HL Deb 15 November 1983 vol 444 cc1166-9

4.5 p.m.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat the Answer being given in another place in answer to the Private Notice Question on Cyprus. The Answer is as follows:

"The position is that this morning the body calling itself the Assembly in Northern Cyprus passed a resolution approving the establishment of a Turkish Republic of North Cyprus and a declaration of independence. Her Majesty's Government deplore this action by the Turkish Cypriot community, which amounts to a declaration of secession. We have issued a statement which makes it clear that this is incompatible with the 1960 Treaties.

"Our position has always been that we recognise only one Republic of Cyprus. That remains the position today. In our view this latest move cannot be seen as altering the status of the Turkish Cypriot community. We would deeply regret it if, as seems all too likely, this action provokes the breakdown of the inter-communal talks and the consultations carried out by the Secretary General of the United Nations. Both have had our full support.

"There have for some time been reports that a move of this sort was being contemplated by the Turkish Cypriot authorities. We have throughout made it clear, most recently both to Mr. Denktash personally and at a high level in Ankara, that we would strongly disapprove such a move. It must be a matter for deep regret that these representations have apparently been disregarded. Our Ambassador at Ankara has this morning, on my instructions, called on the Turkish Government not to associate themselves with this move by the Turkish Cypriot authorities. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has sent a similar message to President Evren urging him to help secure a reversal of the declaration.

"In accordance with British responsibilities under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee I shall be proposing urgent consultations to both the Turkish and the Greek Governments. We are also in direct contact with the Government of Cyprus. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister spoke this morning to President Kyprianou and I have just seen the Cyprus High Commissioner in London.

"We shall consult urgently with other interested Governments and also with the Secretary General of the United Nations, who has been playing a key role in the search for a peaceful solution to the long-standing Cyprus problem. In addition, we are approaching the President of the Security Council with a view to securing an early meeting."

My Lords, that concludes the Answer.

4.8 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord for repeating the Answer. While Mr. Denktash has mentioned the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence several times over the past few weeks, the news that such a declaration has been made is both sad and unwelcome. As the noble Lord has stated, this action is in breach of the treaty of guarantee which laid down that an act of partition by one of the parties is forbidden.

We warmly support the assertion in the Statement that this arbitrary unilateral act is particularly unfortunate at a time when the Secretary General of the United Nations is seeking to arrange consultations to seek to resolve the problem. We further support the Government in their expressions of strong disapproval of this move, and their messages to Greece and Turkey, and the Prime Minister's approach to President Kyprianou this morning. Can the noble Lord give any indication of the prospects for the proposed UN sponsored summit? Does he think that this is now still a possibility, and will Her Majesty's Government support the move?

As one of the three guarantors of the treaty, are the Government proposing any steps—for example, by raising the matter in the Security Council—to alleviate the tensions which are bound to be exacerbated in Cyprus as a result of this UDI? Further, can the noble Lord say how this declaration has affected the nature of British obligations under the treaty of independence? Are we likely to be in a rather different situation as a result under the treaty? Can he also say how many British citizens reside in the Turkish sector; and are we happy, or certain, that they are safe following the declaration? Will the noble Lord also confirm that this act makes the position of Greek refugees considerably more uncertain? Is not this a matter which must also be investigated? We are aware that we shall be able to dwell in rather greater detail on all these points in tomorrow's debate on Cyprus.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I am also grateful to the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. It breathes the right spirit. We think that tomorrow is the time to debate the long-term prospects and how the Government should act in the long run. In the meantime, we should perhaps say a word about what the Government might do in the next 24 hours. To read the Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence, one would never suspect that there had been a string of United Nations condemnations over nine years of their presence. We on these Benches are far from believing that the Greek Cypriots have always been whiter than the driven snow during the last 20 years, but the Turkish statement blames the Greek Cypriots for all that has ever happened. To read it, one would be surprised to learn that anything happened in 1974. One would see no mention of the Turkish invasion and partition of the island. One would not suspect that since then the Turkish army has been there, paid for 100 per cent. by Turkey. One would not suspect that Turkey has been meeting 85 per cent. of the civil budget in Northern Cyprus since then.

Will the Government remember—they do not say so in so many words, but it is implied—that Britain is a guarantor power of the 1960 treaty which established the Republic of Cyprus and that the present Government do not have the excuse which the Labour Government had in 1974 for lying low—namely, that it was in the run up to an election?

It seems to us that to call for a meeting of the guarantors—which the Government are doing—is right; to try to secure a reversal of the declaration is right, though obviously hopeless; and, above all, to call the Security Council is right.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I wish to thank both the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and Lord Kennet, for their welcome for the Answer that I have just given. As well, we express gratitude for the very strong and forthright support of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, for the Government's action in this especially delicate situation. As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, has stressed, we probably should delay more detailed discussion of this problem until tomorrow's debate, when we shall have the benefit of any further developments from the United Nations. I believe that your Lordships would wish the Government to wait for any developments in the Security Council, to which I referred in the last words of the Answer. On the detailed points that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, I hope that he will accept that we should wait for the answer to most of them until tomorrow.

The noble Lord asked me a specific question about the number of British citizens who reside in the northern sector of Cyprus. I understand this figure is in hundreds; I think it is about 200. We are cognisant of their position, but I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn and your Lordships will agree that the position is extremely delicate and we do not want to say much today.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, too, for his forthright support. Of course, I stress the importance of the 1960 treaty of guarantee to Cyprus and our commitment under that. We intend to abide by it. I outlined in my Statement that we are consulting with our allies about appropriate action which should be taken in the United Nations Security Council and we shall consider any other possible action in the light of our consultations.