Foreign Secretary the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP has reaffirmed the strength of the UK-Cyprus bilateral relationship at the annual Conservative Friends of Cyprus Conference Reception in Birmingham.
The Foreign Secretary also described the Cyprus issue as “not insoluble” and that a federal solution would be better for all Cypriots than the “unacceptable” status quo.
Addressing a packed room of Conservative party members, parliamentarians and ministers, Mr Hunt said that the UK has “a very big responsibility as a country with amazing historic links with Cyprus to do everything we can to facilitate a solution to this long-standing issue, which ultimately is not insoluble.”
He added that “we have to go with optimism and determination and say that the status quo is not acceptable” and that there is a political solution. “There is a federal structure that will be a better solution for all people living in Cyprus,” added the Foreign Secretary.
He referred to a “very good meeting” with his Cypriot counterpart in Vienna in August and to meetings with the Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers at the UN General Assembly. He commented that “there is a lot of common ground to go forward.”
He did add however that there is always the difficult challenge to navigate between the interests of Cyprus and the national interests of some countries involved. “We need to find ground to navigate through, and we can find it” he noted.
“Let’s hope we will have these receptions in the future with something to celebrate. We very nearly got there with Crans Montana, but we were not far off. There is still more work to do and we are absolutely determined to do it” added Mr Hunt.
Referring to Brexit, the Foreign Secretary underlined that specific discussions are underway with Cyprus in order to have the status quo surrounding Britain’s SBAs continued, so that the everyday life of people crossing daily between the bases areas and the Republic of Cyprus is not affected.
He recognised that Brexit causes concern to those with family links to continental Europe, like the British-Cypriots, but stressed that the UK Government has made “absolutely clear” that the EU citizens’ rights will be guaranteed in an “unconditional offer” to the EU.
The Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, President of the Conservative Friends of Cyprus, expressed her hope that settlement talks can be resumed. She noted that President Anastasiades has spoken publicly about it and added that “it is high time time Turkish side reciprocates”.
She also referred to her long campaign for Cyprus, mentioning in particular her more recent intervention in the House of Commons about how “inappropriate” it is to have third country guarantees. “They belong to the colonial past, not to a modern democracy under rule of law” she said.
The event was also addresses by the Conservative Party Vice-Chair for Communities, Helen Grant MP, who thanked the Conservative Friends of Cyprus for the support to the party and the British-Cypriot community for their contribution to the British public life.
Cyprus’ High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, HE Euripides Evriviades, thanked the Conservative MPs for their “all-weather” support. He then said that the Cyprus question is an existential issue for Cypriots. “We have to get it right based on democracy and the rule of law. We ask for nothing more or less that what is given to other law abiding people, and all other countries in the EU. Cyprus must not continue to be an anomaly” said the High Commissioner, also noting the UK’s special responsibility towards Cyprus.
He went on to stress the “unbiblical” relationship between the two countries, the importance of the “often underestimated” Commonwealth and his confidence that “Brexit or no Brexit” this relationship will continue, with Cyprus “a predictable security producer, partner and enabler”.
Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Cyprus Jason Charalambous spoke of the 2,000-year long relationship between Cyprus and the UK, stressing that “countless Cypriots play active roles in public life in the UK.”
Mr Charalambous said that for Global Britain after Brexit it is important “to think first of countries with which we have historic ties and historic obligations.” He added that “there is clear desire for an even closer relationship after Brexit”.
Also present were a large number of Conservative MPs, such as Martin Vickers, Sheryll Murray, Mike Freer, Caroline Nokes, Crispin Blunt, Stephen Hammond; FCO Minister Harriet Baldwin; the MEP Dr Charles Tannock; former leader of Birmingham City Council Lord Mike Whitby; as well as the Canadian High Commissioner HE Janice Charette, the Deputy Ambassador of Israel Sharon Bar-Li and the Deputy Ambassador of the Netherlands Brechje Schwachofer.
Leading members of the British Cypriot community also attended the event including CFCyprus Board Members Tony Yerolemou, Andreas Papaevripides and Demetrios Markou MBE, together with Dr Ian Twinn CBE and Doros Partasides.