HC Deb 10 July 2001 vol 371 cc651-3
6. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

What plans the Government have for contributing to a lasting peace and constitutional settlement for Cyprus. [1543]

The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain)

The current United Nations settlement process offers the best chance of securing a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus, and we remain committed to supporting the UN's efforts. In conjunction with the US and our EU partners, we urge all concerned to engage positively.

Simon Hughes

Will the Minister confirm that, if all goes well, Cyprus should be able to complete accession negotiations with the EU by the end of next year, with a view to taking part in the 2004 European elections? Should not the clearest representations be made, through the Government of Turkey, to the Government of the self-styled "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" that unless that Government help to achieve a solution to the Cyprus problem they will not be able to participate in Cyprus's membership of the EU? Should not it also be made clear that the Turkish Government's own application for membership could also be harmed?

Peter Hain

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point that would bear careful study by the Turkish Government, and by the Turkish embassy here. The Government very much welcome the progress being made by Cyprus, which has completed 22 of the 31 chapters needed to qualify for accession. Cyprus is an old friend, and we want its accession bid to succeed.

Those Conservative Members who want to block enlargement by holding up the Nice treaty are preventing friendly nations such as Cyprus, Malta, Hungary and Lithuania from enjoying the benefits of democracy, prosperity, stability and peace that EU membership brings. Cyprus would be among the first wave of countries to benefit from that membership.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that the 27th anniversary of Turkey's invasion of Cyprus is approaching? For all that time, Turkey has been in illegal occupation of one third of a sovereign country that is a member of the Commonwealth and of the United Nations, and a prospective member of the European Union. Will he make it clear to the Turkish Government that the whole House considers that Turkey's admission to the EU remains out of the question as long as it is in illegal occupation of one third of Cyprus?

Peter Hain

My right hon. Friend is right to draw the attention of the House and of the Turkish Government to the fact that formidable obstacles remain to be overcome before Turkey can accede to the European Union through the enlargement process. Those obstacles must be dealt with so that we can move forward, which is what we want to happen. We want to work with the Turkish Government to ensure that the obstacles are overcome in a way that benefits all who would be penalised if they were allowed to remain.

Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham)

Will the Minister convey to the police and security forces in Cyprus the House's congratulations on their success in defusing, before any lives were lost, the rioting and regrettable violence that took place last week on the island's sovereign bases? What measures is he taking to ensure that the violence will not recur? Can he give the House a firm date by which he expects Cyprus to be able to accede to the European Union? Frankly, nothing that he has said so far gives any confidence that the process will be anything but slow.

Peter Hain

I shall certainly pass on the right hon. Gentleman's message.

We are in close dialogue with Foreign Minister Kasoulides, whom I met earlier last week to discuss the Akrotiri antenna, which is being built on the salt lake there and has caused the difficulties. We made it clear through the environmental assessment that was conducted in 1997 that we see no problems to health or the environment as a result of the construction of that antenna. Obviously, we will want to make progress and resolve people's fears.

On enlargement, if the right hon. Gentleman would enthusiastically support the Nice treaty and the accession of Cyprus, Malta and all those other states—which will realise that the Conservatives are opposing their accession to the EU—we might move faster. The progress that Cyprus is making should mean that it clears all the obstacles by the end of next year. If everything remains on course, enlargement will take place and Cyprus will participate in the 2004 European elections to become a fully fledged member of the EU, as we want it to be.

Mr. Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green)

Will my hon. Friend give us an assurance that the appalling violence that we witnessed last week will not be allowed to interfere in any way with British efforts to secure the peaceful resolution of the wider problems in Cyprus? I appreciate that many people in this country will have been horrified at what they saw, but we seek an absolute assurance that that will not interfere with the normal processes in which Britain is engaged to secure a peaceful resolution of the problems on the island.

Peter Hain

I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. We are working closely, in particular with the assistance of our special envoy, Sir David Hannay, with the United Nations and others—including the European Union—to involve Turkey, Cyprus and Mr. Denktash more positively in discussions to ensure that a settlement and the achievement of our objective and that of the UN, which is a bizonal, bicommunal Cyprus, are achieved.

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