HL Deb 29 January 1997 vol 577 cc1138-71

3.6 p.m.

Lord Bethell rose to call attention to the situation in Cyprus; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I welcome the chance to address your Lordships for a moment on the Cyprus issue. Cyprus is a place of beauty and tragedy. It is the island of Aphrodite where thousands of British people enjoy their summer holidays. It is the country of origin of some 200, 000 Londoners. It is a familiar place to British people. But it has been, in recent years especially, a place of bloodshed and hatred. It has one of Europe's most successful economies and yet it is divided, north from south, by lines of armed men. It reminds us of the late unlamented Berlin Wall. No country in the world is divided so impenetrably, except perhaps Korea. I hope none of your Lordships wants to see the Korean example prevail in Cyprus.

My interest in the matter, I should advise your Lordships, is that I am chairman of Friends of Cyprus, an independent group that encourages the reconstitution of Cyprus as a sovereign state and the withdrawal of foreign troops from the republic's territory. Other noble Lords associated with Friends of Cyprus will address the House later.

Most of your Lordships will recall how the island became independent, only to find that its Greek and Turkish communities remained at odds. On the Greek side, men who had fought for independence from Britain continued to press violently for union with Greece even after their leader, Archbishop Makarios, had signed a treaty renouncing the idea. Conflict ensued and during the 1960s several hundred Turkish Cypriots were killed by over-patriotic Greek Cypriot terrorists.

The matter came to a head, with great loss of life, in July and August 1974. First, there was the attempt by Greek extremists to turn Cyprus into a Hellenic republic, contrary to international law and to the treaties signed by all parties involved. A few days later there was the Turkish army's military intervention in Northern Cyprus.

The results were terrible. About 4, 000 Greek Cypriots were killed, mainly by the Turkish army. A much larger number were injured. Several thousand Greek Cypriot women were raped. More than a thousand Greek Cypriots were taken prisoner by the invading forces and then, as the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, recently admitted, were handed over to Turkish Cypriot paramilitaries, who killed them. The Greek Cypriot community has still not recovered from that serious blow. At the same time, several hundred Turkish Cypriots were killed by the Greek extremists who proclaimed the "Hellenic Republic". The exact figure is uncertain, but Turkish Cypriots and Turks also suffered during those events and many were killed in the war that followed the Turkish invasion.

The rights and wrongs of the Cyprus problem cannot be decided on an arithmetical basis. However, it should be pointed out that the fatalities on the Turkish side are to be counted in hundreds, whereas those on the Greek side number many thousands, and that the island's population in those days was no more than half a million. It means that, on a proportional basis, these were massive casualties, borne mainly by the Greek side.

Both sides were employing a policy that would be known today as ethnic cleansing. The Greek extremists wanted Enosis, union with Greece, or a Hellenic Republic. The Turks wanted to drive the Greek Cypriots out of northern Cyprus, women and children as well as men; and that is what they did. The results of what they did are there for anyone to see—a Greek-free north and a Turk-free south.

Turkey claims, I know, that it was acting according to treaty rights. But it has made no attempt to restore the situation that prevailed before it intervened, as the treaties and many United Nations resolutions oblige it to do.

Twenty-two years have passed since that war and little has changed. Visitors to Cyprus will see the red flag of Turkey flying on the hilltops three or four miles from the Larnaca beaches, where British tourists swim, or along a line that cuts through the city of Nicosia. It is a grim reminder of Berlin during the East-West conflict and of the fact that, in one small part of Europe at least, there is still a cold war and any "new order" is conspicuous by its absence.

This armed division of the island, and the presence of 35, 000 Turkish troops on its soil, is a matter of great alarm to the Cypriots who live there, Turkish as well as Greek. Turkish Cypriots who wish to speak to Greek Cypriots are hardly ever allowed to cross the ceasefire line and go south to any meeting place. Mr. Denktash's administration will not issue them with passes to go across the line. I should be grateful if the Minister, who I know has visited Cyprus and has taken a keen interest in the problem, would make some comment on the question of passage across the line in both directions. I believe that the Turkish Cypriot administration's barriers to it amount to Soviet-style behaviour contrary to international law. The UN Declaration on Human Rights stipulates that everyone has the right to leave their own country and return to it.

This line of armed men is also very dangerous, as shown by the events of last summer. The Turkish side has been, to put it mildly, trigger-happy—very quick to shoot, as the East Germany border guards themselves used to be. Last year, in August and September, and later, one Greek Cypriot was shot for trying to climb a flagpole. A second was beaten to death by Turkish fascist thugs, known as Grey Wolves, imported for the purpose from the Turkish mainland. A third was shot dead simply because he wandered into the demarcation line looking for edible snails.

As far as I can see, nothing has been done on the Turkish side to investigate these murders. The incidents have fuelled bad feeling, extremism and public rhetoric, and at the end of the year yet another serious crisis erupted. It arose when the Greek Cypriot armed forces contracted to buy, and threatened to deploy, a Russian ground-to-air missile system. The Turks have threatened to take naval action on the high seas to prevent the delivery of this equipment.

Not for the first time, there has been the threat of war breaking out on the issue, not only on the island but, more widely, between Greece and Turkey, and maybe more widely still, throughout the eastern Mediterranean. The United States Government is to be congratulated particularly on the measures that they took to deter Turkish action in this event.

There are some who see merit in the status quo. It is said that the status quo has a certain paralysing stability and that at least it limits the amount of violence that can be perpetrated by one side against the other. I beg you though, my Lords, not to fall into the delusion of accepting the status quo as an easy way out. Violence will erupt sooner or later if something is not done quickly. The search for a settlement becomes all the more urgent as one sees the probability of war in the eastern Mediterranean, caused by desperation among the island's population.

The division of Cyprus is holding back the Turkish Cypriot economy. Immigration into Cyprus from the Turkish mainland continues in a way that upsets the island's inter-communal balance. And all this is happening in a country that, from the economic point of view, is well qualified to join the European Union and has indeed applied to do so and is expected to do so by the end of this century.

I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister what is being done to prepare for Cyprus's entry into the EU. There will be, we must expect, an unusual federal constitution in Cyprus even if we are successful in negotiating a settlement. If there is no settlement, there will be an even more nightmarish scenario as we try to accommodate a divided Cyprus. Are preparations being made in the EU machinery with Britain's help? I very much hope so.

I should like to congratulate the Foreign Secretary on his visit to Cyprus last month. Previous holders of his office have tended to stay away, but Mr. Rifkind went there and produced a list of 10 points on which both sides in Cyprus are agreed, a sort of highest common factor of Greek and Turkish agreement. I believe that this exercise was extremely useful and I hope that Mr. Rifkind will pursue it.

Her Majesty's Government cannot solve the Cyprus problem—this must be done by the two communities—but we can help by suggesting to the two sides that there could be agreement, with goodwill on each side, to establish a bi-regional federal country. There could be negotiation; compromise, for instance, on the amount of territory held by the Turkish side. At the moment, it stands at 37 per cent. Both sides agree that it could be reduced—perhaps to 33 per cent. or, even lower, to 28 per cent. Agreement is not out of the question on this point.

There is also agreement that something must be done about the refugees, Turkish and Greek; but how? Are they to be allowed back to their homes, where they lived in 1974, or are they to be compensated with land or money? Both sides agree that there should be a central federal Cyprus government. But what powers should it have? Should it have powers over foreign policy and defence only; or should it have tax-raising powers, powers over the environment and fisheries? These are issues that I believe should be studied in preparation for the time when negotiations will begin.

Both sides agree that the two federal states ought to control their own internal security. How is this to be done? Will identity cards be needed, to be shown at border points? How will the extremists be kept out? Cyprus has been too much the victim of so-called patriots, who are really extremists. There must be no more murderous incidents on the line between the two federal states in Cyprus after a settlement.

I believe that there are many issues on which the two sides are in agreement, as outlined by Mr. Rifkind in his 10 points, and elsewhere. I hope that this line of encouragement will be pursued. I believe that both sides agree that there should be a common market and a single currency between the two federal states. The Greek side must help to build up the Turkish Cypriot economy. Again, how is that to be done? I imagine that the European Union and the United States will want to help, as will the three guarantor powers, of which Britain is one. It is in all our interests to clear up this fearful blot on the European map.

Britain has very close links with Cyprus today as well as in the colonial past. Many of your Lordships have been there and some have served there. I am very glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, in his place, since he played such an important part in the events of 1974. I believe that we all seek a settlement of these problems. We look forward to hearing from the Minister about any way in which the British Government can encourage this process. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.21 p.m.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I should like first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, on having initiated this debate, which some of us may feel is a little overdue. I also congratulate him on the effective way in which he has for some years been chairman of the all-party Friends of Cyprus group, of which I am also a member. I have had the opportunity to pay a number of visits to Cyprus over the past 10 or 15 years. On a number of occasions it has been possible for me to visit the northern part of the island, as well as to have extensive discussions with politicians in the republic.

It is 22 or 23 years since the Turkish army invaded northern Cyprus. I do not believe that there is anywhere in the world where a military invasion by one country of another's sovereign power has been allowed to continue for such a period of time and where the fact of that invasion has been largely forgotten by the world community. It is no wonder that those in Cyprus who want to see the island united believe that all too often the outside world is forgetting them and does not want to hear any more about Cyprus.

After all, as the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said, 200, 000 people on each side have lost their homes. There has been enormous pain. I have talked to people who have been unable to return to their homes for 23 years. They have not been allowed to go to Kyrenia, even though that is where they were born and grew up.

There is also the legacy of several thousand people who disappeared at the time of the Turkish invasion and who have not been heard of since. There is the way in which, rather cynically, the Turkish Government have imported settlers into northern Cyprus from parts of eastern Turkey who have no particular links with Cyprus. It is believed that they have simply been put there to buttress the present regime in northern Cyprus. They do not identify as Cypriots with the cause of the island.

There is one other issue which causes a lot of anxiety and hurt to people on the Greek Cypriot side. It concerns the antiquities and historic sites, many of which are in the Turkish-occupied part of the island. So far as I know, no access has been permitted to Greek Cypriot antiquarians to look at the condition of the sites and possibly try to restore them. That is something which has deeply upset many Greek Cypriots. They believe that their heritage has been damaged, possibly irreparably, through their not being allowed even to see to the well-being of those sites.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said, we have a green line dividing Nicosia and both parts of the island, rather akin to the line that divided Berlin and East Germany from West Germany during the years when the communists controlled the East. It is quite a formidable division of what was once a united island. If anyone has visited the Turkish occupied part, it is possible to see Famagusta as a ghost town cut off by barbed wire and decaying, as no people are allowed there. That is testimony to the divisions of the island.

Cyprus is a member of the United Nations, and that should not be forgotten. It is a sovereign state recognised by the United Nations and the world community.

I agree that in the past, before the Turkish invasion, not all that the Greek Cypriots did in their treatment of the Turkish Cypriots was proper. The same is true on the other side. I have discussed that with Greek Cypriots in the government in Nicosia. They admit that they did not always treat the Turkish Cypriots as they should have done, but they are determined to learn from the lessons of the past and to make sure that in future Turkish Cypriots will be treated fairly and properly. So there is fault on both sides.

On the basis of conversations that I have had with people on both sides, the difference is that the Greek Cypriots are essentially looking forward and saying, "The past had elements that were undesirable and we are determined, if we can get our island united, to make sure that some of those bad elements from the past do not recur". I have talked to people in the northern part of Cyprus—the Turkish Cypriots—and they are obsessed with looking backwards. They are always saying, "This is how badly we were treated". I have asked them, "Why can't you look forward and be positive? Of course, there was bad treatment by one community of the other in the past". They tend to reply, "No, the important factor is that we must remember how badly we were treated".

On the Greek Cypriot side they have said to me over the years, "Of course, one of the difficulties is that we have caused no trouble. We have been docile. The world does not want to know. If there were trouble here, the world would pay more attention and maybe there might be a solution, but because we are causing no trouble we have been ignored".

When the communists were in control of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the feeling was expressed that Turkey was far too important to NATO to risk damaging NATO's southern flank. That is not quite the case any more. There have been the incidents to which the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, referred, including the killing of a number of Greek Cypriots by the Turkish army or by others in the area between the two sides.

I turn to the question of missiles, about which a Question was asked in this House a week or so ago. I regret that the Greek Cypriot Government have thought fit to buy ground-to-air missiles from Russia. That is not helpful in moving towards a settlement. But I believe that they have every right to do so because they are a sovereign state and the missiles are purely defensive. I understand that they are ground-to-air missiles and therefore cannot be used in any offensive sense. They have also said that none of them will be put in place for 16 months or so. Nevertheless, I believe that it was an ill-advised decision.

However, there can be no condoning the threat by Turkey to attack the southern part of the island should those missiles be put in place. Surely those threats are quite unacceptable in the way they have been couched. We also need to remind ourselves that there is the enormous military superiority of the Turkish army in northern Cyprus and 40 miles away on the mainland. I understand that there are 35, 000 Turkish troops and 400 tanks and the Turkish air force is only minutes away. There is also the threat by the Turks to locate some of their ships near Kyrenia. So there is a complete military imbalance between the two sides. It is no wonder the Greek Cypriots feel that they are constantly under military threat from the massive resources that Turkey has at its disposal.

What is to be done? Over the past 23 years they have sometimes seemed to be approaching an agreement. The two sides seemed to be moving together, but all too often hopes were dashed and agreement was not possible. We need to hope that there will be tension reducing measures, because unless the tensions are reduced it is difficult to see how there can be sensible negotiations. There need to be confidence building measures. I only wish that the Turkish side would feel able to do a little to increase confidence that there can be proper discussions. It may be they do not want discussions, but confidence building measures are necessary.

The Greek Cypriot Government have called for the total demilitarisation of the island. I can understand why they want that, but I believe that any settlement must ensure that there are safeguards for both communities and that each community will be able to feel secure. That may involve some period of time before the armies are removed.

It is right that there should be a single citizenship for the island of Cyprus and the concept of a single sovereignty for the republic of Cyprus, representing the whole island. There should not be dual citizenship because that would encourage separateness and would not lead to the proper unification of the island.

There is a limit to what outsiders can do, but as a guarantor power we have some responsibilities. I believe that the West, the United Nations and Britain in particular have an important responsibility to influence what is happening. Although there is a limit to what we can do, it is reassuring that Robin Cook has given a commitment that he also, in the event of a change of government in this country, will work for the unification of the island and will encourage that process.

The division of the island of Cyprus is a constant tragedy. It is a reminder that the United Nations and the West have failed to deal with the continuing military occupation of a sovereign state. It is important that we are all committed—whichever British Government are in power—to doing all that we can to ensure that the tragedy of that island is brought to an end and that it is united in the not-too-distant future.

3.31 p.m.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, I should like to join in the congratulations that have been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, on initiating the debate now. The noble Lord's timing has been masterly, managing to coincide this debate with the meeting of European Foreign Ministers in Rome today with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mrs. Çiller, of which we had some account in the Guardian this morning. When the Minister replies I shall be interested to hear whether she can confirm the statements that are attributed to a Foreign Office spokesman there about the line that we are taking at the meeting.

The debate comes on the heels of a flurry of activity—with the visit of the Foreign Secretary to Cyprus last month and the visit of the Shadow Foreign Secretary to Cyprus last week, as has just been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Unfortunately, those initiatives do not reflect any new opportunities for a political solution to the problem; nor do they mean that anybody here in Britain has any additional ideas for a solution other than to continue supporting the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General and his special representative Mr. Han Sung Joo. Madeleine Albright said that 1997 provided a window of opportunity, but that seemed to be an expression of hope rather than a conclusion drawn from the objective facts of the situation.

The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, referred to the 10 points outlined by the Foreign Secretary, drawn out of a hat, as it were, when he visited Cyprus. As the noble Lord acknowledged, those 10 points contained nothing new, but the way in which the Foreign Secretary put them managed to irritate both the Turkish and the Greek Cypriots. I shall not explain how that came about. It was more a case of what he omitted than what he included. It seems hopelessly optimistic to expect direct negotiations aimed at achieving a comprehensive settlement under UN auspices before the end of the first half of 1997, with preparatory talks starting early in 1997, as Mr. Rifkind demanded in point 7.

There have been no direct negotiations since October 1994, and there is no point in bringing the two sides together now unless there is some likelihood of making progress towards the comprehensive settlement we would all like to see. Only a week after the Foreign Secretary's visit, the Security Council was expressing itself, Gravely concerned by the deteriorating situation in Cyprus and by the fact that intercommunal tensions on the island have escalated and, over the last six-month period, violence along the ceasefire lines has reached a level not seen since 1974". I think that we would all agree that since then things have got even worse on the island. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, referred to the proposed acquisition by Cyprus of the Russian S-300 ground-to-air missile, which he said was an "ill-advised" measure. I am disposed to agree although I must underline the fact that it was manifestly a defensive measure and there is no reason for the aggressive language and the military gestures by the Turks and their colonists in the north which followed that decision. Mr. Denktash, for instance, says that if the Government of Cyprus, fill the island with missiles", they will have to take on Turkey, with its population of 65 million. Mr. Denktash and President Demirel proceeded to agree to develop what they describe as a "'joint defence concept". Turkey says that it will establish air and naval bases in the occupied north, and last week sent warships to the island.

Mr. Bülent Ecevit, leader of the Turkish Democratic Left Party, says that Turkey must reject the federal solution for Cyprus, which has been the lynchpin of the Security Council's attempts to solve the problem over the years, and which was reiterated in Resolution 1092 of 23rd December 1996, in which it, reaffirms its position that a Cyprus settlement must be based on a State of Cyprus with a single sovereignty and international personality and a single citizenship"— those points were omitted from the 10 principles outlined by the Foreign Secretary during his visit to Cyprus— with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded, and comprising two politically equal communities as described in the relevant Security Council resolutions, in a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation, and that such a settlement must exclude union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession". Mr. Ecevit was, of course, Prime Minister in 1974, and the Prime Minister of today, Mr. Necmettin Erbakan, was his coalition partner, and advocated then that Turkey should annex the whole of Cyprus. Mr. Ecevit seems to have forgotten that when he says on Turkish TV that "we" had no intention of placing the entire island under Turkey's sovereignty in 1974. Mr. Erbakan reaffirmed that he held a different view in 1974 when he said in an interview with the Northern Turkish Cypriot journal Halkin: we should have occupied the whole island and then separated it in two separate states". What Mr. Ecevit is suggesting now—presumably, from his past, Mr. Necmettin Erbakan agrees with him—is the partition of Cyprus, with the north becoming an independent republic and Turkey resuming responsibility for its defence and foreign relations. That, he says, is the de facto situation which would then be formalised and the Cyprus file closed.

It is in this unpromising context that Mr. Han Sung Joo arrives in Cyprus today for discussions with the government and with the representatives of the Turkish Cypriots, presumably to see whether there is any prospect of getting them to negotiate directly on the basis of Security Council resolutions which are being repudiated so frankly by the Turks and their puppets in northern Cyprus. The defence agreement between the TRNC and Ankara is inconsistent with paragraph 14 of SCR 1092 and all previous resolutions of the Security Council. According to Mr. Denktash, the agreement also provides that Turkey will take representatives of the TRNC, "to those organisations that do not want to listen to us and say: Here are the Turkish Cypriots, and now they will speak". This is a unilateral implementation of Mr. Ecevit's proposal, and it makes further discussion within the boundaries established by the Security Council impossible.

It seems unlikely that Mr. Han will persuade the Turks to cancel the agreement made so recently with Mr. Denktash, and, indeed, it is not clear whether he is going to Ankara at all. If it proves impossible to get the parties round the table with an understanding that discussions are to be held within the parameters which had been agreed of a bicommunal, bizonal federation, what else is there left for Mr. Han to discuss?

Most urgent is the need to reduce the military build-up, which increases the dangers of bloodshed and, ultimately, of the destruction of all the United Nations' painstaking efforts to achieve a solution of this problem over the years.

It has been said that there are 30, 000 Turkish troops in the north—that was the figure given by the Secretary of State in his last report—plus another 4, 500 Turkish Cypriot auxiliaries. The republic has 11, 500 men under arms and 123 main battle tanks. When one considers the government's programme of modernisation one should also take into account, as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has pointed out, the enormous weight of the Turkish armed forces and their highly sophisticated modern weaponry which stands behind their already superior forces in the north of Cyprus itself.

The Washington-based Human Rights Watch calculates that NATO has given Turkey over the years more than 500 combat aircraft, 500 combat helicopters, 5, 000 tanks and thousands of artillery pieces, mortars, machine guns and assault rifles. The United States is supplying Turkey with 120 ground-to-ground missiles with a range of 165 kilometres, which could be used to attack Cyprus from the mainland.

According to Pax Christi International, the UK has recently supplied the Turkish armed forces with radios, night vision equipment and minesweepers. We are not in the same league as the Americans and Germans in supplying weapons to Turkey, but we should also pay attention to the recommendation of Human Rights Watch that all arms supplies to Turkey should be suspended until it no longer engages in gross violations of human rights and the laws of war. If for reasons of realpolitik the EU states continue to ignore the obligations that they freely assumed in the OSCE's principles on conventional arms transfers of November 1993 they should at least stipulate that military equipment that is supplied to Turkey is not transferable to northern Cyprus.

The Secretary-General also refers to the proposals made by UNFICYP in October for the extension of unmanning to areas where the opposing forces are close to each other; the prohibition on loaded weapons along the ceasefire line; and the adoption of a code of practice by troops along the line to minimise the risk of incidents. I understand that hardly any progress has been made in implementing this package in the past three months, although UNFICYP is discussing it this week with representatives of the military on both sides. In the absence of trust between them, and with the suspicion that any scheme of this kind will increase rather than reduce the vulnerability of people who live and work near the line, even such modest confidence-building measures are unlikely to be agreed. However, the Government of Cyprus have suggested that unmanning should first be tested in three main areas where there are no dwellings near the line, and that will be better than nothing.

The Foreign Secretary's 10 points omit—understandably in one way—any mention of the fallback position to be adopted if the negotiations do not get under way. He says that if a political settlement is reached in 1997 EU accession negotiations will be conducted with the sovereign bizonal, bicommunal state of Cyprus six months after the conclusion of the IGC. But the EU is also committed to the accession negotiations whether or not there is a political settlement. As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has said, it is obvious that failure will complicate the accession negotiations, because interim arrangements will need to be made to apply the benefits and obligations of membership in only one part of the sovereign territory of the republic.

It should be made clear to the Turkish Cypriots and their masters in Ankara that they have no veto on the accession negotiations and that, on the contrary, failure to reach a settlement of the Cyprus problem could prolong the economic isolation of the TRNC and the consequent hardship suffered by ordinary people who live in the entity, though not by their leaders.

If the negotiations fail it will mark a decisive turning point in Europe's relations with Turkey. Because of the Cold War it suited the West to regard Turkey as part of Europe, and that antinomy was reflected in Turkey's membership not only of NATO but other institutions like the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Yet Turkey has never been prepared to conform with the rules of those organisations. If she now blocks a peaceful solution of the Cyprus problem it will be seen that she does not belong in groups that adhere to the principles of peaceful co-operation and compromise. A great deal turns on Mr. Han's mission impossible, and we must all hope that, as in the film, the hero can succeed in the face of all the odds.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Vivian

My Lords, I am also most grateful to my noble friend Lord Bethell for bringing this subject to our attention today. Although it is necessary to touch on the past we should not dwell too much on that as it re-introduces bitterness and tends to stir up old passions which can only be detrimental to the essential need to find agreement to a solution of the Cyprus problem. We should look for future arrangements that lead to reunification of the strife-torn island. This is not the time or place to recall bitter memories or fan the flames of deeply entrenched resentment which would only cause future negotiations to become more difficult or prevent them taking place at all.

My knowledge of Cyprus is based on the fact that I served in the Army and lived there over a period totalling six years between 1967 and 1987: first, in the sovereign base area of Dhekelia at a time when the island was not divided; secondly, as a staff officer in UNFICYP after the inter-communal boundary known as the green line had been established; and, thirdly, as chief of staff and, for a period, commander land forces in the sovereign base area of Episkopi by which time the island was truly divided.

To keep the situation in Cyprus in perspective it is necessary to go back to about 1960 and the London-Zurich agreement which, among other things, established the guarantor powers of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom to provide security for Cyprus.

Too many people start their overviews with the arrival of the Turkish army in 1974. Back in 1964 many Turkish Cypriots had been forced by intense harassment to withdraw into beleaguered enclaves under UN protection. Even with this UN protection, the Turkish Cypriots suffered many atrocities and were denied resources and building materials for 10 years. In 1974 a Greek Cypriot by the name of Nicos Sampson led a coup in support of union with Greece. That incident triggered the deployment and intervention of the Turkish armed forces.

In 1976 UN forces in Cyprus under the command of General Prem Chand, a highly distinguished and most able Indian officer, had the unenviable task of evacuating all Turkish Cypriots from their homes and villages south of the green line to northern Cyprus. It was a most harrowing occasion for any observer. It was an occurrence in my life which is hard to forget. It resulted in the complete separation of the two communities, many members of which had been lifelong friends living in many mixed villages.

I turn to the political situation. There is a distinct fear that if a solution to the Cyprus problem is not found either the Turks or the Greeks may resort to the use of armed force to solve the dispute. If that occurred, inevitably there would be a possibility of conflict breaking out in the Aegean with two NATO allies fighting each other. It is quite possible that many Islamic countries would support Turkey and a full scale war between Turkey and Greece could develop. Surely, inability by the UK and western powers to resolve the Cyprus problem is unacceptable. Determined efforts must now be made. Help should be given to Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash to encourage them to hold direct talks leading to a formal agreement based on a bizonal and bicommunal federation with political equality—a principle that both sides have unofficially accepted.

I should like to make some observations on the application by Cyprus to join the European Union. Some time ago I thought that it would be more of a lever to bringing about a settlement in Cyprus if the dispute between north and south was resolved before negotiations took place for membership of the European Union. I now believe that I was wrong in that belief. I believe that the possibility of Cyprus joining the EU provides a distinct stimulus and a new opportunity to ensure that the differences and difficulties between the two communities can be overcome, leading to a lasting settlement based on a bizonal and bicommunal federation with political equality. The EU Foreign Affairs Council in 1995 accepted that negotiations on Cyprus joining the EU could begin and they are likely to start in about January 1998. The European Union announcement emphasised that accession should benefit both communities and mandated the Commission to develop contacts with the Turkish Cypriots to discover how their concerns about EU membership could be resolved. Can my noble friend the Minister say whether the EU has held any discussions with the Turkish Cypriots and, if so, at what level? Talks should be held with the Turkish Cypriots in a similar way to those that the United Nations hold with them. It is clear that EU membership will bring substantial benefits to both communities.

To understand the Cyprus problem there is a need to know about military resources. There are some 30, 000 Turkish troops in the north and some 10, 000 national guard troops in the south. The Turkish troops are equipped with about 350 tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery and helicopters. The Greek Cypriots have been rearming the national guard with sophisticated weapons which now include the French Exocet missile, some 150 AMX 30 tanks, around 40 T.80 Russian tanks, APCs, artillery and helicopters.

During his visit last month my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said that the number of weapons and troops was dangerously high. It is hard to believe that only some two to three weeks after his visit and his comment on the dangers of the arms build-up, the Greek Cypriots should sign an arms deal with the Russians for a number of SA300 surface to air missiles costing some £400 million. Surely this shows a defiant attitude when arms levels are already dangerously high? It is an unhelpful and unnecessary action which only makes it more difficult for the two leaders to come together for direct talks. The time has come to stop the arms race. Otherwise it could well lead to Turkey taking pre-emptive action against the Greek Cypriots should they implement the deployment of their recently acquired surface to air missile system. Indeed, Turkey has intimated that it will take military action, and a number of bellicose statements have been issued.

What is the root of the problem in Cyprus? I believe, in one word, the answer is security—security for each community. It is the lack of this and the failure to establish mutual trust and confidence between the two communities that has caused the division of the island for nearly 23 years. Without agreed security guarantees there will be no real lasting settlement in Cyprus. A situation must not be allowed to return whereby extremists from either side could upset an eventual agreement, once again plunging the island into feud and strife with people living in fear of their lives.

In 1992 Mr. Boutros Ghali, the then Secretary General of the United Nations, drew up a set of ideas which formed a framework for a bizonal and bicommunal federation with political equality. The ideas drew on nine main proposals and spanned aspects of a federation which dealt with the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and fundamental rights including freedom of movement, settlement and property ownership anywhere in the united republic. They also covered security and guarantees, territorial adjustment, displaced persons, economic development and safeguards, and transitional arrangement. These UN ideas for a settlement, providing for a unitary but bizonal and bicommunal federal state with political equality, have been accepted by the two sides as a basis for discussion and still represent their basic positions. But each has reservations and the ideas are not accepted in terms. The Secretary of State's recent 10-point plan adds a further useful dimension, encouraging the need for direct talks between the leaders of the two communities before the end of the first half of 1997.

I have suggested that accession to the European Union will benefit both communities significantly. A window of opportunity will exist to re-open direct discussion between the two communities. A common base position is that both sides agree in principle that a solution for the island should be based on a bizonal and bicommunal federation. However no solution will be forthcoming unless all Cypriots show a strong will and determination to achieve one.

So what steps can the western powers take to encourage Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash to start up direct discussions once more? First, mediators should carefully pave the way in guiding subordinates on each side on how agreement could be reached. Secondly, strenuous efforts must be made by Her Majesty's Government to ensure that both sides will not face difficulties in presenting any agreed package stemming from direct talks. Thirdly, the build-up of weapon systems and military resources and the issuing of bellicose statements must cease. Fourthly, both communities should remain domiciled within their own zones for a number of years. Lastly, realistic compensation, assessed by an international body, should be paid by each side to those who have lost their property.

The Cyprus tinderbox could spark a war between Greece and Turkey at any time. That would severely weaken the NATO southern flank and no doubt provide Islamic support for Turkey which in turn could threaten oil supplies to the west from the Middle East and create many other extreme problems in this sensitive area. Already there is jockeying for position in the Middle East: Greece has established an informal defence accord with Syria, and Turkey has made a pact with Israel to allow warplanes of both countries to use each other's air bases.

The Cyprus problem is at a critical level. Every effort must be made to encourage the start of direct talks between the two leaders of the island to agree a solution based on the United Nations' set of ideas framework document and establish a bizonal and bicommunal federation with political equality.

3.58 p.m.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, I would like to join in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, not only for bringing the possibility of debate to this House but for the work he does in company with the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, President of the Friends of Cyprus. We are the friends of all Cyprus and there should be no misunderstanding about taking sides.

One of the bitter results of the present situation is that if a Turkish Cypriot wants to discuss his professional problems with another Cypriot who might live only a mile away, we have to organise meetings in London so that each can come separately, however near they live together in Cyprus. It would be much better if there could be some sort of referendum—although I do not always like referendums—among the ordinary people of Cyprus. There is no inevitability about this separation. I am sure that many noble Lords will have visited the Greek island of Rhodes, where there is no trouble at all between these two communities. After all, Greece has only been in Rhodes since the war, having turned out the Italians, but to be a citizen of Rhodes is hardly mentioned at all.

On the question of armaments, I would like to say this to the Minister, for whom I have great respect. I recollect discussing this matter many years ago with Tony Crosland, whose death was a serious blow not only to the Labour Government but to the country as a whole. Before I made my maiden speech in this House, he said, "It's no good you going on about Cyprus, Lena, because we have no clout with Turkey". Nothing that has happened since has disproved what he then said. We have heard today about the lack of balance between the Turks and Greeks in Cyprus.

I must spend a moment or two on rearmament. I was in Paphos last summer. People in the south are frightened. After all, they can read in their history books about the country's position under the Ottoman Empire. They tell me that there are threats. They ask, "Why else are there about 35, 000 Turkish soldiers here?". The whole of Cyprus is just about half the size of Wales. One Cypriot said to me during the summer, "Do you need 35, 000 soldiers to keep Mr. Nadir safe from British justice?". If they are not there to help him, what are they there for? They say, "Look how they treat the Kurds. Look at their disastrous human rights record and lack of press freedom". That is why they are frightened.

I know that the Minister appreciates the problem. In reply to a Question I asked about the discussions that were taking place, she said: The Secretary General has since made clear his view that the Turkish Cypriot side has not shown the good will and co-operation required to achieve an agreement".—[Official Report, 11/10/93; col. WA3.] I hoped that things might have improved, but the latest news makes the position more doubtful than ever.

I share the hopes of others that arrangements will be made to incorporate Cyprus into the European Union, but we cannot have two separate parts of a country joining. That would be impossible. We have to seek a way—not just us in this House and in this country—to change the atmosphere. It will not be improved while there are these massive numbers of Turks—I have to say Turkey Turks—in the north.

There are now more Turkish immigrants from Turkey in the north of Cyprus than there are Turkish Cypriots. They are deliberately upsetting the demography. One of my Turkish Cypriot friends, of whom I have plenty, said to me in the summer, "I feel closer to those Greek Cypriots with whom my family has lived for generations than I do to those Anatolian immigrants". According to Turkey's own figures, over 4, 000 Turkish Cypriots have emigrated from northern Cyprus. Many have gone as far as Australia because they wanted to get away. There is no hard line, and we must find a way around or over the problem.

When I saw the pictures on television at the weekend of those Turkish navy ships in Famagusta, I was reminded that I was at Famagusta in 1960. I was present at the signing of the treaty of independence. My memory of Famagusta was of sitting at a table, with Hugh Foot, as he was then, sitting at its head. There was Dr. Kolcak on one side and Makarios on the other. All around the table were Turkish, Greek and British representatives. We did not mind that. It was a day of hope. Sir Hugh Foot decided that he would emulate Richard Coeur de Lion and sail home from Cyprus believing that a job had been well done. It was disastrous for him in the years following to feel that his signature on that treaty had been dishonoured. I know he was bitter and felt that this country had been dishonoured.

During the war, when we know that Greece paid such a brave price, there was a volunteer regiment called the Cyprus Regiment. Nearly 300 members of that regiment were killed. When I asked the War Graves Commission who they were, I was told that they had joined the Cyprus Regiment and that it had not made a note of whether they were Greek, Turkish or whatever: it was the Cyprus Regiment. My noble friend Lord Wallace, who was a member of the War Graves Commission, confirms that it was the Cyprus Regiment. Why cannot we achieve that feeling of being together? After all, if we were together then, it should not be impossible for us to work things out together now.

Many people living on both sides of the dividing line just want to go home. Most of them were originally farming people. One can look across the line and see that the olive trees are not so well cared for. People stare at their old houses. Both sides want to go home. Until that becomes possible, I do not see how we can let the matter rest. I know that Mr. Denktash has to make many more journeys to Ankara than Mr. Clerides makes to Athens.

I referred to the Cyprus Regiment, but many more people in the island joined other regiments. Mr. Clerides joined the RAF as a pilot. He was shot down over Germany. When the war ended, where did he go? He came back to Camden Town, where he was one of my constituents. He is probably the most hopeful ruler of the Greek Cypriots with whom we have had to deal for a long time.

We manage all right in Camden Town. I never know which waiter is which when I go to a restaurant. I do not care, and they do not seem to care.

I wish to ask the Minister two important questions. A recent edition of the Observer contained an article which appeared to suggest that, although we have a ban on supplying arms to either side, some arms appear to be getting through from Switzerland. Is that correct? Secondly, how much aid are we giving to Turkey unilaterally and how much is getting through under the terms of NATO? There is a gross disproportion in the balance, and the threat of the Greeks purchasing from the Russians cannot be understood unless the imbalance is corrected. Neither side will trust the other while the present situation continues.

4.11 p.m.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Bethell for introducing the debate at this time and for giving us such a clear and comprehensive picture of the situation.

It is eight years since I went on a defence visit to Cyprus, although I have been there on holiday since. Nothing basically seems to have changed. It is still split in two parts, with the Turks and the Greeks breathing rather more heavily over their respective ethnic areas. It is still a single and most beautiful island, the birthplace of Aphrodite, who emerged from the foam on a beach halfway between Episkopi and Paphos. When my husband and I also bathed there in the sparkling foam we were the only people on the beach, although I suspect my husband was hoping that another lady might emerge.

Apart from the natural beauty of the island, if one excepts some rather horrific tourist developments around Ayia Napa and Paphos, there is an inbuilt friendliness and warmth among the inhabitants, whether they are Greek Cypriots or Turkish Cypriots. Well, I would say that, would I not, being descended rather distantly from the fairytale Lusignan kings of Cyprus?

Cyprus has always had a warm relationship with Britain, dating back at least to the days when Richard Coeur de Lion married Berengaria in Limassol, and continuing with the current close relations with our services, both in the sovereign base areas and those serving on the north/south border with the United Nations.

When we visited a border post in Nicosia in 1989 the young officer had laid on a special tea for us. He gave us Earl Grey tea, with lemons given to him by Greek Cypriots and honey cakes given to him by the Turks guarding the border. I think that that says something for our relationship.

When my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary visited Cyprus recently, by visiting both the south and the north and going from one to the other he demonstrated that it is one island and must remain so, even if the administrations for the two areas remain separate.

Earlier this year my son and daughter-in-law were staying in an hotel in a remote village on the panhandle of Cyprus, whose Turkish Cypriot owner had been evicted from his original home in the south of the island in 1974. His current hotel had belonged to a Greek Cypriot, similarly evicted. It had been appropriated by the Turkish Cypriot Government, who had then sold it to him. He therefore held right of tenure by purchase in good faith and by all the work he had done on the property in the years since.

Too much has happened in the past. One can never go back and unscramble events to start again in the past where one left off. Now, at this very moment in time, is the moment to start and to go on from there.

My right honourable friend says that there are still 16 months before the Russian S300 missiles are delivered to the Greek Cypriots, which would further exacerbate the feelings of the Turks. That gives enough time to come to some agreement between the two parts of the island.

Thinking back on our visit, we had some lovely letters from the various service commanders thanking us for the small improvements in conditions which we were able to effect. But, above all, I prized the words of Mr. Camilion, the United Nations special envoy, who had spent so much time trying to effect a rapprochement between the north and the south. Thanking us for our good wishes, he said: Good words and good desires are most helpful in the place that I got". Surely, if there are enough of these on all sides a peaceful and secure solution for the island's problems can be found.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, on giving us the opportunity to talk about Cyprus and on the able way in which he covered the subject. I cannot match much of the expertise in this House, in particular that of the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, and others, but I have been involved in many ways with the problems of Cyprus. As my noble friend Lady Jeger mentioned, we have been involved since the early 1950s and I have a more "on the ground" approach than I would otherwise have had.

I shall not match any of the suggestions for a solution. I do not believe that we can do that here in a two-and-a-half hour debate. However, like many others, I am concerned about the deal which was concluded with the Russians to purchase missiles on 4th January. It has caused some consternation. With the purchase of the S300 missile systems, Cyprus aims to boost its air defences, countering Turkey's threats. I welcome the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who dealt at greater length with the Turkish threat. It is a real threat. Turkey already occupies 37 per cent. of Cyprus and has been there since 1974 in violation of repeated United Nations resolutions calling for withdrawal.

Criticism of the deal with the Russians has come from the United Kingdom, the United States and, of course, from Turkey. That was to be expected, but there are fears that such moves will cause difficulties in future steps towards a settlement and may create tension. None of us would deny that, but while part of Cyprus is occupied by Turkish troops—an estimated 35, 000—tension on the island will persist. Does not the purchase of those missiles send a message that efforts towards a settlement must be intensified and speeded up?

I understand that the missiles will be used to boost the republic's defence capability and are in no way an act of aggression. We have heard examples of the constant Turkish threat under which the people of the unoccupied area live. That tension has existed for 23 years and I share the experience of my noble friend Lady Jeger. During my visit last year I, too, felt the tension—one could cut it with a knife—as Turkish aircraft flew low over Nicosia. The fear and intimidation which such action is meant to evoke was evident among the local population. Threat and tension are constant and something must be done. The people have a right to ask what we are going to do. Are they expected to sit there and take that day in and day out? I recognise that there is a tremendous amount of tension, fear, intimidation and apprehension among the Cypriot population in that part of Cyprus which is not occupied.

It is worth pointing out that Cyprus remains the only divided country in Europe, the only country marred by the presence of foreign occupation forces. Contact between Greek and Turkish Cypriots is prevented by the 35, 000 Turkish troops who continue to impose the artificial division and in effect operate the partition of the island.

Partition is a well-known expression for us in this part of the world. We know how many times and in what circumstances partition has failed. But I feel that there is hope in the minds of many that if we leave the matter long enough, partition will eventually be accepted and the problems will all go away. If it is contained, there will be no trouble for a while. But what will happen is exactly the same as happened in other circumstances where we continued with that kind of interpretation of partition. Korea has been mentioned, as have India and Pakistan. We do not have to talk about Northern Ireland because there are half-a-dozen other examples with which we have been involved. Are we now contemplating another? Do we take the view that if the matter is contained, it will go away? I do not think that that will happen and we should not expect it to.

Thousands of people—40 per cent. of the population—were evicted forcibly from their homes as a result of the Turkish invasion in 1974 and are prevented from returning. I have spoken to hundreds of people about this. Living where we do, it is difficult to avoid almost a daily conversation about the problems of Cyprus, past and present. Therefore, we have some experience of that. We know that thousands of people are still waiting to hear about the fate of their missing relatives. Not many people speak about that but it is still a problem for many folk where we live.

The attempt to strengthen the republic's defence is being criticised. But, had there been such vociferous criticism in relation to the continuing illegal presence of 35, 000 Turkish troops and those intimidating flights which violate the republic's airspace, perhaps the republic would not need to strengthen its defence. I feel that we have been amiss for many years in relation to the kind of support that we have given to UN resolutions. There have been no positive directives from this country. As a guarantor, I should have thought that there would be many, because certain powers are given to guarantors but those powers do not seem to have been exercised.

It has been mentioned that President Clerides's proposal for a demilitarisation of Cyprus is still on the table. He has made that move and he is genuine about it but there has been little reaction to it. The Government do not even say that they support it and will push for it and put some guts behind it. There is none of that and there is not much pressure being put on the Turks to take a more positive and understanding approach for that proposal.

It is possible that the strengthening of the republic's defences might facilitate the peace process in a way. The Turks have been intransigent: nobody can deny that they have been totally intransigent during their 23 years' occupation of the northern part of the island. There has been no move in response to the many approaches made by the various Turkish Cypriot leaders. Therefore, the intransigence and arrogance of the Turks stems from the fact that they have 30, 000 troops in Cyprus. They feel that they can afford to be arrogant, intransigent, demanding and unbending, as they have been for the past 23 years. It ill behoves us now to say that it is up to those who are being oppressed and being offended to do this, that and the next thing. We should look more closely at the real situation.

We know that government spokesmen for Cyprus have already said that those arms will not be used unless Cyprus is attacked. I believe them, because they have no need to use them unless they are attacked. I do not know where Turkey has obtained her armaments. I know—and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned this—that the United States has announced an arms embargo on Cyprus but there is no similar embargo on Turkey.

Should we not be rather more even-handed, to say the least, in this situation where, as I have already said, there are 35, 000 Turkish troops and 400 armoured vehicles in Cyprus as well as the obvious permanent superiority of the Turkish airforce? Could it not be said that those factors are major reasons for instability in the region? Should we not remind ourselves of the contents of the 80-odd Security Council General Assembly Resolutions, which all repeat the same basic points?

It may be relevant to mention in passing the basic points which have been reiterated time and time again. The General Assembly: Reaffirming the principle of the inadmissibility of occupation and acquisition of territories by force …, Deeply regretting that the resolutions of the United Nations on Cyprus have not yet been implemented …. Deploring the fact that part of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus is still occupied by foreign forces …, Reiterates its full support for the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, unity and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus and calls once again for the cessation of all foreign interference in its affairs …. Welcomes the proposal for total demilitarisation made by the President of the Republic of Cyprus …, Considers the withdrawal of all occupation forces from the Republic of Cyprus as an essential basis for a speedy and mutually acceptable solution of the Cyprus problem; [and] Demands the immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces from the Republic of Cyprus". There have been 80 resolutions since 1974 but there were 20 or 30 resolutions between the period 1960 and 1974, so there have been more than 100 resolutions and those basic features appear in them all. Should we not press for the implementation of those proposals rather than stand back and criticise and say how it should be done? The problems could be solved if we supported those with real muscle and if we supported the United Nations resolutions.

I conclude by asking the noble Baroness one or two questions. First, I should like her to comment on how she sees the situation as it is now from the United Kingdom's point of view. I want to ask her whether the United Kingdom is still selling arms to Turkey and whether she thinks that there is a possibility of those arms being used in the occupied area. Finally, something else that has been mentioned but it must be re-emphasised, have the United Kingdom Government registered any protest about the three warships reported to be in the occupied port of Famagusta and what has been the Turkish response? I should welcome a positive response to those three simple questions.

4.28 p.m.

Lord Ellenborough

My Lords, I too am indebted to my noble friend Lord Bethell for giving us the opportunity to discuss the problems of Cyprus. It is tragic that the background to this debate is that there is an arms race in full swing on this lovely island. There is possibly a greater density of armed men and weapons than anywhere else in the world.

Of course, any build-up of strength tends to give each side a sense of security or superiority but that is only at the expense of the other and so it is a vicious circle. Obviously, both sides must work most urgently towards a reduction. As the late Lord Attlee said, in a different context, a period of silence would not come amiss.

My noble friend Lord Bethell mentioned that he is a Friend of Cyprus. I must declare myself a friend of North Cyprus but I trust that that does not preclude me from being a friend of all Cyprus, which I have visited on several occasions. The first time that I visited the island was with a defence group some years ago and I think the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was with me at that time.

I do not want to hark back to the past, but, even in such a short debate, I find it difficult not to refer to the past a little. After the British withdrawal from Cyprus in 1960, the new constitution brought about a bicommunal republic of which the Greek Cypriots were the senior partners because of their greater numbers but which also guaranteed the rights of the minority, including a provision for a Turkish Vice President and, indeed, many other safeguards. That 1960 state of affairs was guaranteed by Britain, Turkey and Greece under a treaty of guarantee. I believe that it is the failure of that guarantee which makes the Turkish Cypriots so nervous: once bitten twice shy.

As we know, all went disastrously wrong from the start and within three years the Greek Cypriot majority had effectively destroyed the constitution, excluding the Turkish Cypriots from their allotted positions, who, to all intents and purposes, then became stateless citizens.

Between 1963 and 1974 there were faults and excesses on both sides but I believe many are agreed that it was the Turkish Cypriot minority, totally unprotected, who had by far the worst of it. That forced a very substantial Turkish Cypriot emigration. We do not seem to hear about this from those who deplore the increase in the Turkish Cypriot population which has taken place in recent years. Nor, if I may say so, do we hear very much about the settlers who have arrived in Greek Cyprus from Greece and elsewhere.

As we all know, the crunch came in July 1874. There was a Greek coup and Greek troops came into the island. That is when Turkish Cypriot families began to be massacred with a vengeance. The Turkish Cypriot powers appealed to the guarantor powers to help, but Britain did nothing and only Turkey took action and sent in troops to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority; that is why they went. Therefore, the reason for there being so many Turkish troops in Cyprus was that so many Turkish Cypriots were in danger of being massacred—indeed, a considerable number of them were. Of course, that is not to say that there should be a reduction in Turkish troops at the earliest possible moment. Then, following an agreement made in 1975, the Turkish Cypriots moved to the north and the Greek Cypriots moved to the south. That resulted in many innocent people on both sides suffering greatly.

After that, it is difficult to see what the Turkish Cypriots could have done. As we know, they did eventually set up their own Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983 but they still made it clear that they wished to work towards a new constitution for the whole of Cyprus. I find it incomprehensible that the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus should not be recognised after this long period of time as the Turkish Cypriots have repeatedly made it clear that they accept the concept of bizonal, bicommunal federation. Moreover, it is normal practice for the UK to accord recognition on a pragmatic or de facto basis. Mr. Denktash's Government not only exercise de facto sovereignty but also do so by the express will of the people.

As long ago as 1987 the Commons Select Committee recommended that, whatever the prospects for an early settlement, the British Government and others must recognise the need to release northern Cyprus from its present pariah status and that everything should be done to facilitate contacts between northern Cyprus and the outside world. I congratulate my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, on his recent visit to Cyprus, on actually crossing the green line and entering the forbidden territory which, officially, does not exist. Perhaps that is a hopeful sign.

Obviously the Turkish Cypriots are very aggrieved that they are still discriminated against and, for all intents and purposes, do not exist as a separate country in so far as diplomatic relations are concerned. The Greek Cypriots have had little incentive to agree to the bizonal solution because the present situation suits them very well indeed. The Greek Cypriots alone are recognised as the Government of Cyprus, being represented at the United Nations and Commonwealth meetings, yet it was they who broke the 1960 constitution. Moreover, the Greek Cypriots receive virtually all the foreign aid and investment whereas the Turkish Cypriot republic does not even have direct air or sea communications and has to rely on Turkey for almost everything. The one-sided nature of international proceedings on the Cyprus question must surely impair the authority and fundamental validity of the resolutions and decisions passed by the numerous General Assemblies, Security Councils and other bodies which the Greek Cypriots so often use in support of their case.

Now, the switch from the United Nations to the European Union platform has unnerved the Turkish Cypriots considerably. Unilateral application by the Greek Cypriot Government, claiming to act on behalf of the whole island of Cyprus, for membership of the EU seems to me to be fraught with danger. I feel that an application at this stage is premature and could only succeed after a full settlement between both communities on the island. I believe that my noble friend the Minister, who will reply to today's debate, said on 13th January in this House that she did not believe that accession without a comprehensive settlement would come about.

Of course the difficulty is that the Turkish Cypriots would not recognise the authority of the Greek Cypriot Government to act on their behalf before a settlement, mainly because, in effect, that would bring about the one thing that they have been dreading and resisting all along; that is to say, union with Greece. That is because Greece is an EU member while Turkey would remain outside. As I understand it, the EU rules would also mean that the Turkish Cypriots would lose any protection that they might negotiate against being swamped in northern Cyprus by Greek Cypriots. Worst of all, from their viewpoint, they would lose the protection of Turkey, as Turkey could hardly intervene in such a situation which involved an EU member state. At any rate, that is what I understand they are afraid of, and with some justification.

The danger in all this is that it could inevitably lead to a closer integration with Turkey, not because the Turkish Cypriots generally want to become part of Turkey but because they would see no alternative to closer integration with the only friendly country. It seems to me that the present western policy of discriminating against the Turkish Cypriots is becoming increasingly dangerous and serious. It is driving the Turkish Cypriots ever more towards Turkey; and, indeed, driving Turkey away from the West towards the hard Islamic East. As has been mentioned today, Turkey is an important nation of some 60 million people and huge economic potential, which is vital to NATO and of great strategic importance in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. If it has democratic institutions not as firmly established as some would wish, then I would have thought that it is essential that good relations are maintained and every encouragement given.

However, the trouble is that western policy towards Cyprus is damaging relations with Turkey as well as with Turkish Cypriots themselves. Turkey is growing tired of Cyprus being used against it in almost every international forum. There was a recent article in the Financial Times which reported that the chairman of the Turkish Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee stated, that Turks are becoming disillusioned with Europe. Turkey sees itself as European but people feel that Turkey is not wanted in a Christian Club". Perhaps the most fundamental difficulty is that the Turkish Cypriots will never agree to any large-scale movement of Greek Cypriots into their sector. At enormous cost, suffering and bloodshed, the two communities are now separated and it would be disastrous to mix the two communities once again, with their different languages, different religions, different race and different culture. The basic truth is that they are two separate and distinct ethnic communities. In fact, they are two peoples.

4.40 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, not only for initiating the debate but also for having made a speech with every word of which I agree. That always seems worth an expression of thanks across the House. I thank, too, the noble Lord, Lord Ellenborough, for his speech. It indicated fully and accurately the Turkish position. In our inner minds—without spending too much time talking about it—we can consider what value and coherence his speech contained.

The problem we debate relates to even-handedness. We may all start from the assumption that even-handedness is good: that if people are quarrelling and we are not directly involved, we must, above all, be even-handed. I do not believe that that is tenable in Cyprus. Even-handedness is acceptable only when other factors are equal; but in Cyprus they are not. I shall come back to that point later.

While we may not have considered the point at length in the debate, we have heard how the independent state of Cyprus, emerging into independence after the British Empire, has three guarantors: Britain as the ex-colonial power; Greece as part of the same linguistic group as the majority population; and Turkey as part of the same linguistic group as the minority population. When we consider the past history, it is not that some country has invaded and occupied a part of another, but that one of the guarantors of the independence of that country has done so; and we are another guarantor of that independence. Can we say that we are content with the vigour with which we have prosecuted our manifest duty to induce the other guarantor to go back?

I am also struck by a kind of time warp. The fault of the Greek colonels and Nicos Sampson is held to be in some way equivalent in the moral balance to the continued Turkish occupation. The Greek colonels were a despicable fascist government who took over after a coup d'état. Their installation of Sampson was a ridiculous convulsion in their very last days—they must have known that they were their last days. I do not remember how long Sampson lasted. It was days rather than weeks and certainly not months. He was duly got rid of. He would have been got rid of even if the Turks had not invaded. Greek Cypriots are not the kind of people to sit down under a continuation of the Athenian colonels' regime which might have been established at the very moment the colonels became defunct. That would not have happened.

However, Turkey did what it did. It is now a problem which affects the European Community, the tricky balances around the Middle East, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and—this has hardly been mentioned yet—Islamic-Christian relations in general. It has poisoned all those for 23 years. The price that we have paid has been well shown by the fact that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ellenborough, could be a thread of opinion which is heard in this country from British people.

I apologise to the House. I should have begun by declaring an interest. I have visited Cyprus many times. On one occasion I was the guest of the legitimate government of Cyprus for some days. I have also visited the north, although, if I remember aright, not in the company of the noble Lord, Lord Ellenborough. Perhaps I should regard it as a kindness, which ought to be entered as an interest, that the occupation forces in the north admitted me for the inside of a day.

Not only do we have the history of UN resolutions defied one after another, the unanimous condemnation of the world ignored, and so on, but now the arrival of what begins to look like an arms race. The House may hope that when the noble Baroness replies she will put the matter in perspective. We all heard the comparison of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, of the ground-to-air missiles on one side and the ground-to-ground missiles on the other. What assessment can one make of the Turkish military forces on both sides of the strait, compared with the Greek Cypriot forces? One cannot say that the Greek forces are on both sides of the strait, because they are too far from Greece to expect military support if it were to come to a fight.

Perhaps the noble Baroness will anticipate the answer that she will give me (it may be coming from her noble friend Lord Howe) about whether Her Majesty's Government regard those Russian SAMs and similar missiles as being aggressive or defensive weapons, or both. In arriving at an understanding of the military balance, that is the all-important question.

I think that at some time during the second part of last year there was a shift in UK-US policy on the Cyprus question. I refer to phrases that one picks up in ministerial governmental declarations in both Washington and this country. There seems to have been a shift away from wholehearted endorsement and pressure in favour of compliance with UN resolutions, towards even-handedness. In this case even-handedness cannot be in place. It would be a grave mistake if we ever stood back and began to regard the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and the Turkish invasion army, as just another remote population who were bickering in a way we find unreasonable, and that we must knock their heads together—no longer physically but morally—as one does to equal contenders who are tiresomely disturbing the peace. Realities have to be recognised. They are historic. One short, sharp and idiotic wrong was committed by Greeks against Turks, since when there has been 23 years of relentless military occupation and prolonged wrong committed by Turks against Greeks.

4.49 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to debate Cyprus; it is the first we have had for some time. My noble friend Lord Dubs says that the debate is a little overdue. I agree. But at least, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, it is a very timely debate.

The international effort to find a peaceful negotiated settlement is now being intensified. We on this side of the House strongly support that effort and hope that it leads to a breakthrough that will end 23 years of division on the island. Moreover, if we win the election, we will work hard to find a solution that is consistent with international law and United Nations resolutions. We must not forget that the UK has a special responsibility to Cyprus. Not only is this country a permanent member of the Security Council and a member of the European Union; it is also a guarantor of the Cyprus constitution. It is vital that we do all we can to help bring about a lasting settlement.

The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, went into the sad history of the conflict. I do not want to repeat what he said. I do, however, want to repeat something that I learnt at the weekend about the two communities in the United Kingdom. I was told by a friend of mine who is a lecturer in a further education college just north of London that there had been some concern in the college about whether Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot students could work together. That concern turned out to be completely unjustified. The students work together in the same classrooms and get on very well. I hope, similarly, that the will exists in both communities in Cyprus to find a way through so that security is guaranteed for all Cypriots in a relationship between the two communities based on equality and that all the refugees from this sad and tragic conflict will eventually be able to return home.

We support UN proposals for a bizonal, bicommunal federation. My right honourable friend the shadow Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs visited Cyprus last week in order to discover more about the views of both communities on what should happen next and how progress can be made on reaching agreement. Our view is that any settlement must be acceptable to both communities and must entail a single sovereignty as well as two politically equal communities with a high degree of autonomy.

Later today there is to be a debate on the Commonwealth. Cyprus is a valued member of the Commonwealth. A Labour government would want to explore with the Government of Cyprus whether the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting this year, of which Britain will be the host, can help to contribute to the momentum in bringing about a solution to the Cyprus question.

The Labour Party also welcomes the application of Cyprus for membership of the European Union. I hope that the application can help to act as a catalyst for a solution to the problems of the past 23 years since we all want Cyprus to join as a united country. There is, however, a danger that Cyprus's wish to become a member of the EU could become entangled with Greek and Turkish disagreements about the future of the island. In any case, the application from the Republic of Cyprus should be considered on its own merits and no third party should have a right of veto, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, argued.

But any consideration on its own merits must take into account the political situation in Cyprus itself. The Minister said at Question Time two weeks ago that accession without a comprehensive political settlement in place was unlikely to happen. Perhaps she will repeat that statement. The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, asked a number of very pertinent questions about preparation for Cyprus's entry which I hope the Minister will address.

Cyprus's bid to join the European Union should be seen as an important new opportunity to make progress towards settlement. Similarly, Turkey cannot hold out much hope of encouragement in any bid it may wish to make to join the European Union if its attitude towards the conflict within Cyprus is belligerent and uncompromising. An arms race with Turkey is not consistent with Greece's stated ambition to join the European monetary union, given its colossal national debt. Aspirations to participate fully in the European Union among all the players in the Cyprus conflict therefore provide the international community with some leverage in obtaining a settlement in Cyprus.

Progress in achieving that cannot have been helped by the Cypriot Government's decision to purchase missiles from the Russians. As my noble friend Lord Dubs said, the decision was ill-advised. Will the Minister say whether any approach has been made to the Russians to ask them to back out of the deal? Given the fact that advanced surface to air missiles in Cyprus can only inflame the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, would it not have been more responsible to have refrained from a deal of that sort? Not that an approach from the UK Government—given their record on arms sales—would be likely to cut very much ice. However, a United Nations initiated proposal for an embargo on further weapon supplies to the island would perhaps help in the long-term goal of demilitarisation—an aim which I believe we all share. Since apparently no delivery of the missiles is planned for 16 months, there is some time to see whether ways can be found to prevent them ever arriving. Then the confidence building measures to which my noble friend Lord Dubs referred can be introduced.

It is a pity that Mr. Clerides seems to think that there is some advantage in raising the military stakes prior to attempts by the international community to start talks with both sides. The Cyprus Government would do better to cancel the order rather than use it to point a gun at the heads of those who are trying to act as peacebrokers. I know that the Minister's right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said as much when he visited Cyprus before Christmas. But can the Minister tell the House a little more about the outcome of the recent visit by Mr. Cavanaugh, the United States envoy to Cyprus, than we have read in the newspapers? It appears that some progress was made in defusing tension. That may be true; but any building of trust, which is a necessary condition for successful talks, is unlikely to occur while the threat of missile installations continues.

I strongly agree with my noble friend Lord Stallard that the Turkish reaction has served only to increase tension further. As he and other speakers said, Turkey already has air superiority over Cyprus as well as substantially more troops in northern Cyprus than the Greek Cypriots have in the south. Threats to carry out pre-emptive military strikes on any air defence system that might be installed is a dangerous over-reaction. Again, it would be helpful if the Minister could indicate what approaches have been made to the Turkish Government to persuade them to take a more measured position. If Turkey wishes to remain a respected and dependable member of NATO, threats of that kind are surely out of place. The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, rightly drew our attention to the trigger-happy behaviour of the Turkish military in northern Cyprus.

The Cypriot Government's decision to purchase missiles follows a difficult and unstable period on the island with renewed tension during the summer along the cease-fire line separating the two communities. One positive result of Mr. Cavanaugh's recent visit is agreement on the two sides for a new code of conduct along the green line. That includes proposals relating to the unloading of live ammunition by soldiers on either side of the line and unmanning sentry posts. Perhaps the Minister can comment on the proposals and their implementation.

A number of speakers have called for restraint on all sides. It is now some time since both sides accepted a bizonal, bicommunal federation as the best, even if far from perfect, solution to the conflict. The problem is that neither side seems to know quite how to get there or how to make the compromises necessary to get there. The Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus, with large numbers of Turks from mainland Turkey acting as quasi-colonists, cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. A number of speakers referred to the unacceptable and rather cynical encouragement of this migration by the Turkish authorities. There is, however, some hope that Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots can share their beautiful island on an amicable basis, just as the young Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can study together in the same class in north London. It will, however, require courage and compromise on both sides. As my noble friend Lady Jeger said, there is no inevitability to the divisions that exist. A fair and just solution must be found after so many years of conflict.

The United Nations has made it clear that more effort will be put into mediation to solve the Cyprus problem in 1997. The United States is ready to throw its weight behind achieving such a settlement. Whoever is in power in the United Kingdom after the general election, the British Government must do all they can to make 1997 a year in which the conflict there is resolved so that Cyprus can go on to take its place as a member of the European Union, provided that it meets the other conditions for entry. As I said at the outset, a new Labour government would do all they could to bring that about.

5.1 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Bethell for giving us this opportunity to discuss the situation in Cyprus. I still remember very well leading the British delegation to a CPA conference in Cyprus three-and-a-half years ago. I remember taking the opportunity to visit Mr. Denktash across the green line, to go down the green line with the soldiers and to discuss with the Greek Cypriot leaders what more could be done.

I came away with the abiding view that has been expressed by many in our debate today that reducing the tension, starting the talking, building up the understanding are the only ways to resolve the problem. At present we face a situation where the leadership on each side has become implacably unwilling to listen to the other side.

We have moved into another year without a settlement. But as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said, we believe that 1997 can and must be a year for real progress. The tensions were described by the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, and the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, and they know them well from their previous constituencies and present residential friends. They know just how people have overcome the tensions when living in this country or staying in third countries and how much they feel those tensions when they go back to Cyprus.

Today we have heard many eloquent contributions about the wrongs and injustices in Cyprus over the past 30 years and more. It is a story of much pain, deep suffering and divided families. Above all, what is required is action, not more hand-wringing. That was precisely the point which my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made when he visited Cyprus last month. Nineteen ninety-seven is a very important year for the future of Cyprus. It is a year in which to make a real effort on both sides to change the status quo which has prevailed for far too long.

I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Bethell for what he said about the Foreign Secretary's visit in December. Without going through the 10 points of the basis for making further progress, I think it is notable, as my noble friend Lord Vivian said, that each of the points is accepted by both communities. Therefore, there is a basis on which to build.

The violent clashes which were witnessed last summer along the UN-patrolled buffer zone were a stark reminder of just how fragile that status quo is, as my noble friend Lord Vivian and others have said. In recent weeks, we have had the powerful and unhappy reminder that Cyprus is the setting for a dangerous arms race in the Mediterranean. There is now a greater density of modern weapons and men under arms in Cyprus than just about anywhere else in the world. That is exceedingly dangerous. The decision by the Cyprus Government to buy Russian-built SAM-10 missiles adds to the stockpiles. It must be said that it also adds to the already palpable tension and insecurity.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked me what approach had been made to the Russians. Yes, of course, we made it absolutely clear to the Russian Government at the first available opportunity that that was not a helpful development and that clearly they should desist. I cannot tell the noble Baroness of any positive reply, I regret to say.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked whether the missiles were defensive or aggressive. In this context I do not think that the distinction is particularly meaningful. The missiles stir up the situation and, whether or not they are there for defensive purposes, they are seen as aggressive by those against whom presumably they are intended to be used. Otherwise, why would they be purchased in the first place?

Lord Avebury

My Lords, how can they be used against people? They are against aircraft, whereas the missiles that the Turks are acquiring from the United States are ground-to-ground missiles which can be used against civilians in Cyprus.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, they may not be used directly against people but if they are used against aircraft, it has certain consequences if the aircraft fall out of the sky. The missiles increase the tension and increase the will to react against them. That is why I described them in the terms that I did. In the absence of moves on either side to reduce arms and troops, each side ratchets up the race and increases the insecurity. It does not add to the security.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept another question?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we are in a timed debate, we have another one after this and I hope the noble Lord will understand that I am not prepared to keep giving way during the debate.

We have heard comments from my noble friend Lord Bethell and the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, about the visits of Turkish warships to Cyprus. They are another ratchet in the arms race. We have made it clear to the Turks—indeed, to both sides—that they should take all possible measures to reduce tension and insecurity. Over the years, there have been visits to Cyprus, not only by Turkish warships but also by Greek warships. So neither side is blameless in that respect. But at present the visit of Turkish warships adds to the tensions.

The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, asked me about arms sold by the UK to Turkey. We have no evidence nor any reason to believe that arms sold by the UK have been deployed in northern Cyprus. Nor have we any reason to think that there is any intention to do so.

I mentioned the violent clashes witnessed last year. Whatever has happened in the past cannot be changed. What can now be done is to take definite action to reduce the tension. The Greek Cypriot decision to purchase the SAM-10 missiles and the reaction of the Turkish side already described just makes more uncertain and fragile what is not really a peace but a ceasefire at present.

The situation has wider implications beyond the island itself. It is now a continuous source of tension between Greece and Turkey. It is futile to debate whether rapprochement between Greece and Turkey is a condition for a Cyprus solution or whether the reverse is the case. Both can be argued. But the current situation requires urgent progress on both sides. That is why we must do our utmost to help the leaders of both communities reach a just and durable settlement which will allow them to live peacefully together.

There is a real opportunity for a comprehensive political settlement in 1997. Britain is determined to sustain a particular effort to help turn that opportunity into reality by supporting, encouraging and persuading the leaders of the two Cypriot communities and by supporting the United Nations in the search for a settlement. Nothing less will match the importance which Cyprus has for Britain and nothing less will adequately fulfil the responsibilities which we in Britain have, about which we have heard so much today.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, mentioned the problems of the Turkish settlers in Northern Cyprus. We have always made it clear that the measures to change the demographic balance in Northern Cyprus will never improve the climate for a negotiated settlement. We are aware that there is concern on the Turkish Cypriot side about the issue. They can see in private the problems that it is beginning to create but normally do not admit it in talks. That is one reason why progress on settlement is overdue.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to an article in today's Guardian and asked about the meeting being held in Rome. It is held against the background of deep concern on all sides that the relationship between the European Union and Turkey needs putting back on a productive track. One aim is to underline that a viable and equitable solution in Cyprus should be an interest shared by all. I cannot give the noble Lord a read-out of that meeting for, although we telephoned, we have not yet received it from Rome.

In opening this interesting debate my noble friend Lord Bethell sought to persuade us to focus on the European Union accession preparations. It is fair to say that the European Union has maintained a structured dialogue with Cyprus. The next association council with the Government of Cyprus is due to be held in February. These processes are designed to help prepare for the opening of accession negotiations by Cyprus. We have had talks with the Government of Cyprus. It remains difficult for the Turkish Cypriots to engage formally with the European Union and the European Commission.

My noble friend Lord Vivian asked about the discussions between the European Union and the Turkish Cypriots. A number of member states—the United Kingdom prominent among them—have maintained extensive contacts with the Turkish Cypriot community to try to increase the understanding of how the EU works, how membership could benefit the Turkish Cypriots, and how the wider European family could help to resolve the problems. But the question must remain at the back of many minds as to whether both sides want to resolve the problems.

Why should 1997 be different from the years that have gone by without a settlement? One reason is that the EU dimension gives a new urgency and incentive. The European Union agreed to start negotiations for Cyprus's accession six months after the end of the IGC. While I cannot be precise, that in practice looks likely to mean that we would expect the negotiations to start in early 1998. We can envisage with considerable confidence that if the settlement was in place when those negotiations began, it would be an enormous step forward on a smooth path towards accession. But let me say clearly that there is no easy gliding into the EU for Cyprus. While it is easier with a settlement, no one should make the assumption that entry by a divided Cyprus is impossible, although it does seem unlikely, which was the comment I made in answer to a Question in your Lordships' House some 10 days ago.

Perhaps I can underline also that no non-European country has the right to veto an entry. Various things have been written in the press which may have made that less than clear. We have made the position clear to the Turkish Government. However, as my noble friend Lord Vivian said, EU accession negotiations could be a stimulus to end the differences. That is why there should continue to be discussions with both sides.

If a settlement cannot be achieved by the start of accession negotiations, we step into the unknown. We cannot and should not try to guess how the web of calculations would or could unravel. My conviction is that, in those circumstances, the situation would not only be more complex and obscure, but also much more dangerous. I can assure your Lordships that the Government are doing all they can, in the company of others, to bring about an easing of the tension and a more positive approach to the problem.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked what happened during the visit of the US envoy, Mr. Cavanaugh, to the island early this month. I understand that President Clerides made clear to him that no equipment related to the SAM-10 missiles would arrive before another 16 months. That was the information I gave the House 10 days ago. But he also confirmed to Mr. Cavanaugh a willingness to agree on unloading and demanning issues. The United Nations representatives on the island are continuing to have talks with the military forces on both sides so there may be some chance of agreement, although it will require a great deal of effort and some stepping back on both sides.

The influence of the United States and its interests in the region have an important role to play, alongside the guarantor powers and the European Union. We welcome the active participation in supporting the UN's mission of good offices. We will work closely and regularly with President Clinton's special emissary, Richard Beattie, and look forward to working with the new US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and her team on the Cyprus question. Sir David Hannay, Britain's special envoy, will visit Washington and New York at the beginning of next month for a further round of discussions with officials.

We are seeking to pull together all the efforts being made to try to find a peaceful resolution to the problem. There is much work to be done and Sir David Hannay is to the fore in all of that. His role is to strengthen our contribution to the concerted UN international effort. There is much one can say about the UN 1992 Set of Ideas. It contains many of the building blocks which are needed, but we need to use those building blocks; to interpret them in a sustained effort to fit the pieces together; and to try to make sense of the problems involved.

In opening the debate my noble friend asked about the contacts and possible passage across the line. It is easy for outsiders, perhaps with prior arrangements, to cross the line occasionally, but it is extremely difficult for those within the island of Cyprus. Although we remind the community leaders on both sides that nothing can be gained from restricting people's freedom to move within the island, we do not have very much response. We shall continue to work hard to encourage bicommunal contacts. That is the way forward. We shall remind both sides that the contacts can only be helpful in building a basis on which both communities can peacefully co-exist.

In the end the keys to a solution do not lie in the hands of even a supportive and concerned friend like Britain; they lie in Cyprus. There is no reason why, with the will to succeed, a solution should be beyond the grasp of both communities. The time has come for their leaders and for Greece and Turkey to look for opportunities to reconcile, not opportunities to provoke. The politicians and the people of influence on both sides carry a heavy responsibility. They must avoid the rhetoric of confrontation and provocation. Both sides have had to live through a very painful period of history. It is easy to look back, reflecting on the injustices, the wounds and the wrongs. In fact, it is all too easy to fall back on the ready currency of recrimination, blame and hatred. Such options, easy today, will only make tomorrow much harder.

We have heard such familiar rhetoric in the past few weeks in the wake of the Cypriot Government's decision to buy those SAM missiles. We call again on both sides to resist the temptation to use this development to provoke and confront one another. Instead, we urge them to work wholeheartedly with the UN Secretary-General's special representative, Professor Han Sung-Joo who is now on the island for a round of intensive and detailed discussions. Britain remains determined to sustain active support for that process. We shall do all we can this week, next week and in the months and years ahead, to make sure that a peaceful solution to the problems of the divided island of Cyprus succeeds.

5.22 p.m.

Lord Bethell

My Lords, I am very grateful to all those who have taken part in the debate, particularly to my noble friend the Minister for answering so many of our questions so clearly. I wish I could say that I was cheered by the debate. I was well informed by it but not very much encouraged to think that we shall see a solution to the Cyprus problem in the immediate future. Indeed, the future looks grim. We have witnessed the end of what might have been called in another context an annus horribilis on the island, with people murdered on the green line and with a threat by the Turkish military to blockade the island. It has been a very bad year. Let us hope that this year will be an improvement.

The debate has underlined the point—with the possible exception of my noble friend Lord Ellenborough—that there is no enthusiasm for the status quo in Cyprus. There is no feeling of, "Let's keep things as they are. Maybe it won't be too bad and maybe Cyprus will agree to put up with it in the medium or long-term future". On the contrary, there is a desperation about the situation in Cyprus that could lead to an outbreak of real hostilities if it is allowed to continue.

I wish to make one point before urging the withdrawal of my Motion for Papers. What is to be the situation when we start to negotiate the entry of Cyprus into the European Union when or if there has been no settlement? I had understood that the Government's position was one of so-called "constructive ambiguity" and that they were encouraging both sides to co-operate over a settlement in order to ensure that the side which did not co-operate would be punished if it failed to do so. However, my noble friend has indicated straight out that Cyprus is very unlikely to join the EU in advance of a settlement of the problem.

I wonder whether that does not give too much of a signal to the Turkish side that it has, in effect, a veto over what is to happen in the event of no settlement being reached. Can we not say that we shall do our very best, whatever happens, to encourage Cyprus's entry into the European Union and that we shall try to accommodate Cyprus even if there is no settlement, even though it is what is called a nightmare, rather than give the Turkish side the excuse that the British simply think that it is very unlikely to be achieved? I do not know whether it is in order for my noble friend to answer. If she cannot, perhaps she will write to me on that point.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend has raised again an important point. I want to make it clear that, while I think it is unlikely, there is absolutely no veto for any country outside the European Union about who joins. We want to see Cyprus join. Let there be no doubt about that. We want to see a resolution of the problems. It will be very much harder to negotiate if there is no settlement in Cyprus—that is what makes it less likely—but there is no way in which any nation outside the European Union can have a veto on who joins. If Turkey goes on thinking that, then she will be mightily surprised.

Lord Bethell

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that clarification. On that note, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.