HC Deb 16 January 1964 vol 687 cc47-50W
Mr. P. Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will circulate in the Official Report the text of the statement he made at the opening of the Cyprus Conference in London on 14th January.

Mr. Sandys

The text is as follows:

"On behalf of the British Government I wish to welcome you all to this Conference. The fact that the Conference had to be convened at such short notice has, I know, caused difficulties for some, particularly the Greek and Turkish Governments. We are, therefore, mostgrateful to their distinguished Foreign Ministers for agreeing to attend at this early date, and for giving to the Conference the benefit of their counsel.

We are meeting today under the shadow of tragic events in Cyprus. We in Britain have for some time anxiously watched the unfolding of this unhappy story.

We were profoundly distressed to see feelings of growing enmity develop between the two racial communities, more especially since their two motherlands are among our oldest and most trusted friends. When the fighting began, we were filled with apprehension at the prospect of civil war and the possibility that Turkey and Greece might themselves be sucked into the conflict.

That is why, three weeks ago, we thought it right to act before the situation got irretrievably out of hand. In accordance with the Treaty of 1960, we consulted the other two Guaranteeing Powers and jointly offered to help in the task of restoring order. Our offer was readily accepted by the leaders of both communities and the Joint Force was created. British has provided over 2,500 troops for this job. They have so far been successful in their peace-keeping because they enjoy the confidence and goodwill of both races. The British soldier has been welcomed with smiles and cheers by Greeks and Turks alike; and I have myself seen with pride how the Union jack has been greeted in town and village as the flag of peace and the symbol of security. But if, for any reason, we were to lose the co-operation of the people, we would no longer be able to discharge this task. Nor would we feel justified in exposing our men to the dangers involved.

Britain cannot, of course, go on acting as policeman in Cyprus indefinitely; nor, I am sure would you wish her to do so. The Joint Force has a specific task to perform, namely to help separate the combatants and to hold the ring while a settlement is being worked out. Our action, has given Cyprus a breathing space, but that must be used for something more than breathing. It must be used with a sense of urgency to find an honourable and workable solution to the problems out of which the troubles arose.

While this Conference is sitting I appeal to both sides to use all their influence with their supporters to prevent acts of hostility and violence which might provoke a renewal of the fighting and which could seriously damage the prospects of agreement around this table.

I know that many people believe that this conference is, in any case, doomed to failure. They say that agreement is impossible in the present state of tension and that there can be no constructive discussion when feelings are running so high and mutual suspicion is so deep.

I was in Nicosia long enough to sense the fears and passions which have been aroused. But I am not sure that these are necessarily going to make it any more difficult to solve this intractable problem. There could be no more compelling argument in favour of agreement than the horror and misery of these past weeks and the memory of those who have died. Should the negotiations here in London fail, this would create a feeling of hopelessness which would inevitably tempt each side to try and impose its own solution by force. If fighting were to break out a second time, it would be much more difficult to stop it than on the last occasion; and Cyprus would once again be faced with all the dangers, internal and external, which were so narrowly averted a few weeks ago.

The prospect of failure is too grim to contemplate. Somehow or other, we have got to find a solution. Each delegation at this table has an important contribution to make. It is going to be immensely difficult, but if everyone helps, I believe that we can and shall succeed.

Cyprus is, of course, not the only country which is plagued by inter-racial difficulties. We come across this problem in various parts of the world. But there is an important difference in the case of Cyprus. Many of the other countries in which this trouble occurs have advanced from primitive pagan tribalism to modern nationhood in a single generation. On the other hand, the Greeks and the Turks in Cyprus are each the proud possessors of a cultural and religious heritage which, in different ways, have contributed so much to the progress of civilisation and the upholding of human dignity.

If you,with your centuries-old experience and tradition, should prove unable to live together in peace and tolerance, what hope is there for the newly emerging nations in other continents? I am sure you will recognise that you have a special responsibility not only to yourselves but to the rest of humanity. You have an historic opportunity to set the example and to show the way. If you succeed, you will earn the gratitude, not only of the unhappy people of Cyprus, but of all peace loving men and women throughout the world".

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