British Parliament on Greek affairs

        MARCH 99

House of Lords Written Answers  (Monday, 8th March 1999. Cyprus)

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their view of the reported comments of Sir David Hannay on 21 January in which he purportedly suggested that a solution to the problems of Cyprus would be found by following a Swiss model of government. [HL1128]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Sir David Hannay was misreported; he did not advocate a Swiss model of government for Cyprus. In a meeting with the Cypriot High Commissioner on 28 January, my right honourable friend the Minister of State (Joyce Quin) underlined, as Sir David Hannay had done, the continuing support of the British Government for a solution on the basis laid down in UN Security Council resolutions for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.

Debate in the House of Lords on Cyprus  (2.59 p.m. 8 Mar 1999)

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress they are making in securing a peaceful settlement in Cyprus.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, we remain determined to find a solution to the Cyprus problem. The best means of achieving this is through the United Nations Secretary-General's mission of good offices on the basis laid down in Security Council resolutions for a bizonal, bicommunal federation. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1218 of 22nd December 1998 is an important step forward. It sets out clear objectives for reducing tension and for progress towards a comprehensive settlement. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear that Britain is committed to working for its full implementation alongside other members of the international community.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer, and in particular for her confirmation of our support for the United Nations resolutions. I take it that it is recognised that the only satisfactory route to a long-term settlement is on the basis of that UN resolution on a bicommunal, bizonal federation. However, I should be grateful if my noble friend would confirm her support for Cyprus's application for membership of the European Union. What is the timetable for that likely to be and will that application be affected by the search for a settlement?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I had hoped that our position on Cyprus had been made clear by what my right honourable friend said in December when he called for a sustained effort towards securing a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement in Cyprus, based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation, and by his strong endorsement of Security Council Resolution 1218. I confirm that the United Kingdom is looking forward to the eventual accession of Cyprus. As I am sure that my noble friend and the whole House know, this process involves discussion under the various chapters of the acquis. We are hoping that that will go ahead on the basis of the conferences which are due to take place at the end of this presidency and then as we work towards the end of the year.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, in considering this very difficult question, will the Government bear in mind the difficulties between the two communities and the fact that the Turks feel that they have suffered from the majority Greek population, particularly in the 1970s? Will some sensitivity be shown to the Turkish community in this matter, particularly in relation to the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, otherwise the second stage may be worse than the first?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I think that we can draw some comfort from the current process, under the aegis of Dame Ann Hercus who is discussing Cyprus with both sections of the community. Those discussions were resumed at the beginning of February and we have to hope that they will bear some fruit. It is important to draw the attention of the House to the fact that some of the

tensions on the island were reduced by the decision not to have S-300 weapons on the island. That is an enormously important step. When I was in Turkey before Christmas, my interlocutors made it clear to me that they regarded the possible placing of those weapons on the island with considerable disfavour. The fact that that has not happened must reduce the tension. Perhaps I may also draw the noble Lord's attention to the fact that there is a certain amount of bicommunal activity, notably in the current meetings between businessmen.

Lord Monson: My Lords, following the question from the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, does the Minister agree that one of the best contributions that Her Majesty's Government could make would be to remind the Greek Cypriot Government that the Zurich and London Treaties, entered into almost exactly 40 years ago, are still in force and legally binding and that, therefore, if the Greek Cypriots want to join the EU, they must first reach some peaceful and permanent accommodation with their Turkish Cypriot neighbours?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords. We urge both sides to discuss the possibility of joining the EU. I hope that the measures that I announced in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, have gone some way towards that. However, it is enormously important that the two communities talk not only to Dame Ann, but also to each other. I remind the noble Lord that President Clerides has invited Mr. Denktash to have some discussions about the way forward with regard to the Cypriot application for EU membership.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind that economic problems usually underlie social conflict, can my noble friend assure the House that if a bipartisan solution can be arrived at and if Cyprus's accession to the European Union can be successfully negotiated, the European Union will engage in a major effort with regard to the economic development of the whole of the island of Cyprus?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords. We are working on the whole question of trying to resolve the difficulties of dealing with what is an essentially divided island with an application to join the EU. The Vienna Council agreed that its objectives with regard to the accession of a united island must involve concentrating on a political settlement. We must look to the leaders of both Cypriot communities to co-operate with the United Nations and its desires to that end as represented by UNSCR 1218, to which I have already referred. The United Kingdom is working with our EU partners to ensure that the technical difficulties, which undoubtedly exist and which were caused by the division of the island, are not overlooked in the accession negotiations. We believe that it is better to identify those obstacles now than to allow them to develop into more serious obstacles further down the track.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, is the Minister in a position to confirm press reports concerning allegations by Turkey that the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was carrying a Greek Cypriot passport when he was arrested? To what extent does the Minister consider that the assistance given by the Greek Government to Abdullah Ocalan has adversely affected the current initiatives to secure a just and lasting settlement that will end the long-standing division of Cyprus?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I regret that I am not in a position to confirm the press reports to which the noble Lord refers although, as I am sure that he will appreciate, press reports are not always reliable I shall check whether any reliable information is available on that point, and I shall contact the noble Lord because I realise that that is an area in which the temperature can be raised. However, the important point is to concentrate on having a dialogue on the island, as well as on lowering the tensions which exist between Greece and Turkey on this issue.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, does the Minister agree that 18 years of Greek membership of the European Union has, sadly, not helped to improve relations between Greece and Turkey as much as one might have expected, and that the importation of Greek Cyprus into the European Union without a settlement of the conflict might exacerbate relations with Turkey rather than ease them? Therefore, is it not extremely important to ensure that the issue is resolved before Cyprus joins?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it is very important to work for peace in Cyprus in any case. The possible accession of Cyprus to the EU focuses the attention not only of the friends of Cyprus—I would hope that we would all count the United Kingdom Government among that number--but also of our partners in the EU on working to that end. Rather than cast our minds back over 18 years, we should look forward. As I said earlier, tension has been lowered by not siting the S-300 missiles on the island. In addition, the UNSCRs are now in place and a United Nations envoy, Dame Ann Hercus is now talking to both sides. We also have an opportunity to get the people of the island together, notably in some of the initiatives now taking place among the business community. I hope that the noble Lord will agree that we should now be looking forward, not back.

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