HC Deb 26 May 1994 vol 244 cc420-9

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Mackay.]

9.34 am
Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

It is appropriate that we should be discussing the situation in Cyprus this morning because later this summer, the world will mark the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. I say "mark" because the events of 1974 were a sad blot on the history of western Europe, when the three guarantor powers in no instance played an heroic role.

The Turkish invasion of Cyprus resulted in more than 100,000 refugees, and even today there is the tragedy of the missing persons—individuals who disappeared in 1974 and whose relatives still do not know, 20 years later, what happened to them. They are wives who do not know what happened to their husbands, parents who do not know what happened to their children, and sons and daughters who do not know what happened to their fathers and mothers. Twenty years on, they are still unable to mourn, but hope that their loved ones will reappear.

One of the most bitter denials of human rights must be that refugees are denied the right to live in their own homes —homes that had remained in their families for generations and which they are now prevented from occupying. Last summer—together with my hon. Friends the Members for Basildon (Mr. Amess), for Edmonton (Dr. Twinn) and for Chelmsford (Dr. Spink)—I viewed Famagusta from afar, together with the town's mayor in exile. We witnessed the trauma of individuals able to see their own homes, knowing they cannot not live in them —homes that might be unoccupied but from which their owners are effectively barred. We shared the trauma of the mayor of Famagusta, knowing that he could not visit his own town and live in his own home.

It is a major wickedness that individuals should be deprived of their homes. The fact that we are to mark the invasion's 20th anniversary must create a sense of urgency for every right hon. and hon. Member and for everyone who is concerned about the future of the tragic island of Cyprus.

The situation is tragic not only for Greek Cypriot refugees. Many newspapers have stated that there are 30,000 Turkish troops in northern Cyprus. One asks oneself why they are there. Do they seriously expect the United Nations to allow an outbreak of fighting in Cyprus, or do they fear the wrath of local Cypriots? Do the Turkish Cypriots of northern Cyprus realise the huge imbalance in living standards between the Greek Cypriots of the south and the Turkish Cypriots of the north? Is it that to which they object? Is that why there are 30,000 Turkish troops in northern Cyprus?

Do the Cypriots of northern Cyprus welcome the fact that there are a number of Turkish settlers there? I believe that, in Cyprus, the loyalty of its people is to Cyprus itself and that they do not welcome the presence of foreign troops or foreign settlers.

The fact that we shall mark the invasion's 20th anniversary this year must give us a sense of urgency. When I first visited Cyprus in 1977, there was hope on the island that its communities would be swiftly reunited. In 1977, one sensed that hope and noted the huge resilience of the Cypriot economy. The hotels and people of Limassol welcomed tourists and captured their affections in the same way as Famagusta had before 1974.

Anyone visiting Cyprus will see that the sense of hope that existed in 1977 has reappeared from time to time like a perennial plant, but there is a deep feeling of tragedy that no political movement has been achieved since then.

The green line in Nicosia seems to be as permanent as the wall in Berlin once seemed. For any visitor, the division of the island is quite intolerable. It is wrong that the hotels of Varosha, once part of the thriving tourist centre of Cyprus, have been unoccupied since 1974. Those hotels suffered in the Turkish bombardment and have become homes not for tourists but for rats and mice.

The fact that there has been no movement since 1974 means that there is a real danger that the division of Cyprus could become institutionalised. One of the benefits of this debate is that it will emphasise that, to the whole world, the division of Cyprus is intolerable and unacceptable. People who live in the north of Cyprus have suffered 20 years of economic difficulty, and the gap in living standards has widened rather than narrowed. Turkish troops and settlers have been stationed there, which is anathema to all northern Cypriots.

One of the tragedies of the past two decades is that Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots have grown apart. Most Greek and Turkish Cypriots have not spoken to one another during that time. They have been educated separately; they no longer play sport together, and they live separately.

In an Adjournment debate in 1991, I said that peace would be achieved in the middle east by a series of building blocks, and that one of those blocks would be Gaza. It has now been achieved. Similarly, we shall restore confidence and trust in Cyprus by a series of building blocks. That is why I welcome the United Nations-sponsored confidence-building measures.

The UN suggested that Nicosia airport should be reopened and that Varosha should be restored to its rightful Greek Cypriot owners. Those measures are clearly interconnected. No one could seriously suggest that the legitimate Government of Cyprus should reopen Nicosia airport without a compensating concession from the Turkish Cypriots.

There is no fundamental reason why the Turks should not give up Varosha. No one lives or works there. It was once the home of, and a haven for, hundreds of thousands of tourists; now it is a mausoleum, a monument to Turkish intransigence and a home to rats, mice and stray dogs. It is a symbol of international intolerance. By refusing to accept the confidence-building measures, Turkish Cypriots are demonstrating their continued intransigence to the world.

My appeal to the Turkish Cypriots' leader is to think again. I agree with Joe Clark, the UN interlocutor, that, with the political will, a settlement and agreement could be reached quickly. The absence of an agreement shows the absence of political will, especially among the Turkish Cypriots.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the betrayal of the Turkish Cypriots is strongly felt, and that considerably more sensitivity to their needs is required than has been shown or guaranteed in the past?

Mr. Marshall

There has to be sensitivity to the needs of both sides of the Cypriot community, but the Cypriot communities of north London live in relative peace one with another. If they can work, live and talk with each other in north London, there is no reason why they should not do so in Cyprus.

When the European Union considers Cyprus's application for membership in January 1995, Europe will have to assign blame between the two parties. Joe Clark has said who he blames; we know who we blame; and Europe will know who to blame.

Cyprus has always wanted closer links with the European Union. She has had an association agreement, but she now wants full membership of the European Union. So far, the European Commission has deferred a decision until January 1995. It has said that it will take the decision in the light of political developments in Cyprus.

That is an intolerable condition. It is wrong to tell the Government of Cyprus that we will allow them to join the European Union only if there has been agreement between the two communities in Cyprus. That gives the people and the illegal Government of northern Cyprus a right of veto over whether the legitimate Government of Cyprus should become a member of the European Union, which is undemocratic.

When the decision is reviewed in January 1995, the House should send a clear message to the European Union that, whether or not there has been a political agreement in Cyprus, that application will be considered favourably. Cyprus is part of the fount of western European culture, and it would be wrong for her to be denied admission to the European Union.

There are rumours that, if Cyprus were allowed to join the European Union, northern Cyprus would react by moving closer to Turkey. That would be unacceptable to the world. We have to make it clear to the Turkish Government that such a course of action would be unacceptable to the European Union and to the United Kingdom as the guarantor power. I hope that the United States Government will also make it clear that that would be unacceptable to them.

World opinion has refused to recognise the so-called independent state of northern Cyprus. Despite having been declared 11 years ago, that so-called state has been recognised by only one country. It would be an act of unholy matrimony for that state to unite with Turkey. If Turkey craves international respectability, as I believe she does, it would be a retrograde step for her to unite with the people of northern Cyprus. No blackmail should prevent the people of Cyprus from joining the European Union.

More important, Turkey has stated frequently that she wishes to join the European Union. We must make it clear that she will not be accepted as a member of the European club as long as the Cypriot situation remains unsolved. The European Union was based on a love of democracy and respect for human rights. We must make it clear to Turkey that, if she does not follow those paths, and if she encourages the continued division of Cyprus, she will not be allowed to join the European Community.

Mr. Beggs

I accept the hon. Gentleman's view on Turkey and northern Cyprus, but does he agree that Greece must make the same commitment—that there will be no further efforts to assimilate Cyprus with Greece?

Mr. Marshall

I thought that enosis had died 35 years ago. We are now seeing a sort of Turkish enosis in reverse. I do not know what the Turkish word for it is, but there seems to be a campaign to unite northern Cyprus with Turkey, which I would find just as repugnant as I would have found enosis in the 1950s. The Government reached an agreement with the Governments of Turkey and Greece and with Archbishop Makarios which led to three guarantor powers. It is a pity that they did not remain guarantor powers instead of, in one case, becoming an invading power.

President Clerides and Mr. Denktash are products of the same political era. They are veterans of Cyprus politics; they studied law together in England and enjoyed the camaraderie of the Bar in Cyprus. They have an opportunity to become statesmen in their own lifetime by forging an agreement between the people of north and southern Cyprus.

If they fail, the world will not accept the status quo. Agreement is essential, not only for the people of Cyprus but for Turkey if it is to retain international respectability. It is essential for the people of northern Cyprus if they are ever to enjoy prosperity rather than relative poverty. Above all, it is essential if Cypriots are to enjoy the basic human rights that we in this country take for granted.

Our debate can send the message that members of all parties continue to support the people of Cyprus, but it can also send a warning to those who seek to meddle in Cyprus's affairs that the continuing division of that beautiful island is intolerable to virtually every hon. Member.

9.51 am
Mrs. Barbara Roche (Hornsey and Wood Green)

I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak briefly in the debate, because the Government's policy toward Cyprus is a matter of great concern to my constituents in Hornsey and Wood Green. I am privileged to represent a large Cypriot community.

The main difficulty is the Government's attitude towards Varosha. It is my contention that Ministers are lukewarm, complacent and half-hearted about their role in finding a solution to the political problem of Cyprus. Given that Britain is a guarantor power, the Government have a heavy responsibility.

During Foreign Office questions on 4 May, I suggested to the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) that, after Mr. Denktash's blocking of United Nations talks, it was time to take a tough stance with the illegal regime. He merely said: The Security Council will be considering what future measures to take in due course."—[Official Report, 4 May 1994; Vol.242, c. 720.] That is not good enough. The families of missing people, the people enclaved in the illegal northern regime, who are desperately trying to deal with their adversity, and the refugees who have lost their homes as a result of the invasion and the continuing occupation deserve much more.

Many of my constituents have lost loved ones. I remember calling at the home of a woman who showed me a brief recording of the BBC news that mentioned her brother, who was a police officer in Cyprus. He is still missing as a result of the invasion, and the recording is all that she and her mother have to remind them of the missing member of their family.

Britain, as a guarantor power, has not only a moral but a legal responsibility to the people of Cyprus. Mention has already been made of Cyprus's application to join the European Union, and this is where the Government could show their support for Cyprus. Britain has done remarkably little to help its application. President Clerides recently said that membership of the European Union would

guarantee effectively the security of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and, at the same time, ensure the prospects of progress and prosperity for all the citizens of the Cyprus republic. In contrast to the Government's lethargy, I cite the work of my colleague Pauline Green, Member of the European Parliament for London North and leader of the European parliamentary Labour party, who has taken the lead in urging the European Parliament to support the Republic of Cyprus. It was thanks in no small part to her efforts that, after the Parliament had considered the Dury report on the European Union's relations with Turkey, its simple message to Turkey was that Turkey would get no money from the Community until its occupying forces had withdrawn from the Republic of Cyprus as part of a fair and lasting solution to the Cypriot problem.

After my last meeting with the representatives of the committee of relatives of missing Cypriots, I received a letter which said: We look to the future with hope and optimism that justice may prevail one day". I share that hope for the future, and urge Conservative Members and the Government to consider seriously their commitment and responsibility to the people of Cyprus.

9.55 am
Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) for providing the opportunity to speak on such an important subject. Only last month, I led a Bow Group delegation to Cyprus. The group included my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins). We had the great good fortune to have a lengthy meeting with President Clerides. I regret to say that I found him in despondent mood. He felt that, as the deadline rapidly approached for the acceptance of the confidence-building measures—it has now passed—no progress was being made. He felt that there was a lack of political will in the north to make progress.

Mr. Warren Hawksley (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

Is my hon. Friend aware that, on 25 April, President Denktash wrote to the Secretary-General pointing out that he had accepted the terms on the land and the airport, and that it was Mr. Clerides who had caused the terms to be altered? Does my hon. Friend agree that, if we were to return to the original proposals of July last year, an agreement could be forthcoming if the Greeks would agree?

Mr. Waterson

No, I do not accept any of that. The pattern of the discussions has always been that the Greek Cypriots accept proposals without reservation in order to make progress, but that progress has not been made. I was about to say that Mr. Denktash raised no fewer than 82 separate issues in relation to the proposal for Varosha.

I found President Clerides in a despondent mood, and who could blame him? He felt that he had spent 40 years in politics, only to see the possibility of a solution crumble before his very eyes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South referred to the fact that the confidence-building measures—for Varosha and the airport in Nicosia—had failed to progress. Despite the length of time that would be required to implement either of those two CBMs, we are still more or less where we were, and the deadline of 30 April laid down by the Secretary-General of the United Nations has come and gone. It is no wonder that, when I was in Cyprus last month, I had the distinct impression that support in the south for the CBMs is ebbing away rapidly.

I strongly believe that the United Nations should now recognise that the deadline has come and gone and that Turkish Cypriots will continue to be intransigent. The United Nations should now press for the total demilitarisation of the island by both sides. That would include the 35,000 or so Turkish troops in the north.

I endorse what has been said about membership of the European Union. I believe that Cyprus's application should go full steam ahead for three main reasons. First, Cyprus has a track record of democracy. Secondly, it would quite easily meet the economic criteria, perhaps in a way that some existing members would not if they were now applying. Thirdly—although not finally—it would be a dramatic way of bringing pressure to bear on the Turkish Cypriots and on Turkey itself.

Finally, as my hon. Friend said, there is nothing more depressing than to see the green line. I hope that one day, like the Berlin wall, it will be removed. Perhaps there is another analogy with Germany, too, in that West Germany became an important early member of the European Union, and East Germany came into that organisation later. I see that as the way forward for the island of Cyprus, too.

9.59 am
Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)

I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon. South (Mr. Marshall) for securing such an important and timely debate, and I send the good wishes and thanks of the House to all the United Nations staff serving in Cyprus, and to the service personnel in Cyprus.

The United Kingdom has a special responsibility for Cyprus, not only because we are a guarantor power, but because of the excellent weather that British people find when they go there on holiday to enjoy the wine and the great hospitality they find on that beautiful island. As a permanent member of the Security Council, we are in a unique position to bring appropriate pressure to bear to find a settlement to the problem of the illegal occupation of the north of the island by Turkish troops, and increasingly by Turkish settlers.

First, I reassure the real Turkish Cypriot people that there is tremendous and genuine good will towards them among the ordinary Greek Cypriot people—good people such as Petros, Tassos and Michalis. There is great good will and a heartfelt desire to achieve a fair settlement that will bring into being a united beautiful island of Cyprus with two communities, one Greek-based and one Turkish-based, living in peace together under a single fair Government—a Cypriot Government, of course.

I shall say a little about the confidence-building measures, although I have no time now to go in detail into them or into the process by which the proposals have been followed up. The Secretary-General proposed a package of measures as a means of promoting a settlement and of building trust and co-operation between the communities.

Suffice it to say that the United States of America and the United Kingdom felt that it was a great pity that Mr. Denktash had not accepted the package, because it offered great benefits to the Turkish community. By accepting it he has nothing to lose, and all to gain for his community, for the beautiful island of Cyprus and for the wider international community.

During the April extension that Mr. Denktash secured to consider the package, intensive diplomatic efforts were made by the United States and United Kingdom Governments, and meetings were convened in Europe to secure an agreement. Meanwhile, Mr. Denktash continued to procrastinate and to ask questions. The international community sought to explain the rationale for the agreement, and the great benefits that it could bring. If progress cannot be secured on those simple measures, how can we ever expect a settlement and progress on the more controversial questions, such as compensation, repatriation and the missing persons?

I thank the Secretary-General, the Government and the Foreign Secretary for their efforts, and I urge them to continue. I urge the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council the lack of progress and the reasons for it, and to say unequivocally who erected the obstacles.

I believe that Mr. Clerides, the President of the republic, is an excellent advocate for Cyprus. He shows himself a man of great honour and dignity, as well as a political statesman with some great abilities. He is a credit to his community. I understand the difficulties of Mr. Denktash, and readily acknowledge his unique skills and diligent representation of his community. I urge those two great statesmen to get together and to do a deal for the benefit of both their peoples.

I do not despair; I have hope. This week, Mr. Denktash has convened an extraordinary meeting of his Cabinet to discuss the confidence-building measures. Even as I speak, the Turkish Cypriots may be in conference. I wish them good fortune. However, if no agreement is forthcoming in the next few days, I urge the Security Council to examine alternative means for the promotion of a solution. We owe that to the whole island of Cyprus.

I shall mention several other issues in passing. On the economic front, I believe that now is the time for the European Union to give a lead in resolving the Cyprus problem. Next January, the EU can help to force the issue, and do a great service for international stability and international law by accepting Cyprus into an enlarged Union.

The hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche) mentioned the humanitarian question. I greatly regret that there is nothing to report concerning the missing persons, and I respectfully call on the Secretary-General to take action on the matter.

I have little time left, so I shall wind up by acknowledging the fact that the debate has covered only a few of the issues. Mr. Denktash and the Turkish side have shown by their actions, clearly and unequivocally, that they are not yet prepared to reach a political decision on settlement. If progress is not made, the Security Council must pursue further measures, bring real political pressure to bear on the obstructing parties and force a settlement. That would be an appropriate next move, so I respectfully urge it on the Secretary-General and the Security Council.

10.5 am

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory)

My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) has done well to secure the debate. It is obvious from the speeches and the interventions that we have heard that there is great interest in the subject, perhaps especially because of the strong ties between this country and Cyprus, and the large number of Cypriots living in the United Kingdom, especially, in London.

My hon. Friend well described the personal anguish caused to individuals and families by the political events of the past and the continuing division of the island. Great political events translate themselves into personal tragedies, and there are plenty of those emanating from the island of Cyprus.

As I have told the House in the past, we regard the present situation as unacceptable and we are exerting political ingenuity and diplomatic pressure of all sorts in working through the United Nations to bring about a reunification of the island and a peaceful solution lo the tragic dispute.

The hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche) urged the Government to do more, without making it entirely clear what more we should do. I take it that she rules out the use of force; it was certainly ruled out by the Labour Government in 1974.

Mrs. Roche

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I am answering the point that the hon. Lady made. It was a Labour Government who saw the invasion of the island and ruled out the use of force at that time.

It is easy to urge people to do more—"something must be done", and so on. We are working with other interested parties through the United Nations, and it is usually Labour party policy to support the UN in its diplomatic efforts.

The hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green and others asked specifically about the application to the European Union. I must correct the impression that I think the hon. Lady left with the House—that the British Government in some way impeded that application. That is not the case. We welcome the prospect of eventual accession to the EU by Cyprus, while recognising the practical difficulties of admitting a divided island.

The European Union requires the free movement of people and goods, and it is not clear at this point how that requirement can be reconciled with the present situation in Cyprus. That gives urgency to our diplomatic efforts to bring about reunification, so as to facilitate the entry of Cyprus into the EU.

In answer to a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South and others, we do not recognise a Turkish, or Turkish Cypriot, veto over the process. That is exactly why the British Government agreed to the appointment of an EU observer, an official from the Commission, to report back to the Council of Ministers next January on how Cyprus's application for membership can be taken forward, even, if the worst happens, in the possible absence of implementation of the set of ideas and the confidence-building measures.

I do not want to anticipate a failure of the present confidence-building measures and negotiations. There is still a chance for all the parties to come together and to take this important and essentially modest step towards an overall settlement. The UN Secretary-General has been trying for the past year to secure agreement for the package of confidence-building measures.

At the start, it was President Clerides who accepted that package; he did so last May. However, Mr. Denktash did not at that time accept the principle of confidence-building measures, so my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have, both jointly and separately, exerted their influence on the parties concerned and with the Turkish Government to bring about an acceptance in principle for negotiations.

In outline, the package involves opening Varosha, under UN administration, which my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South rightly identified as a possible centre for a renewed tourist industry. It could, indeed, be a channel from the south to the north, bringing opportunities not only for improved and increased prosperity for both communities, but, even more importantly, for intercommunal contact, which is lacking.

One of the unfortunate and tragic features of the dispute is that the generation of Cypriots who are used to living and working together are beginning to enter old age. If they die and are replaced by others without that experience, it may be even more difficult in future to achieve the solution for which we all search. The other parts of the measures are essentially about the reopening of Nicosia international airport. Of course, statesmanship, compromises and even concessions by both sides are needed, but the overall benefits to both parts of the island are beyond dispute.

We were pleased when, in January this year, Mr. Denktash accepted the package in principle. Since then, there have been further negotiations to refine the package. There have been alterations to the original proposals to take account of the objections and points raised by the leaders of both communities. We still hope that Mr. Denktash will find it possible to relinquish his objections to some of the remaining details. We share the judgment of the United Nations that the package is balanced and fair.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wrote to Mrs. Ciller, the Prime Minister of Turkey, in April this year, encouraging her to use her influence with Mr. Denktash to accept the package. In a further effort to secure Turkish Cypriot agreement, the United Nations and United States representatives met Turkish and Turkish Cypriot representatives in Vienna on 11 May. They appear to have made some progress, but so far not enough to secure Mr. Denktash's immediate agreement to the proposals.

The Secretary-General is due to report in detail to the Security Council on the progress of the talks over the past three months. We expect him to make that report in the very near future. We still hope that Mr. Denktash can find it in himself and in his Government to agree to the package on offer. If he does not do that, the report by the Secretary-General will probably reflect the facts, and will apportion at least some of the blame to the Turkish Cypriots for their failure to reach agreement on the implementation of the CBM package. That would be extremely disappointing, and I hope that Mr. Denktash will use even the last few days on offer to take a bold step to reverse the trend of the past 20 years and that he will take a step towards an overall settlement.

Throughout this matter, we have worked to bolster the efforts of the UN and of the international community generally. We have been in touch with both sides, and I have explained the pressure and the diplomatic contacts that not just the Foreign Secretary but the Prime Minister have used through the Turkish Government. We await the report with interest. It is probable that if there is no further progress and if the Secretary-General has to report that, the Security Council will consider alternative measures to ensure the effective implementation of the existing resolutions on Cyprus.

We need to remember that there is no prospect of forcing the communities to the conference table at the point of a gun. We need a negotiated, workable solution and, to that end, we will continue to work diplomatically. We believe that President Clerides has exerted political will. We look for the same from Mr. Denktash. He claims that he has that will, but he needs to demonstrate it by accepting, again, the package on offer.

We regard the confidence-building measures not as an end in themselves but as a step on the road to an overall solution to this long-standing and tragic division of an island which we know and love so well

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