Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:01 pm on 11th December 1996.

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Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox , Tooting 1:01 pm, 11th December 1996

At the start of this debate, I acknowledge the presence of the mayor of Famagusta, Mr. Andreas Pouyouros, and the deputy mayor of Famagusta, Mrs. Sophie Photidis, who have travelled from Cyprus to hear this debate. Earlier this morning, they presented a petition to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing street, calling for the return of Famagusta.

Famagusta was one of the loveliest towns in Cyprus before the Turkish invasion in 1974. Now, it is a ghost town. Yet, time and time again, its return has been promised by Mr. Denktash. However, its rightful owners still await the return of their town, lands and property. I hope that today the message of this House will be clear and loud—Famagusta is Greek Cypriot; it is not and never will be Turkish. When I, the people of Famagusta and hon. Members talk about the return of Famagusta, we talk about the total return of that town to its lawful owners.

This debate takes place a matter of days before the visit to Cyprus of the Foreign Secretary, and I warmly welcome that visit. It has certainly taken a long time to get a senior Foreign Minister to visit Cyprus to discuss solely the affairs of Cyprus. I will listen with great interest to the comments of the Minister of State today about that visit.

The Foreign Secretary's visit has been clouded by his remarks on the application by Cyprus for membership of the European Union, which were highly inappropriate before such a visit. We now hear more and more that a settlement is needed first. All of us in this House who are involved in Cypriot affairs wish for a settlement, and we have campaigned for many years for an honourable settlement that protects the rights and security of Turkish Cypriots just as much as Greek Cypriots.

The record of the Republic of Cyprus since the 1974 invasion in trying to work for a settlement for the benefit of Greek and Turkish Cypriots shows that there can be no doubt about its commitment. But it is totally unacceptable to Cyprus and to many hon. Members of all parties for obstacles now to be put up to Cyprus's membership of the EU. Sadly, the Foreign Secretary is playing into the hands of Mr. Denktash and his Turkish supporters by giving them yet more encouragement to delay—as they have been doing, in the view of many of us, since 1974—their obligation to work for an honourable settlement.

The case for Cyprus and its application for membership of the EU should be considered on merit and nothing else. Turkey and Mr. Denktash must be told repeatedly—I hope that we will hear the Foreign Secretary say this during his visit—that Turkey has no veto on Cyprus's application to become a member state of the EU. Discussions of the tragedy of Cyprus have gone on since the invasion of 1974, involving countless people—many of them very honourable—who have worked for a settlement, so we know what the issues are.

Much of the country is occupied, and in referring to Famagusta, I must add that I and my colleagues are equally committed to the return of Morphou and Kyrenia. We want all the occupied areas of Cyprus, and all the land and property that has been stolen, returned to the rightful owners.

Listening to the debate today are British and Cypriot trade unionists, and I pay the warmest tribute to George Wright, the Welsh secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, and to his colleague, Jim Hancocks. To their credit, they have brought together Greek and Turkish trade unionists to discuss their future and their country. I hope that we will listen to these men and women, whose home is in Cyprus and who come from a whole range of professions. They say that they want a free Cyprus where they can live and work together, and our duty is to support them.

Surely, after 22 years of the occupation of a Commonwealth country for which we are one of the guarantor powers, we have a duty to start working for a free and united Cyprus. The message of the House and this debate must be very clear. When we talk of one Cyprus, we talk of the Republic of Cyprus where Greek and Turkish Cypriots will live, work and prosper together.

I have deliberately shortened my speech because other hon. Members may wish to speak: I acknowledge the presence in the Chamber of my hon. Friends the Members for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara), for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche), And for Ogmore (Sir R. Powell), my right hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) and my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), and the hon. Members for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) and for Edmonton (Dr. Twinn), the last of whom, I know, hopes to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.