HC Deb 19 February 1959 vol 600 cc618-30

7.7 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

I think that the Committee would wish me to give, at this, the first possible moment for me, the latest position about Cyprus. I am glad to inform the House that in the Cyprus Conference agreement has now been reached between the three Governments of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom and the representatives of the two main communities in the island.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

The Prime Minister

The conclusions of the Conference, which comprise some long and detailed documents, will be published in a White Paper.

The Conference arose immediately from the negotiations which have been taking place between the Greek and Turkish Governments since the end of last year. Her Majesty's Government were, at an early stage, informed of these negotiations at a meeting in Paris in December between my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey.

From the outset, Her Majesty's Government gave their full support to this initiative. We made clear to the other two Governments that, provided our military requirements were met, in a manner which could not be challenged, by the retention of bases under British sovereignty, together with the provision of the necessary rights and facilities for their operation, we were prepared to consider the transfer of sovereignty by Her Majesty's Government over the rest of the island.

Negotiations between Greece and Turkey continued against the background of this statement of Her Majesty's Government's position. They culminated in the agreements reached between the Greek and Turkish Prime Ministers at Zurich on 11th February of this year. We have arranged with our Greek and Turkish Allies that the text of the documents agreed at the Conference and signed today will not be released for publication until they have had time to return to their capitals and report to their colleagues.

I am sure that the House will understand that the Greek and Turkish Parliaments also have the right to be informed at first hand of these important agreements. The documents, therefore, including the agreements reached between the Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers at Zurich, will be laid before the House in the form of a White Paper on Monday next. They will also be published in Nicosia by the Governor. I shall only say at this stage that the agreements reached at Zurich take full account of the rights of the people of Cyprus and represent a fair and honourable compromise between the interests of Greece and Turkey. They re-establish the friendship and alliance between these two countries which are so essential to the security of us all.

Our Greek and Turkish friends took as the starting point of their discussions the premise that the United Kingdom would retain under British sovereignty such areas, together with the necessary rights and facilities, as are required to enable her to fulfil her strategic obligations in the area. They have also agreed to guarantee our continued enjoyment of these facilities.

As soon as the two Prime Ministers had reached agreement on this basis last week, the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey came to London. They brought with them the Zurich agreements for discussion with Her Majesty's Government. They made it clear to us that, while they had throughout their own negotiations accepted the British requirements, they had made no attempt to provide for them in detail. This was left for us to state. At the same time, they made it clear that they had every confidence that our requirements could be met in a manner fully acceptable to us.

We discussed the position fully with the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey and made enough progress for us to feel justified in convening a Conference, which began on 17th February with the participation not only of the three Governments, who were represented by their Foreign Ministers, but also of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities, who were represented by Archbishop Makarios and Dr. Kutchuk, respectively. At the opening of the Conference, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, made a declaration of Her Majesty's Government's position. This declaration was to the effect that, subject to the acceptance of their stated requirements, Her Majesty's Government accepted the documents approved by the heads of the Governments of Greece and Turkey as the agreed foundation for the final settlement of the problem of Cyprus.

Our requirements were that two areas should be retained under full British sovereignty, together with such rights as were necessary to ensure those areas being used effectively as military bases, and that satisfactory guarantees should be given by Greece, Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus for the integrity of those areas and for our use and enjoyment of the necessary rights.

The declaration also stipulated that provision should be made for the protection of the fundamental human rights of the various communities in Cyprus, for the protection of the interests of members of the public services, for the resolving of questions of nationality of persons affected by the settlement and for the assumption by the Republic of Cyprus of the appropriate obligations of the present Cyprus Government, including the settlement of claims.

The declaration made it clear that Her Majesty's Government welcomed the draft treaty of alliance and would cooperate in the common defence of Cyprus. Finally, we declared that the constitution of the Republic should come into force and the necessary instruments be formally signed at the earliest practicable date and that sovereignty would then be transferred to the Republic of Cyprus.

This declaration was formally accepted by the Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers in the names of their Governments as providing, together with the documents approved by the heads of the Greek and Turkish Governments at Zurich, the agreed foundation for the final settlement of the problem of Cyprus. Archbishop Makarios, as the representative of the Greek-Cypriot community, and Dr. Kutchuk, as the representative of the Turkish-Cypriot community, have also accepted the declaration and the Zurich documents on the same basis. Our requirements have thus been fully met.

The mutual acceptance by the parties to the Conference of the position formally made known constitutes the firm and agreed foundation on which the final settlement will be built. The instruments recording these arrangements were initialled at Lancaster House today.

At this point, I would like to say how much the successful solution of this baffling problem is due to the determination and perseverance of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary. In all this, they have borne a heavy burden of responsibility for a long time with the greatest skill and patience. All parties to the Conference firmly endorse the aim of bringing the constitution and the treaties into full effect as soon as practicable. A number of practical arrangements have been made for this purpose, the details of which will be announced very shortly.

The question has been raised of the possibility of Cyprus remaining in some form of association with the Commonwealth. This is a matter on which, of course, the people of Cyprus themselves should have an opportunity of expressing their views when they have the constitutional means of doing so. It is also a question which must concern other Commonwealth Governments. If in due course the Government of Cyprus declare that they desire to remain associated with the Commonwealth, the United Kingdom Government, in consultation with other members of the Commonwealth will consider sympathetically how that desire can most appropriately be satisfied. I hope—indeed, I trust —that all hon. Members, on all sides of the Committee, will welcome this agreement. I believe that we have closed a chapter of bitterness and strife in the history of Cyprus and that we are now embarking, with our Greek and Turkish Allies and the people of Cyprus themselves, on a new approach where partnership and co-operation take the place of strife and dissension. The missing factor which has so long eluded us was the agreement of Greece and Turkey on the terms of the settlement. This has now been achieved and the restored friendship of Greece and Turkey, which carries with it a reconciliation between the two main communities in the island, is the all-important feature of the new arrangements.

Her Majesty's Government believe that the agreements arrived at in Zurich and London will result in the return of peace to Cyprus. Our purpose is to bring the state of emergency to an end as soon as possible. This will involve the release of detainees, the terms of an amnesty for those convicted and arrangements for the return of those exiled.

Throughout the period of the emergency, which has lasted nearly four years, men and women in the security forces and the public service in Cyprus have persevered with courage in the face of danger in the performance of often thankless but essential tasks. I am sure that the Committee will wish to pay tribute to them and to the devotion to duty of the Governor, Sir Hugh Foot, and his predecessor, Lord Harding. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

I must add a further word about the public service. It is essential to maintain its continuity and its efficiency. To this end, every encouragement will be given to members of the public service to continue to serve in the island. The interests of officers who leave, as well as of those who stay, will be carefully looked after, as they have been elsewhere when the countries they were serving became independent.

The House of Commons 'has on many occasions recognised the role of the Services and of the security forces in Cyprus during recent years. Their patience, their courage and their devotion to duty has bean beyond praise. Valuable lives have been lost—of Service men and of civilians. These can never be replaced, but I hope that all who mourn their loss will realise that they have not died in vain, for their sacrifice has prevented the widening of conflict and strife, with all its attendant dangers.

I regard this Agreement as a victory for reason and co-operation. No party to it has suffered defeat. It is a victory for all. By removing a source of bitterness and division it will enable us and our Allies and the people of Cyprus to concentrate on working together for peace and freedom.

7.21 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)

We on this side of the Committee have heard with great satisfaction and relief the announcement just made by the Prime Minister. It was a long statement and there is still much detail to be filled in before we can get a completely clear picture of exactly what has been agreed.

I would, therefore, wish to put only one major question to the Prime Minister in the hope that he can enlighten us a little further.

I am not clear, from what the right hon. Gentleman said, exactly what the next steps are. Are 'there to be any further negotiations, and, if so, between whom, on detailed points that still remain to be settled? One such point, presumably, is the date on which the change-over is to take place. I wonder whether the Prime Minister could help us on that.

I think that it is particularly satisfactory to us on this side of the Committee that, at least, the possibility remains open that Cyprus will remain in the Commonwealth, although, there again, I am not entirely clear as to when the decision on that matter is likely to be taken.

I desire to associate my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself with the very well-deserved tribute paid by the Prime Minister to our Armed Forces and to the civilian members of the public service in Cyprus who have had to endure so much during the last years, and also to the Governor, Sir Hugh Foot, and his predecessor. I think that, however one looks at the Agreement, perhaps the most credit must go to the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey, who, during what was a dangerous moment in the relations between their two countries, managed to sit down together and reach agreement.

In view of the very large number of mistakes made over the past few years by Her Majesty's Government, I feel inclined also to offer my congratulations to them for at last having realised that they had to reach a solution based on friendship between Greece and Turkey, and that to do this all talk of our retaining sovereignty over the island as a whole must be given up. I think that they deserve particular credit for eating so many words and even inviting Archbishop Makarios to the Conference. Therefore, despite our criticisms of the Government, and very well-deserved criticisms, in the past, I am sure that it is extremely satisfactory that at long last they have seen the light.

The Prime Minister

I am grateful for the generous expressions of the right hon. Gentleman. They were of the tone and temper that I expected from the narrow- ness of his outlook. He never has been, and never will be, able to rise to the level of great events.

I will now try to answer the two questions which the right hon. Gentleman put to me. With regard to the Commonwealth, I think that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that it must be a matter for the elected Government of Cyprus, which it must take a little time to bring into being, to take the first step. I think that it must be left to the elected representatives or Government to express their views. I have expressed our hopes and desires.

On the question of the next step, I do not think that there ought to be any new negotiations when these documents are published. I must apologise to the Committee for the fact that they cannot be published tonight or tomorrow, but I thought it right to accede to the wishes of the other Governments and that they should have the opportunity of publishing them at the same time. I think that when the documents are published they will be found to be pretty full and will include a document which sets out how we are to set about the next stage, to bring into being what we have agreed upon. That will be a process of practical arrangement for working out the next practical steps. I have been particularly asked not to go into any details on that tonight, but to allow our colleagues, the Greek and Turkish Prime Ministers, to explain them to their own Parliaments.

Perhaps I may be allowed to add, although in answer to a question, that the final agreement of the three Prime Ministers was signed by us all, and I am happy to say that the Prime Minister of Turkey was sufficiently recovered for Mr. Karamanlis and myself to go to the hospital in which he is, where the final signatures took place.

7.28 p.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

May I also say how glad I am, as I am sure are all hon. Members, that there is some prospect of ending the trouble in Cyprus?

I should like to ask two questions about the Prime Minister's announcement. First, is it clear that the representatives of both the Turkish and Greek Cypriots have accepted the agreement in toto, or are further negotiations to go on? There have been in the Press some very odd announcements about what are believed to have been the Greek and Turkish demands. Is not the Prime Minister going to give the Committee any explanation as to why the Government have now abandoned their oft-repeated plea that they could not under any circumstances abandon the sovereignty of Cyprus? What is it in the Agreement which has made them feel so confident that they can now give up this, which was stated to be the foundation of our policy?

The Prime Minister

When the Agreements are published I think that the hon. Gentleman will find them to be fairly comprehensive. They have been accepted completely by Archbishop Makarios, the representative of the Greek-Cypriots, and by Dr. Kutchuk, the representative of the Turkish-Cypriots. It only remains now, therefore, not to negotiate, but to work out the practical steps for bringing this to a conclusion.

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's second question, no doubt this matter will be debated more fully, but we have always maintained—and that, to my mind, has been the whole problem—that we would never settle this question except by a Turkish, Greek, British, Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot agreement. In the White Paper, which was, I think, published in May, we set out our plans for a short-term agreement. They have not been altogether without some value. We also added, at the end, that we would be prepared to consider the surrender of sovereignty with regard to a long-term agreement. What has now happily taken place is that we have been able to make the long-term agreement more rapidly than we expected.

Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)

May I ask my right hon. Friend, first, with regard to the transfer of sovereignty which now replaces the sharing of sovereignty, outlined in the White Paper as the objective, whether we begin by applying the Statute of Westminster to the island of Cyprus, or whether we proceed in some other way to get the new Republic of Cyprus started?

Secondly, may I ask whether, in furtherance of the White Paper's objective of establishing partnership with Greece and Turkey, he will use this Agreement as an endeavour to bring Greece and Turkey closer to the Commonwealth rather than as a farewell to Cyprus by the Commonwealth?

Thirdly, may I ask whether there is any provision, or there is intended to be any provision, for dual nationality and citizenship in the new arrangement, as suggested in point five of the plan outlined in the White Paper, which would both assist the economic viability of the island and provide some answer to the aspirations for Hellenic unity?

The Prime Minister

If I may take the first question, procedural methods will be found, when the papers are published, on how we propose to set about it, or rather the first stages. There will, no doubt, be quite difficult legal questions to be resolved by the experts before we can achieve the result which we have in mind.

As to the last question, on nationalities, it is one which, I think, has been in the minds of hon. Members quite naturally, because it is a very important one, affecting the lives and interests of a very great number of British citizens, or those who are now British citizens. That is why we made special provision in our declaration that that matter must be accommodated in a fair and honourable way. With regard to the future Commonwealth arrangements—first with Cyprus— as I tried to explain, we look with the greatest sympathy ourselves—we have other Commonwealth Governments to consider—on any such possible arrangement, but, having said that, we must probably let that spring from the time when a constitutional Government of Cyprus comes into being.

I regard this settlement as one which, in my hon. Friend's words, does bind the people of Greece and Turkey and Cyprus much closer together for the future. It is upon their separation and their quarrels that no one except our enemies has rejoiced, and it is upon their coming together that all their friends will be happy.

Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)

May I join in the welcome and the sense of relief with which the Committee has greeted this Agreement? Is it not clear that concessions have been made all round, not least on the part of the Government in conniving at the burial of the Macmillan Plan? In that lies the full credit which probably can be accorded to Her Majesty's Government for this Agreement. Does not the signature this afternoon also vindicate the good faith of Archbishop Makarios, who has been so often impugned on the benches opposite, including the Government Front Bench? Is it not a tragedy that Her Majesty's Government did not take up the offer of Archbishop Makarios, six months ago, of a solution based on independence—six months during which 50 more lives have been lost in Cyprus?

The Prime Minister

I do not wish to debate this at length, but I think that the hon. Member has made rather too simple what are very difficult problems. We have had all along this difficult problem of all the different interests concerned. Independence, as stated then, had perhaps one meaning. What we have tried to do, and we have succeeded, has been to get Greeks and Turks, Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots, and Her Majesty's Government all agreeing.

As the hon. Member said, that means, of course, concessions all round, but if we are to look to friendship and the making of this Agreement fruitful, we had better not try to measure the degree of our concessions and try to set one against the other. From this day on— and certainly, this was the spirit of the last Conference at Lancaster House—we have to get together and make a success of what we have all made considerable concessions to make possible.

Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)

I hope that this is not too much a matter of detail, but may I ask whether there is any future right of re-entry to us in the event, which we hope will not happen, of civil disturbance in the island which might be prejudicial to our bases? Secondly, may I ask whether there is to be any form of tripartite control by ourselves, Greece and Turkey, over the foreign and defence policies of the island to prevent their going Communist in future, if such occasion arose?

The Prime Minister

I think that on both those matters the broad mutual guarantees which each of these four Governments—the three Governments and the fourth, when it comes into being —give to each other and build into their treaties will cover most of the points which my hon. Friend has in mind.

Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)

In view of the very handsome tribute which the Prime Minister paid to the Foreign Secretary, was it not a little ungracious to forget the remarkable role of the Colonial Secretary in these negotiations, particularly since, having stood, year in and year out, for British sovereignty on the island, for having Cyprus as a base and not a base on Cyprus, he has abandoned every single one of these declarations and agreed to what for him must have been a concession of everything that he has stood for?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Member had listened—and I am sorry if I have a heavy cold and did not speak quite as strongly as I usually try to do—he would have heard me pay tribute to the work of the Foreign Secretary and the Colonial Secretary.

As to the second part of the hon. Member's remarks, I am not at all surprised that the hon. Gentleman should be sorry when everything goes well.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

May I ask my right hon. Friend—and this is not a point of detail—whether, during these negotiations, full and just consideration has been given to the rights, interests and future of Cypriots living outside Cyprus and also of citizens from the United Kingdom who have made their home in Cyprus and have much to contribute to the life of the island?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I think that was covered in the second point of our declaration. I will read it again. It will be found in detail when the documents are published. I have tried to summarise. The declaration stipulated that provision should be made for the protection of the fundamental human rights of the various communities in Cyprus—because there are other communities, as my hon. Friend knows—and for the resolving of questions of nationality of persons affected by the settlement. All that will arise in the rather detailed discussions which will have to take place.

Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)

May I ask a direct question about Archbishop Makarios? Is the Prime Minister satisfied that Archbishop Makarios now fully and properly represents the Greek-Cypriot people, and, if so, how long, in his opinion, has that been the case?

The Prime Minister

We always said that when the proper time came we would deal with Archbishop Makarios as the representative of the Greek-Cypriot people. What I am satisfied about is that this Agreement, in which he, too, has made concessions, of course, has been fully accepted by him both in the letter and in the spirit. I am convinced of that by the discussion which took place today, and I hope that we shall none of us try to say that there are reservations either by this Government or by that Government, or by this leader or by that leader.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

May we take it from the Prime Minister's observations that everybody has agreed with everything, and has agreed that it is to the benefit of everybody that Her Majesty's Government should get out of Cyprus? In the light of their dithering incompetence in the last three years, must we not agree that everybody is about right? May we further ask—and it is humiliating—whether Colonel Grivas is to be the next commander-in-chief there?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I always enjoy the hon. and learned Gentleman's interventions, but I never know whether they are epigrams or paradoxes.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

The whole Committee would agree that we welcome the reconciliation between the Greek and Turkish Governments, and note with delight their growing friendship, but would not the right hon. Gentleman, if he himself is to rise to the spirit of this occasion, agree that the foundations for this reconciliation were laid when Archbishop Makarios volunteered to give up Enosis with Greece in exchange for independence? And if there is now to be, as we all hope there will be, a growing friendship between this country and Cyprus that will lead it to choose to remain within the British Commonwealth, should the right hon. Gentleman not now lay the foundations of that friendship by paying credit where it is due?

The Prime Minister

As I have said, in any settlement, if it is to be a satisfactory one, sacrifices are made by all sides. The claim to Enosis has been abandoned. That is a big sacrifice. The claim to partition has been abandoned. That is a big sacrifice. We have aban- doned our sovereignty except over those bases which are necessary for our military needs, with the rights and facilities which are necessary to make them effective. Therefore, if we call it sacrifice, it is a sacrifice all round. It is upon that basis that I think we can look hopefully to the future.