HC Deb 04 December 1987 vol 123 cc1211-25

Relevant documents: Third Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 1986–87, on Cyprus (House of Commons Paper No. 23) and the Observations by the Government on that Report (Cm. 232).

9.40 am
Mr. William Shelton (Streatham)

I beg to move, That this House believes that the future of the Republic of Cyprus is best served by the maintenance of a sovereign, independent state, with all foreign troops withdrawn and basic human rights guaranteed; urges Her Majesty's Government to press the Secretary-General of the United Nations to continue his mission of good offices; and, in view of the application of the Government of Turkey for membership of the European Community, calls on Ministers to ensure that the Turkish Government is aware of the United Kingdom's concern over the Cyprus problem. I will not conceal from the House that for the 17 years I have been in Parliament, I have regularly entered the ballot and this is the first time ever that my name has come up. Wishing as always to represent the interests of my constituents, my first thought was to put down a motion regarding the community charge. However, my hon. Friends in the Whips Office pointed out most courteously that they might well have to put a Whip on the Conservative party to come and vote at 2.30 pm, so after some consideration I decided to move to something else of great concern, admittedly to a smaller number of my constituents. Many Cypriots live in Streatham and I have many Cypriot friends who live there.

The Government and the country have a responsibility to Cyprus, whose position has not changed much over the past few years. It seemed to me that this would be a good opportunity to allow hon. Members who have the interests of Cyprus at heart to have a discussion on this very difficult and vexed issue. I very much hope that, in taking the opportunity to call attention to the problems of Cyprus today, we can in some small way give another impetus to resolving the difficulties facing that country.

I have never had the privilege of visiting Cyprus, so I cannot speak at first hand about that country, although I am sure that will be put right by many of my hon. Friends who have had that privilege. I say this right at the beginning, in case later in the debate I should be taxed with not having visited Cyprus. I thought I would get it out of the way.

It might be helpful to the House if I run through the series of events that have caused the present problem to develop in Cyprus. One must start with 1960, when Cyprus became independent of Great Britain and the constitution of Cyprus was drawn up by Great Britain. That decade and the previous ones were great decades for Great Britain, which drew up constitutions for many countries. The constitution of Cyprus was guaranteed by this country, Greece and Turkey. Three treaties were signed: first, a treaty of establishment, which guaranteed independence to Cyprus; secondly, a treaty which guaranteed that the state of independence would exist and continue; and thirdly, a treaty of alliance between the three powers to protect the integrity of Cyprus.

Incidentally, among those treaties were special provisions to allow Greece and Turkey to leave a few troops in the north and south of Cyprus. I understand that Greece left 940 troops and Turkey left 650 troops. I do not think that one can turn one's eyes from the oppression of the minority community in the years following the granting of independence in 1960. We have seen that in other countries. It is something to be deplored, but perhaps not something that should surprise us.

The next major date was July 1974, when two blows were struck at the integrity of Cyprus. The first blow was struck by the military Government of Greece which, it is said—I have no reason to disbelieve it—organised a coup to overthrow the President of Cyprus, with the secondary intention that Cyprus should become part of the Greek state. Within three days, the Greek military Government had been overthrown, so the coup in Cyprus came to nothing, but during those three days there was considerable unrest and military disturbance.

The second blow came—I am not certain whether it was during one of those three days or at the end; perhaps an hon. Member will tell me—when Turkey seized the opportunity of the disruption to invade Cyprus. The reason it gave was that it sought to restore order and protect the state of affairs, which was one of the obligations of the treaty. It sent in troops numbering not fewer than 20,000 and not more than 40,000. There is still argument as to how many Turkish troops actually were in Cyprus then, and how many are there today.

It could be said that when that happened Turkey was acting properly under the treaty of guarantee, but—we come to the crux of the matter—when within three days the Greek Government fell and the coup petered out and disappeared, did Turkey withdraw from its attempt "to re-establish a state of affairs"? No. It dug in and left its troops in northern Cyprus, with a foot firmly on the land. As the months and years went past, it became apparent that the country was partitioned by the Turks with the well-known green line, the line of demarcation between north and south. The partition gradually became established and the troops were maintained.

The north now controls about one third of the land, having only one fifth of the population. Furthermore, across the green line is no freedom of movement without permission and there is no freedom of settlement from one side to the other. Moreover, compensation for those who lived in the north but who were dispossessed, including a small number of my constituents, has been refused.

A matter of some controversy and of great bitterness is that there seems to have been — I shall not say deliberate, but effective — destruction of much of the Christian cultural heritage in the north of Cyprus. It started fairly soon after the invasion. There was an article in The Times on 25 May 1976 that said: As the Turks have steadily moved into the former Greek villages of the north they have wrought terrible damage and desecration on Greek churches and graveyards.… It is important to distinguish between random damage that might have been caused by drunks after a night out, and the demolition of crosses, tombstones and heavy marble slabs which weigh several hundredweight and would need men with sledgehammers to destroy them. We found nothing to fit the first category. I have in my hand a list of 18 churches in the north of Cyprus that have been vandalised, looted or damaged. Various treasures from the north of Cyprus have, in some extraordinary way, turned up in various English salerooms, where they have fetched very good sums of money.

I am a member of the Council of Europe and sit on the Committee on Culture and Education of that council. A report of that committee on the cultural heritage of Cyprus, dated 18 November, states that five historic churches of artistic importance in the north of Cyprus have been damaged or looted in recent years. The Committee on Culture and Education has decided to send a fact-finding mission to Cyprus to investigate at first hand what may be happening there and to report back to the Council of Europe. In fairness, I should add that a rebuttal by the authorities of northern Cyprus is to be found in the same report. The damage is blamed on the violence that took place during the coup in 1974. The bitterness in Cyprus does not seem to have lessened.

The next date of importance is 1983, when northern Cyprus declared itself to be independent and called itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. No country, apart from Turkey, has recognised the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. I cannot believe that that declaration would have been made by northern Cyprus were it not for the agreement of the Government of Turkey. One must accept that the Government of Turkey, which has 20,000 to 30,000 troops in northern Cyprus, agreed to that declaration. I repeat, however, that the independence of northern Cyprus has not been recognised by any other country.

With the support of the British Government, the United Nations has started to play an increasing role in the affairs of Cyprus. During the last three years, three proposals have been made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Perez de Cuellar. The first was made in January 1985, the second in April 1985 and the third in March 1986. I understand that President Kyprianou did not accept the first proposal of January 1985 because it did not deal specifically with the withdrawal of troops. Mr. Denktash did not find the second proposal of April 1985 to be particularly acceptable, because it included what President Kyprianou had looked for in the first proposal. The third proposal has been lying on the table since March 1986, although it is no doubt under consideration. It deals, among other matters, with whether the north of Cyprus should be recognised, and with the withdrawal of troops.

The fundamental problem—which it is difficult for the Secretary-General of the United Nations to deal with must be dealt with within Cyprus and between northern Cyprus and Turkey. The United Nations initiatives deal with whether Cyprus should be a federal republic, or whether there should be power sharing, with an administration in the north and in the south, and compensation.

The fundamental question is whether in the long run, after a settlement has been reached, Cyprus will be a partitioned country, with two co-operating states, or whether it will be a united and unified country, with two subordinate provinces. If the guarantees of 1960 mean anything, the second proposal must surely represent the most suitable and satisfactory outcome. The experience of other countries shows that if there are two separate and distinct nations within a small island, the government of that island remains unstable and unsatisfactory. The long-term future—I hope it will not be long in coming—for Cyprus must be a unified nation, with two co-operating provinces.

If we believe that that is the way forward for Cyprus, we must accept that between 1960 and 1974 there was some oppression of the Turkish minority. It is difficult to find out how much oppression there was, what form it took, how long it lasted and exactly what happened. However, there was certainly some oppression of the Turkish minority, which leads me to the conclusion that it will be well-nigh impossible to achieve a unified country, with two provinces, unless human rights can be guaranteed for the minority as well as for the majority of the people of Cyprus.

It is likely, if it were announced that Turkish troops were to withdraw tomorrow, that many in the north would feel apprehensive — wrongly, I hope. However, that perception must be taken into account. That brings me to the conclusion that, if a single country is to be achieved, the rights of the majority as well as the minority must be protected. We are all aware of the problems involved in guaranteeing human rights, but they are not insurmountable, especially in a contained area such as Cyprus, if there is good will between north and south and between Turkey and Greece.

Whether those guarantees of minority rights would best come from the guarantor powers—the United Nations, the EEC or NATO—I do not know, but we have a United Nations presence in Ireland—Cyprus; I shall have to look at Hansard and delete that—and I should have thought that valid guarantees could be forthcoming from the United Nations, should we move towards that position.

Sir Anthony Buck (Colchester, North)

As my hon. Friend is dealing with the United Nations, will he deal with the Greek attitude to the United Nations proposals, which have been accepted by the north and by the Turks, but. regrettably, not by what might be described as the Greek side of the island?

Mr. Shelton

As I said, three proposals were put forward; two in 1985 and one in 1986. My hon. and learned Friend is right to say that the first proposal was not accepted by President Kyprianou because, in his view, it did not deal sufficiently with the withdrawal of troops. The second proposal, a few months later, was not accepted by Mr. Denktash of the north. He felt that the Secretary-General of the United Nations had gone too far in meeting the objections of President Kyprianou.

I understand that the third proposal, which was put forward in 1986, has not been accepted or rejected by the north or the south; it is still lying on the table, but one hopes that it will be picked up and discussed in the near future.

It is clear that the position remains difficult and tense, but hon. Members may have seen a report in The Times on 23 November. The headline reads: Women brave Cyprus minefields. Hundreds of Greek Cypriot women, protesting against the division of their island, braved unmarked minefields to cross a UN controlled buffer zone yesterday". It was also reported in The Independent. The report in the International Herald Tribune reads: Hundreds of Greek Cypriot women bearing white banners stormed and scrambled across the line dividing their country … Unarmed United Nations forces … joined the Turkish troops to prevent the women protesting far into northern Cyprus". On a wider front, hon. Members will have seen the report of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I draw attention to paragraphs 61 and 62, which are headed, "The economic situation". Paragraph 61 reads: There is a stark contrast between the state of economic development of the two parts of Cyprus". Paragraph 62 reads: In 1985, southern Cyprus, with an estimated population of 544,000, had a per capita GNP of US $4,346, with an inflation rate of 5 per cent. Northern Cyprus, with a claimed population of 160,000 (including settlers), had a per capita GNP of US $1,269, with an inflation rate of 43 per cent.". That is a per capita rate of just over one quarter of that of the south and an inflation rate of 43 per cent., compared with 5 per cent. in the south.

That cannot be satisfactory, and it must be to the advantage of northern Cyprus and Turkey to come to an accommodation. It cannot be right that the northern region is in economic difficulty while the south is booming.

How can we, the United Nations, Turkey or Greece, move forward to resolve this question? Clearly, we shall not resolve it this morning, but perhaps we can give it a nudge forward by airing it in the Chamber. No magic wand can be waved. In the long term it must be resolved, but I hope it is not in the too long term.

There are pressures for certain initiatives. The first, which was mentioned in the Select Committee report, to which I referred a moment ago, is that the United Kingdom Government should convene a top-level meeting between the three guarantor powers — the British Government, Greece and Turkey—to discuss the current situation. This possibility has been mooted as a way forward.

I agree with the Government's observations on the Select Committee report that such a meeting could well be useful at the appropriate time. They say: But we do not believe it would be timely for us to propose guarantor power discussions now. The second initiative is being undertaken by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and in their response, with which I agree, the Government state: We believe success in international negotiations of this kind is more likely to come about as a result of sustained diplomatic effort, rather than through the dissipation of effort in separate initiatives. In other words, if they organise guarantor power discussions, it would cut across initiatives made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. That is why in the motion in the Order Paper I have asked the House to endorse and urge the Government to continue to press the Secretary-General of the United Nations to redouble and continue his efforts. He should consider the third initiative that is lying on the table and see whether movement could be achieved.

A third way forward, which must have an effect, is in the growing realisation that Turkey is moving into the comity of western democratic nations. I am sure that the House will agree that we should congratulate Mr. Ozal, the premier of Turkey, on the recent victory at the polls and wish him every success in the task that lies before him of governing his country. Hon. Members may have seen the announcement in The Times the day before yesterday of a probable meeting between Mr. Ozal and the Prime Minister of Greece. That must be excellent.

The main burden is Turkey's application for membership of the European Community. I understand that that is being considered by the Commission at present. Paragraph 14 of the Government's response to the Select Committee's report says: As the President of the Council of the EC, the Secretary of State took the opportunity of the EC Turkey Association Council in September 1986 to repeat to the Turkish government the Community's concern over the Cyprus problem and its strong support of the UN Secretary-General's efforts to find a lasting settlement". I find it difficult to see how Turkey can become a member of the European Community while maintaining a small army in a country the integrity of which has been guaranteed by Turkey, Greece and Britain. There seems to be an internal contradiction that I do not believe could be overcome. The tide of history is moving Turkey towards the Western nations — we welcome that — and it is becoming increasingly democratic and looking towards joining the European Community. However, I do not believe that the Turkish army in Cyprus can stay if it is to achieve its ambitions.

I have been talking about long-term initiatives but let me put a proposal for the short-term, about which something could be done quickly if the United Kingdom Government are prepared to take the initiative. I suggest an immediate way forward to increase co-operation between the two communities, increase trade and tourism in the north and south and to bring the people together in co-operation. I must give credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) with whom I was discussing the Cyprus problem. He and I perhaps do not see eye to eye on the situation, but I believe that the suggestion shows good sense.

At present, the south—the Republic of Cyprus—has two airports. There is Paphos, which is way down south, and Larnaca, which is adequate but is not one of the best airports. The north also has two airports. The main one, Ercan, is a long way from anywhere and is not entirely satisfactory. There is also the small airport of Gecitkale. Neither of those airports is well positioned or satisfactory.

However, there is Nicosia international airport—this is why I am sure that the Government and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister will wish to take an initiative — which has outstanding potential in every way. It is located on the green line between the north and south and, at present, it is used only by the United Nations and is under United Nations control. The proposal is that that airport should be used for international flights serving both the north and south. In no way could that be allowed to imply recognition of the northern Government. It would not.

I suggest that the airport should continue to be under United Nations control and be operated by Greek and Turkish Cypriots, presumably employed in proportion to the population of the two provinces. There should be free access from both the north and the south. Nicosia international airport is a superb airport but it would need a great deal of money to be spent on it for modernisation. I understand from my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford that money could well be forthcoming from various sources in the United States. That money could be used to modernise the airport and provide new equipment in order to place it among the best airports in the world.

As part of that deal, would it not be possible to persuade Turkey to withdraw perhaps a division of its troops from northern Cyprus? As I said earlier, no one knows how many troops there are in northern Cyprus but one assumes that there are no fewer than 20,000 and no more than 40,000. A division is about 7,000 men. If Turkey withdrew a division, it would have a tremendous psychological impact but it would in no way lessen what it believes is necessary; guaranteeing the security of the citizens in the north. I do not believe that that is necessary; but that may be the perception in the north. To withdraw a division would in no way endanger the status quo in the north, from which we are trying to move away.

Nicosia airport should be modernised and become a joint airport for the Republic of Cyprus and the northern province. It should remain under United Nations control and should have free access, serving international flights to the north and south. That might help the trade and tourism in the north, which as we have seen when we compare the economic situation in the north to that in the south, sadly needs a great deal of help.

If there were difficulties about the withdrawal of a division it would be possible for the United Nations or NATO to look to give some guarantees. However, I cannot see that that would be necessary because to withdraw 7,000 troops out of 20,000 or 40,000 would not be cataclysmic. If that admittedly limited initiative could be brought about and have some success, there would at least be some movement. We have seen only a hardening of the position since the invasion and the failed coup. We have seen nothing but increased rigidity and conflict between two sides. A small and limited initiative such as this would be a reversal of that tendency. If that could be achieved, and with the tide of history moving Turkey towards the West, within a few years — I hope even earlier—the major problem will be solved.

10.19 am
Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) has expressed his views in a serious, measured and conciliatory way without hiding his basic sympathy with the Greek Cypriot position. I hope that I can express my views in a measured way and I would in no way seek to mask my sympathy for the Turkish Cypriot position.

My views are my own, and I suspect that they will diverge from those of the Opposition Front Bench. I have my own experience on which to draw in judging the very difficult situation in the troubled island of Cyprus, which all hon. Members hold in high affection. Whatever our differences, none of us will argue against the interests of the island and the islanders. It is to be hoped that if we express our views in a constructive way others outside may follow our lead.

My views are the views that would be expressed by members of the Turkish Left, at least the democratic Turkish Left—Professor Inonu's party and Mr. Ecevit's party. Both parties are accepted by the Socialist International, so my view could not be regarded by my Front-Bench colleagues as deviant from the democratic Socialist views held by parties such as the Labour party.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Streatham on raising the subject and giving us an opportunity to express our views. Party lines will not be readily discerned in the debate. We shall be seen as sympathising with one group or the other, but we have an obligation to express the facts in a rational manner.

My interest in the eastern Mediterranean goes back many years. I have been interested in it as an academic, as a Member of Parliament, as someone who is interested in defence and, above all, as someone who has watched from afar, and visited on one occasion, an island torn by intercommunal violence. The hon. Gentleman's slip of the tongue—he referred to Ireland—brought to mind hon. Members' impertinence in offering to resolve intercommunal tensions in Cyprus when we have not been remarkably successful in reconciling intercommunal difference in a part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that at the sovereign bases we have Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots working side by side? Does not that show that in its funny old way Britain can contribute positively to easing intercommunal tension?

Mr. George

I shall discuss later the ways of bringing about reconciliation, and the matter to which the hon. Gentleman has referred is certainly part of that approach.

Having read the newspapers, talked to many politicians and visited the island, I have deep sympathy with it. As chairman of the Political Committee of the North Atlantic Assembly, I can speak with a degree of authority on the consequences of the domestic situation in Cyprus, which has widespread ramifications. for Greek-Turkish relations and for NATO. The hon. Member for Streatham suggested that NATO might somehow underwrite a Turkish troop withdrawal. I remind the hon. Gentleman that Cyprus is very much out-of-area to NATO, and I doubt whether there is the remotest possibility of NATO's seeking to intervene directly, or indeed indirectly, in Cyprus.

We have all observed events in Turkey over the past week and the elections there, confirming Mr. Ozal as Prime Minister for the next few years. Turkey is moving closer to democracy. No country can claim to have arrived. Democracy is a continuous process and we must all strive to improve the way in which we devise our institutions. Nevertheless, Mr. Ozal's remarks on Greece during the campaign, and, indeed, those of Mr. Papandreou, will have been beneficial to future relations. There is every possibility of a meeting between the two in the next three months or so.

A precondition for any improvement in relations in the island will be reconciliation between the "mother countries" of Greece and Turkey. Anything that can be done to improve relations between Greece and Turkey will contribute across the board, and tensions in Cyprus will be eased.

Unfortunately, views that are construed as pro-Turkish are seen by some people as being automatically anti-Greek. I refuse to fall into the trap that some would seek to lay. It is possible to like both Turks and Greeks, and liking one country in no way precludes one's having affection for the other country and understanding its history. The trouble is that the West has not really forgiven the Ottomans for capturing Constantinople in the 15th century. We have never really forgiven the Turks for Gallipoli. Those who have seen the film "Midnight Express" will not forgive the Turks for the barbarous behaviour depicted in it. Our spectacles are coloured by this antipathy for Turkey. The flight information region in the Aegean is seen as the frontier of Christianity, civilisation and democracy, and by some, all to the East is regarded as alien.

However one must recognise Turkey's strenuous and continuing efforts to democratise. That process is far from completed, so it is incumbent on us to consider the situation objectively.

The hon. Member for Streatham gave a brief and sometimes partial account of the history of events in Cyprus since 1960. The House has an interest in that history because, as the imperial power, Britain bears much of the responsibility for the events in Cyprus. In the words of the Foreign Affairs Committee in its third report, which I recommend to those outside who have not yet read it: Cyprus is one post-colonial responsibility which the United Kingdom cannot afford to evade, if its own interests are not to be prejudiced. We have a historical responsibility and a legal obligation as one of the guarantor powers. Many Cypriots live in this country and many of our people live in Cyprus. We have a large military presence, guaranteed by the 1960 constitution, and we are Cyprus's major trading partner. We have moral, legal, historical and economic motives for wanting the differences in Cyprus to be reconciled.

History is most important. From paragraph 26 onwards, the report is well worth reading. The 1960 constitution was foisted on Cyprus by Britain, and regrettably quickly proved to be unworkable. However, the attempt was noble. The attempt was to constitutionalise the fact that there were two communities in Cyprus — a majority of Greeks and a substantial minority of Turks. For a while, both communities were involved, to a degree, in decision-making. However, in 1963, there was a crisis which led to the collapse of the system of government and the 1960 settlement.

The Foreign Affairs Committee report says: Although the Cyprus Government now claims to have been merely seeking to 'operate the 1960 Constitution, modified to the extent dictated by the necessities of the situation', this claim ignores the fact that both before and after the events of December 1963 the Government of President Makarios continued to advocate the cause of Enosis"— union with Greece— and actively pursued the amendment of the Constitution and the related Treaties to facilitate this ultimate objective. In those days, the Greek Cypriots desired union with Greece. That led to the constitutional amendment that would have destroyed the constitutional status of the Turkish Cypriot community which led in turn to the 1963 crisis.

Post-1963, the Turks were huddled into their enclaves and not protected by the Cypriot armed forces. The Foreign Affairs Committee said that there were between 8,000 and 10,000 mainland Greek soldiers on the island, in contravention of the 1960 agreements. The present Greek Government can accept no responsibility for what was done by previous Greek Governments, but, in talking about the alleged illegal occupation of the island by Turkey, one must remember that there was a substantial Greek military presence on the island during those troubled times in the 1960s.

We have been told that there was "some oppression" of the minority community. I do not wish to exaggerate — others may put the case more strongly — but the position between 1963 and 1974 was shameful. Atrocities were committed on both sides, but people must look objectively at what happened. The events of the 1960s and early 1970s led the Turkish Cypriot population to believe that their rights and lives could not be guaranteed by any means other than their endeavours and those of the Turkish armed forces. The legacy of the period is not only paranoia of the Turks about the Greeks, but, because of Turkey's reaction, reinforcement of the Greek Cypriot paranoia towards Turkey. No country can have been so adversely affected by its recent history as the unfortunate country of Cyprus.

The attitude between 1963 and 1974 was hardly one of charity by the majority towards the minority. In 1974, there was the Athens-inspired military coup in which President Makarios barely escaped with his life. He described in graphic detail to the Security Council what happened: What has been happening in Cyprus since last Monday morning is a real tragedy. The military regime of Greece has callously violated the independence of Cyprus. Without trace of respect for the democratic rights of the Cypriot people, without trace of respect for the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus, the Greek junta has extended its dictatorship to Cyprus. These were nightmare years for both communities, especially in the northern part of the island. The coup was undoubtedly designed to enforce Enosis, and Greece had violated the 1960 constitution.

Eventually, in 1974, the Turkish armed forces intervened because people of a similar ethnic group were being murdered. The Foreign Affairs Committee said that if those troops had left it at that, they might have been treated as heroes. There was every justification for their action because they acted according to the constitution. If the British Government could act to defend the interests of 1,800 islanders in the Falklands, with none of them killed, one can understand why the Government of Bulent Ecevit, the leader of the Republican People's party, stepped in. That party is affiliated to the Socialist International and he is held in high esteem by the Labour party.

The Turkish Army intervened, but the critical aspect was not the first intervention, but what was seen as the second phase, which incurred the wrath of the international community. The Turkish Government acted because the Turkish military was dangerously exposed and because they wanted to establish an area controlling Greek Cypriots—so that they could bargain them away for the Turkish Cypriots who were in considerable danger in the Greek-controlled part of the country—and because they wanted to establish a greater economic and population base. Their action has been condemned by many people, but that is the justification as expressed by the Turks.

We must accept that there are two de facto Administrations in Cyprus. We must find an international and domestic environment in which the problem can be solved. A number of proposals have been made. Ultimately, I should like the Turkish troops to withdraw. The hon. Member for Streatham referred to the unilateral gestures by Turkey and the withdrawal of a division, but I eagerly wait to hear what reciprocal unilateral gesture —almost a contradiction in terms—will be made on the other side of the island. Gestures to create confidence must be two-sided. I hope that these unilateral or bilateral gestures will break the political logjam.

The island is bicommunal. If it is to survive and not to continue to stare down the barrel of other countries' guns, its bicommunal status must be underpinned and maintained. Many have sought to offer their good offices —the Commonwealth, the United Nations, NATO, the non-aligned movement, the Islamic Conference and individual countries such as Britain, Canada and the United States — yet all the endeavours, most of them sincere, have come to nothing. In recent years, the Soviet Union has taken an interest in Cyprus, but, as the Foreign Affairs Committee said, the idea of an international conference is premature. I would put it more strongly and say that it is an attempt by the Soviet Union to take advantage of the divisions between Greece and Turkey and to intervene in an area in which it has little involvement. I do not regard the Soviet Union's good offices as other than a cynical attempt to gain political advantage in an area which already has enough problems without the East-West dimension being injected into it.

A number of theoretical solutions have been advanced. One such solution is maintenance, somehow, of the status quo. We have been told that the southern part of Cyprus is prospering. Perversely, there is an interest in the status quo being maintained. Greece has some advantage in having at hand a weapon with which to hit the Turks constantly on the head. Perversely, if the Greeks can portray the Turks as an evil empire, whereby they forcibly occupy as defenceless country, and as long as there is animosity between Greece and Turkey, the present position may be maintained. Some people do not admit that the Greek Cypriots are prospering and that there is some satisfaction with the present position. Those to the north would say. "We are now safe in our beds. We no longer face the prospect of being dragged out of our beds, beaten up, jailed or even worse; we are now protected by the Turkish army." Perversely, the current position has attractions, but I would not endorse any suggestion that this unhappy stalemate should or could survive.

Another solution that I reject, is incorporation of each part of the country into the mainland countries. That is a possibility—the Greek Cypriots have long cherished the idea of union with Greece and the Turkish Cypriots might think that their security would be enhanced if that approach were adopted—but I reject that solution, as, I think, would most other people.

I also reject the unity solution, if unity means majority rule. Cyprus was heading for that in the early 1960s. However, democracy is not majority rule. If majority rule means that the majority can use its numerical superiority to exploit and undermine the minority, that is a negation of democracy. We have found such a situation in Northern Ireland, where the majority sought to dominate the economic, political, social and educational institutions to the detriment of the minority.

I reject the idea that the island should be ruled by the majority making some token concessions to the minority. That is not good enough. The Turkish Cypriots would not be prepared to contemplate even remotely a situation such as that which led to the current crisis. If we reject unity, incorporation and the status quo, the solution must surely lie in recreating a constitution in which the majority and the minority have rights that can be guaranteed. There have been occasions when that has been a likely prospect. Indeed, that was the situation after the initiatives of Perez de Cuellar.

The first version was the initiative of 1985 after the so-called "proximity talks" in 1984. They were accepted by President Denktash, but rejected by President Kyprianou. The details had been made public. They aimed to create a non-aligned, bicommunal, bizonal federal republic. The presidency would be held permanently by a Greek Cypriot and not rotated between Greeks and Turks. The vice-president would be Turkish. A senior Ministry, such as the Foreign Ministry, would be held by a Turk. Foreign armed forces would be withdrawn. That was agreed by the Turkish Cypriots, but rejected by President Kyprianou.

The second version came in April 1985 when Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar had worked on the Greek Cypriots. This proposal was accepted by President Kyprianou but rejected by the Turkish Cypriots on the grounds that they were in the midst of a referendum and parliamentary elections and that confused their response. However, they also believed that they had made their maximum concessions, but that they had been rejected by President Kyprianou.

The next version was the third draft framework agreement, brought forward by the Secretary-General of the United Nations at the end of March 1986. The hon. Member for Streatham was slightly wrong—he was half right — in saying that it had been neither rejected nor accepted by the Greek or Turkish Cypriots. He was wrong, because that draft framework agreement was repeatedly accepted by the Turkish Cypriots, and rejected by Mr. Kyprianou. The Turks found themselves in a rather unusual situation because for a long time world public opinion had seen the Turkish Cypriots in a negative light, but it was not the Turkish Cypriots who had rejected Perez de Cuellar's initiative.

International public opinion is not as simplistically deployed as previously. As one distinguished academic, Professor John Groom has said, the Greek side has again shown less interest in a rightful settlement of Cyprus than in a settlement on Greek terms.

After President Kyprianou's rejection of the proposals, Perez de Cuellar stated: the procedures proposed in the draft framework agreement provided each side with every opportunity to ensure that the negotiations proceeded in a manner that took full account of their concerns and that the concept of an integrated whole meant that the parties' ultimate commitment to an overall solution would depend on the resolution of all issues to their mutual satisfaction … By March 1986 I believed that the differences between the two sides could be bridged by a decisive effort. I therefore presented to them the draft framework agreement of 29 March 1986. I remain convinced that, if accepted by each of the two sides, this document will provide the right framework for negotiating a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem … I regret that, since one side is not yet in a position to accept the draft framework of 29 March 1986, the way is not yet open to proceed with the negotiations I have proposed for an overall solution. In these circumstances I am convinced by the dangers inherent in the present situation. The way forward will require careful reflection by all concerned. Perhaps it is wrong to maintain that the 1986 draft framework is still the basis for a settlement, but I believe that it still is. When one simplistically portrays post-1960 history, using an approach of selectivity on one side or another, one reaches dangerous conclusions. There must be an agreement which, I hope——

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. George

Yes, with pleasure.

Mr. Anderson

To avoid the same selectivity, it might be helpful if my hon. Friend continued by relating the latest position of the Secretary-General of the United Nations who, in his last report, informed the Security Council that he had suggested that a process of informal discussions by initiated between both sides. He said in March this year: the Greek Cypriot side informed me that it accepted this suggestion for informal talks. The Turkish Cypriot side advised me on 15 May 1987 that it would not accept my suggestion, unless the Greek Cypriot side first accepted the March 1986 document.

Mr. George

The document that was agreed by the Turkish Cypriots in 1986 should be the basis of any agreement. The Greek Cypriots have realised that they have been wrong-footed in the international community. I hope that there will be attempts to create a genuine conference and that in the coming months the Turkish and Greek Cypriots will operate and discuss the Secretary-General's initiatives within his framework.

Sir Hugh Rossi (Hornsey and Wood Green)


Mr. George

I shall give way in a moment.

I hope that we shall see a continuation of that process. The great need is to sort out the difference between genuine positions and posturing. Clearly, both sides have an eye to the international community. Therefore, one must try to pin them down and to progress from talks and not simply run along with them if they are trying temporarily to exploit the situation for public relations purposes.

Sir Hugh Rossi

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He has referred to the acceptance by the Denktash group of the March 1986 proposals. Was that not on the condition that there should always be a Turkish armed presence in Cyprus and is not that why it was unacceptable to the Greek Cypriot Government? Is it not also true that the Greek Cypriots were prepared to accept the April 1985 proposals of the Secretary-General, but that the northern Turkish Cypriots were not prepared to do so?

Mr. George

I thank the hon. Gentleman. I have outlined the three negotiating points. I said that the Turks had accepted two proposals and the Greeks one. I was not seeking to evade or avoid the fact that one proposal had been accepted by the Greek Cypriots. No one wishes to be too immersed in the minutiae of negotiations. One must bear in mind what has happened, but one must look forward. Although one may look backwards, one should spend more time looking forward. That is why, in my concluding remarks, I shall look at what might happen.

Unilateral gestures should be taken and the suggested withdrawal of a division would be feasible. The Turkish Cypriots have established an airhead and a port, so they could swiftly reinforce the island, should the need arise. The British Government have similarly substantially withdrawn forces from the Falklands because now, with Mount Pleasant airfield and the rapid reinforcement capability of transportation in wide jets, it is feasible to lower the military presence. I am sure that something similar could be done in Cyprus. I hope that the other side will also make gestures to demonstrate its good faith. Perhaps the Republic of Cyprus could seek to end its embargo on northern Cyprus which its Government are seeking to maintain. Unilateral gestures from both sides would not be out of place.

We must remember that Cyprus is not and has never been a nation in the accepted sense of the word. It was a colony ruled by a foreign power which could maintain its position administratively, politically and militarily. The vacuum created by the British withdrawal left the two communities at each other's throats. Cyprus has never been a nation; it was temporarily a state.

We must get this logjam unblocked to create a genuine state. Surely the key lies in Ankara and Athens. Whether we like it or not, the domestic politics of both parts of the island are, if not orchestrated, at least influenced by the Governments of Greece and Turkey. They play a considerable role economically, militarily and politically. We must point out to the Governments of Greece and Turkey that disputes over the Aegean, flight information regions and territorial limits, the historical emnities between Greece and Turkey, and everything that divides the two democratic Governments must be addressed, diminished and resolved.

I hope that we do not fall into the trap of seeing the problems purely in terms of Cyprus. We must stand back geographically and agree that any progress is likely to come as a result of several initiatives on several fronts over a period of time. We should not pin all our faith on the Secretary-General; there should be other initiatives worthy of consideration.

The ultimate key is to get a decent relationship between Mr. Papandreou and Mr. Ozal, whose authority has been increased since he was democratically re-elected. The hope of a possible summit certainly gladdens my heart and I hope that a resolution of the Cyprus problem will be high on the agenda of any forthcoming meeting.

I thank the hon. Member for Streatham for giving us this opportunity to debate Cyprus. Whatever our differences, we must surely all be united in the view that that troubled island's history must somehow be reversed. We must all hope that one day in the not-too-distant future the two communities will not be separated by a line or protected by large armed forces, but will be able to live in an era of good relations. If, in some tiny way, we can contribute towards that, our debate will have been worth while.

10.53 am
Mr. Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) for taking this opportunity once again to discuss Cyprus. All of us owe a debt to the people of Cyprus and it is right and proper from time to time to examine the position there to see whether there is anything more we can do to help them escape from the trap which they seem to have got themselves into, often through no fault of their own.

I was sad to hear that my hon. Friend had not yet visited Cyprus and I hope that that will be rectified and he will be invited by both communities to see what a remarkably beautiful place it is and full of so much promise, which unhappily has been dashed over the past few years. I spent some three years in Cyprus, perhaps not in the right way, and I grew to love the island and the people. Therefore, it is a great sorrow and tragedy for me to see it reduced to the present position.

Some would say that we do not want to rake over the past, but we cannot understand the position in Cyprus today without looking backwards a little amd putting some facts into historical perspective. What a tragedy it is that in the early 1960s we got into the situation that we did. If only the guarantor powers had lived up to their responsibilities. But from day one they turned their backs on them. The crucial time when they could have lived up to their responsibilities was December 1963. If ever we should have used our right as a guarantor power, we should have used it then, but we did not.

If only Archbishop Makarios, who in many ways was such a great man, had abandoned the thought of Enosis which remained with him almost from the day after independence was declared. Indeed, in one of his earliest speeches he talked about Cyprus being a Greek island, which was not exactly the way to build up confidence between the two communities.

If only that evil band of men, the EOKA-B, under Nicos Sampson, had been dealt with in the 1960s and exorcised from the community, it might have been possible for the two communities to come together. Sadly, none of those events happened, so we come to the events of 1974. The coup took place, the attempted assassination of the archbishop failed, but it forced him to flee from the island and the evil men with the support of the junta took over in Nicosia. If only we had had a British Government prepared to live up to their responsibilities, but we did not. The Select Committee report in 1975–76 stated: There is little doubt in your Committee's opinion that, either alone or as part of a United Nations force, Britain could have forestalled the first Turkish invasion … Britain had a legal right to intervene, she had a moral obligation to intervene, she had the military capacity to intervene. She did not intervene for reasons which the Government refuses to give. I point to the Opposition Benches and condemn the guilty men who at that time had the right and duty to intervene. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but Mr. Ecevit came to London and begged the Government to intervene, as they had a duty to do as a guarantor power. One hour after an intervention, there would have been British forces in Nicosia, Sampson would have fallen and although there might have been a token landing of Turkish troops at Kyrenia, that would have been the end of it. That did not happen because the Government of the day——

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)


Mr. Spicer

No, I will not give way. That did not happen because the Government were far too involved in the election that was due to take place in October 1974. They did not want to muddy the water. I say to all my Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot friends that they should never forget that a British Government failed in their duty, because in the report of that Select Committee it is quite clear that the Government of the day failed to intervene. Even to this day, our Government cannot go into the detail of just why that did not happen, but in our hearts we know quite well why the Government of that time did not intervene. Now we have to live with the reality of a divided Cyprus.

It being Eleven o'clock, MR. SPEAKER interrupted the proceedings, pursuant to Standing Order No. 11 (Friday sittings).