Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that the prospect of a settlement of the Cyprus issue through the ongoing UN-facilitated negotiations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots is “a moment of optimism.”
Attending the Conservative Friends of Cyprus reception on Sunday evening, held at the end of the first day of the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Johnson said: “In all the gloom in the world and in the Middle East there is a bright and shining hope. We must not exaggerate, we must not become over-optimistic; but when I talk to Mr Anastasiades and to Mr Akinci, as I did last week in New York, I tell you that I rarely see people showing leadership and it is absolutely wonderful to see this.”
The Foreign Secretary urged all Conservatives and friends of Cyprus “to support them (the leaders) in their attempts to make this happen.”
“It would be fantastic if they pulled it off and they’ve got my support,” added Mr Johnson addressing the hundreds of people attending the event. He made a special reference to the “Goddess of Love” Aphrodite having been born in Cyprus, commenting that it would be a fantastic thing to honour her with “peace and love” by settling the Cyprus issue.
Boris Johnson also praised the “huge contribution” of the populous Cypriot community to London and wider British society, and noted the “hugely important” relationship between Britain and Cyprus.
Among the hundreds of attendees there were around 30 Conservatives MPs and members of the House of Lords, such as the long-standing friends of Cyprus Theresa Villiers and David Burrowes, as well as Crispin Blunt, Chris Pincher, Martin Vickers, Alberto Costa, Sheryll Murray, Andrew Stephenson, Laurence Robertson, John Howell and Lord Whitby, along with members of the Conservative Friends of Cyprus and other members of the Conservative Party.
President of CFCyprus, the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, said in her remarks that her long engagement with the Cyprus issue has taught her to be cautious on any kind of view regarding a settlement prospect, however “there is now a real chance, a genuine chance of progress, with two leaders with a track record of determination to find a solution.”
Villiers also underlined the support expressed by Prime Minister Theresa May for a negotiated settlement to the Cyprus issue in a recent Prime Minister’s Questions session, as well as the successful visits by Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan MP to Cyprus and by President Anastasiades to Downing Street.
She added that the two countries have pledged to maintain and enhance their ties even after Brexit occurs, as the “warmth” of the bilateral relationship which has “probably never been better than it is today” is celebrated.
CFCyprus Parliamentary Chairman David Burrowes MP hailed the presence at the reception of many MPs representing constituencies not necessarily having a large Cypriot population. He also expressed his hope that this was the last party conference where there would have to be discussions over the unresolved Cyprus issue.
The High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus to the UK HE Euripides Evriviades attended the event and paid tribute to Cyprus’s UK parliamentarian friends.
In reference to the ongoing negotiations, he said that there has been “substantial” progress, but noted that “we are not there yet.” He went on to stress that Cypriots want a settlement based on democracy and respect for human rights, “nothing less than what is given to all law abiding citizens.” Evriviades also spoke of Britain’s responsibilities towards Cyprus stemming from its capacities as a guarantor power and as a permanent member of the Security Council.
He then noted that the UK and the Republic of Cyprus will maintain an “excellent” relationship post-Brexit.
The Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Cyprus Jason Charalambous said that for 42 years Cyprus has been marred by its division and the Turkish occupation, but commented that “there is light on the horizon” and that “it is fair to say that the two sides are as close as they have ever been and there is every expectation that by the end of the year, if Turkey steps up to the plate, a deal will be agreed” to reunite the island.
Charalambous also said that the UK can carve out a bright, prosperous and successful future outside the EU and that the Cypriot government will continue to support Britain in order to achieve the best possible Brexit deal.