HC Deb 06 March 1996 vol 273 cc325-6
1. Mr. Waterson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the negotiations for the accession of Cyprus to the EU. [17257]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

The accession negotiations will start six months after the conclusion of the intergovernmental conference and take account of its results.

Mr. Waterson

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree with the United States Administration's view that 1996 should be the year of Cyprus? Does he further agree that Cyprus's merits, both economic and otherwise, in making the application, should be viewed entirely in isolation and that, therefore, no third party, least of all the Turkish Government or the Turkish Cypriot regime in the north of the island, should have any right of veto over the process?

Mr. Rifkind

I believe that the application by the Republic of Cyprus for accession to the European Union should, as my hon. Friend said, be considered on its merits, and that no third party should have a veto. It is of course unavoidable that, if there is a continuing division of the island, that will make the success of the negotiations far more difficult. It is timely to try to bring about a resumption of dialogue in Cyprus, so that work can go forward towards a resolution of the political divisions that have damaged the interests of the island for so long.

Mr. Mackinlay

Can the Foreign Secretary explain how Cyprus could be admitted to the European Union when some of its national territory is occupied? Surely if it acceded to the EU, that would mean that some of the EU's territory would be occupied, which would be intolerable. Does not something have to be resolved before we can realistically discuss Cyprus's admission? Surely the question of its independent sovereignty over the whole of its territory must be settled before we can countenance its admission.

Mr. Rifkind

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus are recognised as the Government of a country that covers the whole island—although the hon. Gentleman is correct to say that the de facto division of the island makes accession to the European Union far more difficult than it would normally be. That is why I emphasised the fact that any political progress towards resolving the division would not only be desirable in itself but would make a major contribution to the success of the EU accession negotiations when they begin.

Dr. Twinn

I am grateful for what my right hon. and learned Friend has said. Does he know that his statement that neither party to the negotiations for a peace settlement would be able to veto Cyprus's entry into the European Union will be welcome on the island of Cyprus? Does that not therefore make it even more important for Britain to renew its efforts to ensure that there is a settlement this year, before the negotiations are due to start? For Cypriots of all communities, the future of Cyprus will be more secure within the Union.

Mr. Rifkind

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. The United Kingdom has given its view—that a resumption of dialogue between the two Cypriot communities should be possible this year. With other interested parties, we are actively exploring ways in which progress can be identified. United Nations forces have now been on the island for more than 27 years. When one considers the progress that has been made on major problems in other parts of the world over that period, there is no convincing reason why, with the right political will, the two Cypriot communities could not resume dialogue and work towards a common solution.