HL Deb 27 January 1975 vol 356 cc313-8

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, whether on humanitarian grounds Turkish-Cypriot refugees are being allowed to leave Episkopi, via Turkey, for the Northern area of Cyprus occupied by the Turkish army, and what diplomatic moves are envisaged, on grounds of equity, to assist Greek-Cypriot refugees (whose plights and needs are identical) to return to their homes in that area.


My Lords, noble Lords will now be aware that Her Majesty's Government have permitted the Turkish Cypriots in the Western sovereign base areas to go to Turkey. We are continuing our efforts to assist the Greek Cypriots.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his very concise Answer, which does not take us very much further. In view of the comments in the Press during the last few days, may I ask the Minister what initiatives Her Majesty's Government are taking in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, at Ministerial level within NATO and within the Council of Ministers of the EEC, bearing in mind the Commission's recognition of the Community's responsibility, with a view to bringing Turkey to greater flexibility and concern for Greek sensitivities and, more immediately, to stopping Turkey from consolidating her position in Northern Cyprus?


My Lords, we are of course in co-operative discussions with our friends and allies in NATO and the EEC on this very difficult question. However, we are even more active in trying to promote the emergence of a solution in Cyprus itself, based on the Clerides/Denktash talks, and I note with cautious optimism that political talks have begun between these two leaders. The attitude of the Turkish Government, as we see it, is that if there is a general settlement, they are prepared to play their part. I do not wish to say anything which might prejudice the hopeful turn that we hope the local talks will take in the next few days, putting it not too highly, and again emphasising that the note can only be one of cautious optimism.


My Lords, while recognising the extreme delicacy of the situation, I wonder whether the noble Lord could give some indication as to the reason why these movements were permitted save on a basis of greater reciprocity?


My Lords, I am grateful for that question because it gives me an opportunity to say that the decision was taken on grounds of humanity. We have for some months been trying to get a reciprocal arrangement whereby both Turkish and Cypriot refugees might return to their homes. We held back for, perhaps, too long, until the situation in the Western base area was approaching critical danger. Fortunately, there is no suggestion that an epidemic might break out but, with the worsening of the weather, there is every danger that very great suffering, possibly fatal for those least able to withstand the elements, might be caused. Therefore, though we understand the attitude of the Greek Cypriot leader-ship and, indeed, of the Greek Government to this matter, we could do no other for these thousands of people, who had no other outlet, and it was finally decided that humanity dictated that they should be enabled to go to Turkey. When asked, every one of the 8,500 refugees said that they wanted to go to Turkey.


My Lords, in relation to the anti-British demonstrations in Cyprus and in Athens, may I ask whether the Minister is aware that, despite our good intentions in releasing the Turkish Cypriots from Akrotiri, this action is regarded by our Greek friends as an aid to the Turks in their conquest of Northern Cyprus? Will the Government do what they can to disabuse the minds of our Greek friends of the misapprehension that they have, that our policy is pro-Turkish, when our policy is pro-peace?


My Lords we shall certainly continue to try to do what the noble Lord asks us to do. We have from the start insisted that the Cyprus problem shall be solved on an even-handed basis, with equality of treatment and prospects for both communities. We are aware of the arguments against the return of the Turkish Cypriots but, as I said in reply to the previous question, questions of humanity, especially those involving the infirm and women and children—of whom there were thousands in the base—must at times overrule the stricter rules of frigid diplomacy.


My Lords, while appreciating the humanitarian pressures for the release of these refugees, do not Her Majesty's Government on reflection also appreciate that the political consequences of this action are very serious indeed? Are not the British Government a guarantor of the independence and integrity of Cyprus? Therefore should not Britain have opposed an invasion of Cyprus, and is it right that we should now assist the integration in that invaded area of the Turkish population against the Greek population? Would Her Majesty's Government consider a proposal to try to rescue us from this desperate position, by calling together the three guarantors of Cypriot independence with both sides in Cyprus to try to realise an equitable decision on this issue?


My Lords, my noble friend will recall the very prompt and, it seemed at the time, successful initiative which my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary took literally within days of the invasion and disturbance in Cyprus. That was based on the willingness of the two communities and of the two Governments of Greece and Turkey to come together to talk constructively about a solution. As soon as there is an indication that such general basic agreement is available, I have no doubt at all that my right honourable friend will again be ready to take a similar initiative. As to our opposing an invasion of Cyprus, this is precisely what we have been doing for all the years before the final outbreak of hostilities in Cyprus. This trouble is precisely what we want to help guard against in the future.


My Lords, does my noble friend believe that it was possible to oppose a Turkish invasion except by force, and does he realise what that would have meant—going to war with Turkey? Is that not a remarkable suggestion coming from my noble friend Lord Brockway?


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Shinwell for putting the point that, after all, we must be governed by our capacity to intervene in what used to be an effective way. Things have changed, if I may say so with respect to my old and noble friend Lord Brockway, since 1960. The Treaty and the agreements that flowed from 1960 were, at the time, very effective and welcomed in every part of this House and another place. Things have moved rather rapidly in the last few months, and we must grapple with a completely new situation. We are indeed confronted with the possibility of the creation of a new permanent refugee problem and we know from our previous experience, especially in this part of the world, how that kind of problem, if it is allowed to gain root, bedevils the rest of an already difficult question. I do not think there is anything between my noble friends and myself on this matter. We shall continue to support Mr. Denktash and Mr. Clerides in their genuine efforts, as I believe, to secure not only social and economic adjustments, but also a political settlement.


My Lords, while agreeing with my noble friend Lord Shinwell, may I ask the Minister whether the present partition of Cyprus represents the long-term view of Her Majesty's Government?


My Lords, we are for an integrated Cyprus based on the will and desires of the communities of Cyprus. If that in turn involves a bi-zonal, bi-regional arrangement within an independent Cyprus, that is entirely for them. We shall try to assist them to gain what, by consensus, they say they want.


My Lords, will the noble Lord accept that the mere fact that we on this Bench have not put any questions to the Government about this matter does not mean we are not deeply concerned about it?


My Lords, while agreeing that we have a very delicate situation on our hands—particularly Her Majesty's Government—may I ask whether the Minister will agree that, in fact, Turkey is proposing to create a fait accompli in Northern Cyprus? In view of this, and in view of the fact that the last time his right honourable friend had talks on Cyprus with Dr. Kissinger was on 13th December last, should not his right honourable friend immediately have talks with Dr. Kissinger on this very important and latest development in Cyprus?


My Lords, it would not be the first time my right honourable friend has had such talks with Dr. Kissinger, and I see no reason why there should not be other talks with him on this and other crucial matters. As regards what the noble Lord said about the Turkish and Greek attitude, I join the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, in the spirit of his intervention just now. I think that if we can refrain from apportioning blame between the two sides in this matter we may cautiously hope to achieve a settlement. If we do not, Cyprus, like other parts of this region, may well be a running sore in the side of the whole world.


My Lords, can my noble friend inform the House whether any of these Turkish refugees from Episkopi have already been resettled on land formerly owned by Greek Cypriots who are now refugees, or whether Her Majesty's Government would refuse to countenance any such measure?


My Lords, I have no information on that point. I have no doubt, of course, that unhappily there will have been takeovers from one side or another, or from both sides. I do not think we could generalise on this very unhappy and difficult situation.


My Lords, would it not be helpful if we now moved on to the next business?

Several Noble Lords

Hear, hear!


My Lords, may I ask as a postscript, in view of the fact that I have been referred to, whether there are not methods other than military ones by which opposition to the Turkish invasion could have been expressed? Would it not have been possible for the three guarantor Powers before the invasion occurred to intervene to try to bring about a solution?


My Lords, there were such means available and they were fully utilised.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, rose I was about to intervene myself. I appreciate that your Lordships are interested in this tragic and critical situation, myself no less than anybody, but I think we have had a very long run and that we should now pass on.