The British Government’s belief that “there has never been a better opportunity for peace in Cyprus” was reiterated during a House of Lords debate on Cyprus that took place a few days ago, with the peer representing the Foreign Office adding that London considers a settlement before the end of the current year to be an “achievable” target.
Baroness Goldie, standing in for Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay, told the House: “The Government believe that a deal by the end of the year is achievable. The two sides, facilitated by the United Nations, are working tirelessly to make it happen. The UK commends their efforts, and we will do what we can to help. The main beneficiaries of a deal will be the Cypriots themselves, but ultimately we all stand to gain.
“We do not underestimate the difficulties. There will be tough choices to make. All parties will need to show courage and will have to be willing to compromise. But we firmly believe that the rewards will outweigh the sacrifices. I urge the leaders and the two communities to seize this opportunity for lasting peace. I assure your Lordships that the Government will remain steadfast in their support of both parties at this critical time.”
Referring to the current opportunity to settle the long-standing Cyprus issue, Lady Goldie said it was “down to the unstinting efforts of the leaders of the two communities, President Anastasiades and Mr Akinci, who have given hope and wrestled with undeniably complex problems.”
She also stressed that the UK Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Europe are in touch with all the key players, not only on the island but in Turkey and Greece. “We believe that they share the same ambition to reach a settlement,” said Baroness Goldie.
She repeated that the UK Government has offered to cede almost half the territory of the sovereign base areas to a reunited Cyprus, without such a move adversely affecting the ability of the bases to carry out their work.
In terms of the role of Britain, Lady Goldie said that “the UK is supportive, but not intrusive; we want to encourage, but not to interfere.”
“The benefits of a Cyprus solution are clear, economically and politically. A united Cyprus would increase prosperity both for Cypriots and the wider region for three main reasons. First, a united Cyprus would have a larger and more efficient economy. Secondly, it would create a more stable investment climate and enable greater trading opportunities with Turkey and the wider Middle East. Thirdly, it would be able fully to exploit its natural resources for the benefit of all Cypriots,” added the Foreign Office representative in the debate.
She also noted that in terms of security a reunited Cyprus “would stand out as a model of courage, tolerance and inter-communal cooperation” and as “a beacon of stability” at a time when others are trying to sow discord and division.
The debate on Cyprus was secured by the Conservative peer Lord Northbrook who stated that during a visit to the occupied northern part of Cyprus last July and after meetings with the leaders of the pseudo-state, he came away with the impression that major problems still remain which will prevent any settlement before the end of 2016, and may well make a settlement in 2017 speculative.
He also said that the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci told him that this was “very frankly the last chance of our generation for a settlement”. Mr Akinci was also said to have spoken about the major issues pending resolution, among which “the need for security guarantees”.
Further referring to what the Turkish Cypriot leader had told him, Lord Northbrook added that Mr Akinci had highlighted the need for the discussions to be completed by the end of 2016 in order to avoid delays due to the change of Secretary-General at the UN next year, the change of leadership at the White House, and the preparations for the 2018 election in the Republic of Cyprus.
Another peer, conservative Lord Balfe, referred to a summer meeting he had in the occupied north with Mr Akinci. He conveyed to the House the Turkish Cypriot leader’s answer to the question of what the plan B is. “This either has to work or the whole thing dissolves. There is no plan B,” was what Mr Akinci said according to Lord Balfe.