HC Deb 08 July 2003 vol 408 cc890-2
7. Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon)

When he next plans to visit Cyprus to discuss the Annan plan. [123872]

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane)

I hope to visit Cyprus in due course. The Government call on both sides to signal their intentions to negotiate on the basis of Kofi Annan's plan and to commit to putting it to referendums on both sides of the island.

Mr. Dismore

I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that the biggest obstacle to settlement in Cyprus is the dinosaur attitude of Mr. Denktash. Does he also agree that the opening of the green line has cut away one of Mr. Denktash's prime arguments—the suggestion that Greek and Turkish Cypriots cannot get along together? We are seeing wonderful examples of people who are reconciled in facing their problems. Will he do all that he can to ensure that the people of northern Cyprus have the opportunity to express their views through the ballot box later this year in elections to the so-called Parliament in the north free of intimidation? Will he also encourage the opposition in the north to unite, so that the real feelings of the Turkish Cypriots can be expressed, in opposition to Mr. Denktash?

Mr. MacShane

In addition to this oral question, my hon. Friend has tabled some 31 written questions on Cyprus that are answered today. That is a tribute to his diligent work on behalf of the interests of many of his constituents, which the House should acknowledge. He is right: it was wonderful to see the people of Cyprus voting with their feet, as it were, and brushing aside the old political thinking. I believe that they voted with their feet for a reunited Cyprus to join the European Union. We are making these points and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I discussed them with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mr. Gul, last week. We will continue to do so. We hope that the elections will take place in a free and fair way in northern Cyprus. Our ambition remains that a united Cyprus, on the basis of the Annan plan, will join the European Union next May.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)

With Cyprus joining the European Union on 1 May next year, is it not timely for the British Government to remind the illegal regime in northern Cyprus that people there will not be able to share the benefits of joining the European Union? Would it not also be timely for the British Government to remind the Turkish Government that, if they are serious about wanting to join the European Union, they must play a much more constructive part in reunifying the island and getting rid of the green line?

Mr. MacShane

Those points were made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary virtually word for word in his meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mr. Gul, last week, but there is an additional point. If a reunited Cyprus joins the European Union next May, it will make Turkish an official language of the European Union, as one of the two top figures of state in that reunited Cyprus will have to be a Turkish-speaking Cypriot. I think that that is of great advantage to Turkey as it looks forward to its candidature. That is why we hope that that can happen and think that the way forward must be to support Cyprus's EU ambitions and to put to one side the anti-European hostility that features in so much of our press in this country.

Mr. Edward O'Hara (Knowsley, South)

Would my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the fact that for the next academic year the English School in Nicosia is, once again, inviting Turkish students to study with their Greek compatriots? It so happens that Rauf Denktash is an alumnus of that school. Would my hon. Friend remind the Turkish Government that the 35,000 troops who are on the island are supposed to be there to protect the interests and human rights of those very people whose voice is not being heard—the Turkish Cypriots— and that they should cleanse the electoral rolls before December to ensure that the elections are valid and give full and authentic voice to the Turkish Cypriot community?

Mr. MacShane

One would have to be deaf and blind not to sense from northern Cyprus the desire to see their island reunited. I was not aware of the initiative by the school in Nicosia to offer places to Turkish students; I hope that Turkish will become used like Greek all over the island. There is still a window of opportunity. We as a Government and, I think, all hon. Members urge all the Governments in the region—we must address the Turkish Government, the Turkish Parliament and the Turkish military—to recognise the fact that this is a golden moment to seize. It will be good for Turkey, good for Cyprus and good for the eastern Mediterranean if a united Cyprus can enter the EU next May.

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