HL Deb 05 March 1964 vol 256 cc223-7

3.31 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I should like to repeat a statement being made in another place. As your Lordships will know, the Security Council unanimously adopted the resolution on Cyprus yesterday. Part of this resolution recommends the creation, with the consent of the Government of Cyprus, of a United Nations peace-keeping force in Cyprus. The composition and size of the force is to be established by the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Governments of Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The Commander of the force is to be appointed by the Secretary-General and to report to him. The force is to exist for three months, all costs pertaining to it being met in a manner to be agreed upon by the Governments providing the contingents and by the Government of Cyprus. The Secretary-General may also accept voluntary contributions for this purpose.

The function of the force will be, in the interests of preserving international peace and security, to use its best efforts to prevent a recurrence of fighting and, as necessary, to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions.

The resolution also provides for the Secretary-General to designate, in agreement with the Cyprus Government and the Governments of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom, a mediator, who is to use his best endeavours in promoting a peaceful solution and an agreed settlement of the problems confronting Cyprus.

Since the Secretary-General will now be immediately considering and discussing with all concerned the problems of the composition and direction of the force, as well as the appointment of the mediator, it would not be proper for me to anticipate the results of his efforts. All I need say is that we are most anxious that they should meet with success as soon as possible.

I should like to make clear that Her Majesty's Government greatly welcome these arrangements and look forward to their bringing peace to the Island of Cyprus. I think, at the same time, your Lordships will wish me to pay a tribute to the British Forces who have for the last three months performed such magnificent service in the troubled conditions of the Island.


My Lords, I am greatly obliged to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for giving us this statement. To take his last point first, I am sure the whole House will welcome the invitation that we should join in the tribute to the British Forces who, in the most difficult circumstances, have performed their duties with such good temper and efficiency. I am sure we are all proud of them.

I should like to ask whether the Leader of the House could possibly give us some idea of the time that is going to be taken. These matters are urgent. I share the wish of the Government that as great speed should be made as possible in bringing these necessary preliminary talks to a conclusion. But, especially, ought it not to be a matter of early consideration to announce the appointment of a mediator, as well as, as soon as the agreement has been made upon the United Nations peace force, the appointment of the commander? The appointment of a mediator seems to us to be of great importance.

The other point I want to put to the noble Lord is this. We have all been reading about the efforts which are being made by the Cyprus Government to enlist further security forces of their own, and there will no doubt be a question of arms for them. I should like to know what the view of the Government is, or what representations they will make as to the future distribution of arms of this kind. If there is to be a United Nations Force, ought not these things to cease?


My Lords, I note with pleasure the way in which the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition has associated the Opposition with the tribute, which I know all your Lordships endorse, to the British Forces in Cyprus. With regard to the noble Earl's first question I know that the Secretary-General has very much in mind what he says: there is a great need for speed and urgency. I know, too, that the Secretary-General is taking steps at this moment on the two matters to which the noble Earl referred. It is, of course, within the competence of the Secretary-General to appoint the commander of the force without consultation with the other countries concerned; but for the appointment of a mediator it will be necessary for him to consult with the four Governments most closely involved. As to his second point, this is a matter for the terms of reference of the force itself, and is within the competence of the Secretary-General. I have no doubt that he has very much in mind the sort of problem the noble Earl has raised.


My Lords, I am sure it is unnecessary, but I should like to add from these Benches my warm tribute to the British Forces who have done so well in that particular part of the world. While I accept the remarks of the noble Lord the Leader of the House that the matter must be treated with care until it is gone into, I should like to ask him two questions, but if he cannot answer them at this moment I shall well understand. Can he give us any idea of what proportion of this new force will be British? Secondly, if at the end of the period, unfortunately, things do not come to a satisfactory conclusion, will this country still be left bearing the heavy responsibility which it now has?


My Lords, to take the last question first, it is because we have felt for some time that this was a very onerous duty imposed upon us as a member of the Commonwealth, to have the sole responsibility for peacekeeping in Cyprus, that we welcome this resolution. Since the resolution went through only yesterday, it is perhaps a little early to talk of failure. With regard to the noble Lord's first question, I am afraid it is too early to say what the exact composition of the force will be. After all, the Secretary-General has had only a few hours so far to make up his mind what steps to take.


My Lords, I quite understand. I thank the noble Lord very much.


My Lords, it is one of the functions of the international force to maintain and restore law and order and a return to normal conditions. Will it be one of the responsibilities of the international force in that connection to see that there is a stoppage of the illegal distribution and possession of arms, which is a contribution to the uncertainties and troubles in Cyprus itself?


My Lords, I must say that I should certainly have thought so. But we shall have to see what are the exact instructions the Secretary-General gives.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there are a great many people in this country who regard a British political solution to the problems in Cyprus as still of great importance, having regard to our historical responsibility for that island and the fact that Cyprus is a member of the Commonwealth? I confess to some anxiety about the nationality of the mediator and the possibility that he will range so large through the United Nations channels for a solution, and that Britain will be only one of the countries consulted. If the mediator is not to be British, may we press that at any rate we shall take a foremost place in trying to find any solution to this problem?


My Lords, I do not entirely know what my noble friend means by a "British solution". If he means that the solution should take account of British interests, that will be the aim of Her Majesty's Government.


My Lords, may I ask what arrangements have been made for the general and administrative staff of this United Nations force; and whether it has not been the lesson of the United Nations force in the Congo that what is required by the United Nations is a permanent staff organisation rather than a permanent organised force, which might provide great difficulties for the United Nations in future?


My Lords, I have no doubt that this point is very much in the Secretary-General's mind. I take note of it.


My Lords, since in our debate here in February, 1963, there was on all sides great pressure for the formation of a permanent United Nations force, could the noble Lord the Leader of the House say whether Her Majesty's Government have taken any steps during the last year to bring this to the attention of the United Nations?


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would be good enough to put that Question down on the Order Paper.