§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Pope.]9.33 am
§ Mr. David Amess (Southend, West)
I particularly welcome your presence, Madam Speaker, at the beginning of our proceedings, as I realise that we are debating a subject that is of some interest to you. Indeed, it is a subject in which you have considerable expertise.
I may be wrong, but I think that this occasion may mark the Minister's debut at the Dispatch Box in a debate on Cyprus.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Ms Joyce Quin)
§ Mr. Amess
I welcome her to the debate.
I should perhaps say that I am not Greek or Turkish, but a British Member of Parliament who was born in London. Some of my constituents would probably say, "David, there is enough to worry about in Southend without expending your efforts in a debate on the future of the tiny island of Cyprus." I suppose that such a sentiment sums up how hon. Members are thought of today—largely as an alternative councillor and glorified social worker, overlooking our national and international roles.
I strongly believe that the future of Cyprus is and should be of great concern to all hon. Members, particularly because of the island's strategic defence importance. The presence in the Chamber of so many hon. Members demonstrates that many others share my views on the importance of Cyprus's future.
I made my most recent visit to Cyprus, at the end of August, as a guest of the Cypriot Brotherhood. I went as part of an all-party group, which included my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) and the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Wright)—who had hoped to attend this debate but, unfortunately, is otherwise engaged. We met in Cyprus, on an all-party basis, many different people, and were very pleased to meet President Clerides.
After that visit, I felt great frustration at the lack of progress in achieving a fair and peaceful resolution of the situation in Cyprus. Although the Minister may say that it is unfair to criticise that lack of progress, my criticism is not directed at her or the Government. I applied for this Adjournment debate, for which I am grateful, because of that frustration.
252 In my time as an hon. Member, there have been many debates on the future of Cyprus. Although I certainly do not pretend that I am an expert on the subject, I am still entitled to my views on it. The chances are that no original views will be expressed in this debate, but—who knows—today may be an historic occasion. Perhaps, in future years, we will be able to claim that today's debate made an important contribution in finding a resolution to the problem.
It may surprise the House to learn that, in my constituency of Southend, West, I have very few Greek Cypriot constituents. The overwhelming number of my Cypriot constituents are Turkish. I believe that I have very good relations with those Turkish Cypriots, with whom I have interesting exchanges on matters concerning Cyprus. Nevertheless, I should make it clear now that my own sympathies lie with the arguments that have been enunciated by those on the Greek side of the issue.
Cyprus, as we all know, is undoubtedly a very beautiful island, but its landscape has been entirely marred by the green line. Hon. Members may have been sent a photographic record of the line by Doris Partasides. For those who like looking at pictures and are not so interested in text, that record graphically demonstrates the tragedy that is Cyprus. I thought of Miss Havisham and her frustrated wedding feast when I looked at the photographs, which show the eeriness and tragedy of the green line—and which is madness. Surely it cannot be in the interests of the Cypriot people to have a divided island.
We ignore history at our peril. The history of the occupation of Cyprus over the centuries is used by the Greek and Turkish Governments partly to justify their positions. I know that there are hon. Members here this morning who are drawn to both sides of the argument. As we know, Cyprus finally achieved independence in 1960, but that independence was short lived. In the summer of 1974, Turkey, following a military coup against President Makarios, invaded the island. That is a fact, and cannot be disputed.
§ Mr. Jamie Cann (Ipswich)
I do not like the word "invaded". Turkey was one of the guarantor powers of the treaty of independence. Under that treaty, Turkey intervened in a military coup that was taking place in Cyprus and during which Turkish citizens were being massacred.
§ Mr. Amess
I should like to reply to the first intervention. There we are—we have heard the Turkish view of events. I said that we ignore history at our peril, and we seem to have two versions of history. I do not want to waste hon. Members' time by engaging in 253 semantics, as many want to speak. The hon. Gentleman has expressed his point of view; we shall have to agree to differ.
§ Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it was also part of the terms of the treaty that any troops who went to the island should leave as soon as possible and return the status quo ante?
§ Mr. Amess
Yes, I am delighted to be able to agree whole-heartedly with the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of history, with which I know another hon. Member disagrees.
What I was about to say—it might please the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Cann) a little—is that we must not forget that the military coup was carried out by the Greek junta. The Turkish Government at the time said that their action was aimed at re-establishing the status quo created by the Cyprus treaty of independence. Constitutional order was indeed restored within a week, but the invading forces—I know that the hon. Member for Ipswich does not like that description—extended their operations and occupied 37 per cent. of the republic's territory. Tragically, as a result of that, 5,000 Greek Cypriots lost their lives.
§ Mr. Eddie O'Hara (Knowsley, South)
Whether we call it invasion or intervention, does the hon. Gentleman agree that the continued occupation of 37 per cent. of northern Cyprus since 1974 by the Turkish army is in contravention of Turkey's powers under the treaty of guarantee?
§ Mr. Amess
Again, I am pleased to be able to agree with the hon. Gentleman whom I was privileged to accompany on a visit last year. He has great expertise in these matters as he was stationed in Cyprus for some time. I whole-heartedly agree with his interpretation of the facts.
Five thousand Greek Cypriots lost their lives, nearly 200,000 became refugees and 1,619 are still unaccounted for. Greek Cypriots believe strongly that Turkey began a programme of demographic change in the occupied zone. Settlers from Turkey were allowed to establish themselves on the island as full citizens with the right to vote. In 1983, Mr. Denktas declared a separate state. The international community—again, this is a matter of fact—unanimously rejected that action. Today, the occupied territory is recognised by Turkey alone.
As evidence of how the Greek Cypriots feel, I want to quote a wide-ranging speech made by the re-elected President Clerides to the General Assembly of the United Nations on 25 September. In it, he set out his proposals for the future of Cyprus. It shows clearly the Greek Cypriots' claim that their efforts to achieve a settlement have been frustrated, although I know that some hon. Members will disagree. President Clerides said:As regards Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions calling for the speedy withdrawal of all foreign armed forces and personnel from the Republic of Cyprus, not only the Turkish Armed Forces and personnel have not been withdrawn but they have been increased and upgraded to such an extent that the previous 254 Secretary-General Mr. Boutros Ghali described in his report to the Security Council the occupied part of Cyprus as the most militarized area in the world.
§ Mr. Amess
The hon. Gentleman shouts, "Rubbish", but I was quoting the President of Cyprus. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to disagree.
President Clerides continued:UN resolutions for the return of the refugees to their homes under conditions of safety were not implemented not only because Turkish Forces prevented the refugees to return, but also because Turkey, violating other provisions of UN resolutions calling on all parties concerned to avoid any action to change the demographic composition of the population of Cyprus, imported to Cyprus thousands of illegal settlers from Turkey, usurped the properties of the refugees and installed settlers into them.He continued:The recent demand of the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Denktash in the presence of the Turkish Foreign Minister for a confederation solution violates all UN resolutions, which call for a bizonal, bicommunal federation with a single sovereignty, international personality and citizenship, and is aimed at derailing the negotiating process from the base of the UN resolutions on Cyprus, but also at extinguishing the independence of the Republic of Cyprus and creating under the guise of a Turkish Cypriot Republic a Turkish colony in Cyprus or to say the least a Turkish protectorate.
§ Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most significant factors in what has happened has been the refusal of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to pay any heed to repeated United Nations resolutions? The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Cann). who intervened on my hon. Friend and continues to laugh at his speech, might not like it, but the fact remains that it is Turkey and Turkish Cypriots who have continued to flout the will of the United Nations.
§ Mr. Amess
I agree with my hon. Friend. That was certainly the evidence that we found on our recent visit.
President Clerides went on to say:The non-implementation of United Nation Resolutions on Cyprus tarnishes the image of the United Nations and its main bodies. The former Secretary-General Mr. Boutros Boutros Ghali has in one of his reports to the Security Council identified that a cause for the absence of progress in Cyprus is the lack of political will on the part of the Turkish side. With that report the diagnosis of the causes of the failure to make progress towards a solution is completed. Is it too much for the people of Cyprus to ask what will the next step be? Will the United Nations finally take the necessary action to apply the required remedy in order to put an end to the tragedy that has befallen our small state and which continues for 24 years?That is President Clerides's interpretation of the current position, but hon. Members are entitled to agree or not. However, it would be foolish of the House not to unite in agreement with President Clerides, who says of his vision for Cyprus:I want all Cypriots to have security in their homes and their communities. I want all Cypriots to pursue their livelihoods".
§ Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim)
I believe that we, in the United Kingdom, wish the Turkish Cypriots in northern Cyprus and the Greeks to enjoy security and safety. However, I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has made no reference to the reason why the Turkish Cypriots lack that comfort and security—the betrayal by successive 255 British Governments in failing to play their part and guarantee the security to which the Turkish Cypriots were entitled, and which was denied them by an expansionist Greek regime.
§ Mr. Gale
Does my hon. Friend agree that a very significant number of Turkish Cypriots have found it necessary to leave the island of Cyprus and are now resident in Australia, New Zealand and, indeed, in London and other parts of the United Kingdom? They have done so as a direct result of the fact that they feel unsafe under what is termed their own regime in the northern part of Cyprus.
§ Mr. Amess
To allow everyone to speak, I shall—I hope without being discourteous to others—move on quickly and conclude my speech.
I had hoped—obviously the hope was futile—that hon. Members might unite in agreement with President Clerides, who has said:I want all Cypriots to have security in their homes and their communities. I want all Cypriots to pursue their livelihoods free of economic restrictions and the fear of instability. I want all Cypriot children to know their distinct culture and religious heritage and to be able to carry their identity and political rights into the future without fear of domination from any quarter.
In 1991, the Cyprus Government applied for full membership of the European Union. I support their application, not least because I believe in the enlargement of the community. I understand that the negotiation process is taking place at the moment, as it is for the six other countries that have applied to join the Union. We know that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leader have declared their opposition to the admission of Cyprus. After the long years of uncertainty for the Cypriot people, I believe that the British Government have a great responsibility to encourage Cyprus in its application, and I hope that we shall take positive steps to encourage an amicable and peaceful settlement to the Cypriot problem.
Often people say to me, "There is no problem between the Cypriot people; the problem is between the Greek and the Turkish Governments." I do not know whether that is the case, but the Turkish Cypriot community in my constituency says that it has no argument with the Greek Cypriot community.
§ Mr. Amess
I agree whole-heartedly. As a Conservative Member of Parliament, I might be 256 somewhat sceptical about some elements of the EU, but I entirely agree that membership can, in a very positive sense, bring about a lasting settlement.
So often, personalities determine events. I was optimistic that the last Prime Minister but one of Turkey—who, tragically, died following a heart attack—might have been instrumental in bringing about a settlement. Today, we need strong personalities to achieve that. I hope that the Minister will address several issues. If she does not have time to respond this morning, perhaps she will write to me on the matter, but I should like to know in detail, eventually, precisely what Her Majesty's Government are trying to do in a practical sense to bring about a settlement.
In my constituency, members of the Turkish Cypriot community are troubled by the present visa requirements. They say that there never used to be any difficulty. They find it insulting when mothers and fathers are now required to have visas. I do not know the truth of that; would the Minister kindly let me know?
On another matter, which may not seem relevant to the future of Cyprus, I am deeply involved in supporting members of the Cypriot community who are concerned about the tragic consequences of thalassaemia, and I am working with them to raise money to combat it. I have first-hand knowledge of that tragic illness, which is a blood disorder that destroys the lives of young people mainly. I know that Her Majesty's Government's resources for the health service are greatly stretched at the moment, but I wonder whether the Minister could offer any words on what we are trying to do to combat that disease. Next year, I shall visit the northern and southern sides of Cyprus, and I shall present a cheque to the appropriate authorities to try to help fight it.
Nothing could be more graphic than a visit to Famagusta to demonstrate the futility of the situation. Last year, I visited the island with the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) and the hon. Member whose constituency I have forgotten.
§ Mr. Amess
I am sorry; I meant the hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara). We spent time with the mayor, deputy mayor and other councillors. We learnt at first hand their experiences—the real fear that exists.
I know that the Cypriots are looking to the United States of America to take a lead in this matter. In July 1996, Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, said:a settlement to the Cyprus problem is long overdue … finding a just and lasting settlement that will end the longstanding division of Cyprus is one of my highest priorities".I believe that the expectations that arose from that statement have not been fulfilled. Sadly, the American Administration is somewhat flawed and distracted at the moment.
All Cypriot people want a future for their country. Anyone visiting the island must surely conclude that the present situation is totally unsatisfactory. It is now up to all political leaders who are of good will, especially in this country, to unite in saying that the situation has persisted for far too long. In the name of decency, 257 we must ensure that the two communities can live, work and prosper together in a free, united and demilitarised Cyprus. That surely must be the future of Cyprus.
§ Madam Speaker
Order. I am delighted to see that there is a great deal of interest in the debate, but we have little time for it. I appeal to hon. Members to be brisk and short, because I want to call as many as possible.
§ Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)
I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) on initiating this debate and on his long and honourable contribution to Cyprus. I endorse his comments about my hon. Friend the Minister. He is right to say that this is her first appearance as Minister in a debate on Cyprus, but it is by no means the first time that she has taken part in such debates. Few Foreign Office Ministers have comparable knowledge of Cyprus. In opposition, she was deeply involved with the issue.
I chair the all-party Cyprus group. We are committed to helping the people of Cyprus—Greek or Turkish—to develop their country and live in peace and security. The debate is about the future of Cyprus. The hon. Member for Southend, West has outlined some of the events since 1974. We all look for progress on a settlement to the long-running tragedy, but we have often seen our hopes fall away. The tragedy of Cyprus is that its potential has never been developed. The island is popular with tourists from all over the world, creating vast income and employment. The island also has agricultural potential, bringing further income and employment. The skills of the Cypriot people, their education ability, their employment skills and the fact that there is an established democracy—that is Cyprus 1998, on which the future can be built.
Many of us have campaigned on issues that we regarded as vital to Cyprus over the years. Sadly, we have not made the progress that we all wanted. The hon. Member for Southend, West referred to Famagusta, which is one of the most beautiful towns on the island, as my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) can testify. It is now in the occupied area. It is a ghost town where no one lives. We have long hoped that Famagusta would be returned to the Republic of Cyprus. Promises were made that it would be returned, but they have been reneged on.
§ Mr. Cox
I am not giving way.
The people of Cyprus will never give up hope that their town will be returned. That would have been the real test for the future of Cyprus. The lack of progress on the return of Famagusta is disappointing, but there is a wonderful opportunity for the future of Cyprus—membership of the European Union. Its application is under active consideration. I am pleased that the Government and many other member states fully support that application. President Clerides deserves great credit for his repeated clear and honourable statements that Cyprus' application for membership is for the whole 258 island, for the benefit of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and that membership of the European Union will benefit all Cypriots. He has repeatedly invited Mr. Denktas and the Turkish Cypriots to join him in the negotiating team on EU membership.
§ Mr. Cox
I cannot give way because of the time.
Sadly, Mr. Denktas has not co-operated with President Clerides's generous and honourable offers. Instead, further demands and criticisms have been made about the application. I have the greatest respect and regard for my hon. Friend the Minister. I hope that the Government will tell Mr. Denktas clearly that we shall not tolerate his attitude. We must tell him and his friends in Ankara that we fully support Cyprus's application for membership of the European Union. There is no reason why the other 14 members of the European Union should not give equal support.
My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have repeatedly told Turkey in recent months that it has a future in Europe and will one day be able to seek membership of the European Union. I have no objections to that, although, like other hon. Members, I have some reservations about Turkey and many of its actions, particularly within its own borders. The Government should tell Turkey that if it seeks a role in the Europe that is developing, we have a right to tell it to use its influence and friendship with those who can help to ensure that President Clerides's application is fully supported.
I shall close now, because many hon. Members want to speak. I warmly support the comments of the hon. Member for Southend, West in the debate. We know that Cyprus wants to develop its future for all the people of the island—Greek and Turkish. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will say clearly that we support the application and President Clerides's generous and honourable offer to Mr. Denktas, because that is a real opportunity, which hon. Members on both sides fully support. I look to my hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to give full support to this opportunity for the future of Cyprus so that that beautiful island and its people, with their enormous skills, can develop the opportunity that membership of the European Union will give them.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)
Order. May I inform the House that this is a very short debate, in which many hon. Members wish to take part? Short speeches would therefore be appreciated.
§ 10.9 am
§ Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet)
I am very grateful to be called, and I shall be extremely brief. I shall make two points. Before I do, I should declare a recorded interest as a visitor to Cyprus as the guest of the Morphou municipality and the Greek Cypriot Brotherhood. Very recently, in addition to those visits, I was able, through the good offices of the British high commission, to visit, in the company of hon. Members from both sides of the House, the northern, occupied part of Cyprus—affording 259 no recognition whatever to the illegal regime—and meet a representative of the leader of the Turkish community and leaders of other Turkish Cypriot parties in that part of the island. It is abundantly plain that there is a burning desire among many Turkish Cypriots to become involved in talks on accession to the European Union and to bring about the unification agreement that will benefit all Cypriots, to which the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) referred.
I hope very much that when the Minister responds to the debate, she will be able to clarify the British Government's position. My first point is that it is absolutely vital that the House sends a very clear message to the Turkish Government that they will be able to exercise no power of veto over Cypriot accession to the EU and that that accession will proceed on track with or without a settlement of the Cyprus problem. Once the Turkish Government clearly understand that, the block to Turkish Cypriot participation in accession talks will be lifted. At that point, the very generous and sincere desire of the president of the republic, President Clerides, for an all-Cyprus negotiating team will become a reality. That will be in the interests of all Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities living in the United Kingdom and on the island of Cyprus.
Secondly, I believe that I am right in saying that, yesterday, the time for a settlement by Turkey in the Loizidou case expired. As the Minister knows, Mrs. Loizidou took the Turkish Government to the European Court, which found in her favour and awarded damages. Turkey was given a period in which to honour the court's findings and to make payment. The Cyprus high commissioner informed me this morning that, as of last night, that payment had not been made. The United Kingdom is a member of the Council of Europe and a supporter of the European Court of Human Rights. It is also a guarantor power. We have an absolute duty to take action and seek enforcement of that European Court judgment. I would be very grateful if the Minister gave some indication of the Government's attitude and the action that we as a country propose to take.
§ Mr. Jamie Cann (Ipswich)
We should at least try to get our facts right about this issue. Britain took over the governance of Cyprus in—I think—1878; it was certainly in the 1800s. At that time, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots were intermingled in villages across the island. At the back end of the 1950s, a Greek Cypriot movement in Cyprus—EOKA—called for the island to become a sovereign part of Greece. At that time, Greek Cypriots were the ones shooting British soldiers, and Turkish Cypriots the ones who sheltered, succoured and protected them. We seem to get that wrong nowadays. Does nobody read history any more?
When we left the island in the early 1960s, we left a treaty by which we, Greece and Turkey guaranteed we would abide. That treaty said that the president would always be a Greek Cypriot, because there is a majority on the island, that the vice-president would always be a Turkish Cypriot, and that the system would be bicameral. Within two years, that was broken. The Turks were dispossessed and herded into ghettos. I have seen the graves in some of those ghettos. There are no men in them because, as was the case with the Serbians after them, the men were moved on. God knows where they are. I saw 260 only graves of Turkish Cypriot babies, women and old men. Nobody can tell me that warm words from President Clerides will alter any of that history.
When a fascist Greek junta, which some of our people do not seem to mind too much, took over the island in 1974, Süleyman Demirel, the president of Turkey, pleaded with my Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and my Foreign Secretary, Jim Callaghan, "For goodness sake, do something about this. Our people have been herded into ghettos and massacred. The treaty of guarantee says that powers should operate to stop this." Did we do anything? No, we did nothing; so Turkey did, and I congratulate it on that.
The hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale), who appears to be falling asleep, asked earlier why British troops are still in Cyprus. That comes down to a matter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) referred. The treaty of guarantee said that guarantor powers would move in to stay and move out only when it was possible. It is not possible to move out.
§ Mr. Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green)
I am listening with interest to my hon. Friend's comments. I confess that I, too, have recently visited Cyprus. My trip was sponsored by Friends of Cyprus. I am curious about my hon. Friend's reaction to the behaviour of Mr. Denktas, the Turkish authorities and the military, especially given that there is now a minority of Turkish Cypriots in Cyprus, since they have been replaced by Turkish troops and Anatolians who were brought in by Mr. Denktas. Is not that worse than the events that my hon. Friend is discussing?
§ Mr. Cann
It is certainly not worse. Incidentally, I ought to mention—I apologise for not doing so before—that I am a friend of Turkish north Cyprus. I have also been to the south of the island—but that is another matter. What my hon. Friend has said is not correct. The vast majority of people who live in the Turkish republic of north Cyprus are Cypriots. It is a secular democratic republic on a western model. Hon. Members shake their heads. Perhaps they have not been there; perhaps they ought to go there; perhaps I ought to invite them; perhaps I ought to try to get them there.
§ Mr. Hawkins
Despite what the hon. Gentleman has been saying, does he nevertheless concede that, about two and a half years ago, the late Lord Finsberg, as a member of the Council of Europe, was required to report on people in the illegally occupied area? His report confirmed that quite appalling human rights abuses had been imposed by Mr. Denktas on those in the territory of the illegal regime. How does the hon. Gentleman respond to that recent history?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Interventions will most definitely mean that some hon. Members will be squeezed out of the debate.
§ Mr. Cann
If I may, I shall continue making my argument.
This country let down the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish army moved in to protect the interests of the Turkish Cypriots, and since 1974, there has never been a solution that would have been acceptable to both Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Throughout those 24 or 25 years, all public opinion, and all the pressure in the press and from this place, has always been in support of the Greek Cypriots. Everything that the Turkish Cypriots do, and everything that the Turks as a nation do, is deprecated by the House. That is historically incorrect.
§ Mr. Cann
No, I shall not. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have his own say.
Turkey is a country of 70 million people. It is a buttress of NATO in the whole of that area, and has been a strong and good friend of this country. Turkish Cypriots have been strong and good friends of our soldiers, too, when Greek Cypriots were shooting them in the back in the name of EOKA.
As well as the justice of the case for the Turkish Cypriots, we should consider the interests of this country. If we try to bring a divided Cyprus into the European Union—
§ Mr. Cann
No, I will not.
Would we be doing ourselves a favour if we brought in a divided Cyprus? No. Would we be doing the European Union or NATO a favour? No. The treaty that we left behind us laid down that Cyprus would be undivided, with bicameral government and a leadership split between the two communities. That has been abrogated for 25 years.
Until we get back to that situation, we must ensure that Cyprus does not join the European Union. It is wrong to do as my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting did and call Mr. Clerides "President Clerides", because under the treaty that we left behind, he is not the president. He is a minority leader, because the island is not united, and until it is, it should not be allowed to join the European Union.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)
We can all put our own interpretations on past events in the beautiful island of Cyprus, but I want to look to the future. I shall be brief. There are two developments relating to Cyprus 262 that I would like to see. First, I fervently hope to see the reunification of the island after 24 years in which 38 per cent. of it has been illegally occupied. Secondly, I want to see Cyprus's application to join the European Union succeed.
I listened carefully to Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions yesterday, and lest there be any misunderstanding, I should be grateful if the Minister would confirm that the reunification of Cyprus is a separate issue from Cyprus's application to join the European Union, and that one is not dependent on the other. She did not say that, but columns 143 and 145 of yesterday's Hansard give rise to some ambiguity. I would like the simple assurance that the accession of Cyprus to the European Union will not be held up because, and if, the island remains divided.
Cyprus is especially well qualified to join the EU. My research shows that it is one of the few countries in Europe—including most of the 11, from a total of 15, countries that are to launch the single currency on 1 January—that could meet the Maastricht convergence criteria straight away.
I am somewhat confused and perplexed about the initiatives now taking place. There seem to be three special representatives trying to do their bit to solve the Cyprus problem. First, there is the omnipresent Richard Holbrooke, President Clinton's special adviser—but as soon as the dust settled on his visit to Cyprus, I discovered that he was in Kosovo. I wonder where he is now.
Secondly, there is our own Sir David Hannay, a most respected diplomat whom I know and admire. I remember him in particular as the British permanent representative at the United Nations from 1990 to 1995. Third on the scene is Ann Hercus—to give her her proper title, the United Nations Secretary-General's alternate special representative.
I wish them all well in their endeavours, but it is vital that there be a co-ordinated strategy to tackle the Cyprus problem. I believe that the United States must play a key role in helping the co-guarantors to find a solution, because the best prospect for the reunification of Cyprus is to deal with it as part of wider international concerns. That is a question of realpolitik.
I share the view of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Cann) that Turkey is a valued member of NATO. It is also a valued member of the Council of Europe, and I want to see it as a member of the European Union—provided, of course, that it can meet the economic and human rights criteria. If Turkey can join, that will help to establish peace and security in that part of Europe.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman
I shall not, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind. I would prefer hon. Members to make their points in their own speeches, rather than in the middle—or rather, at the end—of mine.
For 24 years, the world has failed to deal with the division of Cyprus, and it behoves us to realise that we have a special responsibility not only as a co-guarantor, but because Cyprus is a Commonwealth country. What is needed is good will, as well as give and take on both sides of the green line which is the tragedy of Cyprus.
§ Mr. Eddie O'Hara (Knowsley, South)
I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) on having called for a debate on the important subject of Cyprus. It is frustrating to have to be brief on such an important topic, but I shall do my utmost.
Much has been said, especially by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Cann), about the legal, historical and constitutional situation, but let me explain that constitutionally, the treaty of guarantee still stands, and President Clerides is recognised as president of the Republic of Cyprus. Politically, the United Nations recognises the Republic of Cyprus and does not recognise the so-called Turkish republic of northern Cyprus; only Turkey recognises that.
As for the recent legal situation, the Loizidou case has been mentioned, and we must put on record the fact that an important by-product of the judgment at Strasbourg was that the judges held that Turkey was responsible for all that now happens in northern Cyprus because Turkey is in occupation. Turkey is in the dock, not the so-called Turkish republic of northern Cyprus, which has no constitutional or legal status whatever.
There has been much interpretation and reinterpretation of history, but let us accept that there were atrocities by extremists on both sides in the early days in the 1960s. It saddens me that all the literature that I receive from supporters of the so-called Turkish republic of northern Cyprus always refers back to them, and never forwards. There have been no atrocities since then, except officially sponsored atrocities by the authorities in northern Cyprus, such as the fairly recent events involving Tassos Isaac and Solomos Solomou.
In 1974 an illegal attempt was made by a Government outside Cyprus to overthrow the legally appointed Government of that island, including an attempt to assassinate the president. That attempt was overthrown within days; mercifully, it did not succeed. Under the treaty of guarantee, Turkey certainly had the right to intervene to restore the status quo, but it did not have the right to stay in occupation for 24 years and perpetrate the further waves of invasion that took in Famagusta.
I declare an interest in that, like my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), I am an honorary citizen of Famagusta. I am proud to say, "Epitimos Ammahostianos".
There was some justification for Turkey's actions in 1974. One might question the brutality of the intervention, but it would not be profitable to do so. The sad thing is that, since 1974, there has been a major exercise in ethnic cleansing in northern Cyprus.
§ Mr. O'Hara
The Cuco report to the Council of Europe, some half a dozen years ago, expressed concern even then that the population of Epoiki—the immigrants into northern Cyprus—was on the point of exceeding that of the native Turkish Cypriots, who had emigrated to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and north London.
264 There have been assassinations of people in northern Cyprus who have dared to question the Government line.
§ Mr. O'Hara
There have been assassinations—they are on record. There is a lot of evidence to show that typical Turkish Cypriots now feel like refugees in their own country.
All of that is negative, and I would rather be positive. Every day that passes matters in the solution of the Cyprus problem. That is the difference between the Cyprus and Northern Ireland problems. Time was always on the side of a solution in Northern Ireland and, please God, we shall get that solution sooner rather than later. However, the concrete is setting and the barriers are rising every day between the two communities in Cyprus—most of whom lived harmoniously with each other for hundreds of years. The danger is that they will lose the habit of living together, and they will be forced to lose that habit if the situation continues as it is.
It is negative to look back, and it is negative to talk about the confederation of two separate republics in Cyprus. There are positive opportunities, such as the accession of Cyprus to the EU. That offers benefits for all Cypriots, Greek and Turkish. It would be particularly beneficial to the Turkish Cypriots, because the situation over the past 24 years has done such grievous damage to the well-being of Turkish Cypriots. I remember going to the far north with my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting and seeing Turkish Cypriot villages where the people were living in absolute destitution. However, those people do not have the political means of expressing their opposition to what is going on.
I call upon the Turkish Government to stop their bellicose rhetoric. If they want a solution, and if they want the S300s out of Cyprus, they must accept the offer of President Clerides to demilitarise the island. That can be done in phases, and in ways that would ensure the confidence of the Turkish Cypriot people in their security.
Finally, I echo the words of the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman). Important as the solution of the Cyprus problem would be—everyone in the Chamber today is desperately keen to have a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem—there are bigger benefits to be gained if the problem were solved. Without a solution to the Cyprus problem, we will never resolve the differences between Greece and Turkey. Greece and Turkey are neighbours—they live better together in peaceful co-existence. If Greece and Turkey could live together in peaceful co-existence and co-operation, the benefits for the whole of the western world—and particularly for south-eastern Europe and the Mediterranean area—would be inestimable.
§ Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) on securing the debate, but the great tragedy of our debates on Cyprus is that there is never enough time for the many hon. Members who have an interest in the subject to be able to express their views. That is a great shame, and I hope that we can have a longer debate at some stage.
265 This is the third such debate in which I have spoken. I am a little bemused to find myself the only Front-Bench survivor, in that the Government and the Conservative party both have new Front-Bench speakers.
I make no apologies for repeating points that have been made on previous occasions, as I believe that they still hold good. It is essential for those Members of Parliament who speak with passion and knowledge on matters associated with Cyprus to recognise the fact that both communities have genuine fears and concerns about the other community and the other players in the region. Those have to be recognised and seen as part of the solution as it develops.
I still see the future of Cyprus as being the same as the position that I anticipate the Minister will indicate when she replies on behalf of the Government—that bizonal, bicommunal, federal solution which has been the basis of so much work over the years and remains the basis of the United Nations resolutions on the subject.
I also see the application of Cyprus to join the EU as an essential part of the process. It would be wholly beneficial for Cyprus to become a member of the EU, and it would be particularly advantageous to northern Cyprus, because—as the hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) said—of the economic disadvantage that northern Cyprus has suffered during the years of partition. If there is any sector within the island that would benefit greatly from accession to the EU—which I hope will be at an earlier, rather than a later stage—it is the people in northern Cyprus.
There are some member states of the EU which are slightly embarrassed by the fact that the application from Cyprus is being treated in the same way as the five other current applications. They are wrong to be embarrassed and wrong to see Cyprus as a separate case. Cyprus has a significant problem in its recent history, but it has many attributes that would be of benefit to the EU and mutually beneficial to the island of Cyprus.
I look forward to the day when Turkey can be welcomed into the family of European nations. There are major obstacles to that, but I congratulate the British Government on maintaining contact with Turkey during the British EU presidency and on making sure that Turkey has not been excluded from EU affairs at a critical stage.
We all share the disappointment at the further militarisation of the island, the addition of military hardware, the overflights we have seen and the inevitable increases in tension which have resulted from that. We all share the view of the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman), who wished the three special envoys well. I understand why Richard Holbrooke has had other priorities, but I hope that he will now give his full attention to the problems of Cyprus, because America is a key player.
Britain is also a key player. We are in a unique position in respect of the island of Cyprus as a guarantor nation. If I am to express any disappointment about the position of the Government, it is that I do not think that sufficient energy has been applied to the Cyprus question over the past six or seven months, and during the British presidency.
We last discussed the matter on 29 October last year—when we were nearing the end of the Luxembourg presidency—just after a summit at a place called 266 Mondorf-les-Bains, a town which has slipped back into obscurity since that important meeting. I asked the then Minister for Europe what had transpired at the meeting and what progress the Government had sought and accomplished in terms of Cyprus. I expressed the view that the British presidency would put Cyprus at the top of the priority list, so key was the achievement of an acceptable solution there. Perhaps the guarantor powers should get together again to see what they can do to support constructively the communities in Cyprus as they try to achieve a peaceful solution.
An additional factor is the substantial Cypriot communities within this country. Perversely, those expatriates may be part of the key to the solution. If we can engender better understanding between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities in London and elsewhere in this country, we might achieve a better solution in Cyprus. Hon. Members feel passionately about this subject and often express the views of significant communities within their constituencies. However, we do not assist the peace process if we become too partisan—if we become two groups of cheerleaders in the House for the different communities in Cyprus rather than seeing the common view, which is that peace there is to the advantage of both communities and that a peaceful solution is encompassed within the bizonal solution for which we have strived for so long and within an understanding between the two communities of the tensions that surround them.
On that note, I will sit down, but I hope that the Minister will be able to explain the positive moves that the British Government can make in the next six months, which are as critical to the future of Cyprus as the previous six months and the six before that. While the European Union application is on the table, we must make substantive progress towards arriving at a satisfactory solution to the problems in Cyprus.
§ Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon)
I have also recently visited Cyprus as a guest of Morphou and the Friends of Cyprus. Time is short and I shall make only a couple of brief points.
First, on the Loizidou case, I also visited people in the north with the consent of the Government of Cyprus and, as a lawyer, I had discussions with northern Cypriot lawyers. I was concerned at the approach towards the rule of law, which seemed to suggest that the Loizidou case was political and could, therefore, be ignored. We must get over the message to the Turks and the Turkish Cypriots that one cannot pick and choose as regards decisions of the European Court.
Secondly, a number of other cases have arisen on the back of Loizidou, including that of a Turkish Cypriot paediatrician who is also taking action against the Turkish Government because he is prevented from visiting the south to talk with his fellow professionals. We must convince the Turkish Government and Turkish Cypriots in the north that the ban on bicommunal contact on the island between people in the north and south must be stopped. If we are to have any chance of getting the two sides together, there must be contact between the two communities. The authorities have been unable to prevent such contact off the island—there have been contacts between professionals, business people and students. 267 If we are to have any chance of securing peace, those contacts must resume and I hope that the Minister will make it clear that we will do all we can to ensure that Mr. Denktas's ban is lifted forthwith.
§ Mr. Michael Trend (Windsor)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) on securing this important debate. In his excellent speech, he combined passion with clarity, which is a rare combination on such occasions.
Cyprus is a subject of deep concern to all parties in the House. It is an island with which the United Kingdom has had a long, historic association and a deep and continuing interest. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West and I regret the lack of progress in the matter recently, but the Cyprus question is a difficult one. Like many other contentious international areas that have been partitioned—Northern Ireland and Kashmir come to mind—Cyprus evokes heated debate, as the robust contributions from the hon. Members for Ipswich (Mr. Cann) and for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) demonstrated. Greece and Turkey hold different views on the status of Cyprus and so too do the legal Government of Cyprus and the so-called Turkish republic of northern Cyprus. Heated exchanges take place concerning the status of the various United Nations resolutions and treaties that govern the island. There are also tragic stories of atrocities and unfairness, displacement from homes and abuses of human rights. Pressure groups with their own agendas compete for political time and attention. They leap upon nuances of which speakers may be unaware. In short, it is a subject in which a misturned phrase can upset the best of intentions.
The Conservative party has paid close attention to developments in Cyprus. We condemned the brutal invasion in 1974. We drafted and secured the adoption of Security Council resolution 541 in 1984, which declared the Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence legally invalid. Since then, Cyprus has been discussed frequently in Parliament and elsewhere. The former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), and both his Foreign Secretaries, Lord Hurd and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, raised the future of Cyprus with their Turkish and Greek counterparts. Sir David Hannay was appointed special representative to Cyprus to assist in bringing the two sides together.
Our high commission in Nicosia encouraged intercommunal contact. Britain provided soldiers to the UN force that was monitoring the green line. Malcolm Rifkind made the first bilateral visit by a Foreign Secretary to Cyprus in December 1996, when he held discussions with President Clerides and Mr. Denktash. Those positive developments have been preserved by the present Government. I also commend the work done in the area in the previous Parliament and since by our former colleague from Edmonton, Dr. Ian Twinn. May I also say how pleased the Conservative party was at the re-election of President Clerides. We work closely with the Democratic Rally party through the European Democrat Union and enjoy the electoral success of fellow centre right parties in Europe—it is rare these days. We will also await with interest the results of the elections in the north of the island and in Turkey, as they may materially affect the future of Cyprus.
268 Our concern for the future of Cyprus has not diminished since we lost office in May 1997. We want an overall settlement. We want peace and stability on the island, with the two communities confident in their own rights and responsibilities. A settlement would help both Greece and Turkey to normalise their relationship and reduce their defence spending. A settlement would reduce the tension between two NATO nations and that tension is very real. A number of disturbing events have taken place in the past few months. We do not want further militarisation of the island. The stand-off over the acquisition of missiles by the Government of Cyprus and the response by the Turkish Government are disturbing and highlight the importance of achieving a lasting settlement. We also understand the concerns voiced by Greek Cypriots about Turkish settlement in the north. A reduction in Turkish troops in northern Cyprus would improve the climate for a negotiated settlement.
All parties must accept that Cyprus is a great source of instability in the region. That is why the previous Government made great efforts to assist in providing a solution. Under the new Government, Britain should continue to be involved closely with the search for a solution and should support attempts to bring about a lasting settlement.
I must make it clear where the Conservative party stands. The UN "Set of Ideas"—bizonal and bicommunal—that was submitted in 1992 remains central to discussion of the island's future. Only the two communities can decide what is acceptable and what is likely to last. Britain's role should be to offer advice and provide support for UN operations on the island and for international attempts to mediate between the two sides. The Opposition do not support the confederation proposal of Mr. Denktas, nor do we favour measures that would perpetuate rather than remedy the present division of the island.
Britain, as one of the three guarantors of Cyprus with Greece and Turkey, has a special interest in the island's future. Our sovereign bases are of strategic importance. We will support the Government and the international community in attempts to bring about a peaceful and lasting settlement.
Conservatives support the European Union's decision to open accession negotiations with Cyprus, which was the main thrust of the speech by the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox). We hope that a solution can be found so that the whole island can join. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) said, we are firm in our belief that no country outside the European Union should have the power to veto EU membership. The criteria for joining are set out and countries that meet those criteria should be allowed in. That is a clear message for those who may try to block the accession or intimidate the recognised Government of Cyprus to prevent them from pursuing their application for membership.
I agree strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman), who said in his excellent speech that we should also support Turkey's aim to join the European Union one day, but only when it clearly meets human rights and other criteria. However, the handling of Turkey was one of the less successful aspects of the British presidency of the European Union. Instead of considering Turkey as a potential member and friend, the Government treated it as a threat and in return, 269 the Turkish Government have turned their back on the EU for the moment. Turkey is a key NATO ally and has an important geopolitical role. We do not want Turkey to be turned away from the path of the west, as that will only endanger stability in the region, especially the stability of Cyprus.
The prize is great. Cyprus can expect to be host to almost a million United Kingdom tourists this year alone—perhaps more. It is a most beautiful island. More visitors will go there if it is reunited. Cyprus offers unique access to markets and a skilled, educated and energetic population of both Greek and Turkish origin.
The economic benefits of a settlement would act as a springboard for further growth and opportunity on the island. Overseas investment—from the United Kingdom, for example—would be strengthened and encouraged. We want a successful and united Cyprus, where both communities co-operate together freely, with confidence in their future and that of their shared island.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Ms Joyce Quin)
I join other hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) on his good fortune in securing this debate and on his choice of subject. There is no doubt, given his and other hon. Members' contributions, that this is a matter of keen interest, about which many hon. Members have a great deal of knowledge.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) said, although this is my first Adjournment debate on Cyprus as a Foreign Office Minister, I have spoken in similar debates from the Opposition Front Bench, and so I have been obliged to reflect on what has changed in the past few years. Since the de facto division of the island some 25 years ago, progress has been frustratingly slow, but some new elements in the current situation should encourage us to make strenuous efforts to ensure that a settlement is reached.
The Government's position is clear. We remain committed to working for a comprehensive political settlement that would bring the two communities of Cyprus together within a single, sovereign state. The international community has also made it clear that it wants that state to consist of a bicommunal, bizonal federation and that such a state would have its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded. Moreover, the political settlement should exclude any form of partition, secession or union—in whole or in part—with any other country.
I am glad that, in this debate, there has been cross-party support for that approach, to which we have subscribed for many years. I am also glad that there have been few efforts to make distinctions between the policies pursued by this Government and the previous Government—or, indeed, by other political parties. I noted a slight remonstrance from the Liberal Democrat spokesman to the effect that the Government have been back-pedalling or going slow, but I do not accept that that is so. Since I took up my current post at the end of July, I have been struck by the number of meetings and initiatives on Cyprus in which we are involved and the proportion of my time that is taken up with the matter, although I do 270 not regret that. Now that the United Kingdom no longer has the presidency of the European Union, some of the initiatives may not receive as much publicity, but we are none the less actively engaged in a variety of ways, to which I hope, despite the shortness of time, I shall be able to refer.
We subscribe and determinedly keep to the policy that I have outlined for a number of reasons. First, in 1960, both sides agreed to a single state based on political equality between the two communities as the basis for the newly independent Cyprus; it seems reasonable to assume that, with international help and advice, they could do so again. Secondly, although I understand the fears and insecurities of people in both communities, we remain convinced that a united Cyprus in which the rights of both communities are respected is the best assurance of the future security and prosperity of all on the island of Cyprus. We believe that the two communities can create a way ahead that would allow a united, stable and prosperous Cyprus to enter the new millennium. We should be encouraged by the efforts that have been made in other situations across the world, including some close to home—in Northern Ireland—to achieve a settlement even when the historical circumstances have been difficult. We must focus on what we can achieve and bend all our efforts to that end.
As has been said, the United Kingdom is in a unique position, not only as a guarantor power, but as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and as a member of the European Union. Given those three elements of responsibility, we are committed to using our position to do all that we can to bring about a just and lasting settlement. A solution must be achieved through peaceful dialogue, which is why we support the UN Secretary-General's efforts to broker a settlement. We believe that his approach offers the best way forward; indeed, we committed ourselves to making progress in that way at the UN General Assembly in September, when the Secretary-General and his staff held talks on Cyprus with the different countries involved.
The support of the Secretary-General's mission of good offices is important, and I was pleased that the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman) referred to the work on the island of Dame Ann Hercus, to whom I pay tribute. She is a well-respected New Zealand politician, who we believe can make a real contribution; her efforts to develop on-island contacts between the parties to reduce tensions and promote progress are extremely important. Our representative Sir David Hannay, who was also referred to, continues to be extremely energetic and to work closely with Dame Ann Hercus, which we should all welcome.
On the new elements that I mentioned, we welcome all attempts to think constructively about a settlement for Cyprus, but we do not believe that Mr. Denktas's proposals are consistent with the objective of a bizonal, bicommunal federation. My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting mentioned Cyprus's application to join the European Union, which we very much welcome. I have read the columns of Hansard to which the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet referred; they do not read ambiguously to me, but I assure him that we do not accept that anyone has a veto on the process of EU accession. Obviously, we want moves towards a settlement of the Cyprus problem to proceed as quickly as possible, but that is not a pre-condition of accession.
271 None the less, we attach importance to associating Turkish Cypriots with the accession process, however difficult that may be. We regret the continuing Turkish Cypriot refusal to take up the offer of participation in the team that is negotiating the terms of accession. We and our EU partners believe that it would be in their interests to do so, and we shall continue to point out the benefits of such participation.
Some hon. Members referred to the often very good relationships between Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities in the United Kingdom. When speaking to representatives of both those communities, I have often detected a great deal of support for the idea of Cyprus belonging to the European Union; they feel that accession would be in the interest of Cyprus's prosperity and that it should proceed constructively. It will be much better if the Turkish Cypriots take part in the process, but they do not have a veto and neither does Turkey.
Some hon. Members referred to military tensions. I agree that we do not want those tensions to increase either in Cyprus or in the neighbouring region, and we have urged restraint on all sides.