HL Deb 20 April 1983 vol 441 cc617-33

6.40 p.m.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, I beg to ask the Unstarred Question standing in my name on the Order Paper—namely, To ask her Majesty's Government whether they will take the initiative to end the confrontation between Cyprus and Turkey.

My deepest memory of Cyprus is at a time when both the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots lived in friendly harmony. I still have in my mind a vivid picture of families of both communities resting in the heat of the day in the shadow of trees while their children played around them. That harmony was destroyed during the war for independence. Mr. Winston Churchill had promised Cyprus self-government at the end of the war because of the help which its people gave to the allied cause. That promise was not fulfilled and the Greek Cypriots—82 per cent. of the population—decided on a war for independence. In that war EOKA, acting for the Greek Cypriots, made its aim union with Greece. Because they did so, the minority Turkish Cypriots were in opposition to those aims and the British Government, in conflict with the Greek Cypriots, favoured, quite naturally in that situation, the Turkish Cypriots. Indeed, their auxiliary police force was almost entirely manned by Turkish Cypriots.

Since then the situation of antagonism has escalated to the final invasion by Turkey in 1974. I am not saying that there were not wrongs on both sides. President Makarios amended the constitution which was adopted at the Zurich and London conference, and in certain respects I think was unfair to the Turkish Cypriots. But I have no doubt that historians will say that by far the greater blame rested upon the leaders of the Turkish Cypriots and the Government of Turkey; the withdrawal by the Turkish Cypriots from any partnership; the threat of setting up a new state and the threat by the Turkish Government of actual invasion.

We are now in a new situation. Only last week the President of Cyprus and the Prime Minister of Greece met in Athens and decided to appeal to the international community for action. They will be initiating a debate shortly in the General Assembly of the United Nations. It is to that debate and the British attitude in it, that I want to refer. Before I do so, by way of preface I want to look at the record of the United Nations and of the British Government in Cyprus since the invasion of 1974 took place.

I take first the record of the United Nations. Five days after the invasion took place, the Security Council met. In their resolution they expressed concern that the situation would create a most explosive situation in the whole Eastern Mediterranean. They called for a cease-fire; they demanded an immediate end to foreign military intervention; they requested the withdrawal, without delay, from Cyprus of foreign and military personnel; and they called on Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom to enter into negotiations without delay for the restoration of peace. They could scarcely have been more definite: the demand for the withdrawal of the Turkish forces and an immediate cease-fire.

On 20th July, the very day that the Turkish Government sent 40,000 troops into Cyprus backed by air and naval forces, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared its view. It added two points to the resolution which I have already summarised from the Security Council. The first was very significant: the recognition of the non-alignment of Cyprus—an issue which will become important as I hope to indicate later. Secondly, a return of the refugees to their own homes.

The Turkish invasion came to occupy 40 per cent. of the territory of Cyprus. Approximately 200,000 Greek Cypriots were hounded from their rooms and their houses so as to make room for the Turkish soldiers who came in. Although the Turkish Cypriots amount to only 18 per cent. of the population, 40 per cent. of the territory still remains in Turkish hands. The United Nations asked for immediate withdrawal; 10 years later that is still the position. There has been no action. Indeed, the United Nations recognised the partition of Cyprus by establishing the Green Line between the two forces. Afterwards there have been these endless talks of the United Nations' initiative which have got no further, largely because of the Turkish Cypriot obstruction.

One is compelled to ask why the United Nations failed in this way. It is not because the United Nations is a failure as an institution. It is because of the composition and the membership of the United Nations. From the very beginning the West has not wished to alienate Turkey. It has not wished to do so because Turkey is a member of NATO; because of its strategic importance against the Soviet Union on the very border of the Soviet Union, and with American bases there.

The West throughout this story have also been concerned to make Cyprus itself a base of NATO—British troops and bases there. The whole policy has been aimed not at non-alignment but on winning Cyprus to the Western side. There was the Acheson American plan by which there was to be a partition. Northern Cyprus to be made a part of NATO Turkey; Southern Cyprus to be made a part of Greek territory—and Greece was then a member of NATO. That is the United Nations' record.

I turn to the record of the United Kingdom. Twenty-five years ago the British Government guaranteed the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus. In the agreement of Zurich and London in 1959 Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom did so. They also undertook to prohibit any activity aimed at promoting, directly or indirectly, the partition of the island. Our guarantee could not have been more definite than that. But when Turkey invaded Cyprus, the United Kingdom representative took the view that we need not carry out that guarantee, because we were associated with the two countries, Turkey and Greece, within it. I find it an extraordinary logic which says that, when one of three guarantors itself repudiates the guarantee which it gave, other guarantors should not act independently.

The Zurich and London agreement gave the United Kingdom permission to act independently. It said in Article 4: In so far as common action or concerted action may not be possible, each of the three guaranteeing Powers reserves the right to take action with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs created by the present treaty". Therefore, Great Britain would have had every authority, as a guarantor, for acting at that time.

Why has it refrained from doing so? Again, I must say that it is because of concern for Turkey as a member of NATO. Here there are 40,000 troops and 200,000 people moved from their homes. I cannot help contrasting it with what Britain did in the Falklands. When an invasion threatened 1,200 people there, all our forces went into action. In Cyprus, when 550,000 Greek Cypriots find their country invaded, there is no action whatsoever. I submit that international action according to a guarantee is just as binding as any national obligation. We gave our pledge to the world. We have failed to keep it.

I turn in conclusion to the discussion which will take place in the United Nations. I would urge that in the United Nations a decision should be made to end this intolerable situation in Cyprus. I suggest that those who believe in freedom should urge the General Assembly to ask the Security Council, first, to insist on the withdrawal without delay of Turkish military forces and equipment—a demand which has been made now for 10 years; to insist on the return to their homes of the ousted refugees. Perhaps there could be a United Nations tribunal to which claims could be sent and which could adjudicate.

I suggest that there should be pressure for a constitutional settlement by renewed discussions. If the pressure of the Turkish military presence was withdrawn, I believe that an agreement could be reached. What if Turkey continues to refuse these proposals? I would suggest in that situation that Turkey should be warned that economic sanctions will be taken against that territory unless it fulfils the demands of the United Nations. In its present circumstances Turkey would find it very difficult indeed to meet economic sanctions. It may be said that that is too much to ask, in view of the military strategy which Turkey provides for the West, in that United States bases are there. I put it to this House very seriously that this principle must be faced. The West says that it is armed in defence of the free world, but Turkey is among the most repressive countries in the world. It arrests political opponents, tortures them in prison and executes them. With all its military advantage should we not remember that Turkey is alien to freedom? On the other hand, freedom demands that we act on behalf of Cyprus. When the Government go to the United Nations debate, I beg them to stand for this principle of freedom.

7 p.m.

Lord Caradon

My Lords, I must declare a personal interest in this subject. It was on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that I signed the Treaty of Guarantee in Nicosia. Reference has just been made to that Treaty of Guarantee, guaranteeing the independence, territorial integrity and security of the new Republic of Cyprus, and going on to prohibit the partition of the island, indicating that if there was not agreement between the three Governments of the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey, then, yes, one could act alone, but could act alone solely for the purpose of restoring the situation which was brought about by the treaty.

Having signed the treaty with the authority of Her Majesty's Government I have naturally watched subsequent events in the island of Cyprus with dismay and with shame that we should have given an undertaking and have failed so shamefully to carry it out. There is now the situation in the island, to which I have returned once or twice, which is intolerable. It is a beautiful island cut in two. The people are unable to move from north to south or from south to north, and growing up—this distresses me most—is a new generation of people in Cyprus where one side does not know the other.

When I first went to Cyprus many years before, I knew that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots lived and worked happily together in a hundred villages and in every main town. To go back, as I did in the middle of the EOKA rebellion, was to me a terrible experience, but I had the comfort and the satisfaction of remembering the days when the world was at war but Cyprus was at peace. As I have watched events in subsequent years since I signed the treaty, increasingly I have had a sense of shame—fury, it may be—that our country, with the responsibilities arising from 100 years of adminstration of the island, should not have taken the action which the treaty requires to search for and to find a peaceful solution.

Now we have a situation which is unbearable, with children growing up on each side of the line never even seeing anyone from the other side, and never learning each other's languages as they used to before. We have created, by our own inaction, an antipathy and an enmity which was not there before. That makes it increasingly difficult to find any possibility of a settlement and a solution.

We must turn for a new initiative. The opportunity may arise in the debate which is to take place early next month in the United Nations. We, with others, have been told for some time that there is nothing we can do because discussions are going on between the two communities. They have been going on for a long time, and it is clear that they cannot succeed. I read the press from both sides of the line in Cyprus, and it is one of the most disturbing and miserable experiences to read that there appears to be no possibility of the resumption of the friendship of the past. It is now a miserable and shameful state of affairs which has continued for far too long.

I do not think it is possible for us here to say exactly how the settlement should be worked out. It is necessary that the communal discussions should continue, but they should continue against a background of an international insistence that there must be a restoration of unity in the island. There has been some suggestion that people of international prestige might, either singly or as a group, discuss with both sides and come back to the United Nations to report. It is possible that a single representative of the United Nations might be given the task, as has been known in some other instances; someone of international reputation may make a contribution. Exactly how the initiative should be undertaken, not only by our nation but by all the countries of the United Nations there represented, is something that I hope our representatives to the United Nations will determine; and I hope that, with the maximum support from all those open to argument, we shall find a way to escape from the shameful consequences of our own inaction.

I should like to say a word on a wider issue. The new Secretary-General of the United Nations has been speaking, since he took over his duties last year, of the alarm—it is much more than alarm; it is fear—that the whole purposes of the United Nations are being destroyed largely by the failures of the principal members, the permanent members of the Security Council. He points out that they have special privileges under the charter and they surely have an absolute necessity to work together for agreement. That is what the charter provides. We have seen very little indication that there is any willingness in the United Nations of the principal permanent members to work together, even though that is their task. That is their sacred trust, as he called it, which is now being denied. Furthermore, he said that, where we do agree, surely there should be definite action to follow it up to make it effective.

Let us look at the examples that we had in our minds at this time—and, yes, it was more than 10 years ago that I signed the treaty. Look at the situation in Namibia, where, again, there has been a decade of delays since a United Nations decision. It was in 1967 when we had a unanimous resolution on the Middle East, on which no action has been taken. Now we are getting to a state of affairs in which, even when there are unanimous decisions—and it was unanimous on Cyprus, as it was on Namibia and the Middle East—we let a decade go by with no determination to make them effective.

The Secretary-General says, in words which are striking enough, that he fears that it may be that "we are close to a new international anarchy"—those are his words—if we refuse to work together. The Security Council has spent a lot of its time engaged in abuse between East and West. They refuse to work together to try to find the answer to whatever the danger may be. Then, even when there is agreement, they refuse to do anything about it. This is a situation where people blame the United Nations. I hear slighting references to the Security Council and to the failures of the United Nations; but it is not the failures of the United Nations but the failures of the members, and, principally, of the permanent members, of the Security Council, who are engaged in mutual abuse rather than in the search for solutions.

We now have an opportunity in this country, because we had a special responsibility. We were in charge of Cyprus for 100 years, and we have long ties of, yes, friendship with both sides. In my own experience I like to think of the part which Foreign Minister Zorlu, of Turkey, and Foreign Minister Averof, of Greece, played. They were the people who made the agreement of 1960. What courage they showed, and what wisdom and energy! Would that we could see it again. I remember the scene in Nicosia that I referred to, when Bishop Makarios was on one side and Dr. Kutchuk, the leader of the Turks, was on the other, when we signed the treaty and looked forward to a happier, more prosperous Cyprus. I hope that that vision can be revived, and I hope that our country can play a leading part in bringing that about.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Spens

My Lords, I hope that I shall be constructive and I want to say how much I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, has just said about Cyprus. I think he has made a most impressive speech and has put the situation into a very good perspective. Having said that, I must attack the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for his attack on Turkey. It is so easy to start from 20th July 1974, the day that the Turkish Army went into Cyprus, but I believe that the real blame for what happened then rests with the British Foreign Secretary at the time, who was approached repeatedly by Mr. Ecevit, the Turkish Prime Minister, who begged him to come in and stop the insurrection which had happened five days earlier. Your Lordships may remember that between 15th and 20th July a man called Sampson started up this insurrection in Cyprus, kicked out President Makarios and very nearly killed him. We rescued him, I think, just in time.

There was absolute slaughter—Greek slaughtering Greek and Greek slaughtering Turk—for five days. During that time Prime Minister Ecevit begged our Foreign Secretary to make a joint approach to stop what was happening. I believe that if our Foreign Secretary had agreed to do that the whole operation could have been stopped by the use of possibly no troops at all other than the troops that we already had in Cyprus. However, our Foreign Secretary refused and so Turkey had to go it alone.

When they landed, among other things, they found—and I have only learned about this from my last visit to Cyprus at the beginning of this year—more than 30 large Russian tanks opposing them on the Greek side—E.34s, I think. What were they doing there? What hopes would the Turkish Cypriot population have had if they had been used against them? I think that that in itself shows up the problem that existed there.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, mentioned the recent meeting between President Karamanlis of Greece and President Kyprianou of Cyprus; but he did not say anything about a speech which was made by President Papandreou on April 7th in Athens at a dinner given for President Kyprianou. I want to quote one paragraph from a translation of a report by ANA news agency which came out on 11 th April. This report—and I cannot say how accurate the translation is—says: It was natural for the Greek people of Cyprus always to have their eyes averted to Greece and to want to unite with her. This reasonable desire became more intense and bit by bit took on the form of a liberation struggle from the time Greece became an independent state. That struggle passed through many stages, the most critical of them, however, and the most dramatic was the one that began after the Second World War and continues still". Those words by President Karamanlis of Greece cannot give any encouragement to the Turkish Cypriots to go back to any form of association with Greek Cypriots which would allow them to come into each other's areas.

Since 1974, the Turkish Cypriots have enjoyed complete security. I believe that the number of murders which have taken place in the north of Cyprus since that date can be counted on the fingers of one hand, or certainly not more than two hands; whereas before then they were being slaughtered right, left and centre. They are not going to give up their security easily. Neither are they going to give up the homes that they have taken over in the north, however much Lord Brockway may say that the 200,000 refugees in the south have a right to them. The Turkish Cypriots were kicked out of more than 100 villages between 1963 and 1974 and during that time they were not allowed to build any more homes because Archbishop Makarios said that building materials were a strategic matter and they could not have them. How can we expect people who were treated like that for 10 years before the Turkish army came in to give up the homes and the security they have now? My Lords, they will not. I do not know what the solution is to be, but I do think that Her Majesty's Government, as the third guarantor, have a very strong responsibility to take part in any solution.

There have been intercommunal talks and, surprisingly enough, there has been agreement on four little things—four little matters. There will be a neutral flag; there will be a new national anthem; both languages will be recognised, and foreign affairs will be handled by a federal Government. There is a very small element of agreement there; but it is something, and it is something which has not been publicised very much. Certainly, before going to Cyprus this time I had not heard of any of these things having been agreed, and it is a great pity that even such little agreements are not publicised.

However, I feel that they are not going to get very much further. There is no real incentive, other than on the part of the Greek Cypriot refugees, to give up the situation that they are in at the moment where they are recognised as the Government of Cyprus. They get all the advantages. They are doing extraordinarily well economically—far better than the Turkish Cypriots—and any final agreement between the two sides would probably mean that the Greek Cypriots would have to give up some of the advantages they now have.

Therefore, to my mind, any solution has to come from outside. I do not think the United Nations is going to be very much help. Between 1963 and 1974 United Nations troops were on the island: they did not prevent this kicking out of Turkish Cypriots from a hundred villages; they did not prevent the slaughter of Turks by Greeks during that time. Even though British troops were there as part of the force, they found themselves powerless; and I cannot see the Turkish Cypriots accepting a United Nations force to come in in place of the protection they now have behind their own armed forces. So I ask the Government: is it not time that Her Majesty's Government took a strong part now in trying to bring about a final solution to this problem?

7.23 p.m.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, I intervene only briefly in this debate, and I should like to say how glad I am that my noble friend Lord Caradon referred to the signing of the treaty, because I was there in the Ledra Palace on that day. I hoped, as did many others, that the agreement would bring peace and progress to that lovely island. On one side of the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, sat Archbishop Makarios, and on the other side sat the Turkish leader Dr. Kutchuk. We all of us on that monumental day felt that there was progress and there was hope. It has been very disappointing that our hopes on that day have, up to the moment, been disappointed.

I want to say quite briefly that there does seem to be among some of your Lordships the feeling that it is impossible for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to get on together. That is absolutely wrong. I have friends on both sides. Soon after I was in the lovely island of Cyprus where the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, was signing the treaty, I went to Rhodes. Rhodes is even nearer to Turkey than is Cyprus and we met together with Turks and Greeks. There was absolutely no inbuilt animosity. That is something which we must destroy in our minds, because there are some people who seem to think that there is an animosity which cannot be dealt with.

I want to ask one or two questions. Most of these debates on Cyprus are concerned with Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots; but Cyprus is an island where many nationalities live together. There are many British citizens who live in Cyprus, and I have been in correspondence with the noble Lord the Minister about many of the United Kingdom citizens who live there. In many cases, they are men and women who have worked in what used to be a colony, who were used to a warm climate and who have retired to Cyprus. Many of them had their homes demolished during the Turkish invasion. I appreciate all that the noble Lord has done to try and organise some recompense for British citizens who were deprived and who suffered in Cyprus as a result of the invasion. Many are still without any recompense for the destruction of their houses, for having been wounded and suffered hardship. I do not want to go on about this too much, because the noble Lord well knows that I am in correspondence with him about this. But it seems to me that it would not be asking too much of Her Majesty's Government, as a member of NATO, to ask another member of NATO to accept the responsibility for United Kingdom citizens in Cyprus who have suffered from violence and from the invasion.

I have to ask why it is not possible for Her Majesty's Government to support the Greek Government in its suggestion that the Turkish army should withdraw from Cyprus and that Greece would be prepared to pay for a United Nations force to take over in that part of Cyprus where the Turkish forces are now acting. It seems to me that absolutely unacceptable that one NATO country should accept the invasion of another Commonwealth country by the Turkish army.

Why can we not bring this subject to the United Nations and suggest that if the Turkish people in their part of Cyprus feel in danger—which in my view they need not feel—a United Nations force would do better and would be more conciliatory than a Turkish armed force?

I do not want to go into details of the effect of the Turkish soldiers in Northern Cyprus, but I have been there and I know that many of my Turkish Cypriot friends do not gladly accept the Turkish soldiers in their part of the island. Moreover, there are many instances of friendliness—long-held friendliness—between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots. I have been to places in Cyprus where a Turkish farmer puts his melons over the wall and a Greek farmer puts his milk back over the wall. There are many instances of personal friendliness, and it would be a great pity—I say this with all respect to my noble friend Lord Spens—if anyone in your Lordships' House were to suggest that there is an absolute barrier, because that is not true.

The last point which I want to raise is of a dream, and I do not apologise for bringing a dream before your Lordships. I have always hoped that there might be a university in Cyprus, because we could then bring together the richness of the Islamic culture, the Hellenic culture and the Roman culture. I know that there are difficulties with the American University in Beirut, and it would be absolutely marvellous if we could start a university in Cyprus.

One goes around Cyprus and one sees in Salamis the Greek columns, and one sees in Curium the marvellous amphitheatre. Then one moves around and sees the Turkish mosques. One can then go to Famagusta and see the Phoenician walls around that city. It seems to me that Cyprus is the most international, inter-cultural—if one may coin such a horrible word—place that there is.

May I remind your Lordships that there were many Cypriot subjects who joined our forces in the last world war, many of whom lost their lives. There is a great connection between this country and that lovely island, and I should be very happy if, so long as Cyprus remains part of the Commonwealth, we tried to extend and strengthen all the ties of culture and friendship. And if NATO is to mean anything, it cannot mean that one NATO country can have its forces sitting on the territory of a British Commonwealth member.

7.33 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I know that we are all very grateful to my noble friend Lord Brockway for initiating this debate and for the constructive and comprehensive speech with which he opened it. We have also listened with respect to the speech of my noble friend Lord Caradon, who played so central a role in the island's history at a crucial moment. Again, my noble friend Lady Jeger is, as all of us know, a friend of Cyprus. Her knowledge of the island is considerable, and I am quite sure that the noble Lord who is speaking on behalf of the Government will have noted very carefully the interesting proposal she made for a university in Cyprus, and also the point she made about United Kingdom citizens there.

Having listened to this short debate, there is one thing on which we can all agree; namely, that it is taking far too long to achieve a satisfactory and stable solution to the problem of the island. As we have heard, it is nearly nine years since Turkish forces invaded the island and drew the Attila line. That was an indefensible action which was duly condemned by the United Nations, and the line that the Turkish Government then drew across the island bore no relationship to the relative Greek and Turkish populations in Cyprus. As my noble friend Lord Brockway has reminded us, it was a cruel invasion and 200,000 Greek Cypriots were driven from their homes, while others have disappeared without trace.

There is, of course, a Turkish Cypriot argument as well, and the noble Lord, Lord Spens, has rehearsed it with great fairness. As I understood him, the argument is briefly that the Turkish-speaking minority were never accepted as equal partners; that they were, so it is argued, second-class citizens; and that, when the Greek junta overthrew President Makarios in 1974 with the intention of declaring enosis, and because Britain failed to act under the Treaty of Guarantee, Turkey had no alternative but to take military action. That is the Turkish case. However, this does not excuse Turkey's action. It certainly does not excuse the brutal ruthlessness which followed the occupation; nor does it justify the extent of that occupation. But it is what the Turkish Cypriots believe.

Partition itself does not really resolve the basic political problem. Partition is always an admission of defeat, wherever it takes place. In spite of all the efforts to find a solution, we still have partition nine years later. One of the dismal aspects of partition is that, with the passage of time, although it starts as a temporary expedient, it acquires all the appearances of permanence. The longer it lasts, the more difficult it becomes to unravel it.

I believe that we have come to a point in time where a solution might now appear to be possible. We have comparatively new Governments in Greece and Turkey. President Kyprianou has been confirmed in office once again, and Senor Perez de Cuellar is deeply concerned to work for a settlement. What, therefore, are the chances? We shall be interested to know the Government's reactions from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, when he comes to reply. Perhaps I may be allowed to make some brief comments.

We should first recall the "evaluation" prepared by the former United Nations Secretary-General, Dr. Kurt Waldheim, and presented to the intercommunal talks on 18th November 1981. I regard those talks as fairly basic to our discussion, because they are still continuing. They have been going on now for five years. They clearly need a new stimulus of the kind that my noble friends Lord Brockway, Lord Caradon and Lady Jeger, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Spens, have suggested. We need some new ideas on the table. The Waldheim "evaluation" provided a basis for detailed negotiations. I think myself that they were, if anything, more favourable to the Turkish Cypriots than to the Greek Cypriots, and perhaps the noble Lord will let us have the Government's current views on the Waldheim proposal.

When he visited Cyprus last year, the Greek Prime Minister, Dr. Papandreou, said on the question of intercommunal talks that the political leadership of both Greece and Cyprus agreed that the negotiations should proceed within the context of the "Waldheim ideas", although he was not optimistic about the outcome since they were being held, in the dynamic military presence of the occupation forces". This is also President Kyprianou's position. There is, however, in spite of all the difficulties, some flexibility—a desire to come to terms, but a natural resentment of the powerful Turkish presence on the island, which was referred to by my noble friend Lady Jeger. They are also conscious that, in the inter- communal talks, the Ankara Government play a dominant role behind the scenes—a far more dominant role than anything the Athens Government play. This is constantly in their minds. I am sure that many noble Lords noted the detailed statement made by the Cyprus Government and published in The Times on 6th April.

Lord Drumalbyn

My Lords, I am following what the noble Lord is saying with great care. However, would he not agree that the principal obstacle to any kind of settlement is the probability, as things are, that if the Greek Cypriots obtained complete domination over the island, to the extent that they could hold a plebiscite and determine to join Greece, this would cause very great trouble in the future? Indeed, it is precisely against this possibility that the Turks have reacted so strongly.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, those of us who know Cyprus and have studied the history of the island over the last 20 years know that there are suspicions and apprehensions on both sides. For the noble Lord, whom I have known for a very long time, to say that a settlement is impossible merely in view of suspicions is to take far too pessimistic a view. I am trying, perhaps because I am a natural optimist, to make what I believe to be a constructive case for a possible settlement. In that context, I do not believe that the noble Lord's intervention was particularly helpful.

Lord Drumalbyn

My Lords, the noble Lord is making a very good case. However, I did not say that a solution is impossible. I said that there is a high possibility that if what I said happened—namely, that the Greeks obtained entire control over the island—it would sow the seeds of trouble. It is that possibility which weighs most strongly with the Turks.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the point which the noble Lord has made is very much in everybody's mind. The fears of the Turkish Cypriots to which he has referred are certainly well known. The fears of the Greek Cypriots are also very well known. At this moment the Greek Cypriots have far more to fear from the Turkish presence than have the Turkish Cypriots from the Greeks. Therefore we must look at this problem as objectively as we can in an effort to reach a settlement.

I was referring to the statement of the Cyprus Government which appeared in The Times on 6th April. This statement gives the Greek Cypriot case. One must read it as such. However, the statement also contains some important pointers. For example, this sentence from the statement in The Times should be noted: the Greek Cypriot side accepted something which was unthinkable before. Federation was accepted as a basis for a solution. Cyprus is too small for a federal system and yet that was accepted [by the Greek Cypriots] so that a solution of the Cyprus problem could be facilitated". In other words, I submit to your Lordships that the Greek Cypriots make a very substantial concession when they say that they are prepared to negotiate on the basis of federation.

They go on to argue that the Turkish leadership does not want federation; what they want is a separate state. I hope that this is not true and that the Turkish Cypriot community are genuinely anxious for a permanent settlement, based on some form of federation. If that is not a possibility, the island is in for a long history of partition, with all that that implies. If we are to have a permanent settlement, some new infusion of confidence is essential. After years of partition, Cyprus now merits a new initiative. The Turkish Cypriot response is, I understand, less clear than the Greek Cypriot position. Mr. Denktash has suggested that there are two choices: a bicommunal federal republic or, alternatively, two republics joined by a nonaggression pact. The first option provides a possible meeting ground with President Kyprianou. If both sides say that under certain circumstances federation is a possibility, successful negotiations might take place on that basis.

The intercommunal talks should concentrate on this. It is obvious that here again the United States can be helpful by talking seriously to the Turkish Government. The United States must not be seen to have more sympathy with an authoritarian, right-wing, military government than with a democratically elected left-wing government. We have a practical interest in and a historic link with Cyprus, as all noble Lords who have spoken have mentioned. I hope we can also help to mount an initiative ourselves. Nor should we overlook the presence there of the United Nations peace-keeping force of 2,348 men, including 761 from the United Kingdom, costing over 100 million dollars a year to finance. For the time being this force must stay there, for obvious reasons. I should be glad to have the reactions of the noble Lord to that point.

The cynics say that nothing can be done; but if nothing is done the island will stay as it is, with two armies, two economies and all the paraphernalia of two states—with airports, customs and two national and linguistic cultures. It also preserves a partition which goes against the very laws of nature. The agriculture is in the south and most of the water is in the north.

There is a solution. It is, I believe, a perfectly reasonable one. On their side, the Greek Cypriots could accept a fairly flexible federal arrangement, in which the Turkish Cypriots would have extensive powers in their own sector and a veto on certain aspects of federal government policy. These points should be negotiable. In return for this, the Turks should make territorial concessions, accepting an area which more nearly conforms to their population. The Greek Cypriot case is very strong, but here again I concede immediately that the confidence and consent of the Turkish Cypriot minority is a crucial ingredient in any final agreement. We must all recognise that fact.

My noble friend Lord Brockway referred to the appeal made last week in Athens and the prospect of a debate in the United Nations early next month. These are very important initiatives. I believe that they are extremely hopeful. They provide a new objective.

I hope the Security Council and the United Nations Secretary General will grasp this opportunity. If they do so, they should be given the full, constructive support of Her Majesty's Government. I hope therefore that the Minister can assure us that this will be forthcoming.

7.47 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for drawing the attention of the House once again to the situation in Cyprus. It is right that we should continue to be reminded of the situation in Cyprus because, despite the relative stabililty of the last eight years, the divisions between the two communities remain. Every single speech which has been made in our debate this evening has concentrated upon the divisions as well as, in some cases, the hopes for the future. While there has been no fighting during this period and while parts of the country have become more prosperous, these deep and tragic conditions are unacceptable. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, said, a generation is growing up on both sides of the Green Line in Cyprus which has never known its opposite numbers. As time goes on, a solution will be more difficult to find.

I acknowledge that in Britain we have long-standing ties with the people of Cyprus. Cyprus is a member of the Commonwealth. We are linked by treaty. There is a large Cypriot community here. I assure the House that the British Government are aware of their obligations towards the people of Cyprus. For some time now the United Nations Secretary-General has been making efforts to solve the Cyprus problem. Intercommunal talks, under his auspices, between representatives of the two Cypriot communities have been going on in Nicosia for many years. The present round started in 1980 and has been running continously since then. The British Government remain convinced that it is through these talks that an eventual settlement can be reached.

I should like to pause here to amplify what I mean, because I am not saying that just for the sake of something to say. The Government believe very deeply that it is only by agreement between the two communities that a settlement can be made to work. Accordingly, we do what we can to help the progress of the talks. We are in regular contact with the parties concerned and with United Nations.

I would like to take this opportunity, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, to tell the House what has been happening in the talks recently and to examine the prospects for the future. In November 1981 the United Nations Representative in Cyprus, Dr. Hugo Gobbi, launched what was known as the "evaluation" of the then Secretary-General, Dr. Waldheim. The evaluation was a thorough document which analysed the areas of agreement and disagreement between the two communities. In the case of the areas of disagreement, the Secretary-General sketched in some ideas as to how these could be resolved.

For nearly 18 months the representatives of the two communities, guided by Dr. Gobbi, have been discussing the "evaluation" very thoroughly. I will not pretend that there has been dramatic progress, although, as the noble Lord, Lord Spens, said, there has been some progress. But this does not take away from the fact that the discussion over the last year has been the most thorough analysis of a future Cyprus constitution ever undertaken by the two communities since Cyprus became independent and the original 1960 arrangements broke down.

Dr. Gobbi himself has described the discussion as the "first reading" of the problem. It was certainly the essential groundwork for any agreement. Moreover, the atmosphere at the talks has been good. This has been due to the interlocutors themselves representing the two communities, and also due to the patience and skill of Dr. Gobbi.

Now that discussion of the evaluation is virtually complete it is time to ask where we go from here. The Government believe that there is a growing realisation that, following President Kyprianou's re-election last month, there now exists a chance for progress towards a Cyprus settlement which will not be repeated for many years. Indeed, the Cyprus Foreign Minister said in a television interview just after the presidential elections that the time was now ripe for movement on the Cyprus problem within the framework of the intercommunal talks. What is needed is for both communities to have the determination—and the goodwill—to seize the opportunity which is presenting itself. I believe that we must all do what we can to make sure this period of opportunity is put to the best possible use, and give maximum support both to the parties and to the Secretary-General.

The Government very much hope that United Nations will feel able to inject some new ideas into the intercommunal talks, to build on the work done in discussion of the evaluation, and to offer prospects of real progress towards a settlement this year. If such ideas are injected, it will be a tragedy if the parties do not make use of them. I would like to put it on record that the British Government will place their weight firmly behind a realistic attempt to make progress this year, but it is reasonable to ask, how is this progress to be achieved? First, this will be achieved only by the parties themselves working towards agreement under United Nations auspices. It follows that no one should do anything which might either cut across the efforts of the Secretary-General and his representatives or render it more difficult for the parties to come to an agreement.

In handling the debate which will undoubtedly take place at United Nations soon, the parties must ask the question about their actions: will they bring a Cyprus settlement any nearer, or will what we say push a settlement further away? It is important that all the parties at the UN should not simply try to score propaganda points off one another, but avoid souring the atmosphere for the inter-communal talks and shortening the period of opportunity which the Government and many other people believe exists. United Nations resolutions are often valuable, and Cyprus has not been debated at the General Assembly for some time. But what are really needed are not resolutions or new mechanisms but goodwill and determination. The inter-communal talks are now poised to make further progress and it would be a tragedy if the momentum were to be lost.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, asked whether we will launch an initiative. I do not believe that an initiative would be right at the moment or that it would help in the search for a settlement. Indeed, it is a little difficult from the debate this evening, which has been enormously interesting in so many ways, to find out exactly what kind of initiative the noble Lord had in mind. The noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, made a suggestion for an initiative which I shall come to in a moment. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Spens, which otherwise was of enormous interest, simply referred to "an initiative" and did not describe the lines on which the initiative should be taken.

I do not cavil at that because I believe that to take an initiative at the present time would be enormously difficult to define, let alone carry out. Neither the Cyprus Government nor the Turkish Cypriot Community have asked us to launch an initiative. We have memories of the reception given to the last such initiative in 1978. The reason why outside initiatives are unlikely to do very much good is that in the end agreement must be reached by the parties themselves. As I have said, I believe the key to this is agreement and action towards a settlement by the parties involved.

Lord Brockway

The initiative that I suggested the Government should take, my Lords, is action during the debates in the United Nations for the proposals which I made. When the noble Lord the Minister says that there has been no request to the Government to take the initiative, does he not remember that only last week the President of Cyprus and the Prime Minister of Greece both appealed for international action and expressed the hope that a debate in United Nations may bring that about, by the initiatives of Governments which are sympathetic?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, is saying that the debate in United Nations should underpin United Nations work on the island, then of course the Government most certainly agree with him; but if by any chance the noble Lord is saying—which I do not believe he is, but I sometimes believe that other people may be saying it—that there should be an initiative entirely separate from that of the United Nations, then I believe that that would take anybody making such an initiative back to square one. I see from the nodding of the noble Lord's head that we are at one on this and that both the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and the Government believe that United Nations efforts can build on the basis of the efforts that have already been made, and that we should rely on the work of the United Nations' representative in Cyprus—but we should also be ready and vigilant to try to underpin that work wherever possible.

I should like to say a brief word on the question of confrontation between the Cyprus Government and Turkey, which I do not believe it is right to see as being the core of the Cyprus problem. The problem is a complex one. It involves the two communities and inevitably involves also Turkey and Greece. Attempts to find a solution to the problem have been bedevilled over the years by supporters of one community or the other seeing the problem from one angle only. Of course, the presence of foreign troops in the Republic of Cyprus is an aspect of the Cyprus problem—a tragic one—and any comprehensive settlement must include the withdrawl of those troops. We ourselves have voted in the past for appropriate United Nations resolutions calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the Republic of Cyprus. But there are many other aspects of the problem, and it really is wrong, I think, to take only one of them in isolation if ever one hears the matter being argued in that way.

In giving all the help we can to the United Nations efforts, we are, I assure your Lordships, constantly impressing on the parties the need to make progress this year. We are also playing our part by being the largest contributor of men and money to the United Nations' peacekeeping force in Cyprus. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, paid tribute to UNFICYP's sterling work in keeping the peace between the two communities—work which I agree with the noble Lord must continue while it is still needed. It is a measure of the success of UNFICYP that there has been only one fatal intercommunal casualty on the green line in the last 8 years, but, of course, that is no cause for complacency or reason why we should abandon our efforts to bring about a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, asked me two specific questions. The first one was whether more cannot be done so far as claims for dispossessed British residents are concerned. I would pay tribute to the noble Baroness for her concern, as I have seen in the correspondence I have had with her, and for what she is doing actively to try to see that this aspect of these difficult problems is improved. My reply is that we have worked very hard to persuade the Turkish Cypriot authorities to settle outstanding claims by British citizens, and indeed it is not too much to say that under pressure from us the Turkish Cypriot authorities have set up a claims commission and claims are being settled, albeit not as fast as we would like. My answer to the noble Baroness—and I think it is an answer I have given before is that we are keeping up the pressure.

Then the noble Baroness suggested the introduction of a United Nations force to replace the Turkish troops. Here I would simply say that Turkish Cypriot security concerns make it unlikely that Turkish troops could withdraw in advance of progress towards a settlement, which brings us back to the importance of the intercommunal talks. If I may say so, I think this was a point which was underlined by the interventions of my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn.

There is one last matter I should like to deal with, and again it arises from Lady Jeger's speech. It is a positive but small thing which can be done to bring the people of the two communities into contact with each other. That is to look at the situation so far as a university is concerned. The young people of the two communities of course traditionally mixed by coming to British universities, for there is no university in Cyprus, and this led the noble Baroness to make a plea for money to set up a university there. We are, as the House will know, trying to deal with this problem in a rather different way.

I make no secret of saying that I realise that Cyprus was hit by our decision to charge overseas students the full cost of their tuition, and that is why we were very glad to be able to announce last month that £1 million is being made available in each of the next three years to help Cypriot students to continue to come to the United Kingdom. We have also made it clear—and I should like to do so again—that the benefits of this money will be made available to students from both communities. We have now worked out most of the details of how the scheme would operate and we are putting the finishing touches to it. I am very glad that I had the opportunity to have a word about this with the Minister of Education from Cyprus when he was visiting this country very recently.

If I may sum up, I believe that progress towards settlement of the Cyprus problem is possible this year. I believe that an increasing number of people on both sides accept that proposition. What is needed is determination and flexibility. The British Government stand ready to do anything that the United Nations, or the parties concerned, would consider might help bring about a solution to this long-standing and tragic problem.