HC Deb 22 December 1976 vol 923 cc656-9
13. Miss Richardson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the British attitude in the recent debate in the United Nations on Cyprus.

Dr. Owen

Unfortunately the non-aligned resolution was tabled with insufficient time to secure more acceptable amendments to it and so Britain, with a number of other countries, abstained.

Miss Richardson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Britain has a special and major responsibility as a guarantor to the independence of Cyprus? In view of the continuing disturbing reports coming from the island through, for example, the United Nations civilian police reports, part of which were published recently, about the expulsion by the Turks of Greek Cypriots and looting in the North, does he agree that the Greek Cypriots are entitled to feel somewhat embittered by the lack of action on the part of the British Government? Will he seek a meeting with the Turkish Government to discuss the matter fully?

Dr. Owen

I share my hon. Friend's concern. In fact, I discussed many of these issues with both Turkish and Cypriot individuals when I was in Cyprus very recently. We are all of us concerned at reports that Greek Cypriots in the north of Cyprus have been forced against their wishes to leave their homes and that looting is taking place. I think that the inter-communal talks should be the area in which we can look at these humanitarian questions. Whatever the reason for the exodus from the North, it is not calculated to improve the overall climate and atmosphere in Cyprus or the chances of achieving a settlement.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Surely the Government should now realise that there has not been any measure of success through the United Nations and that it is now time for a new initiative to be taken, as has been suggested by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, with the countries of the EEC, after securing their agreement, and in association with the new régime in America. Will the Government now seek a really good British initiative, together with the EEC and the President of the United States, to ensure that there is a just and lasting solution by bringing together the people of Turkey and Cyprus?

Dr. Owen

The British Government have been pursuing those objectives for the past few months. Intensive discussions have taken place within the European Economic Community and through the vehicle of political co-operation and discussions with the United States Administration. We fully support the concepts outlined in Dr. Kissinger's speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September, many of which had been discussed among member nations.

Mr. Atkinson

Is not my right hon. Friend now announcing the end of the Commonwealth as such? Is not Cyprus a member of the Commonwealth, and are not a Government outside the Commonwealth—the Turkish Government—using their armed forces stationed in the northern part of Cyprus to accelerate or escalate the number of expulsions of Greek citizens from the North of the territory to the South? Therefore, have the British Government now washed their hands of all responsibilities there? Are we saying that progress in the matter can be made only as a result of intercommunal talks?

Dr. Owen

No, Sir. That is certainly not our position. We think that inter-communal talks could be, and in the last analysis will be, the only way of reaching a settlement, but if there can be some outside help we stand ready to provide it. As for my hon. Friend's allegations about the Commonwealth, Cyprus remains a full member of the Commonwealth. What everyone on both sides wants is to see full democratic participation of Turkish and Greek Cypriots, with the two communities brought together.

Mr. Townsend

Will the Minister take a personal interest in the plight of some 2,000 people who are missing following the Turkish invasion, and see what can be done quietly and diplomatically to release them from Turkey, if they can be found?

Dr. Owen

When I visited Cyprus 1 discussed not only the problem of missing persons, which is very serious, but the question of displaced people. I also discussed with some Greek Cypriots living in camps outside their homes their difficult personal problems. The facts are clear. We must bring the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities together and forge again a proper Government of Cyprus, capable of speaking for all the people, and break down some of the historic enmities. But this will be very difficult to achieve.

Mr. Christopher Price

Reverting to my right hon. Friend's original answer, may I ask whether on second thoughts he does not consider that our vote at the United Nations was very wishy-washy? Now that he is fully in command of the Cyprus situation in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will he ensure that that sort of attitude in the United Nations is not repeated and that we take the lead in producing an initiative on Cyprus while we have the chairmanship of the EEC Council of Ministers?

Dr. Owen

Any United Nations resolution needs time. Those who wish to achieve the maximum amount of agreement and consensus must seek the agreement of member nations. That was not done in this case. I believe that if it had been done it would have been possible to achieve a resolution which commanded much more support.

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