HL Deb 06 November 2002 vol 640 cc791-808

7.26 p.m.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made towards resolving the problems of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce this short debate on Cyprus, specifically Northern Cyprus, a region too often given the "blind eye" treatment and frequently misrepresented within the United Kingdom. More significantly, and with dire consequences for Turkish-Cypriots, the European Community has scandalously manipulated the issue.

I do not have time to retrace in detail the history of the past 40 years. Suffice to recall that the Greek/ Turkish arrangement for an independent Cyprus under the 1960 Treaty of Alliance precluded both enosis (union with Greece), the Greek and Greek Cypriot preference, and taksim (partition of the island), favoured by Turkey and Turkish Cypriots.

The Treaty of Guarantee committed Britain, Turkey and Greece to underpin and safeguard that arrangement. Yet between independence in 1963 and the 1974 Turkish "peace operation"—or invasion, depending on one's point of view—the Turkish-Cypriots endured a nightmare of discrimination, persecution and ultimately murder by their Greek-Cypriot neighbours. The 1974 Turkish action was fully justified and curtailed genocide that was already assuming monstrous proportions.

On 28th December 1963 the London Daily Express reported: We went tonight into the Turkish Cypriot Quarter of Nicosia in which 200 to 300 men women and children had been slaughtered in the last five days. We were the first Western reporters there and we saw sights too frightful to be described in print. Horror so extreme that the people seemed stunned beyond tears". The American Under-Secretary of State, George Ball, stated that the Greek Cypriot leader's, central interest was to block off Turkish intervention so that he and his Greek Cypriots could go on massacring Turkish Cypriots". Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon recalled: No one who lived as I did in Cyprus in the 1960s will forget what was happening. It was an attempt at the systematic elimination of a community. It was ethnic cleansing before that phrase came into vogue in the Western media". I do not suggest that every Greek-Cypriot colluded in those atrocities. History shows that many of them died as a consequence of Grivas/Makarios treachery. Like the IRA, EOKA operated on the theory that orchestrated murder and mutilation can keep an entire people in fearful subjection. Later, on 15th July 1974, five days before the Turkish operation, hundreds of Greek-Cypriot supporters of Makarios were slaughtered and were buried by the truckload in mass graves when mainland Greek forces overthrew the Makarios regime. One can only regret the Cold War pressures and strategic geographical considerations that precluded Britain from fulfilling her treaty obligations at the time. I do, however, pay tribute to our armed servicemen and women who have, since 1974, manned the Green Line and helped sustain peace on the island.

If one refuses to acknowledge what the Greek Cypriots did to the Turkish Cypriots—whom they outnumbered four to one—then one will not understand why the Turkish Cypriots established their own state. Nor will one comprehend why today they must not agree terms that may seem reasonable to outsiders but would put them at risk again.

I must ask why Britain—my nation—continues to be party to actions by the European Union that condemn a small, peaceful community of Turkish Cypriots to an economic, political and cultural wilderness, while concurrently embracing nations that until recently have been our sworn enemies.

That question cannot be answered without giving consideration to the recent "enlargement" deliberations by the European Union. The decision to exclude Turkey, our faithful ally for the past 80 years, while admitting a divided Cyprus in a situation that would enhance the Greek Cypriot south while further impoverishing the Turkish Cypriot community in the north, is surely perverse.,

I cannot accept protestations that the European Union would ensure equity. Is it not the European Union that imposes an embargo on exports from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus; the European Union that has sustained the embargo on direct flights into the TRNC; the European Union that has allowed Greek influence to dictate, effectively, that Cypriot history must be considered only from the moment Turkey sailed to protect a besieged people from barbarism?

Do we as a nation, while we preen ourselves on our human rights record, on our equality agendas and on our world leadership, do anything to ameliorate this injustice? No. We turn a blind eye; we raise no ripples on a "Sea of Humbug". And to what effect? Industrious Turkish Cypriots must abandon their beloved island and seek their livelihood in the UK, the USA and elsewhere. Hence, the Turkish Cypriot population gradually decreases and Greek Cypriot propagandists make much of that.

The European Union is effectively contributing to social engineering—dare I use the phrase "condoning social extermination"? We are helping to accomplish the "final solution"—what the Akritas Plan designed by Makarios, Yorgadjis and Clerides failed to accomplish by oppression and murder in the 1960s.

Not only are a people affected by the imposed isolation of the TRNC; the whole ecology of the Mediterranean may be put in jeopardy through financial constraints that preclude comprehensive, sustainable and scientifically planned environmental programmes in the area.

Worldwide, protected areas are set aside to conserve nature and landscapes with, invariably, international support for such objectives. In poorer regions financial support is made available through NGOs and the commercial sector. When decisions are made and actions implemented, national parks are sustained by inbuilt tourism programmes. How can that happen in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus when, after almost 30 years of peace there, we in Europe still fail to acknowledge its existence? The Mediterranean region is a global priority for conservation. Can that be achieved without cognisance being taken of Northern Cyprus as a major element in the equation?

Is there to be no recognition, no co-ordinated international programme, no resources, no tourists, no realism and no hope? Time is running out for the protection and maintenance of the biodiversity of the Karpaz; and the need to set up a national park—even more extensive than is often talked about—is a priority.

The town of Dipkarpaz and numerous villages could be restored within their own present boundaries to accommodate literally thousands of tourists who would, as I have for years, come to enjoy the natural environment and cultural heritage of the area. That is the viable alternative to gradual encroachment of development based on individuals' desire to have a skyline villa or a stretch of unspoiled beach. It is the alternative to ecological destruction.

Some good work is being done on a shoestring budget. On the initiative of my good friend, Kutley Keco—a resident of Girne and a devoted conservationist—there has been a successful programme supported by Glasgow and Swansea Universities to study and to help protect the habitat of the endangered green turtle, which nests on Northern Cyprus beaches. But that is only a fraction of what needs to be done. I do not have time to speak about the significance of the Kyrenia Mountains or the Klidhes Islands. Suffice to say that millions of migratory birds move through here annually and that unique flora and fauna exist now, but that, without realistic and timely international support and understanding, we shall negatively "change the face of nature".

My allocated time is gone. I am grateful for your Lordships' attention and to those who will participate in this debate. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, will be able to indicate some understanding by the Government of the enduring plight of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, its people and its environment.

It will not be adequate to be told merely that the United Kingdom Government, "support the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General". That does not stand up to close analysis because the United Nations, so far, has not been an impartial interlocutor. It has taken the Greek Cypriot side on the fundamental question—that the Greek Cypriot administration is the government of all Cyprus. That is not the case. That can never, ever again be the case.

There can be a solution on the island, but it has to be one that guarantees—absolutely guarantees this time—the integrity of the Turkish Cypriots.

7.37 p.m.

Baroness Boothroyd

My Lords, in the various debates that I have listened to in the other House over many years, uppermost in the minds of participants has been a recognition of the rights and the security of Turkish Cypriots as well as the rights and security of Greek Cypriots. It is right and just that that should be the case.

In this short debate the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, provides a welcome opportunity at a crucial period in negotiations on the Cyprus problem to raise a few questions about the current status of those talks. Most importantly, it enables the Government, in their dual role as a guarantor of the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus and a member of the Security Council, to bring together for us today the strands of the negotiations and to let us know the precise situation.

It is my understanding that, at the start of this year's talks between the leaders of the two communities, June was agreed as the target date for reaching an agreement on an agenda that was set by the United Nations Secretary-General.

That agenda required discussion of four core issues: the constitution of Cyprus; its territorial integrity; its security; and the combined issue of refugees and properties. Alas, it seems that progress was disappointingly slow, if not static. I understand that Mr Denktash did not wish to examine the core issues set down by the Secretary-General before pre-conditional proposals establishing two sovereign independent states in Cyprus, which would between them sign a treaty for a common structure. The Denktash proposals were outside the parameters set by the Security Council resolutions and therefore they were as unacceptable to that body as they were to President Clerides.

I make that point because I have before me a press statement issued on 9th July by the Security Council. It which expresses disappointment that progress remained slow and that the June target date for agreement had not been met. The statement stated:

They [the Security Council] noted in this regard that the Turkish Cypriot side had been less constructive in its approach so far and had declined to support the goal of resolving the core issues by the end of June". The statement goes on to urge both sides to cooperate fully to meet the requirements of Resolution 1250 and to work with Mr Alvaro de Soto for a settlement that takes full consideration of relevant Security Council resolutions and treaties. I shall quote a little further from the statement: They"— the Security Council, of course— strongly underscore the need for the Turkish side in particular to move in this direction". Will the Minister confirm that the Government will not allow a divisive element to enter into the talks and that they remain firm in their support of the legitimacy of Security Council resolutions and that the desire of the Government and their aim is a unified Cyprus, which means a single sovereign state? Is that the Government's position?

Early last month, though no substantial breakthrough had taken place at a meeting in New York between the two leaders, the UN Secretary-General used his good offices once again and established the setting up of two committees composed of representatives of both communities to consider the laws and international treaties that must be applied following a solution of the Cyprus problem. His intervention to keep the two sides together and to keep them talking must be welcomed. Can the Minister tell the House whether the two communities have nominated their representatives and whether the committee is in talks on those matters? Will she also confirm, at so close a date to the European summit in Copenhagen next month, that the solution of the Cyprus situation will not be a pre-condition for the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union?

I shall conclude on this note, as I have only four minutes in which to speak.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

It has gone.

Baroness Boothroyd

Yes, it has.

The time has now come when, in Whitehall jargon, there is a need to know. There is a need to know the Government's view of the obstacles to progress, a need to know the Government's view on the factors that contribute to the failure to make substantive progress in the talks. With that in mind, I look forward to the Minister's response.

7.42 p.m.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Friends of Cyprus. The Question is about resolving the problems of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The short answer is in two parts. First, the problems stem largely from a regime linked to the Turkish lira, which has lost half its value in 12 months. The economy has declined by 10 per cent in the same year and added 2 million to the number of those without work. Secondly, the most effective way to resolve the problems of Northern Cyprus is for the two communities on the island to agree a solution that would end the false division of the island so that both Cypriot communities can make the most of EU membership. That could also reverse the position that, sadly, there are more Turkish Cypriots in London than in Northern Cyprus because of the lack of economic prospects.

The call for a solution and for EU membership was launched in summer by Mr Ali Erel, a Turkish Cypriot businessman, in a document called The Common Vision of a Turkish Cypriot Civil Society, now supported by 90 NGOs and others. There is now a virtual consensus among Turkish Cypriots on the need for a settlement, for membership of the European Union and for Turkey to be given the rendezvous date that it seeks for the opening of talks on its application to join the EU in five weeks' time in Copenhagen. For those and other reasons, I believe that the two Cypriot communities have now, after long years of hurt and division, been presented with a triple golden opportunity. There is a win for both communities in Cyprus being given a date to join the EU in Copenhagen. The biggest short-term winners will be those living in the north.

There is also a win for both communities from agreement to establish a bi-communal, federal state. There is a win for Turkey in getting a date to open its negotiations on EU membership, on which the new government in Ankara has said they are keen. For the first time, the move is positively supported and encouraged by Greece. Thirdly, there is a win for both communities, their mother countries and the region from further rapprochement between Turkey and Greece. It is encouraging that Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of Sunday's winning party. the AK party, has responded immediately to an invitation from Greek Prime Minister Simitis to make an early visit to Athens.

I understand that there is substantial agreement between the leaders of both Cypriot communities on the setting up of a federal state that gives maximum autonomy, meets the proper security concerns of both communities and ensures full respect for human rights. There are important issues to settle: freedom of movement between both parts of the federal state; the rights of property; and the eventual removal from the island of foreign troops, other than those under UN or NATO control. I understand that the United Nations is soon to table proposals based on progress so far in the talks to deal with those and other important issues.

There are, perhaps, five weeks before the Copenhagen summit for the great prize of an end to the Cyprus problem to be won. It would compound the tragedy if the two Cypriot communities and their political leaders squandered the unique opportunity to build a better future together for themselves and their neighbours.

7.45 p.m.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, on securing the debate. The timing is most apposite, as we digest the political significance of Turkey's election results, not only for Turkey but for the wider international community. In addition, it was only last month that the EU announced its bold decision to opt for what has been dubbed a "big bang" enlargement in 2004. Historic and laudable though that goal undoubtedly is, we would be foolish to underestimate the difficulties still to be resolved, not least with regard to Cyprus.

It is the fervent wish of all who care about Cyprus to see a united Cyprus by the date of its accession. That is the aim of the EU, although it is also the EU's position that a settlement to the Cyprus problem is not a pre-condition for accession. I understand the rationale for that, but I shall return to the question of whether it is a realistic option.

Movement in the peace process seems now to depend upon the submission of a solution plan by the UN Secretary-General, but it is unclear whether there will still be enough time to reach a framework settlement before the Copenhagen European Council next month. Can the Minister say when she understands that the UN Secretary-General's proposals will be submitted?

The slow progress in negotiations is bad news for all of Cyprus, but particularly for Northern Cyprus whose political isolation, as we heard, has served to impoverish the Turkish Cypriots and has caused much economic hardship. The dwindling community of Northern Cyprus has been cut off from the rest of the world for the best part of three decades. Its people increasingly crave the normalisation of politics in the region. The noble Lord, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, rightly said—opinion polls back him up—that 90 per cent of Turkish Cypriots want to be part of Europe. However, until that happens, there is little to encourage the younger generation to stay. Economically underdeveloped and internationally unrecognised, Northern Cyprus has little to offer its people. EU membership could change all that, almost overnight.

The EU has also admitted the possibility of a far less rosy future. Although the EU has stated that a political settlement would facilitate the accession of Cyprus enormously, it has also made it clear that no third country can have a veto over a candidate country's accession and that there is no legal obstacle to Cyprus joining the EU if a settlement is not reached. Legally speaking, perhaps, there is not; but, practically, it is far from a risk-free strategy and depends as much on the relationship between Greece and Turkey as on the Cypriots of both communities. While heavily armed Turks and Greeks still face each other across the Green Line, the Cyprus dispute will continue to sour relations between Greece and Turkey. The fact is that Greece and Turkey play an important role in Cyprus, and relations with those two countries dominate Cypriot politics.

It is an ironic twist that the Cyprus negotiations have entered this new and urgent phase just as Greece is poised to assume the EU's rotating presidency in January. The prospect of navigating the diplomatic minefield that would arise from a situation in which a NATO country had an army of occupation garrisoned on territory in the EU is a grim one indeed. Equally, if the Republic of Cyprus were to join the EU in the absence of a settlement, what incentive would there be for Northern Cyprus to compromise and negotiate, if the EU door is shut in its face? We should consider the reported comments of Mr Denktash last month, made as he left the UN building in New York: Only one point. If EU takes Cyprus as a member, talks are ended and Cyprus is divided forever". There is still a chance that there will be a breakthrough in the direct talks in Cyprus before the EU summit next month. We are entering a crucial time for efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem, and I hope that the Minister will be able to report some positive developments.

I believe that there is hope and that it is possible to find a solution that addresses the legitimate concerns and vital interests of all, but I am concerned by the slow speed of progress. There is no shortage of incentives to find a solution. A new EU with the whole of Cyprus in it would be better for both Cyprus and the EU. After all, the raison d'être for the creation of the European Union was to facilitate the reconciliation of enemies and to prevent war and conflict between members. Nowhere do those sentiments have more resonance than in Cyprus today. Nothing would be a more fitting memorial to the EU's founding fathers' vision of "a Europe whole and free" than the accession of a reunited Cyprus in the first wave of enlargement of the twenty-first century.

7.50 p.m.

Lord Kilclooney

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, on his Question. It comes at a timely moment—a sensitive period when Cyprus is seeking to join the European Union and there is an encouraging rapprochement between Turkey and Greece. We congratulate Mr Erdogan on his considerable victory in the recent election in Turkey.

I have known Cyprus for over 30 years. I bought a house there in 1972, prior to the island's division into two separate entities and administrations. I have been back to that house every year since then. It happens to be in what is now called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In 1972 it was in the Republic of Cyprus, but in my opinion such a country constitutionally has ceased to exist.

We must not go into the background in detail, but Turkish Cypriots form 22 per cent of the population. There will never be a settlement in Cyprus without their agreement. Both sides must reach an agreement. You cannot have a united Cyprus just by asking for it: you must obtain an agreed Cyprus in which both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots come together in agreement and have that agreement approved by the two communities in their own sectors of the island.

The treatment received by the Turkish Cypriots was terrible: the 22 per cent of the population they comprise were forced into 3 per cent of the island's territory. Your Lordships can imagine the dreadful situation. Then there was a Greek-inspired coup from Athens, overthrowing the Greek Cypriot President, Makarios. Then the Turkish Government and army intervened, in their role as one of the lead guarantor powers of Cyprus. There have now been two separate entities for 30 years. We must not live in the past. We must accept that we have moved on by 30 years: two communities; two entities.

In Kosovo there was a similar ethnic dispute between the Kosovans and the Serbs. The Serbs lost their homes, as the Greek Cypriots did in Northern Cyprus. What did the world say about Kosovo? It did not say the Serbs must return to their houses. In fact the international community is encouraging Kosovans to live in what Serb houses still remain. This is a contradiction. In Kosovo financial support is being provided to Kosovans to occupy the empty houses, whereas in Cyprus some people are living in the past and saying that the Greek Cypriots must have the right to return to Northern Cyprus.

I do not know whether the Minister has been to Northern Cyprus; perhaps she will tell the House. Most of the Greek Cypriot houses do not exist; they have either collapsed and disappeared through 30 years of deterioration or people have built new houses on top of them. Houses do not remain for people to return to.

I turn to enlargement. There are two reasons why there has not been great movement in the talks: first, the recent illness of President Denktash, who is in the Presbyterian hospital in Washington after a heart operation. That is bad news because it could delay the talks; we wish him well. The second is the foolish decision by the European Union to tell the Greek Cypriots that they do not have to reach a settlement but will be brought into the European Union whether or not there is a settlement. That removed the incentive from the Greek Cypriots to reach an agreement.

That is now the core problem. There is no encouragement to the Greek Cypriots to reach agreement with the Turkish Cypriots. I hope that there is an agreement. The Turkish Cypriots want one and the Greek Cypriots certainly want one. It can be on the basis of what exists in Belgium: some kind of federalism in which the Greek Cypriots have their sector and the Turkish Cypriots have their sector but there is overall sovereignty for international affairs.

If there is not an agreement and the European Union goes ahead with enlargement, I fear we will have a situation where Turkey does not annex Northern Cyprus but integrates it. It is already well on the way in doing so. As has been said, the lira is already the currency; and the telephone and postal systems are integrated with Turkey. In almost every respect Northern Cyprus is already integrated.

7.55 p.m.

Baroness Harris of Richmond

My Lords, my contribution will be brief as my knowledge of this beautiful island is desperately small. In declaring my interest I must tell your Lordships that I visited Cyprus at the invitation of the Republic of Cyprus Government for three days in June this year. Your Lordships will say that that is hardly enough time to form much of an opinion. But it showed in the starkest and clearest way how desperately we need to find a solution to what is commonly referred to as "the Cyprus problem".

I pay great tribute to the people who made my visit so interesting. Their generosity and hospitality were overwhelming. They answered all my questions without flinching, even when we talked about the time my brother had been fighting there in the British Army in the 1950s. They expressed a great weariness and anxiety about their future and I promised to do what I could to help their process towards accession.

I was fortunate enough to meet a number of Ministers: those for foreign affairs, the interior, justice and public order; the deputy chairman of the House Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, the head of the Negotiating Delegation for the Accession of Cyprus to the EU, His Excellency the President of the House of Representatives, the Chairman of the House Standing Committee on European Affairs, the Deputy Mayor of Nicosia, and senior civil servants; as well as our own High Commission. So your Lordships will see that my time was filled with meetings.

But while I was there I witnessed at first hand the desperation and anger felt when a comment was made about there needing to be a "new state" of Cyprus. This was taken literally, when I understand it was not meant to have been. But it was a clear indication that the language we use in this highly charged atmosphere is crucial. Misunderstandings can arise where there should be none; and however frustrating and time-consuming it might be to find the right words to help both sides of this debilitating dispute move forward, I urge Her Majesty's Government to continue to find them.

I come to this debate from a brief but intensive visit to Cyprus. My reasons for going were to see for myself how its accession plans were progressing. I found that it was very much on course to assume membership of the European Union, and it is to be warmly congratulated on that.

But essential problems remain. Turkey has threatened to annex the north if the EU accepts Cyprus, and Greece has warned that it will veto the expansion programme if Cyprus is refused entry. As we have heard, the June date for a basic accord on the future of the island has come and gone and still there appears no resolution.

Meanwhile, the families on both sides seek information and closure on the fate of their loved ones who disappeared during the 1960s and 1970s, when inter-communal violence escalated. I saw for myself the place where relatives stood every Saturday, and have done so ever since those dark days, holding up photographs of their family member. It was a lonely and dusty site on the Green Line, guarded by a UN soldier, and it left me with a profound feeling of sadness.

I therefore ask the Government what they are going to do to help resolve this essentially humanitarian problem. What progress has been made to share information and set up a joint DNA bank which will help identify any exhumed bodies? This was, I understand, suggested by the UN in 1997.

The Cyprus problem has been called "a quiet crisis", and indeed we in the EU appear to be jogging along to accession of the 10 applicant countries without hearing too much of the problems this will heap on us all should a solution not be found. The benefits of accession for both Northern and Southern Cyprus will be a prize beyond worth. It is my fervent hope that my next visit will be to a united island, whose people live and work together in mutual recognition and respect of their cultures and who can go forward into a new progressive age as members of an enlarged and enhanced European Union.

8 p.m.

Lord Rogan

My Lords, your Lordships will be aware that I come from a divided island. I know how, after reading a few books, speaking to a few people or visiting a few towns, it is easy to claim that you are an instant expert and to give advice. I do not wish to stand here before you today as an instant expert on the Cyprus problem. I certainly feel it is not possible unless one has been several times to both Northern and Southern Cyprus. I am pleased to say that I have been to both on several occasions.

I want further to highlight what my noble friend Lord Maginnis of Drumglass mentioned: the economic, political and cultural wilderness in which Turkish Cypriots find themselves as a result of crippling embargoes imposed by the Greek Cypriot administration.

Since 1963 Turkish Cypriots have been prevented from reaching their full economic potential. The Greek Cypriot administration has imposed very stringent economic sanctions on the Turkish Cypriot area: an all-embracing embargo, coupled with an intensive campaign of hostile anti-Turkish Cypriot propaganda, that has led to the almost total isolation of the Turkish Cypriot people from the rest of the world.

The Turkish Cypriot people have been effectively denied their right to engage in political, economic, social, cultural and sporting contacts with the rest of the world. And we, the British, European and international community not only turn a blind eye but actively participate in these embargoes. We do so by recognising the Greek Cypriot regime.

Let me give your Lordships a few brief examples. In April 2001, the Greek Cypriot leader, Mr Clerides, admitted that the Greek Cypriot administration had imposed an embargo on all ports and airports in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, declaring them closed and illegal. The Greek Cypriot administration refuses entry to Southern Cyprus for all foreign visitors who have chosen to enter the island through seaports and airports in the North. For those who wish to cross from South to North, there are restrictions on the duration of stay, and this does not even allow for an overnight visit. Nor are visitors to the North allowed to purchase any goods or souvenirs.

The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, has already mentioned the embargo on direct flights into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. I have experienced this myself. While I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to both parts of the island, I can well understand how the necessary stop-over in Turkey adds to the inconvenience of travelling to Northern Cyprus. The extra expense and time required undoubtedly discourage tourists from visiting this beautiful part of the island.

Your Lordships will also be aware that in July 1994 the European Court of Justice held that member states of the EU could only import fruits and vegetables carrying certificates of origin from the "Republic of Cyprus". Without access to international markets, how can Turkish Cypriot economic sectors develop? With no one willing to import Turkish Cypriot goods, much of the area's agricultural crops—citrus fruits, vegetables, potatoes, wheat and barley—are simply left rotting in the fields.

Greek Cypriot hostility was also directed against the British bank, HSBC, at the beginning of this year. HSBC was the first major foreign bank to open branches in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot authorities, however, began campaigning against their presence in Northern Cyprus. They sent a senior manager of the Greek Cypriot Central Bank to London to put pressure on the British Financial Services Authority to stop the HSBC's operations in the North. Mr Clerides himself issues further threats and is reported to have said, "We will do what it takes and act accordingly".

Whatever suggestions are put forward for the resolution of the Cyprus problem, I believe that we in the UK should stop participating in these inhumane embargoes. We express concerns for human rights around the world, yet for nearly 40 years we have stood back and allowed one part of a small island to deny the rights of the other to economic development. Are we going to do the same for another 40 years?

8.5 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, compared to many of those who have taken part in the debate, I am a relative newcomer to the Cyprus conflict. Last year I spent some time in both sides of the island. I then convened what became the Open University Institute study of ways to resolve the Cyprus conflict, with participants from both sides of Cyprus, from Greece and from Turkey. I was closely associated with the study of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, to which the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, has referred. It proposed a Belgian framework to get away from the theological argument about two states, one state which takes place between the two parties. I rapidly discovered that if you attempt to be unbiased on the Cyprus question, both sides accuse you of being hostile towards them. It is one of the sad elements in this issue.

However, I do not recognise the picture painted by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis. There have been atrocities on both sides and one hears about them at length from both sides. Some of the people see 1960–64 as more important, others see 1974 as more important. Once one looks at the conflict, it is clear that the basis for a settlement is relatively straightforward. The heads of agreement put forward by the United Nations in 1992 trades territory for guarantees for the Turkish minority—a property settlement which does not involve full restitution. The Greeks in the South must recognise that. Recognition on both sides that joining the European Union provides external guarantees and external constraint and prosperity for both, in particular for the North, is the only basis on which we can agree.

Outside countries, including our own, have to be involved in pushing both sides towards a compromise. That means the Greek Cypriots must recognise explicitly that there are limits on restitution of property and on the pursuit of legal claims; and a full acceptance of Turkish guarantees and of a continuing Turkish troop presence. However, on the Turkish Cypriot side there must be a move away from the dreadful theology of separate states—at least for 10 minutes—before one has a unified federal state. Furthermore, there must be a full acceptance by Mr Denktash that there is to be a constructive negotiation. I am sorry to say that there is a remarkable lack of understanding of the European Union and of integration. In Northern Cyprus there is a need for a crash programme for education and training. During my latest visit to Brussels I was pleased to meet a Turkish Cypriot intern in the Commission, because that is precisely the kind of thing the Commission should be doing.

The United Kingdom has major interests at stake. Part of the island is sovereign-base territory. There are no fences between the sovereign-base territory and the rest of the island, and whether we like it or not we are deeply involved. I am happy to say that, on the whole, the UK Government have made a constructive effort. I wish that other European Union governments, apart from the Greeks, were more actively involved in support.

The situation in the North is adverse. Emigration is continuing, and to judge from some of the Turkish Cypriots to whom I spoke, it is driven not only by economic despair but by political despair in opposition to a rather corrupt regime. There were those who told me that emigration is likely to continue until there are only Anatolians left, in the absence of a settlement. It costs a huge amount. It costs the Turkish mainland a huge amount to support the Northern Cyprus economy. The economy rests fundamentally on gambling and offshore higher education.

Thankfully, we now have a new Turkish Government—and a majoritarian Turkish Government. Thankfully, we have the most enlightened Greek Government we have yet had, particularly with the Foreign Minister, Mr Papandreou, playing a most constructive role. So we have a window briefly open between now and Copenhagen which must be utilised. I very much hope that Her Majesty's Government, together with their EU partners, the United States and the UN, will bring the greatest possible pressure to bear on both sides to seize that opportunity.

8.10 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, for initiating this debate at this crucial time. The noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, mentioned the negotiations between the two leaders—for which this is a crucial month. We on these Benches hope that a settlement can be achieved that satisfies both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, as well as Greece and Turkey. Can the Minister throw any light on whether the Government feel that a framework agreement can be attained by 12th December?

Cyprus is on course for membership of the EU in 2004. While we welcome the accession of Cyprus, we are concerned about the consequences for Turkey. Turkey's intention to become a member of the EU is most welcome. However, if Cyprus accedes to the EU as a united island, the Ankara government will consider annexing northern Cyprus. That would have serious implications for Turkey's plans to join the EU.

Although the application for membership of the EU was deemed to have been made in the name of the whole island, in practice initially only the southern two-thirds of the island would stand as a full and active member. This understandably concerns many Turkish Cypriots. However, in the long run there must be many benefits for them, as my noble friend Lord Moynihan said.

The noble Lord, Lord Corbett, drew attention to the lack of economic prospects. At present, Turkish Cypriots are isolated because the TRNC is recognised only by Turkey. To acquire a passport, a citizen of the TRNC must apply to the Turkish embassy and must often travel to Ankara while his or her application is processed. Turkish Cypriots cannot take part in international events or be members of global organisations. As several speakers have said, their population is falling fast due to emigration.

An international embargo on trade means that Turkey is the only available market for produce from the TRNC, whose economy is financed entirely by annual injections of cash from Turkey. As a result, initiative and private enterprise are being stifled. The tourism boom, so obvious in the south, is almost entirely absent. The recent devaluation of the Turkish lira has widened the gap between the two communities, and it has been estimated that per capita income in the south is as much as seven times greater. Many Turkish Cypriots see membership of the EU as a way of reducing this gap. The EU has earmarked more than 200 million euros for the development of northern Cyprus—once partition has ended.

Some Greek and Turkish Cypriots have made progress towards working together. The respective Chambers of Commerce have agreed on a joint training programme at an estimated cost of 1.5 million euros. The programme provides for the training of middle-sized businesses and information about how the EU is developing.

Alongside the talks on political disputes there is the issue of missing persons—on both sides of the Green Line. We welcome the UN Secretary-General's appeal to both sides to address this issue seriously. We welcome also the recognition by the two leaders that, although the issue should be dealt with separately from the main talks, it must be dealt with in parallel with those talks.

The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, mentioned biodiversity. I want to mention heritage and conservation. At present, both communities remain cut off from their parts of their heritage. The Green Line divides the past as well as the present. Churches and mosques have become the tools of political bargaining and manipulation on both sides. UNESCO has not provide any assistance to the Turkish Cypriot authorities to preserve common cultural heritage. I am unsure whether that has anything to do with the TRNC's lack of recognition as a political entity. Clearly, the sooner a settlement is achieved, the better the chance that Cyprus's heritage, both Greek and Turkish, will be preserved effectively.

As the debate has made clear, Cyprus's future remains uncertain. All parties stand to gain from the opportunities over the coming months. I hope that the outcome of negotiations will satisfy the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, and all those with an interest in the future of Cyprus.

8.14 p.m.

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, perhaps I may add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, on initiating this most interesting and vigorous debate. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part.

We have entered a crucial period in Cyprus's history. As the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, indicated, there are five weeks between now and the Copenhagen European Council when I and all those with the best interests of all Cypriots at heart hope to see a reunited Cyprus invited to join the European Union. This would be an historic moment indeed—a long and wounding division in Europe healed by the Greek and the Turkish Cypriot communities choosing to come together once more, united in a new and wider Europe.

We all agree that both sides of the island of Cyprus have suffered immeasurably. However, in this debate we are discussing the particular problems faced in the north of Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots face restrictions in their trade with the European Union and with the rest of the world—although I assure the noble Lords. Lord Maginnis and Lord Rogan, that the British Government do not impose any restrictions on trade other than those that have arisen under international law: the UK is an important Turkish Cypriot market. Tourism faces a constant battle as the reputation of the north for beauty struggles with the lack of direct flights. As both goods and tourists have to travel via Turkey, so costs rise and the Turkish Cypriots lose their competitive edge. Inward investment is rare because of the north's unrecognised status; and the economic problems felt in Turkey have had a knock-on effect in the north too. The result has been massive economic migration. We estimate that in the UK there are 100,000 Cypriots. To put that in perspective, there are only 180,000 currently living in the north of Cyprus.

I regret that the consequences of the legacy of bitterness and strife that has dogged Cyprus since independence in 1960 have affected each and every Turkish Cypriot life in this way. But I must state categorically that we, the Government, do not and will not recognise a separate state in the north of Cyprus.

I firmly believe that the only way to solve the problems of the north of Cyprus is through a comprehensive and lasting settlement which is seen as just by both sides. No one is asking either side to "sell out". Both sides have important principles at stake which they will not be expected to give up. The Government believe that such a settlement is within grasp. I urge Mr Denktash and Mr Clerides to reach out and take this opportunity to create a new Cyprus—a new Cyprus that would release the potential of all Cypriots, secure within an enlarged European Union.

As the House will know, Mr Denktash and Mr Clerides have been in face to face talks since January to find a settlement. The United Nations Secretary-General has asked that the details of the talks remain confidential. But I must repeat that any settlement must be seen as just by both sides. Insecurity—an issue raised by a number of speakers—lies at the heart of the fears of Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The two have not lived together for 30 years, in some cases 40 years. Mistrust reigns. We must first achieve a settlement that ensures that the physical security of the two sides is guaranteed. That means that a settlement must banish the twin nightmares of the two sides: the Turkish Cypriots' fear of domination by the Greek Cypriots; and the Greek Cypriots' fear of secession by the Turkish Cypriots and formal partition.

I repeat that a settlement that meets all those needs is within grasp. That is the prize to which my noble friend Lord Corbett of Castle Vale referred in his helpful speech. The United Nations is working hard to bridge the remaining gaps between the two sides. I am sure that I speak for the whole House in sending our strong support to Kofi Annan—and his special representative, Alvaro do Soto—for his efforts to help the two sides to come to the just and lasting settlement to which the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, and other noble Lords referred.

Yes, this is a two-step process. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said, we need a settlement reinforced by the accession of a reunited island to the European Union. The European Union has consistently made it clear that its aim is for a reunited island to join the European Union. It has promised to accommodate the terms of a settlement, which may mean substantial exemptions from EU law. But let me make clear that we and our European Union partners will act according to the 1999 Helsinki European Council conclusions, which stated that a settlement was not a precondition for accession but that all relevant factors would be taken into account.

The Copenhagen European Council will take decisions on Cyprus' accession. The outlook is good. I look at the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, when I say that because she strongly underlined that point in her speech. The latest regular report from the European Commission shows that Cyprus has closed more chapters than any other candidate country and has met the political criteria. To the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, I say that the European Union door is open to Cyprus. Let it be open to the whole of Cyprus: to all Cypriots.

Obviously, our debate has centred on Cyprus, but I should also mention Turkey's candidature for the European Union. I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney. and other noble Lords that the Government strongly support Turkey's candidature. We look forward to the day when Turkey is seated around the table of the Council. Important reforms passed by the Turkish Government in August have brought that day closer. The Brussels European Council made clear that Turkey's progress had brought forward the opening of accession negotiations. At Copenhagen, we and our partners will decide on the next stage of Turkey's candidature.

As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in another place on 28th October, for our part, we look forward to Turkey's membership of the European Union in accordance with the conditions that all candidates must meet. Turkey's accession would be good for Europe as well as for Turkey. So we will do all that we can to bring about a decision at Copenhagen moving forward Turkey's candidature to the next stage.

Noble Lords will note that I am talking exclusively about what we want with regard to a settlement and to the Copenhagen European Council. I shall not enter into speculation about what will happen if we do not get what we want—if we do not get what is best for all Cypriots and for Europe. To contemplate failure is to invite failure. At this historic moment, that is the last thing that should be on our minds.

Noble Lords raised many points. I shall try to deal with as many of them as possible before my time elapses. If I miss out any noble Lords, perhaps they will forgive me and I shall ensure that they receive written answers to their questions. The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, mentioned the need to lift trade embargoes on Northern Cyprus and said that the fault lay with the EU. We defend vigorously the right to trade with Northern Cyprus—as we did in the European Court of Justice case. Of the long list of embargoes given by the noble Lord, only the restrictions on trade have anything to do with the EU. Technical difficulties created by the non-recognition of Northern Cyprus will be overcome by a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Cyprus problem and through the accession of a reunited island to the EU.

The noble Lord also said that the United Nations was not impartial. I strongly disagree. All countries on the Security Council have given Kofi Annan and his special advisers strong support in that matter. The noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, also mentioned UN resolutions. The basis of talks is UN Security Council Resolution 1250, which states that settlements shall take full consideration of UN Security Council resolutions. I see that the noble Baroness shakes her head.

Baroness Boothroyd

My Lords, will the Minister respond to the question that I asked in my speech? That is what I am asking her to do.

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, that is what I am trying to do. We support the single state of Cyprus. I already mentioned that, which was the crux of the question asked by the noble Baroness.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked whether accession of a divided island would be problematic. We fully agree that it would be. That is not what we want. That is why the European Union wants to admit a reunited island at Copenhagen. The noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, asked me whether I had visited the north of Cyprus. I have not yet had that pleasure. Many years ago, as a Member of the European Parliament, I found myself in the buffer zone in a march that brought together Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot women. I was overcome by the heat and, as I came round from fainting, a UN officer was looking down on me and saying, "Oh, another Euro MP asleep on the job!" That is my experience of the Cyprus buffer zone.

I shall of course write to noble Lords who have asked specific questions and I thank all those who have spoken for the positive nature of the debate. We have a great and historic opportunity.