is known as a good friend to Europe and a strong supporter of enlargement.
Britain has a special relationship with Cyprus, which goes back to 1878. We have been directly involved with Cyprus ever since. Many Cypriots who live in this country came here in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and especially in 1974, but people should not be deluded into thinking that they are not passionate about what happens on the island. A letter that I received last week will give hon. Members a flavour. It says:
I shall discuss three issues. First, in line with my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden), I refer to bi-communal contacts. The island has been divided for 28 years, and during that time the level of contact between the two communities has declined, as everyone would recognise. People have grown older and forgotten and a new generation has grown up within the communities, which have both changed tremendously. The Turkish Cypriot community has been isolated in that period and there has been mass immigration of Turkish people from Anatolia, which has changed the situation in the north of the island. The living standards in the republic have grown enormously, perhaps more distinctly than other changes that have occurred on the island. Therefore, inter-communal contacts are crucial.
I shall not describe all the ways in which those contacts are struggling to happen. My hon. Friend's predecessor as Minister for Europe went to the Ledra palace and spoke to both communities, so I hope that he will find an opportunity to visit the island during his tenure. Inter-communal contacts are necessary because they foster respect and, perhaps even more importantly, understanding between the two communities, and create a positive climate for the talks. The Government have a role through international communities to sponsor those contacts.
I refer briefly to the European Union negotiations. It is in the interests of both the Greek and the Turkish Cypriot communities that Cyprus enters the EU. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke about
Turkey has just held elections, and we will be feeling our way for a while as regards its attitude to the European Community. We clearly want it to take a positive attitude, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister confirmed in his speech that it would. We want it to make progress, butto respond to concerns expressed by other hon. Membersit must meet the same conditions as every other candidate country if it is to join the EU. Will the Minister say a little about what those conditions are likely to be?
Many people, including many in the Cypriot community, see EU enlargement and the accession of Cyprus as a catalyst for the UN-sponsored negotiationsand, my goodness, we need one. For 28 years, we have had failed negotiation after failed negotiation. Earlier this year, the parties decided to meet face to face, and everyone took heart from the fact that they were beginning talks. However, the UN had to admit in July that progress was "glacial" and that neither partybut particularly the Turkish Cypriot representativewas moving forwards as fast as it could.
There are three steps that the Government must take to address the issue. First, it is critical that we redouble our efforts, in all the organisations in which we are involved, to bring the two communities together for talks. Secondly, we must recognise that accession can be a catalyst and that it will assist in resolving the division of the island. Thirdly, it is critical that any solution is in line with UN resolutions in the acquis communautaire, and I hope that the Minister will refer to that. That is the framework that the UN should use, and concern has been expressed in that regard. Britain should talk about that framework. It has been the framework for the past 28 years, and if we live up to its goals, we can find a solution. Cyprus will then be united, and there will be a revolution in how things are done. That will be good for both communities and for the international situation in the eastern Mediterranean.
Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh): I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on securing the debate. I also congratulate those who have contributed so far to our well-informed and thoughtful discussion. There seems to be a remarkable degree of unanimity on the issue.
The Liberal Democrats fully support United Nations and international efforts to resolve the differences between the Cypriot communities. We support the UN view that a settlement must be based on a state of Cyprus that has single sovereignty, a single international personality and single citizenship. That
The future of Cyprus and the shape of the final settlement can ultimately be resolved only by the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities in free and open negotiations. Any solution should be based on reconciliation and respect for the fundamental human rights of both communities. We urge both parties to participate fully and in good faith in the UN's efforts to broker a peaceful agreement.
An increase in military strength on the part of either community will be counterproductive. A controlled reduction in the amount of military equipment will be an important step in the peace process. In that regard, the UN peacekeeping mission must be free to undertake its mandate. That requires an end to the restriction that the Turkish Cypriot authorities and the Turkish military imposed on its operations. Both communities should cease provocative infringements in the UN buffer zone.
As many hon. Members have stressed, the future of Cyprus lies in the European Union. We urge the Turkish Cypriot authorities to engage with the Republic of Cyprus to prepare for accession to the EU. We hope that accession will act as a spur to reconciliation and a peaceful resolution.
Of course, however, the future of Cyprus does not lie entirely in the hands of the Cypriots. By definition, past and present relations between Greece and Turkey lie at the heart of the current division of the island. I believe that Greece's imminent presidency of the EU and Turkey's aspirations to EU membership can provide a vital catalyst to the resolution of internal and external disputes over the future of Cyprus, which could come much quicker than we might otherwise have hoped.
The Liberal Democrats welcome the recent statements by the Greek Government, supporting Turkey's accession to the European Union. At the very least, these statements remove the threat that Greece could veto an application by Turkey, which would in turn threaten to destabilise the progress that Turkey is making towards meeting the Copenhagen criteria. We hope that Turkey in turn recognises that strongly supporting the UN Secretary-General's efforts to bring about a successful and comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem should be among the very first political priorities in its accession partnership.
If Turkey's EU candidacy is to proceed, many reforms are vital. In fact, great progress has been made over the past few months through legal and constitutional changes. Above all, however, progress on Cyprus is essential. The previous Turkish Government argued that the Republic of Cyprus is legally barred from acceding to the EU. The British Government have not accepted that argument and neither have the Liberal Democrats. We can understand why, from their perspective, many Turks feel that the EU is acting unjustly and with some bias in allowing the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to apply for EU membership. The population of the Republic of Cyprus is of course almost entirely Greek Cypriot. The application excludes the participation of about 200,000 Turkish Cypriots in the north of the island.
Commentators in Turkey with whom I have spoken recognise that, should Cyprus join the EU as a divided island without at least an imminent settlement, it will be a serious setback to Turkey's EU candidacy. Cyprus's entry to the EU as a divided island would be a serious setback to reform and the development of a European outlook in Turkey. There would also be a danger that, should southern Cyprusthe Republic of Cyprusjoin the EU before negotiations on Turkey's accession had been opened, it would use its newly acquired veto to block Turkey's application for the foreseeable future.
There is, however, a strong feeling that a settlement may at least be reached between the Greek and Turkish communities in the near future. Both communities need to recognise the urgency of reaching a settlement in the few weeks remaining this year, which would be in the best interests of all concerned. Seen from a wider perspective, it appears that the remaining obstacles to a settlement need not be insurmountable.
There is now a strong case for Turkey's allies to engage in robust confidence-building with the Turkish establishment and the Turkish armed forces in particular, emphasising the benefits of a settlement over Cyprus. We urge the Government to work closely with the United States, in the context of Turkey's pivotal role in NATO and in the war against terrorism. We urge the Government to work closely with Germany, which has the strongest links with Turkey among the EU states. Recognising our unique and enduring links with the island, the Government must work closely with the Republic of Cyprus. There must now be a concerted and combined effort to persuade Turkish doubters of the benefits that a settlement in Cyprus would bring to Turkey, in terms of advancing its EU accession and in enhancing regional stability. If Turkey can be persuaded to trust the European Union on Cyprus, and to assist in achieving a settlement, its own prospects for EU membership can only be advanced.
With the Copenhagen summit fast approaching, the urgency of achieving a settlement in Cyprus cannot be denied. There are elections in Cyprus early next year, as other Members mentioned. Accession treaties will be signed in April 2003. There will be serious consequences for the European Union's relations with Turkey if a divided Cyprus accedes to the EU.
Turkey has a new Government with a clear mandate, which provides an opportunity that should be seized now. The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs believes that it is in the best interests of Turkey, Greece and the EU to have a settlement, and we echo that. We urge the United Kingdom, as one of the original guarantor powers for Cyprus, along with Greece and Turkey, to co-operate with GermanyTurkey's largest and most significant EU neighbourto lead EU efforts to achieve a solution.
Failure to use that diplomatic window constructively will lead to disappointment in Turkey and problems for all member states' attempts to foster good relations with Turkey, which is of great strategic importance to the
Failure to use the diplomatic window constructively would also severely hamper efforts to contain Saddam Hussein's ambitions in Iraq and undermine the prosecution of the war against terrorism. There is no doubt that vigorous diplomatic efforts to build reassurance and confidence in Turkey about reaching a settlement on Cyprus would bring these wider benefits.
Positive moves to reach a settlement would assist negotiations to finalise the terms under which the EU can use NATO military assets for Europe-wide operations. Those negotiations are under way, and a fresh mandate was issued to Javier Solana at the Brussels summit only last week. Delays in finalising the EU-NATO agreement are primarily due to the dispute between Greece and Turkey, and Cyprus lies at the heart of that dispute.
There can be no question that a settlement in Cyprus has a far-reaching influence on our security, defence capability and, most importantly, our European and foreign policy objectives. The Government have a prime responsibility to recognise the importance of a settlement for Cyprus to the UK's wider interests and to recognise the opportunity to take the initiative now.
Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): First, I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on securing the debate and on his speech. I congratulate other hon. Members on their high-quality speeches. I also congratulate the Minister for Europe on his promotion, and I wish him well in his new role.
Cyprus is increasingly important as its application for membership of the European Union progresses. The United Kingdom has close links with that country, is not least because of our common Commonwealth membership. I congratulate Cyprus on its progress with its application to join the EU. It has led the pack of accession countries in closing the chapters, which is a tribute to the quality, hard work and determination of its Government. We warmly welcome Cyprus's prospective membership, and we look forward to working with it inside the EU. Cyprus, with its location in the eastern Mediterranean, will undoubtedly be an increasingly valuable and important link between Europe and the middle east.
We have had a special relationship with Cyprus for a long time. The UK has been greatly involved in the life of Cyprus, and the involvement and links remain. The UK has a thriving and successful Cypriot communityboth Greek and Turkishthat enriches our national life with its customs, culture and enterprise. Cyprus is very close to our hearts.
The UK retains two sovereign military bases in Cyprus, and it is one of the state's three guarantors. We support the British Government and the international community in attempting to find a solution to the island's current division, which happened in 1974 with the partition of the island after the seizure of northern Cyprus by Turkish troops and the creation of Turkish administered northern Cyprus. The green line running across the island that is policed by United Nations troops is an ever-present reminder of the island's divisions.
United Nations ideas for a bi-zonal and bi-communal federal government, which were submitted in 1992, remain central to discussion of the island's future. I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) that that should be stated explicitly. The announcement of the Denktash-Clerides talks in January 2002 was encouraging, and it is a great disappointment that further progress has not been made. Although I appreciate that the talks are currently at a delicate stage, can the Minister spread further light on any progress and on the shared aspiration to reach a successful agreement before the Copenhagen meeting?
In the final analysis, only the two communities in Cyprus can come to an agreement with which they are both happy and with which they can both move forward. The United Kingdom's role should be to offer advice, to facilitate talks without getting in the way and to support the United Nation's efforts as we have been doing.
Alongside the talks on the political disputes on the island there is the issue of missing persons. Since 1974, a number of people have been missing on both sides of the green line. That continues to cause considerable and understandable distress to families. I welcome the UN Secretary-General's appeal to both parties to address that issue seriously. I also welcome the recognition by the two leaders that, although the issue should be dealt with separately from the main settlement talks, it must be dealt with in parallel with those talks. I am pleased to read on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website that our high commission in Nicosia is taking a close interest. Should the current negotiations prove successful, as we hope that they will, what effect do the Government think that that would have on the status of the British sovereign bases on the island?
I want to pick up on the comments of the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love). We do not believe that the present division of Cyprus should hinder the application of Cyprus for membership of the European Union. Negotiations between Cyprus and the EU began in 1998 and have progressed rapidly and successfully. Cyprus is on course for membership, as planned, in 2004. Although we hope that a political solution to the island's division can be found, we do not believe that any such solution should be a prerequisite to Cyprus becoming a member of the EU. We have always recognised the Republic of Cyprus and its accession to the EU would not contravene, in any way, the provisions of the treaty of guarantee. However, to echo the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale), who made an especially powerful speech, we also welcome Turkey's intention to become a member of the EU.
We call upon Turkey to use its influence to assist in the construction of a solution to the Cyprus question. Notwithstanding the uncertainty over the future attitude of the new Turkish Governmentabout which my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) spoke tellinglywe believe that Turkey has a valuable role to play. Does the Minister agree that it should be made clear to Turkey that its accession to the EU would be severely set back should it consider the annexation of northern Cyprus?
The resolution of the island's division would greatly benefit the island's communities. The Turkish Cypriot community has not thrived since the island's divisionquite the reverse. Both communities will remain cut off from parts of their heritage while the green line remains. Given our historical connections with the island, it is right that we should play a part in the peace process and give it our fullest encouragement.
I have made it clear that we do not regard a settlement as a prerequisite for Cyprus's membership of the EU, but no one disputes that a settlement would be highly desirable. We hope that a settlement will come about, and we look forward in the near future to sitting alongside Cyprus in the EU as trusted, valued and long-standing friends and allies.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on securing this debate; and I welcome the vigour and power of the speeches and, in particular, the moderate and reasoned way in which arguments have been advanced. The authorities on both sides of the green line in Cyprus, as well as the authorities in Ankara, would be well advised to study the speeches of the two Opposition spokesmenthe hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) and the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring). There was little in either of them with which the Government would disagree.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon is a powerful advocate of the interests of the Hellenic community in Europe. He threatened to make his speech in Greek. I have heard him speak that language with considerable elegance, so it was no empty threat, believe me. The hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale), too, is well known as a committed friend of Cyprus. He placed the whole problem in a much wider historic setting, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love). I have visited the beautiful island of Cyprus on many occasions, although not recently, and nothing would give me greater pleasure if my appointment as Minister for Europe, the vista of which opens before me, could begin with a settlement of the Cyprus problem. I thank hon. Members for their congratulations on my appointment.
The Cyprus problem is of deep concern to the Government and to diplomats. I thank those who have drawn attention to the excellent work of our High Commissioner in Nicosia, but others in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have worked very hard to bring about such a settlement. I am a little nervous of making unqualified statements in this job, as a distinguished predecessor in the 1950sa Mr. Hopkinsononce said at the Dispatch Box that Cyprus would never become independent. However, Cyprus became independent under the great leadership of Archbishop Makarios, and Mr. Hopkinson ceased to be a Minister. Those who invite me to make unconditional statements may find me a little diffident.
Let us not forget that it is the 25th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Makarios, whose wise leadership is remembered by all. Let us also not forget that it was not the Turks who overthrew him, arrested him and sought to chase him from the island, but Greek Cypriots in the last expressionthe last flurryof European fascism
Reference was made to the strength of the people of the Greek Cypriot diaspora and to the extent to which the people of the Turkish Cypriot diaspora may be able to talk more easily in Green lanes than they can across the green line in Cyprus. That is an important point, because throughout Europe there are great communities of people who have been ejected from their lands. There is current controversy in central Europe over people of German or Austrian background who lived in the Sudetenland of Bohemia. That is a very sensitive issue. Millions of Poles were expelled from their native homelands in 1945. However, I believe that a line must be drawn under history at some stage. It is right to draw the Chamber's attention to the opportunity that lies before us in the next few weeks to leave the rejectionists' line of the respective diasporas to one side. Every encouragement should be given to all the interested parties of both communities to seize that opportunity. That is the combined and unified message from the House and from the debate, the timing of which is excellent. It will have served more than the usual purpose of airing a great cause, which matters deeply to the people of this country.
Settlement is the goal in front of usCyprus coming into the European Union and Ankara under its new Government looking west, as hon. Members have put it so eloquently, to a European destiny. If we are to reach that goal, it goes without saying that a settlement is needed. I therefore urge the two leaders of the respective communities in Cyprus to redouble their efforts in the short time left to reach agreement before the Copenhagen Council.
I thank and congratulate the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his special adviser Alvaro de Soto, who have worked tirelessly and patiently to bridge the gaps between the two sides. One can feel the quickening pace of history in the eastern Mediterranean up through the Dardanelles to Constantinople, as I prefer to call it, and on into Ankara. I am sure that hon. Members join me in supporting the UN at this time; if it can help to accelerate the pace of history, so much the better to help both sides to reach a settlement. That is attainable but if it is to work it has to be lasting and comprehensive and both sides must feel it to be just. That means that a settlement that works will cause some pain to both sides, but surely the prize is worth the pain. We say no to rejectionism.
The UN Secretary-General has asked all those close to the talks to preserve a blackout on their content, so right hon. and hon. Members will understand why I do not go into detail. However, there is a settlement that
Much has been made in the debate about the interrelation between Cypriot accession to the European Union, which will be decided at Copenhagen, and the issue of Turkey looking to Europe. We strongly support Turkey's application for European Union membership and look forward to the day when it is seated at the Council table. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said yesterday in response to the election results from Turkey:
We will need to consider many difficult technical points, but if we make each technical demand a sine qua non and put it on the table we will not be able to get to Copenhagen with the possibilitythanks to the very great work by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and his team and by British diplomatsof the prize, at the beginning of the 21st century, of a settlement, a solution to the problem of Cyprus.
The British Government will do their best; I am happy to write to hon. Members if they feel that I have not mentioned or replied to particular points in my remarks. My message again and againI speak as a friend of Cyprus, I hopethat will allow this problem to be solved is that it is up to the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots to make the gestures to arrive at a settlement, not to demand that all their conditions are met. Do that, and the eastern Mediterranean moves to peace and the European Union moves forward more strongly in the 21st century.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Nicholas Winterton): We now move on to the next debate in Westminster Hall this morning, initiated by the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan). It has come to my attention that one or two Back-Bench Membersin other words, not the initiator of the debate or the Ministerwish to speak. It is the custom of the House that if any hon. Member wishes to intervene in an Adjournment debate they must seek permission of not only the initiator of the debate and the Minister, but the Chair. One or two colleagues on the