Foreign Secretary the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP joined the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and the Minister for Europe the Rt Hon David Lidington MP at the Conservative Friends of Cyprus’ reception at the Conservative Party Conference on Sunday evening in Manchester.
In addressing the hundred strong audience consisting of Conservative Ministers, MPs, MEPs, assembly members, councillors and party members, the Foreign Secretary applauded the efforts of CFCyprus noting that he “very much welcomes the contribution that the Cypriot community in Britain makes towards our civic life and our political discussions”.
Theresa Villiers, who also serves as President of the member-led organisation, said the Cypriot community should be proud of the “significant role it played in delivering a Conservative government” and congratulated Chairman of CFCyprus Jason Charalambous, founder Ian Twinn and their supporting team for successfully re-launching the organisation commending their “real ambition to reach out”. She also welcomed their efforts in ensuring that strong relations with Cyprus are “top of the Conservative agenda” and that the party does all it can to assist in “promoting the Conservative cause within the Cypriot community”.
Chairman Jason Charalambous who welcomed the guests in his opening remarks referred to the evolution of the long-established organisation founded by Ian Twinn in 1992, highlighting the recent formation of the CFCyprus Parliamentary Group chaired by David Burrowes, MP for Enfield Southgate, and the upcoming parliamentary visit to Cyprus in mid-November, both of which have attracted the interest of a considerable number of Conservative MPs from across the UK.
“We are also gearing up to support Zac Goldsmith who I offer my heartfelt congratulations to” he added in relation to the Richmond MPs recent selection as Conservative candidate for London Mayor, adding that “he will make an excellent Mayor” and that CFCyprus will “certainly do everything possible to help deliver him to City Hall in the elections next May”.
Mr Charalambous also referred to Cyprus’s broad appeal in Britain beyond the 300,000 strong British Cypriot community, based on intimate historic ties, a sizeable British expat community living in Britain and as one of the most popular tourist destinations for British holidaymakers. He added that Cyprus is “a strong and reliable ally to Britain in a tragically turbulent part of the world” and is a “notable supporter of the UK’s within the EU which will prove invaluable with David Cameron’s renegotiation of the UK-EU relationship”.
Philip Hammond also described the relationship between Britain and Cyprus as “very important”, pointing to the help provided by London to Nicosia in dealing with recent financial challenges, as well as to the close cooperation over the reform of the EU, as both countries are keen advocates of completing the single market in services.
Minister for Europe David Lidington and Charles Tannock MEP also addressed the audience, which consisted of numerous MPs including Chris Pincher, Crispin Blunt, Conor Burns, Byron Davies, Julian Knight, Bob Neill, Bob Stewart and Martin Vickers. The High Commissioner for Cyprus, HE Euripides Evriviades also attended, as did leading members of the British Cypriot community including POMAK President Andreas Papaevripides, Demetrios Markou MBE, Doros Partasides and Andre Chris.
On the Cyprus Problem, the speakers unanimously expressed their optimism for the way negotiations aimed at reunifying the island are progressing.
The Foreign Secretary said that in a meeting in New York last week the UNSG special envoy Espen Bart Eide confirmed Mr Hammond’s own feeling “that the settlement of this long-running problem is now something which is genuinely within our grasp.” He added that Britain is determined to help in any way it can: “We are of course one of the guarantor powers of Cyprus’s constitution and we are completely flexible about our future role and relationship to Cyprus in that respect. If it helps, we will consider any option that parties come up with.
“We know that the resolution of outstanding property issues is likely to require considerable financial input and we have undertaken to work with our partners in the EU, with the United States, to ensure that international community is able to mobilise to support a settlement with the necessary financial underpinning” he continued.
Mr Hammond said that following more effort over the next 4-5 months there is a possibility of a referendum next year in Cyprus on a solution: “It will be a historic moment. There is a window of opportunity now, if we miss it the stars may never align in the same way again… So I very much hope that we are on the brink of something really historic here.”
David Lidington told guests he genuinely believes that “what we have seen over the last 6 or 7 months is more hopeful, gives greater real cause for optimism than anything we have seen since the days of the Annan Plan or eve before” and MEP Dr Charles Tannock said that after the election of Mr Akinci as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community there has been “a completely different approach, far humbler and far more optimistic” by Turkish Cypriot representatives.
CFCyprus is a volunteer run organisation that seeks to promote the Conservative Party across the UK and encourage closer ties between Britain and Cyprus. The organisation will be hosting a parliamentary delegation to Cyprus in November and has a number of other events scheduled in the near future. Join the mailing list here to stay informed and get involved.
For photos from the event click here.