Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond addresses the Conservative Friends of Cyprus

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond addresses the Conservative Friends of Cyprus

The Rt Hon Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, reasserted the Conservative Party’s commitment to strengthening bilateral ties with the Republic of Cyprus at an event hosted by the Conservative Friends of Cyprus.

Mr Hammond was joined by a number of Conservative politicians including the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers, David Burrowes, Nick de Bois, Matthew Offord and Mike Freer. Also present were Dr Charles Tannock, an MEP for London, and Dr Ian Twinn, a former MEP and MP for Edmonton, together with several Enfield and Barnet councillors including the Chairman of CFCyprus Cllr Jason Charalambous, Lisa Rutter, Alessandro Georgiou, Joanne Laban and Anne-Marie Pearce.

In his address to a well-attended audience in North London, the Foreign Secretary expressed his hope that the Cyprus problem settlement talks are “on the brink of resumption” with sufficient momentum for a chance of success. He identified the need for the Turkish Cypriot community “to be clear that it wants to engage in a settlement process” as the “key issue” in achieving progress.

The Foreign Secretary added “if we can get that momentum going I can assure you that the international community will apply the maximum pressure on governments outside Cyprus to be supportive or at least not to interfere with that process going on. Also, the EU has a close working relationship with Turkey and will want to ensure that the UN-led process in Cyprus is able to run its course with good will on all sides”.

Mr Hammond received the audience’s applause with his remark that the UK government “will continue to champion Cyprus’s right to exploit its economic zone around the island without interference from others.”

In his introductory remarks, Chairman of CFCyprus, Cllr Jason Charalambous, said “with over 250,000 people of Cypriot descent living in Britain, over 60,000 British citizens living in Cyprus, countless British servicemen who call Cyprus their home, hundreds of thousands of Briton’s who visit Cyprus every year, and many other people in Britain who support closer bilateral ties, the bond between Britain and Cyprus is not just historic one but very much alive and important today, and as an organisation we welcome anyone who supports the strengthening of this relationship.”

Referring to Theresa Villiers, Nick de Bois, Matthew Offord, David Burrowes and Mike Freer, Cllr Charalambous added “these well known Conservative Parliamentary candidates all have a comprehensive track record as excellent constituency MPs and dedicated supporters of the Cypriot community and Cyprus. We simply cannot afford to lose these individuals, and it is incumbent on all those who wish to see them returned to Parliament to support their re-election.”

CFCyprus supports the re-election of all of the aforementioned parliamentary candidates, and look’s forward to seeing them returned to Parliament after May 7.

The Foreign Secretary’s address concluded with a Q & A session and a reception during which those attending had a further opportunity to ask questions to Mr Hammond and the parliamentary candidates attending.

CFCyprus reminds those unable to attend a polling station on May 7 that they are entitled to obtain a postal or proxy vote to ensure their voice is heard, and for those British citizens living in Cyprus for up to 15 years that they are also entitled to vote providing they register by 21 April. Visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk for more information.

CFCyprus seeks to promote the values and ideals of the Conservative Party across the UK and works towards strengthening the bond between the Conservative Party and the Republic of Cyprus. The organisation was founded in 1992 by Dr Ian Twinn with an inaugural event with the then Foreign Secretary, the Lord Hurd.

_DSC3831

_DSC3860

 

The full text of the Foreign Minister’s speech is as follows:

“It’s a great pleasure to follow my Conservative colleagues – who do so much, and devote so much energy to promoting strong relations between the UK and Cyprus.

I’m delighted to be here.  I know that this event had been scheduled to take place a few weeks ago, but had to be postponed.  But it’s great that we’ve been able to find another slot for today.

First as Defence Secretary, and now as Foreign Secretary, I have become very well aware of the importance of the close relationship between the UK and Cyprus – a relationship that has grown stronger, warmer and closer over the last couple of years.

As Defence Secretary, I was able to visit Cyprus and see for myself the geography of the island, including flying along the green line, by helicopter, to understand the ongoing efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement.

As Foreign Secretary, I have had a welcome and constructive engagement with Ioannis Kasoulides to underline our continued support for the UN-led process and for a resumption of settlement talks; as members of the anti-ISIL coalition, to discuss progress in Iraq and Syria;  and not least to discuss our EU reform agenda.

Let me start, though, by reiterating the Government’s position on a settlement in Cyprus.  As a long-standing friend of Cyprus, we are committed to doing whatever lies within our power to help sustain, support and advance the Cypriot-led process, under the auspices of the United Nations and the UN Secretary General’s adviser Espen Eide, which we hope will lead to an end to the torment and distress caused by the continued division of the island; and the reunification which families in both communities want to see. We want to see a lasting, just and balanced settlement leading to a reunited Cyprus.

When I, and my Minister for Europe, David Lidington, talk to our Greek and Turkish counterparts, and in our dealings in the EU and at the UN, we always make sure that they are aware of the importance that we attach to the issue of Cyprus and of the need to make progress on reaching a settlement.  And we are making a practical contribution too – such as through the recent announcements about development on the Sovereign Base Areas and the standing offer to shrink the size of the SBAs by a release of land as part of an overall settlement.

And as well as providing political support, the British Government is also supporting grassroots peace-building initiatives – such as the event that David Lidington hosted last month at the FCO that brought together the Greek and Turkish Cypriot Chambers of Commerce to highlight the economic benefits of a settlement and to promote cross-community working.

In the meantime, we will continue to support the work of the Committee on Missing Persons in trying to bring closure for the relatives of the hundreds who remain ‘missing’.

The prize that a comprehensive and lasting settlement to the division that has, for too long, affected Cyprus is clear: greater prosperity, greater security, and greater certainty about the future.  I believe a settlement will pay dividends for all Cypriots; but not just for them – it will also pay dividends for the region, and for Europe too.  A settlement will strengthen NATO and allow enhanced NATO-EU security cooperation, at a time when Europe’s security is challenged on many fronts.

Another area which is going to be crucial for increasing prosperity – for Cyprus, for the UK and for the whole of Europe – is reform of the European Union.  It’s an issue on which I have spent a great deal of my time as Foreign Secretary.  And it’s an issue on which I know we are closely aligned with the Cypriot Government.

Because if we’re going to maintain, and indeed enhance, the living standards which people within the EU have become accustomed to, then we have to tackle some of the barriers to growth that are holding the EU back.  That means reforming the EU to deliver greater competitiveness, greater accountability, and greater fairness between Eurozone and non-Eurozone countries.

The British agenda for reform is almost identical to the Cypriot agenda.  We both want to see much greater progress towards completion of the single market, especially in services – particularly in financial services; we both want to ensure that the principle of subsidiarity – that the EU should only intervene if it will be more effective than Member States – is fully respected; we both want to see the burden of bureaucracy and regulation cut; more jobs created; and more foreign investment attracted to the EU.  So I look forward to working with my Cypriot colleague to advancing the case for EU reform.

I know that Cyprus has had a particularly difficult time in the last few years as a result of the financial crisis.  And I am proud that my predecessor, William Hague, was one of the first – if not the first – to pick up the phone and offer our help and support after President Anastasiades took office in 2013.

Although not part of the Eurozone, this Government despatched a team of UK experts to provide first-hand technical assistance to the Government of Cyprus during the financial crisis.  I know how much this practical example of the bond of friendship between Britain and Cyprus has been appreciated – because it was the first thing that President Anastasiades told me when I met him last September in New York.  And UK Treasury officials worked hand-in-hand with the Cypriot authorities to develop a solution for customer deposits held in the UK branch of Cyprus Popular Bank, so that they could be transferred to the Bank of Cyprus UK.

Under this Government, I am proud that the UK was there for Cyprus in its hour of need; and that has immeasurably strengthened the bond between our two countries.  And we will continue to support Cyprus’ right to exploit the resources of its EEZ, without interference from outside.

Let me finish by saying something about the forthcoming General Election.

There are now just 27 days to go until polling day.

And on polling day, there is going to be a clear choice.  One of two people is going to be the next Prime Minister of this country: David Cameron, or Ed Miliband.

So we have 27 days to get our message across to the British people that Britain is on the right track with David Cameron and the Conservatives; and 27 days to convince the British people that we cannot afford to risk the chaos that would ensue under a government nominally led by Ed Miliband, but in fact held to ransom by the Scottish Nationalists.

And we also have 27 days to remind the voters of Chipping Barnet, Enfield North, Enfield Southgate, Finchley and Golders Green and Hendon of the excellent work their Conservative Members of Parliament, standing here beside me, do for them.

I know, as you know, that they do a fantastic job representing their communities.  And I know, as you know, that we need them back in Parliament so that they can keep working to support the British Cypriot community in North London and keep fighting for the cause of a fair and just reunification of Cyprus.

So let me finish by thanking you for everything that you do to support them.  Let me urge you to get behind them in these last few weeks before polling day.  And let us look forward to our hard work paying off when the results come in on May 8th; and Britain is rewarded with the stability that only a Conservative Government can deliver.

Thank you; and Happy Easter.”