§ Question again proposed.11.35 am
§ Mr. Jim Spicer
I will attempt to reiterate the points that I was making before the private notice question. I had referred to the guilt of Labour Members who constituted the Government of the day in 1974.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
Since the hon. Gentleman appears to be referring to guilt among Labour Members, is he claiming that in 1974 the Conservative party was pressing for intervention and was in favour of intervention?
§ Mr. Spicer
That was a matter for the Government. In the debates on Cyprus as I recollect them, there were many calls from Conservative Members for intervention. We had a duty to intervene, but that was a Government duty.
§ Mr. Spicer
I do not know. However, I know what my view was and the views of many of my hon. Friends. We pushed our view as hard as we could. I remember distinctly in July 1974 meeting Mr. Ecevit when he visited London. I remember what he said to me. He was in despair. He said, "We have no choice but to intervene. All this would be so easy if only your people would do their duty." They did not do that duty because they were craven.
No one knows what discussions took place in Cabinet, but it is clear that those of us who knew about the concerns of the Greek Cypriots at the takeover by Nicos Sampson certainly would have welcomed intervention. Within one hour we could have had a force in Nicosia and we could have seen the end of Nicos Sampson, the re-establishment of Archbishop Makarios in his rightful place as President, the reconvening of the conference and the re-establishment of the constitution — perhaps with a few more teeth added—which had not been observed during the 1960s.
The responsibility for the tragedy of Cyprus rests largely with Opposition Members who were in government in 1974. So we have to live with the reality of a divided Cyprus 14 years on from the events of 1974. Much worse, we have to live with a divided community. People such as Mr. Denktash and Mr. Clerides, from opposing communities, were educated together, came to London together and still talk to each other, but their grandchildren cannot talk to each other because for 20 years they have lived apart. It is part of the tragedy of Cyprus that hate and suspicion is deeply embedded in those children, and I do not know how that can be overcome.
The only way forward is through the acceptance of a federal structure for Cyprus; nothing else will suffice or meet the suspicions of the two communities. Other hon. Members have mentioned the result of the Turkish elections. I am sure that all hon. Members welcome the Government of Turkey being in the hands of Mr. Ozal, and that Mr. Papandreou, after the re-election of Mr. Ozal, said "We must come together and talk." In an atmosphere of calm, perhaps those two states and statesmen can put some pressure on Cyprus. The point has already been made that unless Greece and Turkey are prepared to bring that pressure, nothing can be done. The solution rests in their hands.
1238 We have a special role, despite there being Greek and Turkish Cypriots, as all Cypriots hold to their links with our country. They do not want to be Greek or Turkish Cypriots; they welcome the fact that over the past 150 years Britain has had an input into Cyprus, and most of them would rather come to London than to Ankara or Athens for their education. We have a special role, quite apart from our role as a guarantor power, and we must continue to build on those links and to support the Secretary-General.
Beyond that, we must do whatever we can to build bridges between the two communities. I suggest one or two areas where we might do that. First and foremost, a time bomb is ticking away in Cyprus which could explode at any moment. I refer to the water supply. Many United Nations reports have been made on the water supply in Cyprus. We know that the water table is dropping rapidly. Many ambitious schemes have been suggested over the years, one of which involved piping water from mainland Turkey to Cyprus. It is high time that the plans were resurrected and looked at again, because the growth of tourism, especially in the south of the island, could cause the water in the pipeline to Nicosia to become saline. That would be dangerous, because the main aquifers m the north lie almost directly under the partition line between the Greek and Cypriot communities.
If the United Kingdom is to attempt to bring the two communities together, the British Council, with the support of the Government, should bring together young Turkish and Greek Cypriots for a fortnight at a time, for informal discussions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Streatham referred to the re-opening of Nicosia airport. I raised the proposal during another debate on Cyprus some two or three years ago, when it was clear to me, and I think to most people, that although tremendous advantage would be gained for the Turkish Cypriots, the Greek Cypriots would not wish to open up the international airport, with dual access, because that would immediately increase the prosperity of the north. The Greek Cypriot Government were not anxious to do that.
The point has been made that re-opening the airport may result in a reduction in the Turkish armed forces in Cyprus. I have said many times, and to the Turkish Prime Minister and Mr. Denktash, that I cannot understand why the Turkish Government and Turkish Cypriots insist upon maintaining as many forces in Cyprus as they have now. It is clear that in 1963, when the Turkish community in Cyprus was under severe attack and threat, nothing happened; neither the Turkish forces nor the guarantor powers made any move. In 1967, again the Turkish Cypriots were under immediate threat, and again nothing happened. It is perhaps sad that something did not happen then, either with the guarantor powers jointly or with the Turkish army.
By 1974, those people who did not wish the state of Cyprus well were lulled into a false sense of security and believed that they could act with impunity, as Nicos Sampson did. We know that that can never happen again. If the Turkish armed forces were reduced to brigade strength, I could suggest a disposition of the brigade which would more than adequately cover the security of Turkish Cypriots, because everyone in Cyprus, not least the Government, knows that any move on the part of anyone would immediately bring about the re-intervention of Turkish forces and possibly even the occupation of the 1239 whole island. Nothing would do more to bring together the two communities than to open the airport, with dual access. That is something to which we should all look forward.
My speech was interrupted, and I am sorry that it has been rather disjointed. I join all hon. Members who have spoken and will speak in saying that we cannot stand by and see the people of the marvellous island of Cyprus continuing to live in a state of tension. The tension not only exists between the two communities, but has a knock-on effect on relations between Greece and Turkey and on the NATO Alliance, so it behoves us to do all we can to find a solution and help both communities.
§ Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)
This is a very interesting debate. I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) on introducing it and I pay the warmest tribute to hon. Members on both sides of the House who are genuinely seeking an honourable settlement for Cyprus.
We are discussing events that are taking place in a country that is part of the Commonwealth. Hon. Members who have an interest in other countries may believe that they have a right to bring events in those countries to the notice of the House, but we are referring to events in a country that is an honourable and a loyal member of the Commonwealth. I hope that one day Cyprus will be united and that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots will be able to live and work together harmoniously in what is without doubt one of the most beautiful islands in the world. When an honourable settlement is reached, it will also become one of the most prosperous countries in the world.
We have heard a great deal about what happened between 1960 and 1974. I do not say that hon. Members should not refer to that, because it influenced events subsequent to 1974. However, I shall concentrate on what happened after 1974. Following the invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish army 13 years ago, the position in Cyprus grew worse year by year, and the suffering that was caused by the invasion continues. There is the tragedy of the 1,600 Greek Cypriot men and women who disappeared. Despite repeated attempts, and documentation that contains the names, the professions and the villages of those people, there has been no satisfactory explanation of what happened to them. Thousands of people were forced from their homes in the occupied area of northern Cyprus. They lost their homes, their land and their possessions. We have never been able to find out what happened to the property of those people. The one desire, however, of both the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities in this country is to return to Cyprus.
Many of us have looked in recent years for evidence that Mr. Denktash wants an honourable settlement in Cyprus, but we continue to look for that evidence. The hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer) referred to the large number of Turkish troops in Cyprus. During the lifetime of the last Parliament, I was a member of a delegation that went to see the Foreign Secretary who, to his credit, has said both in public and in private that the British Government believe that a substantial reduction in the number of Turkish troops in the occupied part of Cyprus is long overdue.
1240 Thousands of Turkish men and women from the Turkish mainland have been brought into northern Cyprus. They have no links with the island. Even the opposition parties in northern Cyprus are highly critical of Mr Denktash's actions in bringing those people into northern Cyprus. In an article headed "Turkish Cypriots fearful of Turkish settlers", it is said that representatives of three Turkish Cypriot political parties — the Republican Turkish party, the Communal Liberation party and the Elan People's party — have united to condemn the actions of Mr. Denktash in bringing people from mainland Turkey to settle in the north of Cyprus. The article says:The fact that the Turkish Cypriots are becoming a minority in the north of Cyprus does not bother Mr. Denktash. On the contrary he is pleased. It makes him happy because as the number of the settlers increases, Denktash's percentage of vote increases.That is a source of great concern to both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. However, Mr. Denktash does nothing about that. He is encouraging more and more people from mainland Turkey to come as quickly as possible into the occupied area. There is no evidence of good will. If anything, it has made the prospects of a settlement even more difficult.
Many of us hoped that the basis for a settlement would be reached during the intercommunal talks that have taken place since 1974. Sadly, a settlement was not reached. Since the invasion in 1974, United Nations resolutions 353, 541 and 550 have called for a settlement in Cyprus. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has made it quite clear that Mr. Denktash must be prepared to do certain things, if there is to be a prospect of a settlement in Cyprus. A meaningful withdrawal of Turkish troops and the ending of the settlement of mainland Turks in Northern Cyprus are high on the list. We have heard in the debate that, while Mr. Denktash is prepared to accept certain United Nations proposals, the Greek Cypriots are not prepared to accept other United Nations proposals. The United Nations resolutions set out clearly what the Secretary-General believes could form the basis of a settlement, if certain things happened. Tragically, they have not happened.
I am a great believer in the United Nations, but as one of the guarantor powers in Cyprus, we shall have to consider what we must do if the discussions taking place under the auspices of the United Nations are not successful. New initiatives will have to be proposed. This may not be the appropriate time to do that, but I pay the warmest tribute to the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) for what he said in his recent Adjournment debate on Cyprus—that although the United Kingdom will do all that it can to support the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the time will come when we shall have to consider other initiatives. It would be interesting if the Minister commented on current policy. It is easy for the Government to say, "Of course we support the initiatives of the Secretary-General," but, sadly, over the years we have seen that, whatever initiatives he tries, they are unsuccessful. We may have to consider other avenues for support.
Criticism is made of the attitude of Greek Cypriots. I shall say here what I say when speaking at functions organised by Greek Cypriots—that the Greek Cypriot 1241 community and the Government of Cyprus have made far too many concessions already. The time for making further concessions has long since gone.
We must always remember that Cyprus was invaded. It is still being invaded by a foreign army in the area that is occupied by Turkish troops. Some 30 per cent. of the island is occupied. There are thousands of foreigners on the island; they may be Turkish citizens, but they are foreigners to the island of Cyprus.
We have had the declaration of UDI by Mr. Denktash, but that is not evidence of good will. Despite the history, if he wants to achieve a settlement for Turkish Cypriots as well as Greek Cypriots, he will have to demonstrate much more good will.
I must tell the Minister that it is to the credit of the Government that they have refused to recognise the illegal action of independence by Mr. Denktash, but it is strange that they condemn his actions yet do everything they can to keep him in power by means of the unlimited trade that is allowed with the occupied area. It trades with Europe and this country. If we are saying that Mr. Denktash is wrong and that we should not support him, we should not therefore give him support by allowing his economy to continue, and certainly not to prosper. No hon. Member has said, sadly, that there is prosperity in the occupied area; the position is quite the reverse. We have a right to condemn UDI, but equally we must take action to stop trade between Europe and the occupied area until there is a greater willingness on the part of Mr. Denktash and his colleagues to enter into meaningful discussion to end the tragedy of Cyprus.
We are entitled to ask what the United States of America is doing. Many believe that the United States, with its close involvement with mainland Turkey, does and could have an influence. President Reagan repeatedly says how his Administration champions the rights of people to their freedom and independence, which we applaud, but where is the evidence that he is following that principle to ensure the freedom and rights of the people of Cyprus? It would be interesting if the Minister were to say whether he is aware of any involvement of the United States in the problem of Cyprus.
Comment has been made about the number of Turkish troops. People who are sympathetic to and campaign for the Greek Cypriot community are often accused of exaggerating this issue. Therefore, I shall quote a comment recently made in the Congress of the United States by a United States Assistant Secretary of State, Rozanne Ridgeway, who was asked about the current levels of Turkish troops in Cyprus. She said:The mainland Turkish forces on Cyprus continue to be high, ranging from 22,000 to 30,000.That statement was made by an official of the Unted States Administration, so one can accept that those figures are correct. I agree with the hon. Member for Dorset, West in his criticism of the levels of Turkish troops on the island.
I am sure that every hon. Member who has taken part in the debate wants a settlement to the Cyprus problem. I want a settlement in which the rights of the people are fully protected and guaranteed. I am not, and never have been, campaigning solely for the Greek Cypriot community. To do so would be sheer folly, given the rights of the minority community on the island. I want a settlement that is honourable to both sides. I believe that in the future there will be a Government of Cyprus made up of Greek and Turkish men and women, who will share 1242 the responsibility of a united Cyprus. Any attempt to divide Cyprus, to allow the status quo to continue, to accept that we can do nothing about it, would be the tragedy of this century. We have seen, in countries that are divided, the long-term effects of such division on their people.
We have heard about the methods by which we could progress—through the use of airports and the potential development of water; mention was made of the role of the British Council. They are all commendable suggestions, but I must throw two spanners in that line of thinking. Attempts are repeatedly made in Cyprus to allow Greek and Turkish Cypriots of all ages and of various professions to come together to talk about how they see the development of their country. However, Mr. Denktash will not allow Turkish Cypriots to go into the Greek Cypriot area to discuss the future of Cyprus. They often come to this country and to the House to discuss the future of their country, because Mr. Denktash does not allow them to do it in their own country. The British Council may have a role to play, but the men and women of Cyrus have a real role to play when they meet to discuss the problems of Cyprus.
Reference was made earlier to Famagusta. What will happen to it? This has been an issue over the years, and had Mr. Denktash been willing to say, "There are differences that may take a long time to resolve, but I am prepared to show good will," Famagusta would have been high on the list. Hon. Members have mentioned issues that could be developed — the airports, the potential development of water and the British Council — and I support all of them, but until other issues are decided, little progress will be made.
The hon. Member for Streatham made a valid comment on the recent Turkish elections. It was pleasing to read in a report in The Times that the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Papandreou, had sent a letter of congratulation to the re-elected Turkish Prime Minister. I hope that that is genuine evidence of the willingness of the Greek Government to meet the Turkish Government and to discuss the obvious problems that they have. If that is evidence of good will, it is something we should do all in our power to encourage.
I find it unbelievable that the people who were forced to leave their homes, lands and possessions have never been allowed to go back to see what condition their properties are in. They are not allowed to see whether they are being farmed or looked after or whether their homes are being occupied. They may feel bitter, but it would at least give them some comfort to know that their lands are being looked after. Sadly, they are never given that opportunity.
Three basic issues divide Cyprus and will continue to divide it: troop withdrawal, free movement of people and stopping settlers from mainland Turkey. Until something is done about those issues, there will be no settlement. No matter what we do in this Parliament or what is done anywhere in the world in an effort to bring about a settlement, there will be no settlement. I am sure that every hon. Member who speaks in the debate wants a settlement, but we are now entitled to evidence of good will by Mr. Denktash and his colleagues. He is aware of the basic issues that concern the Greek Cypriots, and he should respond. If he does so, we can look to an honourable and lasting settlement for Cyprus.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi (Hornsey and Wood Green)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) on his good fortune in topping the ballot for a motion after 17 years. I can tell him that I have been waiting for 21 years and have not attained his good fortune. I also congratulate him on selecting this subject for debate. It is a subject that has been ignored by the House over the past 13 years. There is a handful of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have shown an interest in the subject and their views cross the party divide.
It is regrettable that we in this House have not paid more attention to the fact that a member of the British Commonwealth has remained, in part, under occupation by foreign troops for 13 years. That is totally unacceptable and we should be straining to achieve a solution. If there is not a legal obligation, there is certainly a moral obligation on the part of the British Government under the treaty of guarantee, which I feel successive Governments have not honoured to the extent that they should.
We have to bear in mind that there are some 200,000 British subjects of Cypriot origin living in the United Kingdom for whom this is an urgent and pressing problem. As Members of Parliament we have a duty to reflect their views in the House. I immediately declare an interest as I have a substantial Cypriot population within my constituency, both Greek and Turkish. They are able to live in harmony with one another. Therefore, one cannot accept that Turkish and Greek Cypriots could not live together in harmony in their own land were it not for external political interference.
§ Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I agree with everything, that the hon. Gentleman has said. Will he also accept that before the invasion in 1974 there were many villages in Cyprus where Greeks and Turks were living closely and harmoniously?
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
That is perfectly true. However, it is dangerous to dwell too much on the past, because there are rights and wrongs on both sides. If one talks to Mr. Denktash, one will hear a great deal from him about what happened in 1963 and 1964, when there was a determined move by some Greek Cypriots to bring about enosis and drive the Turkish Cypriots away. Those claims are equalled and paralleled, if not exceeded, by complaints we have had since 1974 about the way in which many Greek Cypriots were treated by Turkish occupying troops in the early days and the way in which that unhappy island has remained divided and so many people have been deprived of their homes and basic human rights.
Reference was made to the 1975 Select Committee report. I am the only hon. Member in the Chamber who served on that Select Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer) was right when he said that the view of the Committee—it was an all-party Committee—was that the Government of the day failed in their obligations under the treaty of guarantee. The irony is that, if that Government had had a little backbone and joined Mr. Ecevit in stopping the coup d'etat of Nicos Sampson in that attempt at enosis, the Labour Government would have had the satisfaction of having brought down a Greek junta, because that is what happened subsequently. They denied themselves that opportunity, when they had the wherewithal in the 1244 sovereign bases and Malta to be able to deal with the situation effectively. As has been said, there was an election in the offing and Messrs. Callaghan and Wilson were not anxious to become involved in Cyprus.
The hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Anderson), the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, is not correct in saying that the Conservative party did not raise the matter at the time or at the first opportunity. I happened to be a Front Bench spokesman for the Opposition in those days and I raised the matter at the first opportunity during the reply to the Gracious Speech. I was given the brush-off by Mr. Callaghan.
§ Mr. Anderson
The hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. My point was simply whether the then Opposition made a clear declaration that they supported intervention by the British Government.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
They were not in a position to do so, because of the timing. The hon. Gentleman knows that it occurred in the middle of a parliamentary recess. However, as soon as we returned, we raised the matter in the way I have described.
§ Mr. Anderson
Surely that is not good enough. The hon. Gentleman is an experienced parliamentarian and he knows that parliamentarians, even in recess, have ample opportunity to make statements on matters of importance if they so choose. If the then Opposition chose not to make that sort of declaration, we can draw our own conclusions.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
We can draw the firm conclusion— the hon. Gentleman is trying to get his hon. Friends off this hook—that the Government then in power, with all the means at their disposal, chose to do absolutely nothing. The hon. Gentleman cannot blame that inaction on the Opposition of the day. That was the view taken by the all-party Committee of which a former Cabinet Minister in a previous Labour Government happened to be Chairman. However, although the matter has been raised, I do not think that there is much to be gained by raking over old political embers. I intend to address my remarks to the present state of affairs.
I have been critical, and I shall continue to be critical, of my own Government. I believe that they could do more. They are equally bound by the obligations under the treaty of guarantee, and they are not doing all that they could be doing. In order not to be too unfair to the Government, I say at once that they took immediate and positive action at the time of the declaration of UDI by Mr. Denktash. The British Government responded immediately that the act was illegal and that the regime could not be recognised. Moreover, the representatives of the British Government did all that they could in the United Nations to marshal world opinion and to bring about a universal condemnation of that illegal declaration.
Having said that, I do not think that the Government — whatever they may be doing diplomatically — have spoken up publicly enough about the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus and the growing number of settlers from Anatolia, to which several hon. Members have referred. Between 30,000 and 35,000 Turkish troops are stationed in a part of the British Commonwealth. They arrived there as an act of war, by way of invasion and uninvited. The British Government should not accept that state of affairs. Such acceptance is certainly not in line with the Falklands 1245 spirit with which this Government have come to be associated. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to be more forthright in their attitude to this unhappy situation.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend
I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said so far, and he has touched on a good point. Does he accept that in recent months and years not only has the Turkish garrison in the north been expanded but it has been re-equipped with new NATO tanks? We now have 300 modern tanks sitting in a very small land space in the north of Cyprus. That enhancement of force is totally unwarranted and has not been specifically condemned by the British Government as it should have been.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention.
The other matter on which the British Government could and should say more—certainly in public—relates to the growing number of settlers arriving in the north of the island from the mainland. There are differing figures, which range from 30,000 to 60,000. The problem that such settlers create is twofold. First, with the passage of time, they will come naturally to regard Cyprus as their own home. The human problem will become more and more difficult to solve if they have to be asked to leave the land and homes that they occupy, which belong not to them but to others who have been denied access to them.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
The number of settlers continues to grow and our Government have not been seen to be doing anything to protest against this development, which has accelerated in recent years. It will become very difficult to deal with those who have become established and say to them, "You must leave the house and the land that you occupy because it is not yours; it belongs to somebody else." One simply cannot understand the motives of Mr. Denktash in giving away title deeds to property that is already owned by others, who are denied the right to enjoy land that their families may have worked for generations.
By allowing the situation to continue, we are creating a human problem. We are allowing land to be given away to others, who, in time, will insist on remaining there. The original owners will say, "This land has belonged to my family for 100 or 200 years. Why should it be stolen from me by political action?" The problem will be compounded when the children of the settlers, who have been born in Cyprus, say, "I am a Cypriot." It will then be impossible—I agree with my hon. Friend—to say to those people, "You must go back to Turkey." They will say, "We do not know Turkey. We were born here. We are Cypriots." That is why I urge that quick action should be taken to discourage the process.
The human problem created by the process must be dealt with as sensitively as possible. Perhaps it will be necessary to set up a compensation fund or to exchange land that previously belonged to Turks in the south, which is now being used by Greek Cypriots, for land in the north. Basic human rights have to be honoured and respected. We must start from the premise that people who have lost their land or had it stolen from them should have the first 1246 claim to its restoration, to alternative land to replace it or to monetary compensation. That cannot be pushed under the carpet.
§ Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)
Does my hon. Friend know whether Cypriot law is similar to British law, in that occupation of land for 12 years or more gives squatters' rights? If the land in the south is occupied by Greek Cypriots and land in the north by Turkish Cypriots for perhaps more than 12 years, under the normal British system they would have good title to that land.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
I should not like to pronounce upon the niceties of Cypriot law. I find it difficult enough as a practising lawyer to deal with all the niceties of English law. I am not sure whether, if a person has been kept off his land by physical force, by a squatter, the prescriptive right to which my hon. Friend referred would run in the way suggested. As for the land previously in Turkish ownership, I understand that the occupiers are required by Greek Cypriot law to pay a rent, which is deposited in an account and available to be paid to the rightful owners as and when they are able to reclaim their land. One might have thought that there would be a reciprocal arrangement in the north but, unhappily, it does not exist. Instead Mr. Denktash has issued title deeds to the people who have come from Turkey and led them to believe that they are the legal owners of that property.
The human problems of one individual dealing with another — not the problems on which politicians pontificate or with which international Governments deal— are becoming more difficult because of the way in which the situation has been allowed to drift. Little has been done to stop the influx from the mainland of Turkey. There is no justification for it—except, I understand, to bolster the political power and influence of Mr. Denktash. I understand that he derives his popular support from it.
Statements which issue from northern Cyprus seem to show that the Turkish Cypriots are extremely worried and unhappy about the influx and regard themselves as third-class citizens. That is another aspect of the tragedy. The opposition's problems in the north are difficult, if one is able to believe the information coming from the area. Democracy in the sense in which we understand it does not apply there. It is very much a one-man state in the north, bolstered by Turkish arms and guns. The House and the Government must pay attention to that matter.
One can understand the history of this unhappy island in recent years, with two communities, one in fear of the other. The Turkish minority is afraid lest there once again be a united island on a one-man, one-vote basis, making them second-class citizens. They complain that that is what happened before 1974. Whether that is right or wrong is another matter, but it is what they say and believe.
The Greek Cypriots are afraid that, because of its geography, Turkey can at any moment annex the whole island and that that is the reason for the presence of Turkish troops in such large numbers. Those fears must be overcome. It can only happen through the international community, led by Britain — because of our responsibilities to a Commonwealth country and former colony —ensuring that there are guarantees and by the creation of organs of state that guarantee the rights of the minority in the island. That is a sine qua non. Basic human rights 1247 of the kind to which I referred must be protected by the international community, supported by international guarantees.
Resolving the fears that the communities have of one another is more difficult. Around the world, we can see situations in which communities live together, but in which one is in fear of the other. We are in a position to help by asserting greater moral influence than we have so far.
Hon. Members have referred to the recent election in Turkey and the success of Mr. Ozal, and to the immediate reaction that that has produced in Athens by way of statements made by Mr. Papandreou. In that result, and in Mr. Papandreou's reaction, we can see the beginnings of a desire by the two main contenders to reach an early agreement, on sensible terms, about the future of Cyprus. We must do whatever we can to encourage that new feeling and atmosphere in every way we possibly can.
There is one other way in which we could give a meaningful impetus to the discussions that are taking place. Turkey is a supplicant for entry into the European Economic Community. It should be made quite clear that, as long as its troops occupy the sovereign territory of another state, it is acting in such a fundamental breach of the attitudes of Community members that it would be hard to accept it as a member. We should insist on that. I advise my hon. and learned Friend the Minister that I hope that the Government will be more forthcoming and positive about this matter.
I noted with interest that the recent report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs made a recommendation along those lines, but the Government's response was ambivalent. One can understand the desire to be diplomatic rather than positive when dealing with a member state of NATO. Nevertheless, when matters of principle are involved of the type that we have been discussing this morning, we have every right to say to a supplicant member of the Community, "Certain standards must be observed if you wish to become a member." There is absolutely nothing wrong in saying that. Because of our position and our history in this situation, we have not only a right but a duty to say so.
A great deal more could be said about the unhappy situation in Cyprus. Various proposals have been made involving matters of detail, ranging from an international airport to the release of Famagusta. In fairness, I should correct one observation by the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) about Famagusta. He suggested that Mr. Denktash should put that on offer. I believe that he has done so in the past but that, unhappily, it was rejected. Serious mistakes have been made by both sides in the handling of the proposals that have been made by one side to the other, or by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in the past few years. One does not wish to attach greater blame to either Mr. Denktash or Mr. Kyprianou for the failure of those talks, or to the attempts of the Secretary-General but, nevertheless, there have been shortcomings on both sides.
I hope that, in the new atmosphere that prevails between Greece and Turkey, some rethinking will take place both to the north and south of the green line which divides Cyprus. I am sure that all hon. Members will wish to see the quick restoration of a united, independent sovereign state on that delightful island, where the 1248 individuals living there have their basic human rights fully protected and their land and homes restored to them as quickly as possible.
§ Mr Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) on enabling us to have this debate and particularly on the terms in which he opened it. There has been a broad consensus in the debate, except for the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer), and it is important that we reach a consensus on this issue, if possible. The pity is that we shall be denied the opportunity of hearing the views of the Liberal party or any of the three bits that make up the SDP. Their Benches are empty.
The re-election of the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Ozal, is extremely important for Cyprus. Both before and after his election he made it clear that the principal aims of his Government would be to secure entry into the EC and to improve relations with Greece. In all fairness to someone in his position in Turkey, we must congratulate him on his bravery and honesty in putting those two aims so firmly and publicly on the agenda.
That new spirit was immediately picked up by Mr. Andreas Papandreou, the Greek Prime Minister who, as The Times reported,in an unusually warm message of congratulations and good wishes to Mr. Ozal … expressed his conviction that 'our personal contacts will continue for the benefit of relations between our two countries as well as peace in the region'.That statement and the response of the Turkish Prime Minister on his re-election give grounds for greater hope than there has been for a long time that there is now a better possibility of Cyprus resolving its agonies and problems.
It is a truism to say that no one stands to benefit more from improved relations between Greece and Turkey than the people of Cyprus. Like other hon. Members who have spoken, when I say "the people of Cyprus" it is no slip of the tongue; I mean the people of Cyprus, whether from the Turkish Cypriot community or the Greek Cypriot community.
Before those exchanges between the Turkish and Greek Prime Ministers, I believed that time was running out for Cyprus. for 13 years since the brutal invasion by Turkey this problem has festered, and there comes a point when people lose interest because a more urgent matter comes along and takes priority in the headlines of the world's media. I was wrong, because with those exchanges it is possible that we have reached one of those rare moments in history when, with an act of boldness, good will and openness, it is possible for the two Prime Ministers to jump over the barricades and debris of history which have helped to bedevil a solution to the problems of Cyprus.
It would be quite right for us to take absolutely at face value the Turkish Prime Minister's words about his wish to improve relations with Greece and to give him every good wish for the achievement of that objective. It may or may not help, but perhaps it is worth considering asking the United Nations Secretary-General to ask the Turkish Prime Minister quietly to expand on what he proposes to do to try to improve those relations, and to offer any assistance that the Secretary-Gereral or the Greek Prime Minister may feel that they need. In a sense I hope that that will not be necessary, because the best way for people 1249 to resolve problems that are between them is to have a mutual willingness to get over those problems and to push aside the things that stand in the way.
Better relations between Greece and Turkey are in everyone's interest for reasons other than Cyprus, and if progress can be made on achieving a solution, for example to the problems in the Aegean between the two countries, there is a chance of opening the door to progress in solving the problems of Cyprus. Given good will and boldness, it is possible to arrive at a solution that again guarantees the territorial integrity and independence of Cyprus. However, those taking part in the discussions must have a better sense of what tomorrow could bring rather than a detailed minuscule knowledge of what happened yesterday and in the days before it.
A solution will come only if the leaders of the two main communities in Cyprus look ahead rather than backwards. History should not be allowed to get in the way of a settlement that respects the interests of all Cypriots on the island and the island's integrity. Most Turkish Cypriots born on Cyprus—I do not include settlers—know from their own experience, as in this country, that it is possible for them to live in peace with their Greek Cypriot neighbours. That has happened more often than not. They recognise that the sooner the distinctions between the two communities can be put to one side the better. Of course everyone must respect cultural differences, but that is not the most important point about the exercise. The most important point must be the integrity and independence of the island of Cyprus, in the interests of all who live on it.
It does not help this process when in the north of the island, seemingly at the diktat of Mr. Denktash, Mr. Ozker Ozgur, the leader of the official Opposition party, the Republican Turkish party, is at this moment threatened with trial for allegedly libelling Mr. Denktash in an article written in December 1985.I understand that any day now a judicial court is to decide whether to strip Mr. Ozgur of his parliamentary immunity so that proceedings may be taken against him. That does not inspire confidence either in the House or in people living in the republic of Cyprus about what is going on in the north of the island or about the true intentions of Mr. Denktash. It does nothing to reassure anyone of the claim by Mr. Denktash to democratic commitment.
I know that Turkey and its military rulers have had little experience of democracy lately, but now that Mr. Ozal has taken that country down a new and more democratic path that we welcome, we shall expect that to be extended to the illegally occupied northern part of Cyprus. In recent days there has been a test of the strength of democracy in Turkey and its result has not set a very good example. Two committed Marxists, Haydar Kutlu and Nihat Sargin, expelled from Turkey since 1980, flew back from West Germany into Ankara and were immediately arrested for questioning. On 19 November, the European Parliament called for the release of the two leaders and we should support that call.
It must be understood in Turkey, as in any other democracy, that democracy must include democratic rights within the law for those whose opinions are unpopular or disliked by the majority of the country's citizens. That must be an essential ingredient of a democracy. We have a right to demand that the Turkish Prime Minister and others respect that principle.
Those whose hands were stained with the blood of the Turkish invasion in 1974 have now left the political scene, 1250 which gives me reason to hope that a solution to the problems of Cyprus will be achieved. Those who were actively involved in 1974 are no longer having to save face or be seen not to lose face. They are out of the way now. They are on the sidelines, and in their place is a new generation of leadership in Turkey. This gives me hope that a fresh start can be made.
When the Minister responds to the debate, I hope that he will explain as best as he is able what the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office meant when she replied to the Adjournment debate on 23 October. The right hon. Lady said that the Government did not believe that an international conference would help at that moment and added:We have contingency plans to cover the fact that, sadly, it might fail." She then said:I hope that we will not need to put them into action and I am sure that my hon. Friends will understand that these contingency plans need to remain confidential."—[Official Report, 23 October 1987; Vol. 120, c. 112.]I do not have a clue what the Minister of State was referring when she made those remarks.
I accept that there may be good reason for keeping contingency plans under the counter, but if there is, I cannot think why the right hon. Lady mentioned them. I am not attacking the right hon. Lady, but her statement was bound to send wrong signals to any one of the parties involved in trying to reach a solution to the Cyprus problem, if not to every one.
For example, it could appear to Mr. Denktash that there is no need for him to do much about trying to reach an agreement with President Kyprianou because the Brits have something up their sleeves. He might take a view that he will get more if he holds back. Similarly, that view might be taken in Ankara. President Kyprianou might think, "Why should I make more concessions to try to get rid of the Turkish troops and establish the territorial integrity of the island? I might be giving more away than necessary because the Brits have a little parcel that they might be able to flog quietly to the Turks."
I hope that the Minister will be able to dispel any fears that the so-called contingency plans are ready and waiting. If that is understood to be the position, pressure will be taken off the leaders of Greece and Turkey to try to facilitate a solution to the problems of poor, bleeding Cyprus.
It would be right for us all, whatever views we take on the detail of the argument over Cyprus, to wish the Greek Prime Minister and the Turkish Prime Minister all success in the contacts that they are making. We do not expect these contacts to be public and to provide instant overnight headlines, but, we have a right to expect—the people of Cyprus have a right to demand—that the two prime Ministers will continue talking and improve relations until they can deliver a solution to the problem of Cyprus that enables it once again to live as one people on one beautiful island with respect for both communities.
§ Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)
My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Dr. Twinn) has asked me to apologise to the House for his absence. As a member of the Friends of Cyprus organisation, he would have liked to be here. However, he had to attend a family funeral.
I join those of my colleagues who congratulated our hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) on 1251 his good fortune in the ballot and on his wisdom in choosing this subject for debate this morning. Its timing could not be more fortunate, because there has just been a Turkish general election, there is shortly to be a presidential election in Cyprus and it is possible that the Greek elections will take place in 1988 rather than in 1989.
There is a danger that, 13 years after the 1974 invasion, Cyprus has been put on the back burner of foreign affairs. There are strong reasons why that should not happen. Cyprus has a strategic importance to the United Kingdom, which is emphasised by the presence of the sovereign bases there. The importance of Cyprus to our European alliance is clear, and anything that divides Greece from Turkey provides hope for our enemies and does nothing for the alliance.
The real importance of the debate goes much wider than matters of strategy, defence and real politik—it is a humanitarian subject. Whenever I have visited Cyprus, I have been impressed by the large number of people who have been adversely affected by the developments after the 1974 invasion. If we visit Nicosia and wander through the streets, we will suddenly come across sandbags that effectively divide one part of Cyprus from the other, and we then realise how artificial is the division between those two parts of the island.
Of course, there is the further fact that a large number of people have been deprived of their homes, having been driven out in 1974 from either northern or southern Cyprus. They live not in their historic homes, but in the temporary abodes where they have been since 1974. They had to leave homes in villages where their families had lived for generations, and where they had inherited their homes from their parents and their grandparents before them. I remember meeting someone from northern Cyprus who said, "Every day I can see my home, but I cannot live in it." That really underlines the tragedy of Cyprus. More than 100,000 people currently do not reside in their family homes.
It is, of course, much worse for the Greek Cypriots, who know or fear that their family homes are being occupied not even by fellow Cypriots, but by Turkish settlers. It would be as though our very own Bexley and Sidcup was occupied not by other English people but by Frenchmen. I am sure that even my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) would object to that.
One of the real tragedies for the Cypriots is illustrated in Varosha. In 1973, it was very much the centrepiece of the tourist industry in Cyprus. Today, I am told that the hotels stand empty, rat-infested and crumbling. They are a monument to the failure of the world to persuade Turkey to disgorge the fruits of military victory.
A further tragedy was mentioned by the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) —that 1,600 families still do not know what happened to their loved ones in 1974. They do not know what happened to their fathers, mothers, brothers or sisters —something that is quite intolerable in a civilised world.
The resilience of Cyprus is shown in its economy. In 1973, 264,000 tourists visited the whole of Cyprus. It is estimated that 1 million tourists will visit Cyprus in 1987 and they will visit the Greek sector rather than northern Cyprus. There has been a 25 per cent. per annum compound growth in tourism in Cyprus but only about 1252 10,000 tourists from the European Economic Community will visit northern Cyprus. That emphasises the great prosperity of the Greek sector and the fact that the northern sector has become a peasent economy with very low incomes.
Clearly, the status quo is unacceptable. When people suggest that a bizonal federation is the answer to the Cypriot problem, they fail to emphasise that that would mean that many tens of thousands of people would be unable to live in their own homes. That is why the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs was very wise to suggest a system of cantons in Cyprus with Greek and Turkish communities living apart. At least many more people would live in their own homes than is currently the case.
The European Community has a positive role to play in the Cypriot problem. I remember meeting Cypriot politicians in the late 1970s. They asked when they could achieve customs union with the European Economic Community. I am pleased that a protocol was signed in October this year which will lead over the next 15 years to full customs union between the Community and Cyprus.
Reference has been made in the debate to Turkey's application to join the European Community. Like everyone else, I welcome the fact that the recent elections were generally considered to be democratic. Indeed, nine members of the European Parliament formed a delegation to watch the elections and they agreed unanimously that the elections were fully democratic.
Although we have seen democratic elections in Turkey, we must recognise that Turkey is providing the wherewithal for the Denktash regime to continue. Given the fact that there is an association agreement between Cyprus and the EEC, and given the importance that the Community attaches to human rights, it would be wrong for Turkey to be allowed to become a member of the European Community so long as it is pursuing its present policies in respect of Cyprus.
There must be a danger, unless there is some early movement in Cyprus, that partition will become institutionalised. The longer we await a settlement, the more difficult it will be to return to normality and trust between the two communities. There has been much discussion about the various constitutional proposals from time to time. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has made a series of very important initiatives. Unfortunately, at no time have both sides agreed to a particular set of proposals.
§ Mr. Marshall
I am afraid I cannot give way. I have quite a lot still to say and I know that other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.
Any movement towards improving the position in Cyprus relies upon a series of small steps one after the other rather than a major constitutional initiative. If there were a series of bridge-building exercises between the two communities, confidence might return to that beautiful island. We should not expect the answers to come from a series of high-flown constitutional initiatives. Clearly, the first two concessions from the Turkish community must be in regard to missing persons and Varosha. It is nonsense for that part of the island to be unoccupied. Concession in that regard could be a highly productive move in respect of tourism and building confidence between the two 1253 communities. The Greek community ought to make concessions to try to reduce the disparity in income between the two parts of the island, because the disparity is so vast that everyone who goes to Cyprus is struck by its size. Other hon. Members have referred to the fact that in the United Kingdom Greek and Turkish Cypriots can live together in peace and prosperity.
§ Mr. Marshall
I hope my hon. Friend is not suggesting that we go back to the situation that prevailed before 1960.
§ Mr. Marshall
We would like the normality which prevails in the United Kingdom, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots can live together in peace and harmony. That surely must be the prayer of all of us, including my hon. Friend who seems to be very good at making sedentary observations. That must be the prayer of the whole House.
§ 1.5 pm
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) on his feeling and knowledge about the tragedy of Cyprus. I certainly concur with his view that the problem would be best addressed by confidence-building measures and by small steps, rather than by expecting a big bang, which would be unlikely to occur, knowing as we do the depth of intercommunal suspicion, the geostrategic problems of the island and the long-standing problems between Greece and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.
The hon. Member, like all preceding speakers, drew on a reservoir of experience of the island. All hon. Members have striven for consensus, although some clearly lean to one or other side of the communal divide. It is my pleasure also to congratulate the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) on his selection of the subject, although I was concerned at his statement that it had been his intention to choose as his subject the poll tax, but that he had been mightily leaned upon by the Whips, who indicated to him that dire things would happen were he to continue with that course. I am most concerned that the Government are seeking to use a Friday, which has traditionally been a private Members' day, for their own ends. Is this another example of the way in which this authoritarian Government are seeking to dominate the procedures of the House?
§ Mr. Shelton
The hon. Member is talking nonsense. He does not always talk nonsense, but he was talking nonsense then. If he looks at Hansard, he will see that I said that the Whips suggested to me most courteously— that was the phrase I used — that there may be a Division on the poll tax, because the Labour party might be sufficiently misguided as to put down an amendment, so we might have had to have a vote. Purely for my own welfare in the Smoking Room of the House of Commons over the next few months, I did not wish to call in my colleagues on a Friday afternoon to vote on an amendment. I was certainly not leaned on; there was no authoritarianism at all. The hon. Member is talking absolute nonsense.
§ Mr. Anderson
I accept that the hon. Member was spoken to with total courtesy, but he cannot re-run the proceedings of the House and claim that the Whips did not intervene in a mafia-style operation with an offer he could not refuse, even had he wanted to. Hence it is to our benefit that we have a debate on Cyprus, moved in a felicitous way by the hon. Member. He has provided us with an opportunity to consider what is happening in Cyprus.
The wording of the motion is acceptable to the Opposition. Therefore, we hope that the House as a whole will be able to send a clear signal to all the parties concerned. The Labour party has set out its position from time to time in the clearest of terms. For example, in 1983 we said:We support genuine guarantees for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus, and the pursuit of intercommunal discussions sponsored by the UN for as long as both communities are committed to those talks.The then spokesman for the Labour party, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds. East (Mr. Healey), said at that time to the Friends of Cyprus:Labour believes in a free, united, independent Cyprus —with no occupying foreign troops. We want to see all the Cypriot people living in one nation under the government of their choice, with a guarantee for all Cypriots of peace and protection for human rights. We want all Cypriot refugees to be able to return to their homes.After UDI and the referendum, Opposition Front Bench spokesmen have been ready to set out their position, which is based on principle.
Following the proximity talks in 1984, the Secretary-General of the United Nations said that the prospects for a settlement were reasonable, and in January 1985 he told the Security Council in somewhat jubilant tones that he expected the meeting in that monthto conclude an agreement containing the necessary elements for a comprehensive solution to the problem, aimed at establishing a Federal Republic of Cyprus.The hon. Member for Streatham properly set out the failure of both that initiative and the subsequent initiatives of the Secretary-General. Progress was not made. What is happening on the island can be characterised as drift, stalemate and the failure of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to make serious progress. I advise those hon. Members who dissent from that view to read the Secretary-General's last report. Its terms are negative and sad. The Secretary-General is personally very much on top of events in Cyprus. He knows very well what is happening there and he has the confidence of all the major players on the stage.
I invite hon. Members to look at the Secretary-General's report for the period 1 December 1986 to 29 May 1987, which was delivered to the Security Council on 29 May 1987. It makes very depressing reading. It says that no progress was possible, that the Secretary-General had pursued his efforts to find a way to overcome the existing impasse and that he had suggested a period of informal discussion, which might help to bring about progress, but that both sides had been unable to make progress. In effect, the Secretary-General said that both sides reiterated the positions that they had adopted in respect of the 1986 proposals.
In October 1987, the Minister of State said that we must still rely on the Secretary-General's initiatives. That refrain becomes a little less credible if we honestly come to the belief—the last report of the Secretary-General tends to confirm this — that he is unlikely to make any serious progress on his current initiative.
1255 There appears to have been a hardening of attitudes and, although the mediation of the Secretary-General has not broken down, he has done no more than keep the two sides together in a process of discussion. The last resolution of the Security Council in June 1987 —resolution No. 597 — rather despairingly requested the Secretary-General tocontinue his mission of good offices, and calls upon all parties to co-operate with the peace-keeping force.We all know that even the contingents to the peace-keeping force are under threat; the Swedish contingent is pulling out by 1 January 1988.
During the debate in October 1987, the Minister stated her belief that support of the Secretary-General's mission represented the most effective way of pursuing our goal in Cyprus, and she said that we are not alone in that belief. In the light of the current stalemate, we are bound to ask whether that remains a wholly tenable position and, if the current stalemate continues, at what point the Government will be prepared to take some initiatives. Otherwise, there will be considerable suspicion in the House that the formula of relying on the Secretary-General's good offices is being used as a cover for inaction on the part of Her Majesty's Government, for dragging their feet and refusing to consider any new initiative.
We recognise the complexities of the problem — the intercommunal and international relations aspects. The House has achieved a basic consensus. We agree that United Kingdom interests are involved for historic, human and military reasons and because of our contribution to the United Nations force, which last year cost us £27 million. We further agree that Britain, as a guarantor power, and for the reasons outlined, has, or should have, a role to play in the resolution of the conflict in Cyprus.
We should be most careful to do nothing that might be construed as according any form of recognition to the Administration in north Cyprus. The Minister of State, I am sure inadvertently, fell into that trap during the debate in October when she spoke about north and south Cyprus, as if one were dealing with two Administrations with equal validity.
We must remember that there is a republic of Cyprus, which is a member of the Commonwealth, and it is to that entity, and that alone, that we should accord any formal relations. We must be very careful, in terms of trade or any other relations, to do nothing that could be construed as recognition. I noticed, for example, that my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) referred to "President Denktash". That is the wrong way of addressing Mr. Denktash, and it accords a spurious recognition to the Administration in the north.
As to such recognition, the Minister may have noticed that in June 1986 the Christian Science Monitor quoted what it called "western officials" as saying that recognition — that is, the recognition of the regime of the Administration in the north — was inevitable in a few years' time. It claimed that several countries, notably Bangladesh, Indonesia and some Gulf states, had said that they would recognise the Administration if the United Nations initiative was seen to fail. That imposes certain constraints on us and makes it necessary to find an appropriate successor to the Secretary-General's initiative 1256 if it becomes clear that it is unlikely to produce a solution. Obviously, we have to bear in mind the objective of preventing any permanent partition in the island.
A key feature of the situation is the Turkish invasion and subsequent consolidation. Whatever may have been the legal and practical justification for the invasion — there are two ways of interpreting the treaty of guarantee —there can be no justification for consolidation of the position subsequent to the invasion. It is creating facts that make it more difficult to find a long-term solution to the problems of the island.
At the end of any process, there are certain principles that have to be upheld. For example, the invading Turkish army must withdraw. Several hon. Members have mentioned the problems of the settlers who provide some of the electoral support for Mr. Denktash. They probably now form no less than 20 per cent. of the residents of the Turkish Cypriot part of the island. There must be a settlement that involves justice for the refugees of both communities but, in terms of numbers, that must relate principally to the Greek Cypriot refugees.
There must be security guarantees for both communities. We must not allow a situation to recur such as that in 1974, which was able to justify the intervention because of the legitimate fears of the Turkish Cypriot community at that time. It is not for us to prescribe any form of internal constitution, but a unitary state seems less and less possible, given the facts.
Several hon. Members have mentioned the fact that there may be an opening of windows of opportunity in respect of making progress. That point was made by the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) and the hon. Member for Haringey——
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Mellor)
I think that the hon. Gentleman means my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi).
§ Mr. Anderson
I am delighted to have that co-operation from the Minister.
The changes that have occurred or are in prospect include the Turkish elections. All friends of Turkey welcome the elections. Major reservations still remain about human rights, emergency powers and prisoners of conscience, but it is clear that Mr. Ozal clearly enjoys wide and popular support within Turkey. There is now a more open and genuine expression of opinion and a major step has been taken on the road to democracy within Turkey. Mr. Ozal has been given an opportunity several years before the next election, and he can decide whether to use it constructively in respect of building bridges with Greece and seeking to find a solution to the Cypriot problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) quoted Mr. Ozal from the time of the election. He said that he is keen to improve relations with Greece.
The other new factor is the coming elections in Cyprus next February. If the result is conclusive, the leader who emerges will be in a stronger position in coming negotiations.
A number of hon. Members have referred to the Community and the Turkish application for full membership which is mentioned in the motion. That will give us and other Community members some leverage in respect of the situation in Cyprus. The motion says that we should show our concern about the island now that Turkey has applied to join the Community.
1257 Judging by past statements, the Government's position appears to be that there is no nexus between Turkey's application to join the Community and the illegal occupation of Cyprus by Turkish troops. Surely that position is wholly untenable. We know the problems that are anyway likely to be posed by Greece in respect of that application. Now that Turkey has applied for member-ship, and given the known policies of Mr. Ozal, we cannot ignore the leverage that the EEC may have. If the British Government are serious about a settlement in Cyprus, the Turkish occupation is naturally relevant and it is a clear obstacle to progress on the Turkish application.
I know from my experience of diplomatic usage that one would not expect that to be trumpeted from the rooftops, but Britain and other members of the Community should make it clear to the Turkish Government that if they wish to improve their relations with Greece and reach a constructive settlement of the Cyprus problem — it places an economic burden on Turkey to have to support the northern part of Cyprus — they cannot ignore the European context and their wish eventually to join the Community.
Given that the context has improved as a result of the Community application by Turkey, the Turkish elections and, one hopes, the elections in Cyprus in February next year, how do we make progress? Clearly we cannot rely indefinitely on the Secretary-General's good offices if it becomes clear that they are not producing results. That would be a gross injustice to the refugees. As I said, one of the sadder facts is that time is not on our side. As time passes, new facts are established. The Turkish Cypriot community will increasingly lose its identification as Cypriots and the settlers will be seen to be putting down roots so that it will become more difficult to have them return to the mainland. By our inaction, we are supporting the continuance of the status quo and the permanent partition of the island.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington reminded us of the tantalising phrase used by the Minister at the end of the debate on 23 October:We have contingency plans to cover the fact that, sadly, it"—the international conference—might fail. I hope that we will not need to put them into action and I am sure that my hon. Friends will understand that those contingency plans need to remain confidential."—[Official Report, 23 October 1987; Vol. 120, c. 1112]Clearly, there is a strong hint that the Government are coming to the conclusion that the current initiatives are not working and that something else needs to be tried.
I hope that the Government are prepared to take the House into their confidence to some extent. The Government have ruled out the idea of an international conference, proposed by the Greek-Cypriot community and opposed by the Turkish-Cypriot community. They have ruled out other possible initiatives. When will the Government be a little more positive and reveal what they have in mind? Do they rule out, as a matter of principle, any initiative on a guarantor power basis? Are they saying that the European Community has no role in finding a solution to the conflict on the island?
It may be s aid that the United Nations' initiative is not succeeding, but an initiative on a regional basis, involving the European Community and recognising the links of all the relevant parties within it, might be a more fruitful approach. Have the Government ruled out a European Community initiative as a matter of principle? If not, what 1258 are their positive proposals? Do they believe that there is leverage within the European context? Does the Minister consider that the Community has a special role? As yet, the Community has not been seriously brought into play.
The background is the illegality of the Administration in north Cyprus and the injustices, largely relating to the dispossessed Greek Cypriot refugees. That background requires not folded arms or sheltering behind the formula of the Secretary-General's initiative—that good offices must continue to be the best prospect — but serious concern and a willingness to take other initiatives.
§ Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)
I trust that I am not interrupting my hon. Friends peroration. In as much as it is not clear quite what the Government have in mind, has it occurred to my hon. Friend that perhaps the British Government are considering making it plain to the Government in Turkey that even their application to be considered for membership of the European Community will be opposed by Her Majesty's Government until real progress is made towards removing troops from Cyprus? It is anomalous and a double standard that this application should be allowed to proceed and then, perhaps, if Turkey joins the Community, there will be a trade-off by removing some troops or reducing some commitment. The application itself could be opposed.
§ Mr. Anderson
I would welcome the Minister's response to that suggestion. It is clear that Britain and the European Community are well placed to find a constructive end to the de facto partition on the island. We should not shirk that responsibility.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Mellor)
I am glad to have the opportunity to intervene in the debate. My only regret is that it is I, and not my right hon. Friend the Minister of State — the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) — who is replying to it, because she has responsibility within the Office for this area. As I think hon. Members will have seen from the newspapers, she has been on a long and arduous mission to southern Africa. She arrived back just this morning: hence my appearance here. I regret that I am not as well immersed in this topic as some hon. Members who have spoken and am not as knowledgeable of it as I am of those areas of the world for which I carry responsibility. I shall do my best to reply to the points. If my level of expertise proves inadequate, I shall refer to my right hon. Friend for an authoritative view.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) on his good fortune in winning the ballot and on the manner in which he opened the debate. He set it in a historical context, and it is interesting that, on a highly contentious subject, all those hon. Members who referred to his speech did so with approval. He was followed by the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) who is much respected and liked by hori. Members of all parties. He said that, despite the differences between the views of individual hon. Members, the House should be united in its desire to see some progress in Cyprus and some repair of the damage done by more than 20 years of separation.
I agree wholeheartedly, and that is the Government's position. Indeed, it has been the view of all hon. Members 1259 who have spoken. Although inevitably our debate has reflected the divisions in Cyprus which make it so difficult for progress to be made, and have made that difficult over such a long period, the debate has been conducted in a good atmosphere, and I have no shortage of points to which to reply.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey had the opportunity to set out the Government's overall position a few weeks ago, and because other hon. Members wish to speak, I shall not repeat the points that she made. Instead, I shall try to focus on points on which I can give further clarification because that should be helpful and should enable me to sit down in good time so as to enable those hon. Members who have sat patiently through the debate, waiting their turn, to have the opportunity to speak. It would be unfortunate if they were unable to do so.
Because of our historic connection with Cyprus, we are perhaps more aware than any other country, outside the two that are especially concerned with the dispute for ethnic reasons, that the division of Cyprus is tragic and wasteful. We must bend every sinew to try to ensure that there is a peaceful, just and lasting settlement. Indeed, that is what we are doing. Our position is to try to see a settlement reached by giving every possible support to the United Nations initiative. I should make it absolutely clear that that initiative is designed to bring about a unified federal Cyprus. We support that. We do not recognise the so-called independent state in northern Cyprus, nor shall we do so.
I advise the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), for whom, as he knows, I have boundless admiration and affection, that I cannot help feeling that he made a slightly bad point in referring to my right hon. Friend's comments during that Adjournment debate. All that she said was:The division between the north and south of Cyprus, as it is sometimes colloquially described, weakens Cyprus in all sorts of way and it weakens the Nato Alliance."—[Official Report, 23 October 1987; Vol. 120, c. 1109.]My right hon. Friend gave a geographical description of the realities of the division, and it is a bad point on the part of the hon. Member for Swansea, East to suggest that my right hon. Friend was somehow institutionalising that, or suggesting that the British Government support it. We do not. We seek a unified and federal Cyprus. My right hon. Friend was properly forthright in saying that she wished that the 1986 initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General had been accepted by both sides. That is the Government's position.
We have tried to help the Secretary-General in every way. Indeed, he has been kind enough to say how much he values our help. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has met President Kyprianou in London no fewer than five times since the start of the United Nations initiative and has had talks with the Secretary-General about Cyprus on several occasions. There are frequent high-level meetings with all parties in which we try to bring home our views in support of the Secretary-General's initiative. We believe that there is still plenty of room for making progress on that initiative and that he offers the best prospects of progress towards settlement.
It must be understood that any progress that has been made during the past few decades has always taken place 1260 within the framework of the United Nations. The record of initiatives outside that framework, without the co-operation of all the parties, has always been poor. The Secretary-General's initiative remains the best prospect. Indeed, he has just appointed a new special representative, Mr. Camilion, from Argentina. Obviously, it will take Mr. Camilion some time to take stock of the situation and consider how to move forward, but he should be supported in that effort.
Again, in a spirit of amity towards the hon. Member for Swansea, East I must point out the irony that, as the representative on earth of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey this morning, I am compelled to defend the Government's support for the United Nations initiative. Yet when I return to the safer—in terms of my knowledge—but equally precarious—in terms of the difficulty of finding a solution—area of the Gulf war, I am berated by the same hon. Gentleman for refusing to support a United Nations naval force. There is an element of opportunism in the hon. Gentleman's comments.
§ Mr. Anderson
Surely it is the Minister who is now making a bad point. I am speaking of effectiveness. The whole Gulf initiative has spread over a much shorter time span than have the good offices of the United Nations' Secretary-General in respect of Cyprus. I simply asked, and ask again, whether the Government, as a result of the passage of time and the rather depressing reports of the Secretary-General, have decided that his initiative is on the point of being played out. If so, what other initiatives do they have in mind?
§ Mr. Mellor
No. Far from being played out, the Secretary-General's initiative is taking on a new lease of life with the appointment of a new special representative. The Secretary-General is not to be blamed for the failure of his initiative, which got a long way in 1986; it is more a sign of the intractability of the problem.
When people talk of a fresh initiative, there is always an element of hucksterism, because every politician worth his salt goes round with several fresh initiatives on every conceivable human problem falling from his pockets in the hope that the elucidation of the initiative is sufficiently attractive for people not to worry about the long-term inadequacies of the proposal. No matter who takes the initiative, whether the Government, the United States, the EC, or the Commonwealth Action Group, our view is that any such separate initiative would only cut across the Secretary-General's initiative and would not start from at least the position of hope of the Secretary-General's initiative, which both parties said they wanted and both states which support both parties said they wanted. That is why we believe that it is right to continue to support that initiative.
I reject the hon. Gentleman's implication that this is somehow just a fig leaf to hide our nakedness and unwillingness to think about the issue.
§ Mr. Mellor
I will give way, but the hon. Gentleman, who spoke for a long time, is simply making it less likely that I can allow others to speak, so this is his last bite of the cherry. I say again: please, please, please, may the good Lord give him the merit of consistency. The next time he starts lecturing me on United Nations initiatives on the middle east, I shall remind him of some of his comments this morning.
§ Mr. Anderson
If the Government are so confident about the initiative, why, oh why, did the Minister mention the contingencies?
§ Mr. Mellor
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey was responding to a direct question about whether the Government had given any thought to what might happen if the Secretary-General's initiative failed. We do not believe that it will fail; it must not be allowed to fail. My right hon. Friend believes, as I do, that there are no parameters on the human imagination. Naturally, all the guarantor powers are giving some thought to what might happen if in future there were a vacuum. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise, and it would be extraordinary if we had not.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) put the point much more attractively. He did not use this as a weapon against the Government, but suggested that those comments might have given rise to some misunderstanding. The point was made with his customary fairness which, I am glad to say, is not merely confined to those Home Office issues on which we used to reach more agreement than was perhaps comfortable for our respective standing on either side of the great divide. AU that my right hon. Friend was trying to do was to reassure the House that, of course, we look ahead. The Government's commitment is entirely to the Secretary-General's initiative, because that represents the best way forward. Anything that cuts across the Secretary-General would be unhelpful and would not get our support. We hope that we will not need to think in terms of a further initiative outside that framework.
In the time remaining I shall respond to some of the matters raised in the debate and I shall start with some of the interesting points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham. We are aware of the grave problems caused to very many people by partition. We do not have the locus standi to make representations about people who are not British citizens, but we pursue with vigour the claims by British citizens. Indeed, one of my constituents was quite gravely damaged in respect of his enjoyment of his property rights. The Turkish Cypriot claims commission has made about 350 awards to British citizens. The Turkish Cypriots say that some claims must await a political settlement. That is regrettable, and we shall continue to press our case.
My hon. Friend spoke about the draft framework of agreement of March 1986. That does not deal in detail with questions about the withdrawal of troops or the freedom to move, settle and own property. It reserved discussions on these items to working groups, with the proviso that the settlement was to be accepted only as a whole. We hope that that adequately safeguards all positions. Once again it is a matter for regret that this was rejected by one side.
In that context, I was asked about the bearing that all this has on Turkey's application to become a member of the European Community. It would be wrong for us to make any comment about the merits of Turkey's application in advance of receiving the commission's opinion. That is the proper way forward. I do not use that as an evasion and I make it clear to the House that the question of Turkish troops is a matter of great concern to the Government and we raise it regularly with the Government of Turkey. It was raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary when the Turkish 1262 Foreign Minister came to London in July. We have always made it clear that the withdrawal of Turkish troops must form part of any comprehensive future settlement.
I was also asked about tanks, in an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend). He has been here for much of the debate and no one has done more to ensure that the issue of Cyprus is kept before the House. It was he who instigated the Adjournment debate on the matter in October.
We raise the matter of tanks at every opportunity, and when my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary raised it with the Turkish Foreign Minister in July, he was told that this upgrading was part of a programme that involved the whole Turkish army. The Turkish Foreign Minister also spoke about recent arms purchases by the Cyprus Government. We understand that the Turks have recently withdrawn some tanks. I say clearly that they should reduce the number still further, and we shall continue to urge them to do so.
My hon. Friend the Member for Streatham and other hon. Members spoke about Nicosia airport. As my hon. Friend said, there are now airports in both parts of the island. We would certainly welcome any project that had the support of both sides and which brought them together in practical co-operation. Plainly, practical co-operation is a commodity of which there can never be too much in the present unhappy situation.
The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) made a number of interesting points, especially when he spoke about Turkish settlers to which other hon. Members have also adverted. We believe that the issue will have to be dealt with in the context of an overall settlement. The hon. Gentleman and one or two other hon. Members make it seem as if there can be no other approach to the issue than theirs and that the problem is merely one of the colonising of a part of Cyprus with immigrants from Turkey. When the isssue is described in those terms, that course of action may seem irresistible, but there is another element that makes the matter more complicated. I shall raise it in the interests of those who read the report of the debate and not because the Government take a contrary view to that which has been expressed by the hon. Member for Tooting. I wish them to appreciate, as we have had to do, that the matter is not so straightforward as some would suggest.
The Turkish Cypriot authorities say that some of those who are now counted as settlers are Turkish Cypriots who left the island in the troubled times of the 1960s and who have exercised their right to return. Others came to the island early on, when they were needed to help restart economic activity, and have since married into Turkish Cypriot families. There are others who are seasonal workers, who come and go. I put that on record merely to show that this is a somewhat more complicated matter than some would imply.
The hon. Member for Tooting talked about trade with northern Cyprus. It is true that we continue to trade with it, and the hon. Gentleman criticised us for doing so. The terms of article 5 of the European Community-Cyprus association agreement provide that member states trading with Cyprus should not discriminate between nationals or companies in Cyprus.
I must disagree with the hon. Gentleman when he implied that a trade embargo would bring about progress in Cyprus. On the contrary, we think that it would be wrong to try to punish individual Turkish Cypriots in that 1263 way. Indeed, we think that it would be counter-productive. Such a course would merely increase the disparities between the two communities. We know that GNP in the southern part of the island — I shall tread carefully in making these descriptions because I do not want them to be used against me in a future debate, when who knows who might be responsible for replying to it— in the republic that we recognise is three or four times that in the north, which exists only because of an occupation and independence that we do not recognise. An embargo on the north would serve only to increase the north's dependence on Turkey.
We hope that the United Nation's Secretary-General's efforts will be successful. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to suggest that either side is prepared to make the effort necessary to build up the trust and confidence that is needed if any permanent solution is to be found. This would be true whosever hat was tossed into the ring as a mediator or who came as St. George to the rescue.
Too many of the comments made by those on both sides in Cyprus seem more concerned with obtaining support for their entrenched positions and bringing pressure on each other rather than anything more constructive. It is time for both sides to try to reacquire the habit of continuous and constructive co-operation that marked the earlier stages of the intercommunal talks. We think that Mr. Camilion's appointment is a challenge to which both sides must respond. Our role, in common with other members of the international community, is to encourage and support both sides in making difficult decisions and compromises, without which no solution can be found.
§ Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)
First, I must offer my apologies to the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) for having been unavoidably delayed in getting to the House this morning and for having missed most of what he had to say. I wish warmly to congratulate him on selecting this topic for debate. It has offered the House an opportunity to discuss at length and in some detail the problems of an island for which Britain has a special affection and responsibility, and to do so at greater length than was possible in the all-too-brief Adjournment debate on Cyprus some weeks ago.
I first became acquainted with the problems and the sadnesses of Cyprus through my constituents, many of whom are Cypriots from both communities. Some of them suffered grievously in 1974. For example, one had a home that he had built on his family's land at the place where he was born, but which was subject to occupation by the invading forces. Since 1974, he has not been able to return to his home. He has not received any compensation for the loss of that home, and has had to make an entirely new life in Britain. He is but one of many who have been similarly affected.
I have, however, become much more closely and directly acquainted with Cyprus because, two months ago, I had the opportunity to visit it and to see at first hand the current position. I do not think that anyone could possibly fail to be moved by the sight of the green line that divides the island. To come down a busy shopping street in the middle of Nicosia—the capital city—and be confronted with a troops station, an area of wasteland patrolled by the 1264 United Nations with barbed wire making an impenetrable barrier, can only make one very careful and sad about the state of the island.
Looking down from the Troodos mountains in the area around Morfu — the greenest, most beautiful and productive part of the island—and then to talk to those who used to live there and can no longer return, is a moving experience. One can look down on the ghost town of Famagusta from the dividing line, and know that no life goes on in many parts of it and that its former residents cannot return there. From most parts of Nicosia, one can look up and see the Turkish flag that has been inscribed in stone on the hillside above that town.
To see that at first hand and to experience directly what it means to have a bitterly divided island, is something for which I am most grateful. It has certainly dramatically altered my thinking on Cyprus——
§ Mr. George
My hon. Friend has spoken poetically and with great feeling about the suffering on one side of the island. Does he think that his process of self-education would be enhanced if he had the opportunity to talk to people on the other side of the island? He would find there some 103 villages whose people were swept out between 1964 and 1974.
While my hon. Friend can cite many instances of suffering on one part of the island — all of which I endorse—is he aware that the whole island has suffered? If any blame is to be apportioned it should not be—as he appears to be suggesting—largely in one direction; it must be widely apportioned.
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend has anticipated some of my arguments. I certainly do not wish to apportion blame entirely to one side. I happen to believe that the greater part of the blame must lie with the invading armed forces, but there has been tragedy on both sides of the communal divide in Cyprus.
Many Turkish Cypriots have suffered, and they suffered before 1974. When trying to establish a solution, we must ensure that all Cypriots, both Greeks and Turks, can feel entirely safe, protected and fulfilled within the solution. I have found very few Greek Cypriots who disagree with that analysis. If I had the opportunity—I would welcome such an opportunity—to talk to people in the northern part of the island, I suspect that there would be no overwhelming disagreement with that ultimate aim. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) agrees with that aim.
The hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer) clearly stated that Britain has a special responsibility in these matters. We are the former colonial power and were one of the guarantor powers under the constitution. As the hon. Member for Dorset, West rightly said, the British Government did nothing when the 1974 invasion occurred. I freely admit that that was the wrong decision. Intervention could have prevented what has subsequently become a long-running tragedy.
What do we want to achieve? There must be substantial agreement among hon. Members about the ultimate aim. There must be an undivided island, with full freedom of movement for all Cypriots everywhere in the island. The existence of the green line and the restrictions that it places on people's movements, is the overwhelming and dominant fact of life in Cyprus today.
The removal of that division must be one of the elements of any solution. As part of that solution, it is 1265 important that people are regarded as Cypriots, not as Greeks or Turks. They must be regarded as part of a united island of Cyprus. To achieve that, and to ensure that the rights of minorities within the island are protected —that must be part of a solution—the proposals that have consistently come forward over the past decade and a half for a federal solution as the constitutional objective must be the right way forward. It is a considerable tribute to the Greek Cypriot community that it has consistently accepted the idea of a federal solution as something it could support if its position were safeguarded.
There must also be international guarantees. We must ensure that the guarantees are worth more than those written into the original constitution. However, other steps must also be taken. There must be a genuine effort to investigate the cases of missing persons. About 1,600 Cypriots are missing and many families do not know what has become of relatives or what happened to them in 1974. That still rankles with many people and has left many families torn, divided and embittered. It is important that those cases are investigated. It is a pity that there has not been more co-operation with the efforts of the United Nations to investigate those missing Cypriots, especially from the authorities in the northern part of the island.
There must be a solution to the problem of refugees returning to their homes, and to the issue of the settlers. While I accept from the Minister that some settlers who have come from mainland Turkey to the north of the island have a genuine connection with Cyprus, many have not. In discussions to find a solution, we must resolve what will happen to those settlers and to the property they occupied, which formerly belonged to others.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the withdrawal of foreign troops is absolutely crucial to any solution. On that point I disagree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South said about the 1986 proposals from Perez de Cuellar and their acceptance by Mr. Denktash. The presence of foreign troops on the island meant that the Cypriot Government was not able to accept the proposals which were accepted by the Denktash regime. Foreign troops from both sides must be removed entirely from the island before there can be any solution which will ensure a free-moving, protected and integral federal Cyprus.
The key lies not just in the continuing and valiant efforts of the Secretary-General; as much pressure as possible must be brought to bear on the newly elected Government of Turkey to ensure that they are prepared to withdraw Turkish troops. That message must be made crystal clear to Mr. Ozal and his Government. Our Government are in a very strong position to bring such pressure to bear, as Turkey wishes to join the European Economic Community and become part of the European community of nations. We must seize the opportunity to reinforce the message about the withdrawal of troops.
Everyone who goes to Cyprus must be struck, as I was, by the disparity between the two economies. I have nothing but admiration for the success of the Cypriots in the south. While I accept that they have the advantage of the sun, which brings tourists, the economy, which has a growth rate of 6 per cent. a year, unemployment at 2 per cent. and inflation at 3 per cent., must be the envy of even our self-congratulatory Chancellor of the Exchequer. That success has been achieved in the past 15 years, at the same time as one third of the population has been rehoused, and the south of the island provides all the electricity to the 1266 north entirely free. In those circumstances, it is an economic miracle. On the other hand, the north is still economically depressed. That is a tragedy, especially bearing in mind that in 1974 the north had about 70 per cent. of the island's economic resources. It is important that we look at how the economies have developed.
I ask the Minister whether he will ask his colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry to investigate the tax position of the Polly Peck company. Polly Peck is using resources that were seized when the north of Cyprus was invaded. I understand that it claims immunity from United Kingdom taxation under our "no double taxation" policy. I understand that it pays no tax in northern Cyprus either. Given the most recent substantial profits of the Polly Peck company, it is important to establish under which taxation regime it ought to come. If Polly Peck is not paying tax in the north of Cyprus, we have to ask why the no double taxation policy is being maintained for Polly Peck and why no corporation tax is due on the company's British activities. I hope that the Minister will draw the attention of his colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry to that fact. It may be worthy of investigation; the Government may be forgoing tens of millions of pounds in tax.
I draw attention also to British-owned property in northern Cyprus, to which the owners do not have access. I understand that there has been considerable disagreement between Mr. Leonard Fairclough, the owner of the Salamis Bay hotel, and the authorities in the northern part of the island. Furthermore, the properties of British American Tobacco in Cyprus include the building in which the parliament of the so-called Turkish republic of northern Cyprus meets. British property owners have rights in northern Cyprus. I refer not just to those who have lost their homes but also to those who have lost access to commercial properties and the income derived from it.
I should have thought that that issue would have concerned a Government who believe in market forces as sincerely as this Government appear to do. The Government ought to be pursuing those matters, and I am surprised that they are not doing so. This debate may encourage the Government to take an interest in them.
We must make every conceivable effort that we can to bring about a just resolution of the problems that face Cyprus. We must bring unity to the island and ensure the removal of all foreign troops. We must give a warm-hearted people back their homes, their freedom of movement and their remarkably beautiful homeland.
§ Mr. Matthew Carrington (Fulham)
This has been a very useful debate, which has highlighted many of the problems that face the unhappy island of Cyprus. My hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) IS to be congratulated on having introduced it, thereby giving the House an opportunity to discuss in detail the problems of Cyprus. Those problems are shared by many of our constituents. I am sure that I am not alone in having constituents who came to this country from Cyprus, or who have families or property there. They have suffered grievously from the problems that have beset Cyprus during the 13 years since the island was invaded. But they suffered before the invasion because of the conflict 1267 between the Turkish and the Greek Cypriots. It is difficult for us to imagine their sufferings during the last 20 or 30 years.
The problem goes back before the time, when we fought against EOKA. It goes back to when there was already conflict between the Greek and Turkish settlers on the island. It led to Cyprus being brought into the British Empire. Disraeli returned with peace and honour from a conference to solve the Turkish problem and produced Cyprus out of the bag as a way of ensuring that we could defend the entrance to the Suez canal.
My only reason for mentioning that is that today Cyprus is a key strategic location to monitor what is happening in that part of the Mediterranean and the middle east. As long as Cyprus is an area of potential conflict between the Greeks and Turks, and as long as they see that as the crystallisation of their mutual dislike for each other, the problems in the Aegean sea will never go away, despite the friendly noises that emanate from time to time from Athens or Ankara. There is always potential for a change of regime in Greece or Turkey, which could spark a major conflict between the two countries.
Turkey considers itself to be a member of the European family, and I understand that at some time it would like to join the Common Market. In reality, it is more strongly allied to the middle eastern countries, partly through the historical conquests that the Turks went in for under the Ottoman empire, but, more strongly these days, because of the religious connection between the bulk of the population of Turkey and the strongly religious countries that form the bulk of the middle east.
Turkey's role is pivotal to the solution of the Middle East problem. Turkey recognises that, as do many of the Gulf countries, which are so critical of finding a solution to the conflict in the Gulf.
Cyprus is part of that problem, and it is part of the solution to the tragic conflict in Lebanon. Cyprus has played a role there, largely because of its geographical position, but one that in itself complicates the search for a solution to the dispute between the two nationalities on the island.
We must consider in detail what has happened in the past, as we have in the debate, and in a way that brings to the fore the traditional historic problems of the island. We must try to discover the reason for those problems and the reason for the mutual antagonism between the Turks and Greeks on the island. This tragic dispute has built up a large measure of mutual distrust between the two populations. We know from our own experience as constituency Members that, away from the island, the two communities can live happily together. The conflicts of the island do not carry over to their lives here.
What has led to that mutual disregard and mutual problem? It is an historic problem that has resulted from the dominance of the Greek community, which is partly based on numbers but also, as we heard from the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), on the ability of the Greek community to prosper while the Turkish community has always failed to do so. Thus, there has not only been a national and religious separation between the two communities; there has been a growing economic separation. It has been growing not only since the invasion but long before, and had its roots way back in the developments of the 1950s and 1960s.
1268 The difficulty is deep. The distrust was fostered by the Greek community when it tried to seek union with mainland Greece. That was the trigger point which led to the invasion by the Turkish troops in 1974. That invasion was deeply to be regretted. It was quite wrong and possibly, as we have heard, could have been stopped at the time. I was not terribly closely involved with that situation but I was involved in the middle east and my view is that the problems involved in stopping the invasion are easily understated. I suspect that the determination of the Turkish Government to invade Cyprus was strongly held and that they would not willingly have backed down from something they had perhaps wanted to do for 10 years — to put their troops on to the island to solve the problems once and for all.
It is no good us looking closely at history in the hope of finding a solution to the present problem. What has happened has happened and, regrettably, it cannot be undone. We have to look forward to find a solution. Greece is a member of the Common Market and Turkey is a member of NATO. Turkey has ambitions to join the Common Market, but I am sure I am not alone in believing that the Common Market would be wise to look carefully before it extends its borders to incorporate Turkey. I do not say that for any reason other than a purely economic one and, possibly, because of the relationship between Turkey and the middle east.
Once a country such as Turkey becomes a member of the Common Market, the likelihood of being forced to bring in countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and possibly even Algeria would increase, and the pressure to do so would become much more difficult to resist. We may find that the Common Market would cease to be a cohesive political and economic community—if it is not that at the moment, at least it has some hope of becoming one—and would become much more politically diverse. It would be more difficult to provide for the consensus we need if we are to develop the structure of the EEC institutions.
Cyprus, sitting as it does between Greece and Turkey, is a problem for which we have to find a solution. That raises the question of what shape the solution should take. We have heard of the various proposals that have come forward from the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Broadly speaking, they amount to some form of federal government inside the island. We have heard from the Select Committee the proposal to go one step lower down and develop cantonal government inside the island, presumably on the Swiss model. Both those proposals have considerable objections to them.
The two communities used to live closely together. To separate the two is as difficult as separating any other communities, in that it could give rise to injustices as to who is to move out and who is to move in. That would lead to disputes between families and communities which will live on long after everybody has forgotten the basis for the disputes. We are faced now with a de facto partition of the island which has led to a de facto federal system, although not a federal Government. By force of arms we have two separate countries inside the island. Rightly, the northern Government is not recognised by the British Government. Nevertheless, in terms of economic and military power, it exists as effectively as if it had been set up under a proper legal process.
There has been no solution to the serious problem that affects my constituents, as I am sure it affects other hon. 1269 Members' constituents, of what is supposed to happen to the property inside either of those two parts of the island. We have not even begun to find a solution to that problem. It is not a problem of economics alone. It is not a question of the Turkish or Greek Government saying to those who were dispossessed in 1974, "We will compensate you for what you lost and enable you to start up somewhere else." The problem is much more emotional than that.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) said, someone who has been farming a piece of land for years and whose family has been farming it for generations is emotionally attached to that land; it is historically his home. No amount of compensation can reconcile him to the loss of that land.
Economic factors may well dictate that those who have been displaced come to terms with it in the management of their affairs. However, I doubt whether many of them have come to terms with it in their emotional attitude to those who displaced them, whether Turks or Greeks. That is the major difficulty. We cannot go in and impose solutions from outside—any more, I fear, than the Turkish or, indeed, the Greek Government can now impose a solution. We need to find a solution acceptable to both the Greek and the Turkish communities in Cyprus that will reconcile their irreconcilable differences. It will take a long time to find such a solution. In the meantime, the best that we can hope is to give the Cypriots a period of tranquillity, peace and relative economic prosperity to provide the hope of a reconciliation of the two communities in the future.
The United Nations initiative perhaps goes some way to producing those conditions. It allows the possibility of the two communities running their own affairs and coming together in a federal structure of government inside the island which will allow for economic compensation to be made and for the communities slowly to learn to trust each other as they have not trusted each other—certainly in living memory and perhaps for the past 100 years.
1270 That trust will take a long time to build up. The process needs to be given time not just by the United Nations coming in and providing a basis for a settlement and for troops to police any disputes that may occur. It must be given time by all of us assisting Cyprus and assisting north Cyprus to catch up with the economic prosperity of the south of the island. Unless the two halves can come together economically, the envy and greed that exist behind the injustices and moral outrage on the surface will never die down and time will never be allowed to heal the wounds and the divisions between the two communities.
We need to provide external stability. As a country with long historic links with the island, which still has bases there—the island is still of major strategic importance to us, to NATO and to the Western world—we need, in conjunction with America, which has a great influence on Turkey, to provide stability and economic assistance to both parts of the island. When the federal structure of government is in place and when the Cypriots have reached the stage at which there can be elections for the federal Government as well as for the local Governments, we can enable the island to overcome the economic disadvantages of the north which is being propped up largely by the influx of money from Turkey, which Turkey can ill afford.
My suggestion to the Government is that we need strongly to support the Secretary-Genera's initiatives. We need to give all the encouragement that we can and bring pressure, through NATO and the EEC, on Athens and Ankara to work towards a solution. We need to provide the back-up of economic support.
§ It being half-past Two o clock, the debate stood adjourned.