On Wednesday the Conservative Friends of Cyprus hosted their annual New Year’s Vasilopita reception in the Jubilee Room in Parliament. The Europe Minister, the Rt Hon Chris Pincher MP, joined 16 Members of Parliament in addressing the packed room of over 120 guests, followed by speeches by CFC President the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Chairman of the APPG for Cyprus Sir Roger Gale MP, CFC’s Parliamentary Chairman Matthew Offord MP, Chairman of CFC Jason Charalambous and the High Commissioner of Cyprus HE Andreas Kakouris. The special service of the cutting of the Vasilopita (St Basil’s Cake) was led by the UK’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop HE Archbishop Nikitas and was followed by singing of traditional carols.
At the reception the Minister for Europe Christopher Pincher confirmed that the British Government’s position regarding the Cyprus issue and Turkey’s activity within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus does not change now that the UK has exited the European Union.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Mr Pincher said: “Our stance remains the same, which is we believe that a bizonal, bicommunal system for the people of the island of Cyprus is the best way forward for peace and prosperity for them all; and we believe that Cyprus has a right to exclusive access to its Exclusive Economic Zone, and any drilling there by anybody is wrong. We deplore it and we continue to deplore it. We want to make sure that the hydrocarbons around Cyprus in the EEZ are used in the good of everybody on the island of Cyprus. It’s theirs, it’s yours, make the best use of it and I encourage dialogue to ensure we end with a result that delivers that bizonal bicommunal federal system.”
Asked whether the UK Government is concerned about the wider tension rising in the Eastern Mediterranean, he said: “Of course we’re concerned, but we want those issues to be resolved peacefully through dialogue. We don’t see any value by creating greater friction. Let’s get those talks going. I appreciate it’s challenging at the moment because there is election coming up, but once that’s over I look forward to the work that was done by President Anastasiades and Mr Akinci in the UN last year continuing, so those talks, that dialogue can continue again. That’s to the benefit of everybody on the island of Cyprus.”
The parliamentary hostess of the same event, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Theresa Villiers told CNA that she considers hosting such an event “a privilege”.
She added: “I do this every year to highlight the Cypriot culture and the Cypriot community because I want my colleagues in Parliament to understand more about the Cypriot culture, to understand more about the injustice that is perpetrated on Cyprus.”
Mr Pincher also hailed the contribution of the “strong, vibrant” Cypriot community to the UK economy, society and culture.
The cutting of the vasilopita was blessed by His Eminence the Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain Nikitas, while the event was opened by the Conservative Friends of Cyprus Chairman Jason Charalambous.
In his address, the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus to the UK Andreas Kakouris said that the Cypriot people will not give up trying to reunite their island and have the Turkish forces withdrawn. “There is no Plan B for us. And with your support we will keep fighting,” he added.
The Conservative Friends of Cyprus’s Parliamentary Chairman Matthew Offord, a north London MP, described the ongoing occupation of Cyprus as “a great stain on the history of Europe”, while North Thanet MP, President of the APPG for Cyprus and co-host of the vasilopita event Sir Roger Gale said that it is “unacceptable” for a Council of Europe member country to be occupying part of another member state. He also stressed that Turkey “has no right to drill for gas in Cyprus’s waters.”
In her speech Ms Villiers pledged to carry on championing the rights of Cypriots, while Mr Pincher reaffirmed the UK Government’s support for a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
A number of Conservative Party parliamentarians were present at the event, including Martin Vickers, Sheryll Murray, Caroline Nokes, Sir Graham Brady, Angela Richardson, Mike Wood, Suzanne Webb, Ben Everitt, Saqib Bhatti, Tim Loughton, Alicia Kearns and Lord Davies.
Also present were the Greek Ambassador to the UK Dimitrios Karamitsos-Tziras, Conservative Party councillors and members, and members of the UK Cypriot community.