HL Deb 16 July 1974 vol 353 cc1020-5

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. The Statement reads as follows:

"With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will make a further Statement about the situation in Cyprus.

"The House will be greatly relieved to learn that President Makarios is alive. He has requested that he should be allowed to enter the sovereign base areas and Her Majesty's Government have agreed to this request. It appears that the National Guard are at present in control of parts of the island and that fighting continues among the Greek Cypriot population; although the Turkish population is not at present involved. The situation clearly contains grave risks and it is of great importance that peace be restored as soon as possible.

"In Athens our Ambassador has conveyed to the Greek authorities my view that Greece should state unambiguously her intention to observe her international obligations in regard to Cyprus.

"I am glad to say that in a written statement this morning the Acting Foreign Minister is reported to have said that the policy of the Greek Government is to observe and safeguard the independence and territorial integrity of the Cyprus Republic He has added that the Greek Government attaches major importance to the inter-communal talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

"Her Majesty's Ambassador is also informing the Greek Government that, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, it would do much to reduce tension in the area if the Greek officers of the Cypriot National Guard were to be replaced at the earliest possible moment.

"I continue to remain in contact with the Turkish and other Governments and with the Secretary General of the United Nations.

"As regards the many British holidaymakers at present in Cyprus, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is keeping in close touch with the various travel organisations concerned in Cyprus. The travel organisations have plans for flying the tourists out of Cyprus as soon as the airport at Nicosia is open again. Alternative arrangements will be made if it remains closed."

My Lords, that is the end of the Statement.

3.51 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to apologise to the noble Lord for not having been in my place when he started reading the Statement. I was misinformed about the length of the speech the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, intended to make. I think all Members of the House would welcome the news about Archbishop Makarios. It is a great relief to know that he is alive. I should like to say that I and my noble friends support the Government in what they are doing, particularly in the way that they have pointed out to the Greek Government the latter's international obligations, and especially in the suggestion about the withdrawal of the officers of the National Guard which would at this juncture be particularly helpful. I do not think that there is any useful purpose to be served at this rather uncertain time, when we do not know exactly what is happening, in saying much more, except that those responsible for a coup of this kind, if it is successful—and we do not yet really know whether it will be successful—have a particular duty to reassure the Turkish community and the three Powers most particularly concerned with Cyprus that they will continue to respect their rights.

The only other question I would ask of the noble Lord is whether, if it looks as if the airport at Nicosia will remain closed for another day or two, the Government would consider allowing British Airways to use Akrotiri, thereby allowing those who are stranded in Cyprus to get home?


My Lords, we on these Benches would like to associate ourselves with what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said, but may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, if it is not obvious that this armed revolt by Greek officers of the National Guard against the legitimate Government of Cyprus has as its declared objective the achievement of enosis, or union with Greece, and that they have installed a President whose lifelong ambition this has been? Is it therefore at all likely in the Government's opinion that the Greek Government will be willing, or even able, to replace the officers who have executed this coup by other officers? In the meantime, I imagine that we continue to recognise the Government of President Makarios and, if so, perhaps the Government could let us know who, in their view, is responsible for maintaining law and order now in the areas at present controlled by the National Guard and, if possible, for dispossessing them of such authority as they have?

3.54 p.m.


My Lords, may I say that I endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said, especially that we should be very careful not to pronounce judgments as to feasibility or futurity in this matter where the position is probably changing very rapidly indeed. On the practical point about the possibility of using the S.B.A. facilities for flying out British holiday-makers and possibly residents, I am sure that this is very much in the mind of Her Majesty's Government, and as soon as I leave this House I shall certainly bring the point which he made to the notice of the Foreign Secretary.

With regard to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, on behalf of the Liberal Party, I think that we should wait until the situation is somewhat clearer before we pronounce on the intentions or indeed the permanency of the new régime, if that is how one should describe it. As to who is responsible for the maintenance of law and order on the island, this is very much in doubt because of the conditions created in the last day or so. We recognise only one President, President Archbishop Makarios. As to his capacity at the moment to exert his authority, this must clearly be, to say the least of it, in doubt. The new régime clearly does not meet with our criteria of recognition. However, at this point I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and implicitly with what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said on behalf of his Party, that it would be well to await the progress of events and to come to judgments in the light of those events.


My Lords, could my noble friend say whether Her Majesty's Government have entered into consultations with the Turkish Government to prepare contingency plans in case it should prove necessary to carry out the joint guarantee of the British and Turkish Governments to preserve the integrity of Cyprus?


My Lords, my noble friend is quite right in suggesting that our primary responsibility under the 1960 Treaty is to consult the two other Governments concerned—the Greek and Turkish Governments—and this we are now doing.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether the fact, which I greatly welcome, that Archbishop Makarios has been welcomed into the sovereign base areas took place after his broadcast this morning at 10 o'clock in which he appealed over the radio in English for international support for the restoration of democracy in Cyprus? He was followed by a lady, speaking in French, who appealed to the international community for restoration of democracy. That is the first question. My second question is, has the noble Lord any information regarding the position in Limassol? It was reported that pro-Makarios forces were holding that area of Cyprus.


My Lords, on the second point, evidence is not at all conclusive, but there has been some evidence of pro-Makarios demonstrations in one or two places on the island. On the first point, I am not sure whether I understood the noble Lord's question completely. Was he asking whether we would welcome others, apart from the President, to the haven of the sovereign base areas?


My Lords, I was asking the Minister whether, in effect, the Archbishop was welcomed into the sovereign base areas—which I am delighted about—after his broadcast to the international community as a whole regarding a restoration of democracy in Cyprus.


My Lords, the President Archbishop was welcomed into the sovereign base areas as soon as he intimated that he wanted to come in and was able to do so, and he will be given every facility, as befits a properly elected and accredited Head of State and, I may add, the senior Head of State in the Commonwealth.


My Lords, in view of the fact that fighting still seems to be continuing and the lives of British Commonwealth subjects are still in danger, could not Her Majesty's Government enter into consultation with our NATO allies in an effort to bring about a ceasefire?


My Lords, we are in consultation with the Secretary General of NATO.


My Lords, could the noble Lord tell us whether he has any further information about the attitude of the Turkish community? Are they still quiet in their attitude and bearing?


My Lords, yes, indeed; they are facing this rather difficult and dangerous situation with exemplary calm and patient. I would add that the Turkish Government so far has shown a very good example of coolness.