HC Deb 28 April 1976 vol 910 cc368-70
14. Mr. Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the latest position in regard to the Cyprus situation; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hattersley

Her Majesty's Government hope that genuine negotiations at the intercommunal talks will soon be resumed. We maintain warm support for the efforts of Dr. Waldheim.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the interests and future of the island are being sacrificed and that the island is being used as a pawn in terms of ageing oil politics, possible membership of the European Community and as a means, possibly, of gaining NATO arms? Is it not time that the British Government, as a guarantor nation, decided to take some initiative to help bring bout a solution and an agreement on the so far unacceptable proposals submitted by both Turkey and Greece?

Mr. Hattersley

I do not think that any of the causes that my hon. Friend lists have contributed towards a failure to make the sort of progress that both he and I wish to see. The real basis of the difficulty is that old hatreds, fears and exploitations are now being played out in new circumstances. I assure my hon. Friend that Her Majesty's Government are willing to take whatever initiatives seem practicable and possible. Although both my hon. Friend and I can only decry the unhappy situation in which the island now finds itself, all of us find it much more difficult to suggest remedies that the United Kingdom could apply. Therefore, I fear that the situation must continue until the intercommunal talks make some real progress.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

What steps will the right hon. Gentleman take to ensure that goods in the ownership of Turkish Cypriots which are now in one of the two British sovereign bases on the island, are returned to their legitimate owners? Secondly, what will he do to prevent the importation to this country of illegally seized Greek Cypriot works of antiquity?

Mr. Hattersley

The second part of the hon. Gentleman's question involves a matter which needs a good deal of qualification and a legal interpretation. If the hon. Gentleman needs an answer to that issue, he must table a Question so that the Law Officers are able to give a considered judgment upon it.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's first point very well. He refers to the problems associated with goods which are now in the sovereign bases. This is not a matter of Britain holding on to them illegally or according to its wishes; it is a technical problem rather than a problem of our desires. The sooner all the problems associated with what happened at the sovereign bases, thanks to the refugees which it was our duty to look after during the early months of the civil war, are sorted out, the happier will be the British Government in general and the Ministry of Defence in particular.

Mr. Hurd

Is it not a fact that the bilateral talks to which the Minister has referred, which are taking place in Vienna, have broken down as a result of the resignation of Mr. Clerides as the representative of the Government of Cyprus? If that is so, do not Her Majestys Government have distinct responsibilities, as the right hon. Gentleman indicated, to take some initiative to get the talks going again, or, if that is not possible, to find some other way of making progress towards a solution?

Mr. Hattersley

Unfortunately, Mr. Clerides has resigned, but new negotiators have been appointed from both sides and I understand that they enjoy the support of both communities on the island. The task now is to get them talking, leading to intercommunal talks. We are doing all that we can quietly and privately, which is often a rather more successful approach in these matters than publicised initiatives, to make sure that the talks begin and continue satisfactorily. If the hon. Gentleman has any practical suggestions, or if any of my hon. Friends have any practical suggestions about what else we should be doing, I shall be happy to consider them, but practical suggestions in this area have been very scarce.

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