HC Deb 31 July 1974 vol 878 cc796-801
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. James Callaghan)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker. I will make a statement on Cyprus.

Yesterday evening at 10 p.m. I signed with the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey the declaration which we had negotiated during a period of six days.

I am placing a copy of this declaration and of the statement by the three Governments which accompanied it in the Library of the House.

We met against a background of numerous allegations that the ceasefire was being violated and this did not improve the atmosphere during the period of negotiation. Nevertheless, I would like to pay tribute to the statesmanship of the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey and their Governments which made this declaration possible. I am glad to say that both Governments have welcomed the declaration.

Members of the House will wish to study the declaration and I will not go through it in detail today. But let me emphasise that the arrangements made under it are temporary. We must move on as soon as possible to better and more permanent arrangements.

The declaration is the best response which the guarantor Powers could make to the request placed before them by Security Council Resolution 353.

As regards the immediate steps to maintain security in Cyprus, we agreed that the areas controlled by opposing forces would not be extended; that all forces regular and irregular should desist from hostile activity; and that a security zone should be established by representatives of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom in consultation with the United Nations force.

As regards the measures to bring a return of confidence to the two communities, we agreed that National Guard forces should evacuate Turkish enclaves. In these enclaves the communities would continue to have their own security forces but the United Nations force would also help with protection and security. Detained military personnel and civilians will be exchanged or released under the International Red Cross.

As regards the future, we shall be meeting again from the evening of 8th August to discuss the longer-term constitutional issues. The representatives of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities will be invited to join us.

That, Mr. Speaker, is a necessarily incomplete summary of the main provisions of the declaration. It is not a perfect document, but Greece and Turkey have, I believe, been brought back from the brink of war and what we have done in Geneva will help to keep the peace and give everyone a chance of moving on to the second and more important phase of making a peace—a peace which will last and which will create the essential confidence among the communities which has been lacking.

The immediate aim had to be to remove the risk of war, but our abiding concern is the welfare of the people of Cyprus. Cyprus will not flourish as long as it remains an armed camp. We must do our utmost to secure compliance with Resolution 353 of the Security Council in all its aspects, including its military provisions, as well as the resolution of the constitutional problems of Cyprus in such a manner as will command the confidence of all its peoples.

I must say a word, Mr. Speaker, about the situation in the island itself. There have been a considerable number of breaches of the ceasefire called for by the United Nations on 22nd July, but it is the intention of the Foreign Ministers and their Governments that these should now cease and that life should gradaully return to normal.

The withdrawal of United Kingdom citizens and other friendly nationals into the sovereign base areas and the subsequent evacuation to Britain of those who wished to leave the island have gone smoothly. The Royal Air Force has flown more than 9,000 people to Britain. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am sure the House will agree with me that in the wholly exceptional circumstances obtaining in Cyprus it would be right to depart from the established Treasury practice and to make no charge against individual United Kingdom citizens for their evacuation.

In addition to the two deaths to which I referred in my statement of 22nd July, I must report with great regret that four other British residents of the Kyrenia area were killed last week. I have assured their families of the sincere sympathy of the House.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I pay tribute to all those who have been involved during these anxious days in trying to keep the peace or to help individuals who have suffered from the hostilities. There will be difficult days ahead and much more work is yet to be done, but we have made a start.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I wish at once to express the gratitude of the whole House to the right hon. Gentleman for having come at the earliest possible moment to give us this statement after six grinding and critical days. I think, too, it gives us all satisfaction that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to play an important part in bringing the Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers together and that the three of them have been able to start the process of reconciliation.

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that we are to have a short debate today about Cyprus. I would prefer to raise any points I have if I were so lucky as to catch your eye during that short discussion. I hasten to add that it would be most unreasonable to ask the Secretary of State to remain.

Mr. Callaghan

I am much obliged to the righ hon. Gentleman for all that he said. If I happend to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, or even had an implicit assurance of that, I should be glad to remain.

Mr. Dalyell

Has the Foreign Secretary seen the Early Day Motion, got together at the very shortest notice last night after the announcement on the BBC nine o'clock news, congratulating him on his tireless efforts, and signed by 30 of his colleagues from the parliamentary Labour Party foreign affairs group, often of rather diverse views on policy? Is he aware that his colleagues take some vicarious pride in his grit and tenancity?

Mr. Callaghan

I am much obliged. I want to emphasise that we have only made a start. The most difficult days lie ahead in this situation. The sessions we are to have next week, although not nearly as dramatic as those we have just emerged from, will be much tougher in terms of the attitude that may be taken by both sides. If there is one thing that has pleased me over the past six days, it is the influence this country has. I have been proud of Britain during the last week.

Mr. Russell Johnston

I warmly associate all of us on the Liberal bench with the congratulations already offered to the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure we all hope he will soon be able to have a prolonged period of sleep without any interruption.

May I ask him two quick questions? First, the United Nations will obviously have a very important rôle to play in the weeks and months ahead. Can the Foreign Secretary give us any indication of the size of force that would be required what the cost is likely to be, and whether he is satisfied that the financing of the operation can reasonably be met?

Secondly, will he indicate, in the discussions on the long-term constitutional issues to which he referred, from where the representation of the Greek community will be drawn in regard to the existing leadership of Cyprus and the previous leadership of Cyprus?

Finally, can he assure us that the Government will continue to act to discourage the presence in the island of non-Cypriot military forces not associated with the United Nations?

Mr. Callaghan

I am much obliged to to the hon. Gentleman. I am not at all sure that I was any worse off out there than the House of Commons seems to have been this week with its all-night sessions.

Regarding the United Nations forces, there were 2,400 there at the beginning of the recent difficulties. That force, by 4th August, will rise to 4,328—if they all arrive. The British contingent is a substantial one. We thought it right to pledge an immediate increase to the United Nations, especially around Nicosia Airport. The 16th/5th Lancers and others have played a very steadying rôle in what could have been a most critical situation.

As regards financing, I do not have any figures about that with me at the moment.

The representation of the Greek community at the talks is a matter which concerned the Foreign Ministers. It is a matter for the communities in the island to decide, and it is obviously a delicate matter. But I understand from Mr. Mavros, the Greek Foreign Minister, that it is not the intention of Archbishop Makarios to proceed to the talks as we start them next week. I understand, althought it is for the Greek-Cypriot community to decide, that it will be the acting-President, Mr. Clerides, who will attend.

On the third point—the withdrawal of non-Cypriot forces—the constitution has not been observed in a number of ways for many years. I do not know whether we can get it put right, but certainly this is an opportunity to do so. No island can flourish if one has, in one and the same area, a Greek National Guard, Turkish Freedom fighters, a Greek armed contingent, a Turkish armed contingent, the United Nations forces and now, of course, the Turkish Army itself. I do not know how any small island can expect to thrive under that. It must be our objective to try to reduce this to reasonable proportions.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am in difficulty. We have three statements and a Ten Minute Rule Bill as well as the debate on Cyprus. It may be for the convenience of the House, therefore, if I slightly extend the time of the debate on Cyprus and take a little time off each of the other debates, being fair to each Member who has a topic for debate. We shall go on, therefore, to the next statement. Mr. Benn.

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