Westminster Hall debates (TheyWorkForYou.com)

embargoedI would encourage people to leave remarks accordingly. I have not had a chance to read through this thoroughly just yet. I did notice a derogatory reference to Lid Dems just because they had the tenacity to raise the issue of the visit of Christofias today, which was completely dismissed by the new Minister for Europe. What is very telling is the obvious inability for most MP’s to display an ounce of balance when they talk about the Cyprus problem. This is a fairly lengthy debate but it it is definitely worth reading. All references to property problems suggests they only exist in the North – all references to missing people focus on GC missing people. Pretty much every person in this debate cannot be regarded as putting forward a balanced position of the Cyprus problem. Make your own minds up and see what you think – this debate took place yesterday.

Fevzi Hussein
Chairperson, Embargoed!

Westminster Hall debates, 10 November 2009, 11:00 am

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Andrew Dismore (Hendon, Labour)

A debate on Cyprus after a Friends of Cyprus visit to the island now seems to be a part of the House’s annual calendar. I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Interests for the visit.

The fact that we are here, year after year, could imply that there has been no progress, but that would be wrong. However, such progress as there is is painfully slow, and the clock is ticking ever more quickly against the prospect of a settlement. During our visit, we saw more than 50 people and held almost 40 meetings. Those visits were to both sides of the green line, and we saw elected politicians, officials and civil society.

There is a clear lack of a pro-solution culture throughout the island, perhaps reflecting the media coverage, and pessimism abounds. Neither side has a strategy to prepare their people for a solution or to support the talks, but there are many initiatives, contacts and co-operative ventures, which are encouraging. We need more events such as the recent bi-communal evening in Pyla. There is a dangerous belief in the south that if the negotiations fail, another United Nations initiative will come along in due course, albeit starting from a worse position, rather than seeing this as the last sketo in the kafenio, which it certainly is, and may well be for many years if there is no success. We are already half a decade on from the failure of the Annan plan.

There are “nevers” on both sides with very loud voices. Although they do not represent the majority view of either population, their influence is persuasive and in many instances malign. Although the talks do not have a timetable, there are natural deadlines in the immediate future, including the European Union review of Turkish accession and, more importantly, elections in the north in April 2010 when Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will be up for re-election.

The presidential election in the Turkish-occupied north in April clearly shows that an artificial deadline would probably not be helpful. Does the hon. Gentleman accept, nevertheless, the imperative to get a fair settlement as soon as possible, because the massive movement of Turkish people from Turkey to settle in Cyprus without the language or Cypriot affiliations will make a settlement increasingly more difficult as time goes on? In that event, the main losers will be the Turkish Cypriots.

Andrew Dismore (Hendon, Labour)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, but the deadline is not artificial; it is a natural deadline that comes with the normal electoral process.

Both sides have been issuing unhelpful statements that provoke each other, and rhetoric from the north can only magnify as the April elections approach. Positive statements from either side receive little coverage. There is a general decline in optimism throughout. Of those involved in the negotiations, the most optimistic person was Turkish Cypriot negotiator Ozdil Nami, but that was not saying a great deal. There is a general and accurate view from every independent commentator that if these two leaders cannot do it, no one can.

The negotiations received a boost following PASOK‘s election results in Greece and George Papandreou, in his Foreign Minister role, paying his first overseas visit to Turkey, closely followed by his visit to Cyprus as Prime Minister. Although Greece’s fundamental policy of supporting the Republic of Cyprus‘s negotiating position will not change, we will see a more active foreign policy approach from Greece, including improving relations with Turkey, which is all to the good.

During his visit to Turkey, Mr. Papandreou said to Mr. Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, that

“we must free Cyprus of dependencies and its motherlands, occupation troops, divisions and walls which have no place in the European Union”.

That view resonates with Nicosia, the last divided city, during this week of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.

Andrew Love (Edmonton, Labour)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the guarantor powers, particularly Greece and Turkey, have a critical role, not just because of the history of the conflicts in Cyprus, but because both communities look to the guarantor powers for succour? It is critical that they take a more active engagement in the current negotiations.

Andrew Dismore (Hendon, Labour)

I shall speak about the treaty of guarantee, but it is correct that both sides look to what they consider to be their motherland. I also believe that George Papandreou is right to say that Cyprus must be freed from the influence of the motherland, which has not been entirely beneficial throughout Cyprus’s independence.

Among Cypriots on the island, there is a generational problem. Research a few years ago showed that two thirds of Cypriots who are alive today were not alive in 1974, and know no bi-communal way of living. One of our visits was to the English school, which now admits Turkish Cypriot pupils, who account for about 15 per cent. of the total. It was rather depressing to talk to Greek Cypriot teenagers, who generally seem to be satisfied with the status quo, and not particularly enthusiastic for a solution. Although Turkish Cypriot students at the school are learning Greek, there is no take-up whatever of Turkish lessons by Greek Cypriot students. Turkish Cypriot students seem to be isolated. The school is working very hard to break that down, but there is a xenophobic undercurrent on both sides of the green line. There are no school exchange programmes across the green line because of recognition and passport issues. Heads could deal directly with schools across the line, but there is a likelihood of a parents’ backlash.

Friends of Turkey are wrongly perceived as Greek Cypriot enemies. Greek Cypriots must influence Turkey’s friends positively to influence Turkey in turn. The object should be not to punish Turkey in the EU, but to press the EU to assist Turkey to help he annotation (e.g. more info, blog post or wikipedia article)

David Lepper (Brighton, Pavilion, Labour)

I declare an interest, which is in the Register of Members’ Interests. Does my hon. Friend agree that the December assessment of Turkey’s progress towards EU accession offers an excellent opportunity for the other guarantor power—the United Kingdom—to make it clearer exactly what it expects of Turkey on, for example, Famagusta and the ports?

Andrew Dismore (Hendon, Labour)

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and I hope to say a little about the EU accession process.

There is a real need to create a pro-solution culture, and to talk not of “the other side” but of “another side” of the debate. America has a key role in persuading Turkey of the need to pave the way for a Cyprus settlement to fulfil her EU aspirations. President Obama‘s Nobel prize for peace could be well earned on the island.

Regrettably, there is continuing lack of confidence-building measures. The two military exercises—Nikiforos and Tavros—were both cancelled this year, as they were last year, and those decisions by both sides were extremely important and welcome, but there is little else to show. The constructive work of the technical committees has not been taken forward through confidence-building measures by either side, and I commented on that during last year’s debate.

Many of the practical agreements that could ease day-to-day life for all concerned could be implemented, but neither side is keen to do so for different reasons, except on heritage, where good work is being done. There has been slow progress on the new crossing points, with contracts for joint work now being let to build the road and crossings for Limnitis, funded by the United States and the EU.

Theresa Villiers (Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport; Chipping Barnet, Conservative)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is an urgent need to press ahead with locating the remains of missing people, to give their families the truth about what happened to their loved ones?

Andrew Dismore (Hendon, Labour)

The hon. Lady is correct, and I hope to speak about that.

There has been little to show on the ground at Ledra street towards the essential building restoration or withdrawal of the Turkish army, but we were told that the next phase to make safe the buildings and their facades at least will go ahead from about now. Although not strictly a confidence-building measure, Stelios Haji-Ioannou of easyJet has offered €1 million in grants for joint bi-communal business ventures. The Association for Historical Dialogue and Research has developed material for schools on both sides of the green line to discover old Nicosia.

At the same time as moves are being made towards multicultural education and a new history syllabus in the Greek-medium state schools in the south, steps are being taken in the north, such as replacing text books, promoting the teaching of Islam in schools that were secular, a change of terminology from “Turkish Cypriots” to “Turks of Cyprus”, and a ban on the Cypriot Turkish dialect in the media in the north. The joint proposal of the two mayors of Famagusta for restoration of the old city and the surveying of Varosha, which would be a welcome confidence-building measure, has fallen on deaf Turkish ears. However, work on missing persons is going ahead, and I will speak about that later.

Progress on the negotiations has been slow until now, and has pretty well avoided the difficult issues. President Christofias is circumscribed and is not supported in the negotiation by EDEK and DIKO, his coalition partners. There has been considerable development on governance issues, with constructive proposals for a rotating presidency, but with disagreement as to the method of election, although there are prospects for further progress.

Differences remain substantial. The Turkish Cypriots say, for example, that the federation should not have a foreign policy function. They want a veto throughout decision making, not just at the end. They also want separate institutions. There has been progress on matters relating to the economy and the EU, but on the most difficult issues—property and territory, which are clearly interlinked—there has been little progress.

President Christofias has attempted to move the settler issue on by restating that 50,000 Turkish settlers in the north should receive Cypriot citizenship in a settlement. That is not a new concession, having been proposed in previous negotiations, but it is not accepted by DIKO. Mr. Erdogan did not help by denying that there were any settlers, saying that “they are citizens of TRNC“— the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

An additional complication is the question of the treaty of guarantee. President Christofias has said that it is anachronistic and should go as part of any solution. For the Turkish Cypriots, however, the treaty of guarantee is a red line. There could be other ways of guaranteeing a solution and security for both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, but that is a very difficult one to bridge. One option suggested to us is for the treaty of guarantee to be phased out with Turkish accession to the EU, and for a treaty of implementation for the specific details of any settlement to be considered.

I was pleased to read, in the answer to my parliamentary question on the point, that the UK will not be an obstacle on the issue of security and guarantees. It seems to me that there are three issues requiring guarantee in the event of a solution. I am referring to a political guarantee for the indivisibility of the federation, which the EU can provide, and a guarantee for the implementation of the agreement, which could be a UN Security Council resolution. The most difficult issue is the personal security guarantee, including the removal of Turkish troops and the future role of UNFICYP—the UN Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus. UNFICYP’s role could be a new mandate to support implementation and federal policy. To see what could be done and, equally, where UNFICYP went wrong from the outset in 1964, I recommend Martin Packard’s diary of 1964, “Getting It Wrong”. He was working on a tripartite basis to try to bridge the gap in the troubles of ’63 and ’64.

It is something of a paradox that Turkey has a seat on the UN Security Council while continuing the occupation of northern Cyprus. It seems very much as though the current effort is the last throw of the dice for the UN. It sees the natural timetable to which I referred: if progress is not made by next April, the UN may well call it a day. The Turkish Cypriots would like the UN to act as arbitrators, although that is complete anathema for the Greek Cypriots post the Annan plan. Annan changed 60 points to create the final and fifth plan, which led to its ultimate rejection.

Mediation might be a more appropriate way of analysing what the UN should do, but that role has been badly compromised by a professional hacking job into the UN team’s computer and the downloading of all the internal UN memorandums and e-mails, which are being gleefully published on the drip in the rejectionist Phileleftheros newspaper, with the clear intention of undermining the process. Instead of condemning the hacking, the Cypriot view was that UN Special Representative Alexander Downer should be more careful. That was a most outrageous attempt to derail the talks and interfere with an international body that is there to assist. The perpetrator of the crime—for that is what it was—has not been identified and dealt with firmly, as should have been the case. In the north, people see a degree of irony, as they remember the Turkish “deep state” leaking e-mails from pro-solution Turkish Cypriots.

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