We have had an excellent day of debates and, though the hour is late, it is nevertheless, important for us to address our minds to the question of the island of Cyprus, and I use the term "island of Cyprus" advisedly.
Cyprus is once again in the news. We have recently had the new recommendations of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for a settlement in the island between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities.
This is an island that I know well, and I immediately declare my interest in it. I first went there in 1972 when, on the advice of a Greek Cypriot friend, I purchased a small cottage near Kyrenia, which at that time was governed by the Greek Cypriot Government. I have been there every year for the last 14 years and have seen government under the Greek Cypriots and, as is now the case in northern Cyprus, under the Turkish Cypriot Administration.
Cyprus is important to us in the United Kingdom for many reasons. First, because we are a guarantor power under the treaty of independence for the Republic of Cyprus. Together with Turkey and Greece, we in the United Kingdom share that responsibility. Secondly, of course, we have two sovereign bases on the island of Cyprus, one entirely surrounded by Greek Cypriot territory and the other, Dhekelia, mainly surrounded by Turkish Cypriot territory.
Cyprus is, of course, a member of the British commonwealth of nations — the Commonwealth as we now call it. It is significant that at the time of the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot Administrations, within the Commonwealth state of Cyprus, produced their own special postage stamps to commemorate that event.
There is a large British permanent resident community in southern and northern Cyprus. The British resident community in northern Cyprus has been increasing during the past few years. The subject is now of international interest, and of special interest to the United Kingdom.
The past 23 years, since 1963, have been sad years for that island, and 1963 saw attacks upon the Turkish Cypriot minority. In 1974, we saw the Greek inspired coup against the legitimate president of the Republic of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, followed by the intervention of one of the guarantor powers, Turkey, without the co-operation of the United Kingdom.
Since then there have been many well-meaning efforts to bring about peace between the two communities in that island. Perhaps, coming from Ireland, I have greater experience and knowledge of the obvious difficulties in bringing together two communities in an island to work for the betterment of their entire community.
In 1974, there was a coup against the Government of Cyprus. Following the division of the island at that time, there was in 1977 a meeting between Archbishop Makarios and the leader of the Turkish Cyoriot community, Mr. Rauf Denktas. At that time there was progress. The leadership of the Greek Cypriot community accepted that Turkish Cypriots were another community that had to be respected as equal citizens on that island, and that a bi-zonal arrangement was probably the best way forward for the islanders.
Subsequently, as we know, Archbishop Makarios died and there followed various initiatives from the United Nations. First, there were the 1981 Waldheim evaluations, which were not successful. Then in 1983 there were the first Perez de Cuellar indicators, which were not successful. Most significant of all, in 1985, the first draft agreement was proposed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Pérez de Cuellar. The broad guidelines were accepted by the Turkish Cypriot community, but unfortunately they were rejected by President Kyprianou, the leader of the Greek Cypriot community.
Once again the United Nations, with the encouragement of those in the West, decided to look again at these proposals to see whether there was any room for movement, to bring about further compromise in Cyprus between the two bitterly divided communities in that island.
Just recently a draft framework agreement, which is really an amendment to last year's proposals from the Secretary-General, has been produced. It is an overall package; it is not possible to accept part of it and reject the other part. Although there are some aspects of the agreement that are unpleasant for the Turkish Cypriots, they have accepted the broad package. Unfortunately, the Greek Cypriots have raised four problems and have invited the Secretary-General to arrange an international conference involving the main nations such as Russia and the United States to decide upon the factors, or a meeting between the heads of the different communities in Cyprus to discuss the issue.
Understandably, it is difficult for the Turkish Cypriots to entertain the idea of an international conference because in such a setting they would merely be sitting on the back benches while the Greek Cypriots, being recognised as the international representatives of the island, would be at the main table along with the United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey, Russia and any other nations that were involved in the conference. Therefore, the Turkish Cypriot community would not have equal status at such a meeting. One can see why they are not prepared to accept that proposal.
If this agreement does not succeed — and it seems that it may not—time will be running out in Cyprus for an agreement that will bring the two parts of the island together. Since 1974 the Turkish Cypriots have waited for an agreement that would bring about an independent sovereign and bi-zonal federal state in Cyprus. At the same time they have suffered because the Greek Cypriots have been recognised internationally as the official representatives of the island. The danger is that the Turkish Cypriots will soon move towards an independent northern Cyprus, which would mean that the partition of the island, which is already de facto, would quickly become a longterm reality, with de jure recognition.
I want to point out how this has been happening over the past few years and is beginning to increase in momentum. In Strasbourg, for instance, in recent months the assembly of the Council of Europe has for the first time challenged the credentials of the Greek Cypriot Members of Parliament. Recently that assembly, by 68 votes to 53, decided to suspend the credentials of the Greek Cypriot Members of Parliament as representatives of Cyprus. So, for the first time, an international body is beginning to question the legitimacy of representation by Greek Cypriots only for the island of Cyprus in international affairs.
The second factor which is assisting the division of Cyprus is European economic aid. The European Community has an association agreement with all of Cyprus because it was negotiated before the coup against the Cyprus Government and the subsequent arrival of the Turkish troops. Clause 5 of that agreement states specifically that both communities must benefit from European Economic Community aid. However, because we recognise only the Greek Cypriots as the official Government for all Cyprus, all the EEC aid is going to the Greek Cypriot part of Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriot part is not benefiting from European Community economic aid under the association agreement.
There is a problem within the EEC, not simply about recognition, but because the Commissioner, Claude Cheysson, has a bias against Turkey. That is reflected in his attitudes towards the Turkish Cypriots. The clause in the agreement says that both communities should benefit and we should ensure in the United Kingdom, through our representations in the EEC, that clause 5 is operated fairly and that projects submitted from northern Cyprus benefit in the same way as projects from southern Cyprus.
There is also the problem of international aid, that is, aid other than EEC aid. All international aid goes to southern Cyprus because we do not recognise northern Cyprus as a state. The more one pours financial aid into southern Cyprus the more that creates a disparity between the living standards in the two parts of the island and the more one perpetuates the division there. That is the tragedy. By recognising only one part of the island, we are actually assisting the long-term division in the island.
Another problem has arisen over flights. Flights go smoothly from every international airport to southern Cyprus. Until recently, there were very few flights to northern Cyprus because that part of Cyprus is not recognised. One can see that there is a creeping acceptance of northern Cyprus as a separate independent state, because charter flights have recently started to northern Cyprus from Germany. We know that regular flights are made via Turkey from the United Kingdom to northern Cyprus and before long there will be charter flights to northern Cyprus as well. In terms of flights and communications, recognition of northern Cyprus is becoming a reality as the political problems of the island remain unresolved.
Today, throughout the whole of western Europe, the postage stamps issued by the northern Cyprus authorities are recognised on packages coming from northern Cyprus to western Europe, including the United Kingdom.
Recently, and this is a further development that emphasises how the existence of northern Cyprus is becoming more acceptable, passports which have the imprimatur of the Turkish Cypriot authorities in northern Cyprus are not only acceptable in western Europe but last month became acceptable in Greece. Until last, month, Greece had refused to accept such passports.
Finally, there is the growing interest of the Moslem world in the independence of northern Cyprus. The Moslem authorities in Arab countries are becoming more willing to recognise the independence of northern Cyprus.
We must try to avoid the permanency of the division in Cyprus. We must seek to bring about an agreement on the island. The division can be avoided only if the United Kingdom, which has a main interest in the island, and the other western nations, advise Greece through our allies in the EEC and NATO, and the Greek Cypriots who are in the Commonwealth, that the United Nations Secretary-General's proposals must be given a more positive response. If that is denied, the Turkish Cypriots will not stand waiting for recognition much longer. The de facto recognition that is already taking place as I have described will become de jure recognition by some Arab countries, and that will put pressure on other countries to follow their example.
That would be a sad solution for Cyprus, and I hope that those in the United Kingdom who can bring influence to bear will do so. It is not good enough for us to stand quietly aside and say that we are supporting the good offices of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. In another place recently, 10 questions on Cyprus drew but one answer — that we support the good offices of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. That is likely to lead us nowhere unless we take the initiative—we have a greater interest in Cyprus than most other countries—to encourage both communities to make a go of the United Nation's proposals.
Tourism is vital to the northern side of Cyprus. Following the problems of terrorism in the middle east, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised that it might be dangerous to visit certain countries. Northern Cyprus has not seen a bomb or a bullet for 14 years. I do not believe that any European country could claim such peace and stability. I know that the Greek Cypriots rightly objected to the Government advising people that it would be dangerous to visit Cyprus. I hope that, if it has not already done so, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will pretty soon correct that advice and make it clear that it is quite safe for United Kingdom residents to visit Cyprus.
My final point concerns British citizens' interest in northern Cyprus. At the time of the coup and the arrival of Turkish troops—we should not forget that there are Greek national troops there—there were properties that British citizens had bought jointly with Greek citizens. That created a problem in northern Cyprus when it became a part of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. There were also properties that had been bought by British citizens on their own, but for which, during the coup, they did not get title deeds. When the new authorities took over, therefore, they had no title.
I know that the Turkish Cypriot authorities have considered these problems through their assembly, but many British citizens still do not have their title deeds and are waiting on a decision by the Turkish Cypriot assembly. I should like an assurance that the British Government, through the high commission, are making every effort to ensure a speedy resolution to the problem.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) on his success in the ballot and on his choice of subject for debate, although not on the hour of it.
Cyprus is of special interest to many hon. Members on both sides of the House, and I know that the right hon. Gentleman has made tireless efforts on its behalf. I recognise his interest in and connections with the Turkish Cypriot community. I am particularly pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has initiated the debate because this House must be the forum for discussions of matters of major national and international importance.
First, I shall deal with the right hon. Gentleman's two final points. Following representations and consideration within the Foreign Office, the advice to tourists on travel to Cyprus is exactly the same as that relating to other parts of the Mediterranean. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we have been pressing the Turkish authorities to try to remove the difficulties over claims. We have made it clear to them that the problems have been continuing for far too long, and that we look to them for a resolution of those outstanding claims.
Obviously, our interests in Cyprus go back over a number of years. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we are one of the guarantors of Cyprus independence under the 1960 arrangements. We have had a long connection, have governed Cyprus, and still retain our bases on the island. We have played an active part in what can loosely be described as the Cyprus problem over the past 26 years. As an example of this—the right hon. Gentleman did not mention this—I draw the attention of the House to our role in the United Nations' peacekeeping force, UNFICYP. Our contribution amounts to 760 men of the total of 2,350 who are deployed on the island, and it costs us more than £21 million a year, which is about one third of the total cost. The right hon. Gentleman will agree that that is a significant commitment, and shows the importance that we attach to a resolution of the Cyprus problem.
For many years now our policy on the Cyprus problem has been dominated by two overriding objectives. The first is to do what we can to contribute towards finding a peaceful, just and lasting settlement to the Cyprus problem. The second is to try to ensure that nothing happens that will make such a settlement more difficult to find, or that leads to a deterioration of the situation in Cyprus. Perhaps I can characterise these policy themes as the "negative" and "positive" aspects of our policy.
I should like to begin with the negative aspect. It was the desire to avoid a deterioration in the situation that led us to state strongly over a number of years the undesirability of the Turkish Cypriots declaring independence, and to refuse to recognise the so-called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus". Apart from the legal anti constitutional arguments, it was clear to us then and it is clear to us now that recognition of the so-called TRNC would in no way contribute to the search for a settlement. I know that the right hon. Gentleman accepts that. Indeed., it would make such a settlement more difficult to find. We continue to urge all parties to avoid anything which will make things more difficult.
I should like to turn now to the positive aspects of our policy, and to explain rather more fully some developments in recent months. We continue to believe that the Secretary-General's initiative offers by far the best prospect of a settlement. That is not to say that a settlement will be easy. It will require courage and statesmanship on both sides to overcome years of mutual distrust. I cart understand the frustration that has led some to argue for a separate initiative from Britain, or indeed from other quarters, but we firmly believe that the efforts of Senor Perez de Cuellar must be supported firmly and unequivocally.
Let me sketch where the Secretary-General's initiative now stands. He has made three sets of proposals, all with similar basic provisions on two of the key issues, territory and the constitution. The Turkish Cypriots accepted the first version in January 1985. The Greek Cypriots accepted the second version in April of that year. The Secretary-General put forward his latest proposals at the end of March. Obviously, they do not meet all the concerns of all the parties. But they seem to us fair and reasonable and we support them and the Secretary-General's role.
The Secretary-General has yet to receive substantive replies from both sides. He will no doubt wish to await them before deciding his way forward. But I stress that the crucial moment has now arrived. Now, if ever, political courage is needed. We fully recognise that difficult issues remain — for example, troop withdrawals, guarantees and the "three freedoms". It is important to understand that what the Secretary-General is proposing is an integrated whole. He wants agreement on his present constitutional proposals as the way into an overall settlement. He wants positive responses from both sides to his current framework proposals to pave the way for progess on outstanding issues. If I have one message to get across tonight it is to urge all the parties to seize what we regard as unique opportunity. It may not be repeated for a long time, if at all.
The right hon. Member spoke about the Council of Europe Assembly. Naturally, we hope that a settlement of this problem would allow both sides to be represented there.
The right hon. Member has talked about the interests of the Turkish Cypriot community. We trade normally with it. We have supported its right to be consulted on negotiations for the EC—Cyprus customs union. It also benefits from aid we give to Cyprus. This includes a small ODA — financed technical co-operation programme, support for students' fees, worth almost £1 million, and the Foreign Office scholarship and awards scheme provision of £20,000. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we keep in close contact with Mr. Denktash and other Turkish Cypriot leaders over the Cyprus problem and on other issues affecting British interests.
That is a lengthy and complex problem, and I should be happy to write to the right hon. Gentleman on it, but time is short, and I would not want to go into the details at this point.
An agreement is close. Let us all concentrate on getting that agreement so that issues of troop withdrawals, guarantees and the "three freedoms" can be properly addressed. We are often asked to put more pressure on the parties in support of the Secretary-General. Throughout his initiative, we have taken all opportunities to urge parties towards settlement. The Secretary-General has expressed gratitude on a number of occasions for our particular role. Most recently my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met Prime Minister Ozal of Turkey here on 18 February and President Kyprianou here on 7 April. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary met Mr. Papandreou on 21 March.
The situation in Cyprus is tragic and wasteful, and is an unnatural division that complicates the balance in the eastern Mediterranean and adds to the conflicts between Greece and Turkey. The Secretary-General is working hard to secure a settlement, and it is my belief that the House should support his efforts.