HC Deb 12 February 1997 vol 290 cc320-2
2. Mr. Waterson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit Cyprus to discuss the recent increase in tension there. [13955]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis)

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has no present plans to visit Cyprus. He did so in December 1996, when he held discussions with President Clerides and Mr. Denktash.

Mr. Waterson

May I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on what I believe was the first visit by a British Foreign Secretary to Cyprus for some 30 years? Will my right hon. Friend the Minister of State restate the Government's commitment to relieving tension, where possible, in Cyprus, and to achieving a lasting settlement on that island? Does he agree that early accession to the European Union would benefit considerably both communities on the island?

Mr. Davis

Certainly. I first commend my hon. Friend on his hard work and perseverance on behalf of the people of Cyprus over a long period. He is right. The Foreign Secretary's visit did reflect our commitment to the interest of Cyprus's people and to achieving a solution to the Cyprus problem. We support accession to the European Union on the basis that it will benefit all Cyprus's people—in fact, people in north Cyprus will make particular financial gain—and in the hope that the accession process will help rather than hinder the resolution of the Cyprus problem.

Mr. Faulds

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept my additional congratulations to the Foreign Secretary on his sagacity, after many years of inaction by those on the Front Benches of both sides, that he should actually visit both communities in Cyprus? Will he accept from me—I do not think it is historically deniable—that these intrusions that are causing the tensions are invariably organised by Greek-Cypriot demonstrators? Is it not highly regrettable that involved in those demonstrations into the buffer territory, which is forbidden territory for both parties, are leading Members of the European Parliament?

Mr. Davis

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. What I will say is that we have to be even-handed with both communities. That is the secret to progress on the matter. When my right hon. and learned Friend went to Cyprus, he made a statement on a 10-point programme to promote the solution of the Cyprus problem. That programme has been lodged in the Library, and I recommend that the hon. Gentleman examines it.

Sir David Madel

If Turkish troops withdrew from northern Cyprus, which would be the first step in a solution, who do the Government think should then be responsible for guaranteeing the rights of the minority Turkish-Cypriot population?

Mr. Davis

There is a need for a reduction in military weaponry and presence on both sides. Only by that route will there be a reduction in the tensions that afflict Cyprus. Under the circumstances of accession to the EU and of a solution of the Cyprus problem, we would expect international guarantees for all Cyprus's people.

Mr. Robin Cook

The Minister will be aware that I also visited Cyprus last month. May I support his statement that Cyprus's accession to the European Union would both increase the sense of security of Cyprus's residents and increase pressure on Ankara to reach a settlement? Will he therefore tell the House that the British Government will not make settlement of the division of the island a precondition of Cyprus's accession to the European Union? Does he realise that to set such a precondition could create the danger of a Turkish veto?

Mr. Davis

I have said in the House several times that we have never accepted either an explicit or an implicit Turkish veto, and that we would not allow a situation to arise in which such a veto could be exercised. However, accession would undoubtedly be easier if there were a solution. To meet the Union's requirement for free movement of people—to give the right hon. Gentleman one simple example—would be rather difficult in the current circumstances.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

I, too, congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on paying a non-partisan visit to both sides of the island. Is my right hon. Friend aware that we remain the international guarantor of peace on the island, and that it is therefore very much our role to try to promote peace among both sides? Does he agree that the way in which to accomplish that is for both sides eventually to become members of the European Union, and that any arms build-up now by either side is extremely unhelpful?

Mr. Davis

I think that everything that my hon. Friend has said is entirely right. We have demonstrated our commitment to an active role in the promotion of peace, most recently—other than the Foreign Secretary's visit—by appointing Sir David Hannay to promote the cause of peace and a settlement on the island. We will do that in an even-handed manner, as vigorously and as effectively as we are capable.

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