With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement on the negotiations about Cyprus.
The basis of the London Agreements of last year was that the United Kingdom should hand over to the new Republic sovereignty over Cyprus except for two areas to be retained under full British sovereignty. It was also agreed that the Republic should assure to us the rights and facilities on their territory necessary to enable the two areas to be used effectively as military bases.
The locations of the sovereign base areas were indicated in general terms in the Agreements. At first, we thought that it would be necessary to retain areas in which about 16,000 Cypriots resided. That figure was mentioned by me last year during the London Conference.
We later tried our best to restrict the size of the areas and to reduce the number of Cypriots living in them. That has always been our wish. Our first formal statement of our requirements referred to an area between 150 and 170 square miles, including a Cypriot population of about 4,500. Using square miles as a measurement gives a misleading impression of size. It is roughly equivalent to a 12½ mile square split into two portions.
Later, we made a further effort to reduce these areas and last week I put to the delegations areas amounting to about 120 square miles and involving the reduction of the number of Cypriots living in them to under 1,000. The only village remaining under British sovereignty would then be Akrotiri, and we have offered to rehouse in the Republic at our expense any of the inhabitants of that village who wish to leave.
The fear was expressed that the Island of Cyprus would not continue to be a single economic and administrative unit. We have tried to meet that point. We have undertaken not to set up a colonial-type administration in the two areas, and not to use them in any way as a means of competing with the Republic or disrupting the economic unity of the island.
We are prepared to make arrangements under which the Government of the Republic should carry out many important administrative functions within the sovereign base areas so that life would be much the same for the Cypriots wherever they lived or worked. We have no wish, I repeat, to use the sovereign base areas for other than purely military purposes and certainly not to deprive the Republic of any economic advantage. There is no question of a separate little "colony".
These arrangements in the sovereign areas must, of course, be subject to our military and security requirements, a qualification which both Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders fully accepted during the recent talks. Another condition is that there should be no discrimination by the Republic against those who live or work in the sovereign base areas. This, also, was accepted,
Archbishop Makarios has accepted the concept of sovereign base areas, but has maintained that they should be restricted to 36 square miles, in other words, an area of 6 miles by 6 miles on the argument that we should be restricted to existing military establishments with some elbow room and communication territory.
What, however, has also to be taken into account is that one of our purposes has been to get as many as possible of the intallations which would otherwise be scattered throughout the rest of the island into these two sovereign base areas. Last February there were over 100 sites and installations on what will be the territory of the Republic. They covered about 5,500 acres. We have reduced these to less than 2,900 acres, of which about 1,100 are only temporary, in other words, a permanent requirement of only 1,800 acres of which Nicosia airfield accounts for about 1,150.
We have reduced the number of permanent sites to 19. This is only possible by having room in the sovereign base areas for this redeployment. If regard is had to the fact that a base area, to be of any value, must have room for reasonable dispersion and also be adequate to receive reinforcements in a time of emergency, I believe that it will be generally acknowledged that our position is reasonable and, indeed, a minimum.
In addition, we have accepted considerable restrictions upon movement and training over the territory of the Republic. We have agreed that the United Kingdom should not own property in the Republic, even within the sites provided, without the consent of the Cypriot Government.
We have offered to hand over air traffic control at Nicosia airfield, including the control of military aircraft, to the Cypriot authorities as soon as suitably qualified personnel are available, subject to special arrangements in the event of an emergency. This has been agreed.
Subject to the clearing up of certain financial points, we have offered a grant of £7½ million to be spread over five years, together with £½ million to meet certain Turkish-Cypriot requests which both communities have endorsed. We have offered a loan of up to £2 million for financing an extension of the electricity service in the island. If Cyprus remains in the Commonwealth, she will be eligible for Commonwealth Assistance Loans.
We calculate that the earnings to Cyprus to be derived from the presence of our troops, their families, the work done in the bases, etc., will be between £15 and £20 million a year. For example, about 15,000 Cypriots will have employment within the sovereign base areas.
With regard to the Commonwealth, we have agreed to draft the Cyprus Bill in such a way as to keep the position open until after independence, so that Cyprus can then decide whether or not to seek membership. That means that, so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, Cyprus will have the advantages of Commonwealth membership during this interim period pending a decision.
On leaving London Airport, Archbishop Makarios said that there had been profitable discussion and exchange of views during the past 14 days. I have been present at all but two of the sessions myself. We have sat long hours, there has been a good deal of argument, we have made many concessions, and, in fact, we have cleared up many points.
On some important matters, however, there has not yet been agreement. They must all be settled before the Bill for the independence of Cyprus can be brought before the House. The date for independence was postponed from 19th February to 19th March, at Cypriot request. There is not much time if we are to pass the Bill in the House in time for independence on 19th March.
Meanwhile, the London Committee has remained hard at work on the texts of the agreements under the chairmanship of the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. Some further progress has been made since the departure of Archbishop Makarios and Dr. Kutchuk.
The Greek and Turkish Governments are also, of course, signatories of the London Agreements and I was grateful to my colleagues, the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey, for their presence and help during the first few days of this series of meetings.
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he still expects that 19th March can be the date for Cypriot independence? If so, how does he propose that the negotiations should be resumed? Does he propose to take any initiative in that direction? Is he aware that Sir Hugh Foot said the other day that delay in this matter was disastrous? Does he agree with that statement? Would he care to comment on it?
On the particular issues in dispute, are we right in understanding that the main question at issue is the size of the bases? How does it come about that there is such a wide divergence of opinion between us and the Cypriot leaders who, as I understand, took the view that the total area was to be no more than 12 square miles, as implied in the Agreements of last year, whereas, even after making what are called "concessions," Her Majesty's Government are asking for an area about twelve times as large? Did not these differences come out during the negotiations last year?
I still hope that the date of 19th March, will be maintained. The right hon. Gentleman asked what is happening in the way of negotiations. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is still at work with the London Committee on certain matters affecting the Agreements, not entirely matters of detail but matters of importance. In addition, discussions are taking place in Cyprus. I think that we must accept the fact that that is now the place where further negotiations must take place if that date is to be achieved. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether failure to meet that date would be a disaster. I think that it will be unfortunate if we cannot meet the date of 19th March.
When we were originally discussing this plan it was suggested that it should be carried out within six months. We on the British side thought that it was quite impossible to carry through all the complicated legal and administrative matters within six months and we said that we thought that efforts should be made to achieve it within a year, but we had grave doubts whether it was possible to do the work in the time. Those who have had to examine the voluminous Agreements which we have been looking at in the last fortnight realise that there is a great deal of work to be done. Even so, I hope that the work will be finished for 19th March.
As for the interpretation of the Agreement, I do not think that any reasonable person reading the terms of the Agreement, which was set out in Cmnd. 679, could possibly have thought from
the British declaration that we were restricting ourselves to the actual installations which were then in occupation. It was quite clear that we were thinking of two areas. We went on to say:
That, with the exception of two areas at
(1) that such rights are secured to the United Kingdom Government as are necessary to enable the two areas as aforesaid to be used effectively as military bases …
I think that that clearly shows that we had a base area in mind and that the size to which we have reduced the area is a minimum.
Is it a fact that the negotiations will be continued by the Governor in Cyprus with the leaders of the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities? Secondly, on the point at issue, may I press the right hon. and learned Gentleman on this question: did the two areas mentioned specifically—and they were the only two areas mentioned in the Agreement which the right hon. and learned Gentleman quoted—cover an area of 144 square miles or only 12 square miles?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman realises that it is unreasonable to question me on exactly how further negotiations will take place. I have already given him an impression about the Governor's conversations in Cyprus. No idea was ever given at any time that this area would be restricted to 12 square miles. I maintain that, reading this Agreement, and particularly having regard to what was said at the time about 16,000 Cypriots being within the area, it is quite clear that we have been thinking of very much larger areas than those to which we have ultimately come down.
May I ask about the possible relationship of Cyprus with the Commonwealth? Will my right hon. and learned Friend say what is envisaged? Is it envisaged that the Republic should have a membership similar to that of Nigeria or South Africa, or is a special relationship envisaged?
That is a matter which must be left until Cyprus is independent. It is very important that the decision should be made by the Republic of Cyprus as to what sort of membership she should seek. It will then be a matter for the other members of the Commonwealth to deal with that suggestion.
Is not this a case in which the Service Departments are far more acceptable to the Cypriots than is the Colonial Office or the Foreign Office, because of past associations? Would it not be wise in the next stage of negotiations to treat this matter as purely military and to leave a great deal of the negotiations to the Service Departments?
I am not certain that that would have a consequence of reducing the size of the areas. I am grateful to the hon. Member for asking the question, for it enables me to make it absolutely clear that it will be the military authorities who will have the administration of this area.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that most reasonable people will believe that the Government have gone to the absolute limit in the concessions which they have made? More specifically, have any instructions been sent out to the armed forces and to the police that it may not be possible to maintain their scheduled dates of return to this country?
What possible use is a base of this type to anybody? Would it not be better to withdraw completely and allow the Cyprus Government freedom to draw the appropriate conclusions?
We do not take that view. We think that there is value in this base and that it is important to retain these base areas. The whole bargain of last year, to which the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities and the Greek and Turkish Governments were parties, was that we should retain these sovereign base areas in the island and other facilities. We believe that it is in our national interest that we should do so.
In view of the comment by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) and the use by the right hon. and learned Gentleman of the word "minimum", may I ask the Minister to bear in mind that both these things bear an unpleasant relationship with the use of the word "never" by the then Mr. Henry Hopkinson, when he was in this House, with such terrible consequences?
As for the bases themselves, does not the right hon. and, learned Gentleman agree with me, from his Ministry of Defence days, that whatever is provided in the Agreement, in the end the military value of the bases is bound to depend on the degree of good will which we can get from the local people? Is it not better to keep that in mind, too?
I have heard that argument used many times before. Of course, bases are very much more valuable if we have the good will of the people who are near them and who have to work in them. I believe that we shall have the good will of those people. Nevertheless, in cases like this we have to take into account the possibility of an emergency. I feel that we have to retain under our own sovereignty areas which in an emergency can be used to contain considerable forces—areas in which we can take, by our own right, certain precautionary steps. We have to retain what is the barest minimum for this purpose.
We have to be able to do what we think is right in an area which is under our own sovereignty. Indeed, it may be of great advantage to the Government of Cyprus of the day that it should be an area which is under our sovereignty and for which we have sole responsibility.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that a base in Cyprus will not be of any value to us unless it commands the good will and support of the Cypriot people? Further, will he consider carefully the long-term political implications of this? A base may be valuable today, but must we not strengthen the hands of the Cypriot Government and keep out the AKEL Communists and those who wish to wreck the London Agreements?
We have put forward in the negotiations a number of proposals which will have precisely the effect of making the Agreement more acceptable in Cyprus. The proposals for administration within the sovereign areas are designed exactly for that purpose. We have made a considerable number of concessions over our facilities, training rights and such matters in the territory of the Republic. It is quite true that we want the good will of the people of the Republic, but I do not believe that depends on the size of the sovereign areas.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House just what this base is for in circumstances in which we have not got the co-operation of the local population? Is not this the hinge of the matter? Secondly, will the Foreign Secretary explain why he took up a final position on 156 square miles and has now reduced it to 120 square miles? Will he let us know when he is taking up another final position.
I did not take up a final position on the 156 square miles. When we came to these negotiations we promised to do what we could to reexamine whether it was possible to reduce the areas. We did that and came down to about 120 square miles. One hundred and twenty square miles is about 11 miles by 11 miles, split into two bits. Any hon. Members who have any experience of the last war will agree that that is a very small area indeed. I do not believe that that area can be reduced. It is a minimum.
Of course, we want the good will, I repeat, of the Cypriot people and I think that the way in which we have tackled the negotiations, which have been carried out with good will and in a good spirit, has proved that. The hon. Gentleman must draw his own conclusions about the value of the base. I think that it is important that we should keep such a base.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the military authorities in Cyprus recently explained to Mr. Randolph Churchill that the military purpose of the base was to serve as a jumping-off ground for bombing the Russian oilfields, and that that was its only purpose? If that is so, does not he understand that there might be retaliatory action and that the fears of the Cypriots are perfectly justified?