Britain is strongly supportive of settlement talks between Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, said Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, while assuring that the UK will do everything in its power to support a successful outcome.
“I want to commend both President Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci for their commitment and their leadership for taking this process forward” he said, adding that “it would be hugely to the benefit of all Cypriots to resolve this issue” as well as to the benefit of the region.
Hammond, who is paying a working visit to Cyprus, met on Friday with his Cypriot counterpart, Ioannis Kasoulides, at the Foreign Ministry, in Nicosia.
In statements after their meeting, Hammond, when asked on the future role of the UK as a guarantor power in Cyprus, said that “we are not seeking any special role”, and added that “we will do whatever we can to help the process”.
“We don`t have any preconception about whether we will have a role, and if so what kind of role in the future. If we are asked to perform any role, we will of course look to try to do so in a way that helps to support a solution” he noted.
He also reiterated UK`s offer to surrender a significant proportion of the land surface of the British Bases to the Republic of Cyprus, in the context of a settlement, to allow development. “That offer remains on the table” Hammond said.
Minister Kasoulides said from his part that the issue of guarantees should be discussed by the two leaders first, who “are not there yet” he added. “Let them discus it without negotiating through the media and when the time comes, we will speak also to the UK as appropriate” he added.
The two Ministers also spoke about their close cooperation on security matters. The Cypriot Foreign Minister said cooperation with the UK on this area “has reached unprecedented levels”.
From his part, Hammond said that “we have a closer defense and security relationship”, and elaborated that this also includes keeping each other informed on the movement of people who could constitute a potential threat to the UK or Cyprus.
“We`ve been seeing a much greater level of cooperation and we`ve been seeing the benefits of that cooperation” he said, while noting that Cyprus is located in a region faced with instability. “We are very keen to work with you, as we make our contribution to try to resolve the challenge of ISIL” he said.
Commenting on bilateral relations in general, the UK`s Foreign Secretary said a strong partnership was being forged between President Anastasiades and Prime Minister Cameron.
Finally, Hammond noted that other areas of cooperation include finance and public sector reform, as well as the Commonwealth.
Kasoulides said that he briefed Hammond on the latest developments in settlement talks and the prospects of moving forward.
The Cypriot Minister also spoke about the momentum in the cooperation between Cyprus and the UK, their joint efforts to tackle asymmetric threats and address humanitarian crises. He also offered Cyprus` condolences to the UK for the British who lost their lives in the recent terrorist attacks in Tunisia.
The two sides, according to Kasoulides, also welcomed the deal on the Iranian nuclear programme.
Speaking finally on the EU and Britain`s proposed reform agenda, ahead of the referendum on the country`s membership, Hammond said that “we look forward to work with countries like Cyprus that share our values”, as well as some of our concerns and our vision of a future EU.
Kasoulides retorted with a quote by King Alfred the Great, who said that “when the British Isles and the Continent part ways, the situation in both becomes precarious”.
Earlier this morning, Philip Hammond was received by President Anastasiades, at the Presidential Palace, and according to an announcement by the British High Commission, he reiterated the British support to the UN-led process and praised him and his interlocutor Mustafa Akinci for their positive leadership.
“There is now a real opportunity to reach a just and lasting settlement”, the British Foreign Secretary said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. UN-led talks, aiming to reunite the island under a federal roof, resumed on May 15, this year.