HC Deb 29 October 1997 vol 299 cc817-36

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


Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

I am pleased to have been successful in obtaining the first Adjournment debate on the first Wednesday after our return from the summer recess.

I begin by declaring my interest in the matter. I have been to Cyprus on a number of occasions and, for five days last month, I was fortunate enough to be the guest of the Cyprus House of Representatives, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) and the former hon. Member for Edmonton, Dr. Ian Twinn, and my wife. We met the Greek Cypriot political leaders and the candidates for the presidency.

My personal abiding concern about the island of Cyprus goes back a great deal longer, because my late grandfather served there for a number of years towards the end of the second world war and after it. When looking through some of his papers and photographs—he lived into his mid-90s and died a few years ago—I was fortunate enough to find the service records written by his brigadier at the end of my grandfather's service in Cyprus in the late 1940s. As a child, my grandfather's tales of his great friendships with Cypriots, especially those in the Troödos mountains, were of great interest to me. I subsequently formed a number of close friendships with many Cypriots, not least from among the many whom I knew when I was a student immediately after the sad days of the Turkish invasion and the establishment of an illegal regime in northern Cyprus in 1974.

The refusal of the western world to intervene at the time of that illegal act remains a blot on its record. I contrast unfavourably the then Labour Government's spineless act of washing their hands over it with the bold and resolute way in which Lady Thatcher and other Conservatives stood up to the Warsaw pact and responded to the invasions of the Falklands and Kuwait.

Today, I should like to consider the present and the future of Cyprus.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

Given the hon. Gentleman's interest in Cyprus, can he tell us whether he has ever taken the opportunity in recent times to visit northern Cyprus or to speak to the elected representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community there?

Mr. Hawkins

The hon. Gentleman is aware that there are great difficulties connected with visits to that illegal regime, but on a number of occasions I have discussed that matter with representatives of Turkey in this country. Frankly, I have not chosen to cross the green line because I find it difficult to establish contacts with an illegal regime. On several occasions in the past, however, I have visited the green line with a number of my colleagues and I have had an opportunity to consider the situation in that illegal regime. I shall respond in more detail to the hon. Gentleman's question later. It is important to look at what has happened in the period of occupation and I shall address that later.

I am delighted to see the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson), in his place. I sincerely welcome what Ministers said in Foreign Office Question Time yesterday and I recognise that the Minister confirmed that the new Government support the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, as did the previous Government.

In view of Britain's special relationship with Cyprus and the advanced knowledge of the complexities of the Cyprus problem, which are well understood by those involved, both in the EU and in this country, it is extremely useful and constructive that Britain will hold the presidency of the EU when negotiations start in April next year for the accession of Cyprus. I look forward to the British Government's firm commitment to the accession being reinforced in the coming months. Accession to the European Union will offer the best possible guarantee for long-term security and prosperity for all the people of Cyprus.

Turkish Cypriots will probably be the prime beneficiaries of entry to Europe, because, since the invasion, the economy of the occupied part of Cyprus has plummeted. It is noticeable that, before the invasion, the northern part of the island was the more prosperous and the southern part was relatively undeveloped; since the invasion, which resulted in the Greek Cypriot community being forced to move to the southern part of the island, the economy in that region has improved dramatically, whereas there are great areas of dereliction in the north. In Famagusta, one can see the extent of the wastage of resources.

Entry to Europe will serve as a catalyst and open the way to a solution, which I am sure hon. Members want, even those who have close contacts with the illegal regime in the north. That will, of itself, help to ease tension between Turkey and Greece, which has been at a high level in recent months. However, the House should take careful note of the fact that Turkey has recently intensified its campaign to block the process. It has threatened the integration and annexation of occupied areas with Turkey. It is deplorable that during a recent visit to occupied Cyprus—the illegal regime in the north—the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Ecevit, accompanied by seven of his Ministers and a number of warships, signed what he called an integration agreement between Turkey and the occupied parts of Cyprus.

It is ironic that, in an effort to stop the EU accession process, Turkey argues that Cyprus cannot be admitted to the EU as that would be the same as a union of Cyprus with another country. Turkey refers to the 1960s treaties, which it has previously said are no longer in force—such contradictory references show the flaws in Turkish logic. Turkey's arguments have been rejected by the EU and international lawyers on the basis that the EU is clearly not a separate and independent state. Discussions at the time of Austria's accession showed that the Turkish argument is baseless. It is astonishing that Turkey, which in 1974 acted in violation of the 1960 treaties, now considers it appropriate to attempt to derive legal benefit from those treaties.

Madam Speaker, you will know that this summer two rounds of intercommunal negotiations took place at Troutbeck, in upstate New York in the United States, and at Glion, near Montreux in Switzerland. Unfortunately, once again, no progress was achieved on the fundamental issues. The positive and constructive attitude of the Greek Cypriot delegation, led by President Clerides, was again met by the negative attitude and behaviour of the Turkish side.

The negative feeling was reinforced by the comments of the British permanent representative to the United Nations, who was the president of the Security Council at that time. After the briefing of Senor Diego Cordovez, who is the special adviser to the Secretary-General, on the outcome of the Glion talks, the British ambassador, Sir John Weston, said that there was a sense of disappointment that it hadn't been possible in the event to make more progress at Glion. From Sir John's remarks, it is clear that no fault attached to Senor Cordovez, and it was stressed that commendation was due to President Clerides for the flexibility and co-operation that he had showed at this round of talks…there was…concern and disappointment that further substantive progress…was impeded by the attempt to bring preconditions to the table by the other party, and here of course I mean the Turkish Cypriots. However, it was felt that the two parties at the highest level do remain committed to the future of this process", which is a hopeful sign for the future. Sir John said that that was

also the sense of the members of the Security Council. Sir John made it clear that there was strong support and endorsement for the Secretary-General's good offices mission in which Senor Cordovez plays an absolutely central part. Everyone agrees that The present status quo is unacceptable. There has to be further pursuit of the comprehensive settlement we all seek in accordance with Security Council Resolutions. Sir John went on:

Nobody ever thought that this process was going to be easy…in these two rounds of talks at Troutbeck and at Glion there has in fact been some progress registered particularly at a practical level affecting humanitarian issues on the island of Cyprus. On 31 July, there was an agreement about missing persons, which I am sure everyone with Cyprus's interests at heart welcomes. The Security Council expressed its approval of that. Sir John made it clear that it was essential to move on to get to the next stage of doing the hard work that will make it possible to resume the process of negotiations between the parties directly. Senor Cordovez has said that, as soon as next year's presidential elections in Cyprus are over, he intends to seek further progress and members of the Security Council "warmly supported" his intention to continue paying visits. However, the Security Council stressed how important it was that no one involved in the process

say or do things which were going to raise the level of tension further on the island or diminish the chances of making progress toward a peace settlement—that will call for good sense all around—we want to use the intervening weeks and months to see further progress made particularly on the humanitarian side. It is, therefore, with great sadness that one reflects on the fact that there has recently been a great deal of air activity—buzzing—over the Republic of Cyprus by Turkish jets. Turkey has completely ignored what Sir John Weston said on behalf of the Security Council about not indulging in inflammatory acts. It is fair to say that Turkey's intransigence is nothing new. In his latest comprehensive report on Cyprus, submitted to the Security Council in May 1994, the former UN Secretary-General, Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, stated that

the lack of any progress whatsoever is due to one fundamental reason: the lack of political will on the Turkish side". Great difficulty has been caused by the many settlers from Anatolia, whom the Turkish regime has put into the occupied territories of northern Cyprus. They have no fundamental links with the area and all of us who know Cyprus recognise that the Turkish Cypriots resent the importation of those settlers. Another matter of great concern is the activity of the Turkish Grey Wolves organization—I see the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) nodding—and the resulting deaths on the green line, which, as television pictures clearly showed, were witnessed by senior figures from Turkey.

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet)

Earlier in his speech, my hon. Friend was asked whether he had visited the northern part of Cyprus and he said that he had not. Does he accept that several hon. Members, including myself and some Labour Members, have crossed the green line to visit the north? We have spoken to members of the Turkish Cypriot community and have heard their real concern that the settlers to whom my hon. Friend referred are taking over their island. The Turkish Cypriots are becoming a minority in their own country and many have left and come to the United Kingdom. They are gravely concerned about their own future and the future of the whole island. Is it not desperately sad that some Members of this honourable House seek to give succour and comfort to the illegal regime in the north of Cyprus?

Mr. Hawkins

I quite agree. What my hon. Friend says has been reflected in my discussions with Turkish Cypriots who have come to this country for the very reasons that he mentions. My hon. Friend has had the advantage of visiting the occupied part of the island. I have not had the chance to do that, but I have talked to Turkish Cypriots in this country—

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that there are always two points of view in such situations? He has spoken of conditions in northern Cyprus, a place he has never visited, although he has visited the south. Is he aware that there are almost as many foreigners living in southern Cyprus as there are in northern Cyprus, for instance? There are thousands of Lebanese and thousands of Russians there, and many Greek Cypriots resent their presence. Indeed, many of them have had to leave and have come to live here in London in even larger numbers than have the Turkish Cypriots.

Mr. Hawkins

Judging by my visits to the legal regime in the Republic of Cyprus I would have to disagree with what the right hon. Gentleman says. I have detected no resentment; indeed, the inward investment that foreign visitors have brought to the Republic of Cyprus has been warmly welcomed. Based on my extensive discussions with many Greek Cypriots here, I know that although they choose to travel the world they always retain close links with the home island.

What is more, there is a huge difference between the importation to northern Cyprus of settlers from Anatolia who are imposed on the people of northern Cyprus against their will and the voluntary settling of visitors from abroad in southern Cyprus. It amounts to the difference between the dictatorial regime in the illegally occupied north and the free, democratic regime in the Republic of Cyprus.

As long as Turkey is working to an entirely different political agenda from that of the rest of the western world, and as long as the threat of partition and of the expansionist policies followed by the Turkish Government persists, the Cyprus Government have not only the right but the duty to protect their people from the military threat of Turkey. Although Cyprus's military capabilities cannot possibly match those of Turkey, its Government are trying to avoid a possible repetition of the 1974 conflict. President Clerides has repeatedly proposed the demilitarisation of Cyprus, which will include the withdrawal of foreign troops and the disbanding of local military forces, while an international force will be stationed in Cyprus for as long as necessary to ensure the implementation of the solution during the transitional period.

I should like to pay a tribute to one of the British service men serving with the UN force on the green line. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West and I, and other members of our delegation, met him during the summer when visiting the green line. The troops stationed there had not been warned of our coming. We were all impressed by the way this soldier spoke to us, and by his personal commitment to the island and to service with the United Nations. After 10 or 15 minutes of conversation with him, I was most impressed by how he took everything in his stride, including the dangers of serving in the divided island, and by his diplomacy and skill when faced with an unexpected delegation of Greek Cypriots and Members of this House. The episode served to reinforce my great admiration for all who serve in the British Army, and it contrasted sharply with some of the criminal incidents in which some members of Her Majesty's forces have been involved on the island. I believe that that episode shows those incidents to have been aberrations, and I remain very impressed by most members of the British forces.

As for the future, it is fair to say that everyone on the Security Council who has been involved in the issue recognises that Greek Cypriots in the republic are committed to a just and long-lasting solution in a bizonal, bicommunal federation—an idea accepted by both sides, theoretically, in the 1977 and 1979 high-level agreements. Such a solution would preserve the integrity of Cyprus as one sovereign state and as a state with one international personality as a matter of international law.

In order to bring about a just and long-lasting solution, I believe that the security aspects must be dealt with. A satisfactory solution to the problem of displaced persons must also be found. Human rights and basic freedoms should be safeguarded in accordance with the acquis communautaire and other international instruments of human rights.

In a recent UN communiqué, Heads of Government reaffirmed their support for the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus, and called for the implementation of the UN resolutions on Cyprus, in particular Security Council resolutions 365 of 1974, 550 of 1984 and 939 of 1994. They regretted that negotiations on a solution have been at an impasse for far too long, and they strongly supported the process of direct intercommunal talks under the UN Secretary-General's mission of good offices.

The Heads of Government also expressed their concern at recent Turkish threats to use force and to integrate the occupied territory, and reiterated their support for President Clerides's demilitarisation proposals, calling for the withdrawal of all Turkish forces and settlers, the return of refugees to their homes, the restoration of and respect for the human rights of all Cypriots, and an accounting for all missing persons. They expressed their disappointment that progress had been impeded by the efforts of the Turkish Cypriot side to introduce preconditions to the talks; and called for a co-operative attitude by both sides so as to achieve a comprehensive, just and workable settlement on the basis of a bicommunal and bizonal federation.

While noting the existence of the Commonwealth action group on Cyprus, the Heads of Government also welcomed the initiative of the Commonwealth Secretary-General in nominating an observer at the UN-sponsored negotiations; and recognised that Britain, as a permanent member of the Security Council and a guarantor power, occupies a special position in the matter.

It is certainly true that many right hon. and hon. Members of all parties have taken a special interest in Cyprus. I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) here; he is another friend of Cyprus with a long-standing interest in the island. Other hon. Members with an interest cannot be with us this morning, unfortunately. The Minister for Small Firms, Trade and Industry has told me that a ministerial engagement will prevent her from being here this morning, but she, too, has a long-standing interest. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) has a long-standing commitment to Cyprus and to a peaceful future for the island. The same applies to the hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara), who has just come into the Chamber. I welcome them all.

I regret the recent actions of the Turkish side. In recent days, the newspapers have referred to a heightening of the tension. This comes as Richard Holbrooke, the American negotiator, was expected to call for a ban on all Greek and Turkish military flights over the island, in the hope of averting any fresh conflict. We hope and pray that there will be no fresh conflict, but it is extremely worrying to learn that Turkish aeroplanes have been violating Cyprus airspace. Fortunately, no shots were fired when Turkish aeroplanes buzzed the island.

There are, however, further regional and geo-political grounds for concern. There have been deteriorating relations between Turkey and Russia, apparently because of covert Turkish military support for the Chechen separatists. Turkey has been issuing some rather unbelievable claims. Its recent claims that Russian missiles might be converted to ground-to-ground weapons capable of landing on the Turkish mainland have been ridiculed by western military experts, one of whom is quoted as saying: It would be like buying a Porsche and trying to convert it into a snowplough. However, we are worried that the Turkish regime has adopted a deliberately provocative attitude in the past. One only prays that Cyprus will have a peaceful future. I call on all hon. Members, on both sides of the House, who have a concern about Cyprus as an island and the future of all its people, whether of Turkish or Greek origin, to work together to participate in a solution for that still sadly divided island.

Madam Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to address the House this morning.

9.59 am
Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) on initiating the debate and on the presentation of his speech. He rightly said that many hon. Members on both sides of the House have for very many years worked together as a group for Cyprus and for the people of Cyprus, be they Turkish Cypriots or—

Mr. Maginnis

indicated dissent.

Mr. Cox

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he is mistaken. Many hon. Members in the Chamber have repeatedly and consistently said, in speeches in the House and at meetings outside it, that their commitment is to the people of Cyprus, be they Greek or Turkish Cypriots. It is not good enough for the hon. Gentleman to deny that; the facts are on the record.

Rightly, we often debate Cyprus in the House. I chair the Commonwealth Parliamentary Cyprus Group—a group which comprises members from both Houses and all parties.

The long-running tragedy of Cyprus has continued for far too long. The invasion of the Republic of Cyprus by the Turkish army in 1974 was a flagrant abuse of the territory of a democratic country, a member state of the Commonwealth and a country of which the United Kingdom is a guarantor power.

Recalling the countless attempts that have been made since 1974 to find an honourable settlement, I—and, I am sure, many other hon. Members and Cypriots, be they Greek or Turkish—am filled with despair. There have been intercommunal talks and confidence-building measures. The United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union have sought to obtain a settlement in Cyprus—sadly, without success.

The hon. Member for Surrey Heath spoke of the recent talks between President Clerides and Mr. Denktas in the United States and in Switzerland, and he commented on the statement made by the British ambassador, Sir John Weston. It conveys very well the frustration that a very senior diplomat feels on the issue. Following the failure of the talks, the European Union External Affairs Commissioner, Mr. Hans Van den Broek, said that he found it "unacceptable" for Mr. Denktas to demand that the European Union should freeze its plans for accession talks with Cyprus before further negotiations could go ahead. There we have two clear statements by prominent and powerful diplomats, who lay the blame squarely on Mr. Denktas and his colleagues for the absence of progress.

As I said when the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) shook his head, I, and I believe all of us who are committed to helping to find a solution in Cyprus, have always been committed to the rights of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to security and prosperity in what we seek—a united Cyprus. That said, although there has been enormous suffering among both Greek and Turkish Cypriots since 1974, obviously the Turkish Cypriot has suffered most. Undoubtedly, northern Cyprus has suffered far more than the Republic of Cyprus, and that is surely one reason why many of us continue to try, in the House and in other assemblies, to obtain an honourable settlement to end this long-running tragedy.

I mentioned the despair that many of us feel. If my hon. Friend the Minister were to ask his officials to write on the left-hand side of a piece of paper concessions made by the Greek Cypriots since 1974, and on the right those made by the Turkish Cypriots, he would find that the Greek Cypriots, under successive Presidents, have made all the concessions in Cyprus since 1974.

Mr. Maginnis

That is not true.

Mr. Cox

The hon. Gentleman says that it is not true. That is not borne out by the facts, which I shall outline.

Let us consider events since 1974. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath mentioned the thousands of Turkish troops stationed in the occupied north. Mr. Denktas has made no attempt to reduce the number of Turkish troops in the occupied area. We know of the enormous abuse that has taken place of the Greek Cypriot community living in the occupied area, in the Karpas region.

The late Lord Finsberg, who was a member of the Council of Europe, was required by the Council of Europe to report on conditions in northern Cyprus. He did so about 18 months ago, and described the enormous human rights abuses of those living in the occupied area. I shall not repeat his comments. They were an indictment of Mr. Denktas, revealing the conditions that he was imposing on those people.

The hon. Member for Surrey Heath mentioned illegal settlers. In the early 1990s, the Council of Europe—to which I am a delegate—commissioned the Cou Cou report, which presented clear evidence of the thousands of mainland Turks brought in deliberately by Mr. Denktas.

My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) and I are deeply concerned about Famagusta. Mr. Denktas deliberately reneged on a promise to hand back Famagusta to the Republic of Cyprus. About three years ago, I initiated a debate in the Chamber solely about Famagusta, and no one denied that he had done so. I never received a letter from Mr. Denktas or any of his supporters to say, "You were misleading the House." Mr. Denktas said that he would hand back Famagusta, but he never did.

Mr. Maginnis

But is not the handing back of the Varosha district of Famagusta, which is something that should have happened, linked with access to Nicosia airport and the provision of a terminal for northern Cypriots at that airport? Has that concession—a very important concession to the lifeline of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus—been given, or is there a willingness to give it?

Mr. Cox

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman says that Famagusta should be handed back and I am sure that that will be warmly welcomed in the Republic of Cyprus. No doubt the other supposed conditions to which he refers are the type of conditions that Mr. Denktas would seek to impose. We know that, in the context of the intercommunal talks and the confidence-building measures, all those issues were willingly and repeatedly discussed by the Republic of Cyprus. However, the Republic of Cyprus wanted the complete return of the town of Famagusta, not the half-issues that Mr. Denktas raised regarding its return. That has been the stumbling block.

Mr. Eddie O'Hara (Knowsley, South)

Does my hon. Friend agree that there were two proposals in the same set of proposals: one referred to Famagusta and the other to Nicosia airport being opened under United Nations supervision? Mr. Denktas, however, insisted on linking the opening of Famagusta with the opening of the airport on terms that would have meant a de facto recognition of the northern regime, contrary to the United Nations proposals.

Mr. Cox

I thank my hon. Friend for that comment.

The whole world was appalled by the brutal murder last year of three Greek Cypriots. Two of those murders were filmed on video. The fact that Mr. Denktas has done nothing to bring to justice those who committed the murders must be the most damning indictment that one can make of him.

We know what has happened since 1974. Where do we go now? The hon. Member for Surrey Heath referred to Richard Holbrooke, the United States special envoy. Our special envoy is Sir David Hannay, and obviously they both work closely together. What settlement are those two special envoys seeking for Cyprus? Will territory that was taken in the 1974 invasion be returned? Will property and land, much of which is now occupied by illegal settlers, be returned? Will those living on the island of Cyprus, be they Greek or Turkish, be able to live or move wherever they wish within the island? Is that the kind of settlement that those two special envoys, with the assistance of the United Nations and other organisations such as the Council of Europe and the European Union, want to achieve? Does the Minister have any idea, from the discussions that Sir David Hannay will have had with Mr. Denktas, whether Mr. Denktas is genuinely willing to negotiate such a settlement—or will he impose new conditions as a deliberate attempt to stall meaningful discussions that would lead to a settlement, as he did in the recent talks?

Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots are more than capable of developing and forming the Government that they would want in a united Cyprus. I am sure that they have the ability to develop their country both socially and economically. But until we get over the hurdle, which we have been unable to get over since 1974, we must wonder where to go from here.

The hon. Member for Surrey Heath referred to something of crucial importance: Cyprus's application for membership of the European Union. He said, as did the European External Affairs Commissioner, that membership of the European Union can only benefit Cyprus and its people, be they Greek or Turkish. No one in the House would disagree with that. We cannot allow Mr. Denktas repeatedly to delay discussion, then threaten to take the occupied area of Cyprus into mainland Turkey. I hope that the Minister will give a clear statement this morning on Britain's attitude to the possibility that Turkey will annex the northern area of a member state of the Commonwealth—a country for which we are a guarantor power. What would we, the European Union and the Americans do? Many hon. Members would not be prepared to sit in this Chamber and say, "It is regrettable, but these things happen." It would be totally unacceptable. We hear such threats being made repeatedly, not only by Mr. Denktas but by senior Turkish politicians.

The hon. Member for Surrey Heath made another valid point when he referred to the continued infringement of Cypriot airspace by Turkish aircraft. We know that that happens. I have asked questions on that issue in the Western European Union and said that we hope that both sides will cool the issue, but only one side—Turkey—is creating the provocation. That is yet another example of the enormous dilemma that the Government face.

I do not agree with all the efforts that were made by the previous Administration, but I genuinely believe that they wanted a settlement. We cannot allow the problem to continue. For 23 years, a Commonwealth country with a democratically elected Government has been occupied by a foreign power and we do nothing about it. The so-called "independent state" was initiated by Mr. Denktas years ago, but only one country—Turkey—still recognises it. If Mr. Denktas has created such a wonderful state, one would have thought that by now a number of countries would recognise it.

Cyprus is a small, beautiful country. Hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber will agree that, with a settlement and with membership of the European Union, within about five years Cyprus could become one of the most prosperous countries in Europe. We cannot, however, allow the problem to continue year after year. The British Government cannot say, "It is regrettable. We have tried but have got nowhere, because we have substantial interests in Cyprus. We cannot simply hope that we shall get a settlement one day.

I hope that, in the coming months, we shall see real progress towards a settlement. I have no doubt about the kind of Cyprus that I want. I want a united Cyprus where the rights of Greek and Turkish Cypriots are honoured and where security is safeguarded, and I want Cyprus to become a member of the European Union. We cannot allow Mr. Denktas to continue to stall and delay a settlement that could have been reached years ago. I hope that the Government are fully committed to achieving an honourable settlement as soon as possible.

10.17 am
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

I have been a visitor to Cyprus since 1972. I have not taken part in many of the debates on Cyprus in recent years, but I have watched the subject closely because I have a cottage there—properly declared and bought from a Greek Cypriot in 1972 as, at that time, there were only two administrations on the island of Cyprus. Those were the Cyprus Government, which we recognised, and the United Kingdom sovereign bases. Strangely enough, they have not been mentioned by the previous two speakers.

I saw how the Turkish Cypriot community was being treated—not very well. I saw the Greeks in Athens increasing the pressure for enosis between Cyprus and Greece and, finally, the Greeks overthrowing the independent sovereign nation of Cyprus and its Greek Cypriot President Makarios, and imposing Nikos Sampson on the people of that island. Then there was the request by one of the guarantor powers—Turkey—to the United Kingdom to join it to repulse the Greek takeover of Cyprus and the Greek demolition of the constitution of Cyprus. The Labour Government of that time failed to respond to that request, as we all know, and finally Turkey, as a guarantor power, intervened in 1974.

I had hoped that the debate would be concerned with the interests of both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots. In fairness to the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), he did at times stress that his concern was to assist both communities. I was terribly disappointed by the speech of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), who was clearly biased, one-sided and bigoted in his interpretation of events in that island.

Mr. O'Hara

Before the right hon. Gentleman moves on, will he recognise that what happened in 1974 was an aborted coup d'etat supported by a discredited fascist Government in Greece, who subsequently fell; that Nikos Sampson was deposed from his temporary position and imprisoned by the proper authorities of Cyprus when the proper Government were restored; and that although, under the treaty of guarantee, Turkey might have the right to intervene, that right of intervention ceased when the status quo was restored?

Mr. Taylor

We could argue for years about what happened. I heard some criticism of the Labour Government's action at that time. I supported some of the things that that Government did at the time.

To respond to the hon. Gentleman's point, it is true that, following the overthrow of Archbishop Makarios by the Greeks in Athens, the imposed dictatorship in Cyprus collapsed as a result of the Turkish intervention in Cyprus. Incidentally, not only did the dictatorship in Cyprus collapse, but the colonels' fascist regime in Greece collapsed and democracy was restored to Greece as a result of those events. We could reinterpret history for hours if we went on.

Mr. Hawkins

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Taylor

No, I want to carry on, as time is running out.

There are at present three administrations in Cyprus, whether we recognise them or like them. There is the Greek Cypriot administration in the south, the Turkish Cypriot administration in the north and the British sovereign administration in Episkopi, Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

As the hon. Member for Tooting said, Cyprus is one of the most beautiful places in Europe. That is why I chose to have a cottage there. At that time, the area was Greek Cypriot. The village that I am in was 50 per cent. Greek Cypriot and 50 per cent. Turkish Cypriot. It is now 100 per cent. Turkish Cypriot. There are some mainlanders there as well, but the people are mostly Turkish Cypriots. The Greek Cypriots had to go. However, the Turkish Cypriots who came into the village also had to go—from southern Cyprus. The Greeks put them out and they had to come into northern Cyprus. Many of them came from Paphos and Limassol.

In this context, I praise the Labour Government of the day. After the Greek coup and the intervention of the Turkish troops, Turkish Cypriots in their thousands were locked up for months in boiling heat and the most inhuman conditions in football stadiums in Limassol and Paphos. Only through the intervention of the then Prime Minister, Mr. Callaghan, were those Turkish Cypriots released from those inhuman conditions and allowed free passage into northern Cyprus, where they now live.

Many of the people whom I know in the village formerly lived in southern Cyprus but had to escape, leaving behind their homes, property, businesses and jobs, and come penniless up into northern Cyprus, but at least they got freedom as a result of the intervention of the then Labour Government.

It is right to say that the division of Cyprus is most unfortunate. We want a settlement in that island. We must ask ourselves what a nation is. Is a nation just an area of land, or is a nation a people with a distinct culture, a religion and a history? The former right hon. Member for South Down, Enoch Powell, speaking on the subject in the House, said that he considered the Turkish Cypriots to be a nation, because under the definition, they qualify as a nation and a people.

Coming from the island of Ireland, I realise the problems of divisions among the different nations that share an island. In the island of Cyprus there are two nations: the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots. The United Kingdom recognised that at the time of the Zurich and London agreements in 1959–60. That is why we built into the then constitution an extremely complicated system of government and power sharing in the assembly in Nicosia. It collapsed because it was far too complicated. Perhaps there is a lesson there for Northern Ireland as it considers its future.

I was disturbed to hear some of the accusations thrown at Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots today. With regard to Cyprus joining the European Union, I agree with the hon. Member for Tooting, who said that if Cyprus joined the European Union, it would bring even greater advantages to the Turkish Cypriots than to the Greek Cypriots. That is true, because the Turkish Cypriots are a much poorer section of the Cyprus community than are the Greek Cypriots.

One of the reasons for that is that since 1974, all moneys from the World bank, the European Community and other international organisations have gone only to the Greek Cypriot administration. The Turkish Cypriots have been denied funding from those international organisations. I remember dealing with the matter when I was a Member of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. That state of affairs is contrary to clause 5 of the association agreement between Cyprus and the European Union, which specifically stated that both communities were to benefit fairly from European funds invested in the island.

Membership of the EU would be beneficial, but we in the EU should not wish to bring into our community an unsettled and divided Cyprus. It would be terrible for the European Union to inherit the problem. The division of Cyprus affects not just Cyprus, but Turkey, Greece and the future of the relationships in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. It has major security and political implications for NATO, the EU and the middle east.

The situation is becoming serious because of the new military agreement between the Greek sector and Greece. It has been mentioned—it is always mentioned—that there are Turkish troops in northern Cyprus, but none of the previous speakers was honest enough also to state that there are Greek mainland troops in southern Cyprus, in total contradiction of the terms of the Zurich and London agreements, which provided for 1,000 Greek troops to be in southern Cyprus. There are many more, but there is no condemnation of that, and no mention of the fact that Greece now has military bases in southern Cyprus, in contravention of the Zurich and London agreements.

We hear about one or two Turkish aeroplanes, apparently flying over Greek Cypriot airspace. That is what is alleged. It may have happened, but, as I said earlier, there are always two sides to the story. To be fair, we must examine both. I ask the Minister to respond to reports that Greek military and Greek Cypriot military aeroplanes have entered British airspace in Akrotiri and Dhekelia and that Her Majesty's Government have protested to the authorities in Nicosia and in Athens about those armed flights over British sovereign territory. Will the Minister confirm those reports?

I support Cyprus's membership of the European Union, but I believe that Brussels has bungled the issue. I support the United Nations initiative to bring the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots together. In July this year, Greek Cypriots returned for the first time to the village in which my little cottage is located. It was nice to see them back—if only for a one-day visit. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath said that when he visited southern Cyprus he could not visit northern Cyprus. That is not correct: people can cross into northern Cyprus from the south for at least one day and sometimes for a week. People cannot enter the south from northern Cyprus, but the Turkish Cypriots allow people to enter northern Cyprus—so one party is more generous than the other.

The United Nations has made progress, and Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktas have met on the two occasions mentioned. Some humanitarian progress has been made on the issue of missing persons, and there has been some inter-community co-operation socially, with visits to villages and to the St. Andreas monastery in the Karpas. It is very upsetting to see that area so depressed—but many things in Cyprus are upsetting. Mosques in southern Cyprus have been destroyed and Muslim graveyards have been desecrated. Greek Orthodox churches have also been desecrated in northern Cyprus.

There is fault on both sides—there are always two sides to the story in Cyprus. We must consider both, rather than peddling the propaganda of only one side—particularly if that side has paid for a nice freebie visit to southern Cyprus or to the north. Both administrations bring people to their areas in an attempt to win them over to their point of view—and they often succeed. I assure hon. Members that I have never had a free trip to northern Cyprus: I travel at my own expense.

I think that Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktas can deliver a settlement in Cyprus. I would be worried if both gentlemen left the political scene causing a leadership vacuum. Strong leadership is essential if there is to be a settlement—we know that from events on the island of Ireland. As progress was being made, Brussels intervened and announced that negotiations would begin on the accession of Cyprus to the European Union and that that would proceed with or without a settlement in Cyprus

Mr. Gale

The right hon. Gentleman's representation of the situation in Cyprus is a travesty. He has failed so far to justify the presence of some 40,000 Turkish troops on the northern part of the island or of some 80,000 illegal settlers. The continued presence of those people for 23 years has nothing to do with the aborted coup of 1974. Does the right hon. Gentleman claim that that illegal regime in what he refers to as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus—no one else recognises it—should be allowed to hold to ransom the island's entry into the European Union? If he does, I assure him that many hon. Members would profoundly disagree.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

I remind the House that quite a few hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. It is only a short debate, so any interventions should be very brief.

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Members who have spoken this morning have, as usual, supported the Greek Cypriots and adopted a one-sided view of the Cyprus issue. In referring to the number of foreigners—mainly Turks—in northern Cyprus, the hon. Gentleman refuses to accept that, according to British figures, 35,000 foreigners now live in southern Cyprus. He mentions the presence of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus, but he refuses to condemn the presence of Greek mainland troops in southern Cyprus.

The hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) asked whether the Turkish Cypriots should be able to veto Cyprus's membership of the European Union. However, the United Kingdom has always agreed, through the Zurich and London agreements, that the Turkish Cypriots should have a veto over the system of government in Cyprus and its membership of any international organisations. The Zurich and London agreements make it clear that Cyprus cannot join any organisation unless Greece and Turkey are also members. Even when the sovereign state of Cyprus existed—before the Greek coup—we accepted the principle that the Turkish Cypriots could exercise a veto over the future of that island. The hon. Gentleman now rejects the terms accepted by British Governments of both political persuasions for a settlement in Cyprus.

I conclude by raising another serious point, which the previous speakers failed to mention. The Greek Cypriots have decided to purchase S300 missiles from Russia and to place them in military bases in the south of Cyprus. That is a most serious development, which has major implications for peace on the island of Cyprus and for relations between Greece and Turkey. The development must concern other members of NATO and western powers generally.

I ask the Minister to confirm whether the United Kingdom has made any representations about the proposed establishment of those missiles in southern Cyprus. Have we complained about that move? Do we accept that it is contrary to the Zurich and London agreements regarding the militarisation of any part of Cyprus? If representations have been made, what form have they taken?

10.36 am
Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton)

I add my congratulations to those offered to the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) on securing this debate on our return from the summer recess. As I sponsored the first debate on the subject this Session, I shall be brief.

The world moves on, but the division of Cyprus remains. After 23 years of failure, the capacity of the international community to remedy the injustice done to the people of Cyprus is at stake. I have just returned from a visit to the island—my third in as many years—during which, like the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, I went to the green line which separates the two communities. I saw for myself the tragedy of Cyprus's continuing division. People cannot return to their homes and villages, community members are separated from their families and friends, and the issue of the missing relatives remains.

Presidential elections on the island are due to take place in February next year. Uncertainty about their outcome has inevitably delayed direct negotiations between the two communities, but it should not prevent their representatives or those of the international community from preparing the ground for the resumption of talks early next year.

Although the talks earlier this year failed to move the process forward, I am pleased to see that President Clerides and Mr. Denktas have continued to meet in Cyprus. Those meetings have raised hopes that several confidence-building measures will be addressed. The question of the fate of the missing on both sides—the innocent victims of the military invasion—may finally be laid to rest, enabling families and friends to come to terms with their loss.

The dialogue between the two leaders has also encompassed discussion of various security concerns and the mounting tensions in the region. That is a direct consequence both of the division of the island and of the continuing presence of foreign troops to underpin it. That division creates instability, which leads to escalating tension and friction, not only in Cyprus but between Greece and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean. Because of that tension, we are beginning to see the unravelling of the Madrid agreement between those two countries, so patiently put together earlier this year with the help of the Americans. Whether it be the cat and mouse game currently played out in the skies over Cyprus, including the buzzing of the Greek Defence Minister on a recent trip to the island, or the threat and counter-threat surrounding missiles and troop deployments, the problem remains essentially the same. It was summed up succinctly by a western diplomat: What one side sees as security is interpreted as insecurity by the other side. Although I accept that the current dialogue is unlikely to address any of the fundamental issues—that can happen only when proper negotiations resume—it is to be hoped that they can foster at least a better atmosphere in Cyprus and, more optimistically, perhaps an agreement that will help to reduce tensions.

It is, of course, to the resumption of UN-sponsored negotiations that we must look for a resolution, and to the European Community and the negotiations of Cyprus's accession. Britain assumes the presidency in January next year and will be in the chair when they commence. In that regard, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on his reaffirmation during yesterday's Foreign and Commonwealth questions that the Government will continue to support its application for membership on its merits and without preconditions.

Britain must also help to make the case for membership. It will benefit both communities, not only by providing an impetus to both economies and ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community, but, perhaps most important, by helping to guarantee the security of all Cypriots, which remains by far the most difficult issue to resolve. Britain must also honour its obligations. We are uniquely placed, because of our historic role in the island, as a member of the Security Council of the UN, and as a guarantor power of the security of the island. Therefore, we must leave no stone unturned in our efforts as a country to work both with the community and at the United Nations for a resumption of meaningful negotiations. We owe that commitment to the people of Cyprus.

10.42 am
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)

Time is extremely short, so I shall be brief. I know that there are powerful advocates on both sides of the House who have greater expertise on the subject than me. My only plea is that their advocacy of a proper settlement in Cyprus should recognise the needs of both communities on the island and recognise that each community has genuine fears and concerns about the attitude of the other, and the other countries that are involved in the area.

When we last debated this matter, we were looking forward to the United Nations mediation and to the activities of Mr. Cordovez. We were hoping that that would bring about a fundamental change in the position. Sadly, that has not yet happened, but we must still be hopeful that it will happen in the near future and that the United Nations mediation will bear fruit. That has not been helped by the noises off and within. Many hon. Members have referred to sabre rattling, which has come from a number of quarters, whether it is the overflying of military aircraft, the purchase of missiles or the threats of veto and counter-veto, through which external forces are seeking to apply pressure, or whether it is the noises from within, from both communities—principally Mr. Denktas in this case—in threatening to obstruct Cyprus's accession, which seems very much to be in its interest.

The Government's position was clearly stated in the debate in June. We were asked to support a comprehensive political settlement in Cyprus, establishing a bizonal, bicorrununal federation comprising two politically equal communities. That must, of course, remain the case. All parts of the House must support that view. It is my contention that the British position must change a little. Until now, we have, quite properly, supported the United Nations in its efforts, but we are moving on to the British presidency. The talks may or may not be floundering, and the British position as a guarantor nation must come to the front.

Cyprus—particularly northern Cyprus—would benefit from accession to the EU. I believe that the EU would also benefit, because of the importance of Cyprus in strategic and commercial terms in the eastern Mediterranean. During its presidency, the British Government must seek to unravel the complications that are undoubtedly there. There may be legal impediments. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) brushed aside the legal arguments attached to the 1960 treaty; nevertheless, we need sensible answers to the question whether the treaty obligations have been repudiated. We need sensible answers on Turkey's position. We would all welcome, of course, Turkey's eventual accession to the EU, but we all know that there are very strong reasons why it has not yet shown itself to be an appropriate member of that family of nations. We must be clear that outside interests cannot veto the entry of Cyprus to the EU. Nor should outside interests seek to use accession to apply pressure elsewhere in the process, therefore interfering with the prospects of other countries seeking to accede.

This is a diplomatic tightrope. I do not envy the Minister in this respect, but I believe that Britain now has to give a clear lead. I ask the Minister simply to give some indication of where Britain intends to lead in the matter of Cyprus during the British presidency—what was Britain's position at Mondorf-le-Bains, for example?—how the British Government were able to react to the demands of the other Foreign Ministers at that meeting, and how they see Cyprus's application moving forward, which is something that I believe every hon. Member earnestly wishes to happen.

10.48 am
Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon)

I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) on bringing this debate to the House today. The House is well aware of his long-standing interest in and knowledge of Cyprus, and he displayed his usual insight and clarity in marshalling his arguments. Despite the rather unpleasant lashing that he received from the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor), it was right that he should bring his recent experiences to the House so that it might be better informed.

I shall make a short speech and make three points from the view of Her Majesty's Opposition. First, we will, of course, continue to support the important work done by Sir David Hannay, who was appointed by the previous Government in May 1996. We pay tribute to his painstaking work and to the work of all the officials from the United Nations, the European Union and the United States who are involved in seeking a solution to this vexing question. We recognise that a solution lies in the bizonal, bicommunal federation, but it is disappointing that, although the leaders of both communities can agree on the end results, they are not yet able to agree on any steps towards that objective. We hope that they will.

Secondly, we support strongly the application by the Government of Cyprus for accession to the European Union. We very much hope that it will be a catalyst for settlement of this long-standing difficulty. It has certainly been a catalyst for enhanced debate and activity. We make it clear that we are strongly of the view that there is no Turkish veto over the accession.

We are sure that the process of membership of the European Union will be of great benefit to everyone on the island. It is clear that membership would be of enormous significance to foreign investment and to the restoration of full international links. It would provide a significant boost to the tourism sector. Substantial cohesion payments would be available, and that would be of no small benefit to the people on the island.

We welcome the commencement of accession talks in the next few months. We shall do all that we can to support them. We see the British presidency of the EU as an opportunity for the debate to be moved forward helpfully and constructively.

We repeat the call on the leaders of the Government of Cyprus and on Turkish Cypriots to make a fresh effort to find a solution on behalf of all the people. We, the Opposition, want to make it clear that we support any reasonable initiative that is taken by the new Government of the United Kingdom to bring about peace and stability in the region.

I have one simple question for the Minister—I am sure that it will not trouble him greatly. Is he able to clarify whether it remains Government policy to support the rotating presidency, which, when stated earlier in the year, caused some difficulty with the Government of Cyprus? Perhaps the Minister will make his policy on that issue clear.

I wish to conclude where I started, by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath on his important speech.

Mr. Maginnis

It is unfortunate that time has permitted only one Member to speak from a different point of view. I am grateful, of course, to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene. Will he clarify whether he still recognises that the Turkish Cypriots, under the 1960 constitution, have a veto on the position of Cyprus vis-a-vis accession to the European Union?

Mr. Streeter

I thought that I made the position clear earlier. We do not see Turkey—

Mr. Maginnis

No; Turkish Cypriots, not Turkey.

Mr. Streeter

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is no.

It is important that all points of view are heard in the House and—

Mr. Maginnis

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Streeter

I shall not give way again because time is so short.

In debating this issue, it is important that all points of view are heard in the House, but it is unfortunate that my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath was lashed in an unpleasant way for bringing his recent experience to the House and informing our debate.

Finally, we must all wish all of those involved in an important process every success in reaching a lasting and peaceful solution.

10.52 am
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Doug Henderson)

I, too, am mindful of the time. I shall not be able to take up all the points raised in the debate in my reply, but I shall be happy to deal in other ways with any points that I miss.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) on raising the debate. It is clear that the issue is of great interest to the House, to our nation and to the people of Cyprus.

I thank the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) for his supportive remarks on the nature of a future constitution for Cyprus and on European Union accession. I thank him also for his remark that the Opposition will support any reasonable initiative that is taken by the Government. I assure the hon. Gentleman that all our initiatives are reasonable and that he will have many from which to choose in the months ahead.

As for the rotating presidency, I perceive no change in policy. The future constitution should principally concern the main participants, but obviously the guarantors and others have a view. If a mutual agreement were reached of such a nature that it caused major difficulties elsewhere, the Government would express their concerns. I do not envisage any particular problem in that area.

We had a wide debate on Cyprus in June and not a great deal has changed since then. Talks have taken place, of course, on two occasions during the summer. It is disappointing that more progress was not made for they provided an excellent opportunity for progress. At least the parties still recognise that there is a need for them to have a dialogue. I hope that that recognition will carry forward through the winter beyond the elections in southern Cyprus in February so that we can get down to the hard work that will ensue in the early months of next year.

I am happy to announce that, during the British presidency, Sir David Hannay will be the presidency representative on these matters as well as our own special representative.

During my recent visit to Turkey, in my talks with the Greek Government and during my visit to Mondorfle-Bains over the weekend I expressed the view—I do not have time to go into the details—that the people of Cyprus can all gain if there is a solution to the current divide and the current difficulties. Factors that cause tension and put obstacles in the way of seeking peace and securing a settlement must be condemned.

I have made it clear to the Turkish Government that the British Government support Turkey's inclusion in the European conference for reasons that were referred to partially during Question Time yesterday. We have said to the Turkish Government that, if they want to be part of the European family, we expect a constructive approach from Turkey on a wide range of issues, including relationships with Greece and the influence that they, the Turkish Government, can bring to bear on the northern part of Cyprus.

Mr. Maginnis

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Henderson

I am not giving way because I do not have time to do so.

Similarly, I have said to the Greek Government that we want them to do what they can to persuade the people in southern Cyprus that they, the people, must do what they can to reduce tension. We have said that we do not think it helpful to have any build-up of any military hardware on the island of Cyprus, including missiles, which it is proposed to operate from the southern part of the island.

The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) referred to overflights of the southern base areas. I can confirm that air clearance is normally required for such overflights. A small number of overflights occurred during recent exercises without such permission being given. We reminded the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the requirement.

There has been a much more general demarche adopted by the British Government involving all the parties that have been involved in increasing military tension in the area. It is time that that stopped. The people of the whole of Cyprus must learn that the world moves on. If the peoples of eastern and central Europe and of South Africa and elsewhere can respond to a new world situation, surely the people of the whole of the island of Cyprus can respond to that new situation.

One of the necessary responses is to de-escalate military involvement. We have complained in specific terms to both the Government of the southern part of Cyprus and to those who are in control in the north. We have told them that we take exception to the dangerous military exercises that are taking place. We have expressed the same view to the Turkish and Greek Governments, who have provided the forces.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) was right to talk about the future. Where do we go from here? There are no easy answers. It would help if the House did not bicker about the past and instead looked to the future, as that approach would help in Cyprus. We must have a more positive attitude. The EU accession talks will be driven forward by the British presidency as fast as is appropriate in relation to the other accession talks that are taking place. We desperately want to see success in the peace talks next spring. I commend Sir David Hannay, our special representative, for his hard work and dedication in pursuing that end.

At the end of the day, it is the parties in Cyprus who must bring peace. We know that a bizonal, bicommunal approach to the constitution can work, and humanitarian measures can be taken in the interim. De-manning of the green line, dealing with the missing persons issue and expansion of contacts, including cultural, social and sporting contacts, can happen on the way to a peace settlement. Ultimately, the parties must recognise that the big prize is peace, prosperity and stability for all, and for that they must work out a common solution with which they can all live.

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