House of Commons reaffirms UK support for Cyprus settlement

House of Commons reaffirms UK support for Cyprus settlement

The House of Commons has unanimously passed a motion tabled by Conservative Friends of Cyprus’s Parliamentary Chairman David Burrowes MP supporting the return of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants and calling for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, as set out in the relevant Security Council Resolutions and the High Level Agreements.

The motion text also calls on the Turkish government to act accordingly to the Security Council resolutions as regards Famagusta, and urges the UK government to “promote” Turkey’s cooperation.

Opening the debate on Monday 16 November, Mr Burrowes stressed that although Cyprus is a member of the EU it is “tragically and intolerably” divided and occupied. He added that with Cyprus being “in good hands”, referring to President Anastasiades, there is hope for a settlement, which could make Cyprus a “beacon” to other nations, providing the stability the region needs so much.

The Enfield-Southgate MP conveyed to the House the positive messages he received during the CfC Parliamentary delegation to Cyprus between 11-14 November.

He described the motion presented to the MPs as “substantive” and “historic”, noting that a petition for the return of Famagusta managed to gather more than 50,000 signatures and the support of Prime Minister David Cameron back in 2012.

On behalf of the British government the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Tobias Ellwood spoke of the “important strategic relationship” the UK has with Cyprus, as well as the British security interest because of the sovereign bases.

He commented that the continuing division “serves no purpose whatsoever” and that everyone would benefit from a solution. “I welcome the support expressed in the motion for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. Cyprus has been divided for too long. Under the courageous leadership of President Anastasiades and Mr Akinci we may now have an opportunity to secure a just and lasting settlement. I can assure the House that the UK will remain a strong supporter of the two communities’ efforts to secure a settlement. We will do whatever we can to help them reunite Cyprus,” said the Foreign Office official.

He pointed to the “clear benefits” a settlement would have for Cyprus, the region and the UK and referring to Turkey he said: “It is clear that Turkey remains an important part of reaching a solution. We welcome Turkey’s support for a settlement, and public statements on that from President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu have been important in building support for a settlement.”

He also repeated the UK’s offer to cede back to Cyprus nearly half of the territory of the sovereign base areas in an event of a settlement and then turned his focus on the issue of guarantees. “On the question of security and guarantees, our position is clear: we are not seeking a specific role for the UK. Rather, we are ready to consider whatever arrangements the sides can agree to enable their communities to feel secure,” said Tobias Ellwood.

Referring to Famagusta, he repeated his government’s position that the relevant resolutions are respected, but that ultimately “a comprehensive settlement is the best chance of resolving these complex issues.”

The debate heard contributions by a number of MPs, not least the ones that participated in the recent visit to Cyprus. Sheryll Murray MP highlighted the importance that the opening of Famagusta would have for Cypriot tourism and the significance of settling the Cyprus issue for establishing respect for religious sites on the island.

Mike Freer MP commented that “Famagusta is a visible reminder that Cyprus is the only EU country occupied by a foreign power and that we cannot allow Turkey to accede to the EU until it withdraws from Cyprus.”

Matthew Offord MP expressed his dismay over the restriction of access to the beach in Famagusta. He also noted that Turkey is not criticised about the settlers’ policy in Cyprus which is “a clear breach of the fourth Geneva convention.”

Sir David Amess MP and Sir Roger Gale MP also contributed to the debate, the former saying that his cynicism over the prospect of a settlement has been overturned following the latest visit to the island and the latter commenting that there was now “a window of opportunity”. Sir Roger also said that “the idea that we can fast-track Turkey into a European Union without settling the Cyprus problem is a non-starter; it is simply a red line.”

David Burrowes also addressed some questions to the Prime Minister during the debate. He started by asking for the UK government’s support for access to be given to experts to Varosha, so that they can assess the damage and the requirements for restoration and regeneration. In relation to the UK’s guarantor powers, Mr Burrowes asked whether Britain would indicate that external countries’ guarantees have no future following a comprehensive settlement. Finally, he asked whether London would continue to ask the Turkish government to provide information that is still being kept in their archives regarding the missing persons.