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Petitions – in the House of Commons at 7:04 pm on 3rd March 1997.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Carrington.]

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South 7:06 pm, 3rd March 1997

One of the difficulties with arranging Adjournment debates is that, normally, they start at 10 pm or just after and one prepares for the day accordingly. This evening, there is an annual meeting in one of the wards in my association and when I knew that I had been drawn for tonight's Adjournment debate I cheerfully hoped that, without difficulty, I would be standing and addressing the people of the Child's Hill ward at 8 o'clock this evening. However, by Thursday, I had discovered that there was no prospect of my being able to do so. Little did I believe, however, that I would be speaking at six minutes past 7 o'clock.

This is not the first time that I have taken part in an Adjournment debate on Cyprus. Indeed, the last time my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Dr. Twinn) and I spoke on this subject, the mayor in exile from Famagusta and his deputy were both in the Strangers Gallery and one of our colleagues was not exactly commended by the Chair for pointing out that fact. This evening, we can commend the mayor in exile from Famagusta for his patience and courage in fighting the events since 1974 and for his determination that his people will eventually be rehoused in their own homes.

I have instituted several Adjournment debates on Cyprus. I feel rather like one of Elizabeth Taylor's former husbands, who said that he knew what to do, but did not know how to make it interesting. I first visited Cyprus in 1977. At that stage, I was struck by the cruelty that had deprived more than 100,000 Cypriots of their own homes. I was struck by the tragedy that had meant that families were prevented from living in the homes that had been in their families for generations. I was appalled by the harsh reality that individuals could see their own homes, be it in Famagusta or Nicosia, but not have the opportunity to live in them. I was also impressed by the resilience of the economy and the speed with which the tourism industry had recovered from the events of 1974.

I remember three events especially. In 1979, when I was in Cyprus, I was entertained to a mezze in Charlie's bar in Nicosia, and the man who was giving the lunch said that he had been obliged to flee from the Turks in 1974. His whole family had fled, but his father had taken slightly longer than the rest because he wanted to flee with the title deeds to his home. I remember his words: "And a lot of good it did him, because he has died without the opportunity to go home."

I remember on another occasion standing on the green line in Nicosia and looking over to Turkish-occupied Nicosia. I saw a shop there—a tailor's shop. There was the tailor's dummy, as it had been in 1974. There was cloth in the window—affected a bit by the sun, but there it was, as it had been in 1974, so sudden had been the retreat. People had retreated at the speed of lightning to preserve their lives.

I shall also remember attending, in 1995, with my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton and the hon. Members for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) and for Tooting (Mr. Cox), the annual event outside Famagusta where thousands of citizens of free Famagusta demonstrate against the fact that they are unable to live in their homes. As we walked together towards the Austrian colonel, we could see the lights in Famagusta. On the left, the lights were all on; to the right there was complete darkness. That darkness was what had been Varosha, the kernel of the Cypriot tourist industry until 1974, now deserted.

As that demonstration of thousands of people looked towards Famagusta, some individuals could see lights on in their family homes, which they had left in 1974, and they knew that those lights were not lights that had been left on in 1974, but lights that had been put on that evening in 1995 by a Turkish settler or perhaps by Turkish troops. They knew that many of those homes were occupied by squatters.

What would your emotions be, Madam Deputy Speaker, if you were to move towards your constituency in Plymouth tomorrow morning and see lights on in your home and know that it had been occupied by someone and you were not allowed to live there, or even to go into that street? You would be full of distress. So it must be for someone who, for more than 20 years, has known that their home has been occupied by another family but has had no right to go there.

The world condemns ethnic cleansing—with all its associations with the evil regimes of the 1930s and the early 1940s—wherever it takes place. I remember my father saying, "Apartheid is wrong because we are all God's children." Cypriots are all God's children, and they deserve better of this world.

There are those in Foreign Offices worldwide who are concerned with realpolitik, and they recognise the impact that the Cyprus problem can have on the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Cyprus has had a long-standing desire to enter a closer relationship with Europe. I remember being told that in 1979. The European Union has a long-standing commitment to start negotiations within six months of the end of the intergovernmental conference, but some are now asking, "With whom should the European Union negotiate?"

I believe that the European Union can negotiate with only one group—the legitimate Government of Cyprus. Others have said that a divided Cyprus cannot join the European Union—despite the precedent that the European Community was created with a divided Germany. More important, those who argue that a divided Cyprus cannot join the European Union are in effect saying that Turkey has a right of veto over Cyprus's application to join the European Union.

If we grant to Turkey the right of veto over Cyprus's application to join, we cannot be surprised if there is a tit-for-tat reaction by Greece—would any Greek Government survive if they saw Turkey vetoing Cyprus's application? Turkey is not even a member of the European Union. Would any Greek Government survive if they did not react similarly to the applications by Poland, Hungary and the Czech lands? As one who wishes the European Union to expand to Cyprus and those democracies, I say it is wrong to suggest that anyone should have a right of veto over whether the legitimate Government of Cyprus and the people of Cyprus join the European Union.

To say that, in the absence of a settlement, there will be no accession of Cyprus to the European Union provides an inducement to those in the north not to settle. There is no evidence that Turkey wants Cyprus to join, and Turkey should not be presented with a lever to prevent Cyprus from joining the European Union.

There should be no link between a settlement of the Cyprus problem and Cyprus's application to join the European Union. We should recognise the fact that Cyprus qualifies for membership because of its democratic credentials, economic philosophy and financial prudence. Indeed, if Cyprus were in the European Union today, it, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom would be about the only countries to fulfil the Maastricht financial criteria. Perhaps, according to those criteria, Cyprus might almost be regarded as too sound to join the European Union.

The division of the island since 1974 has been a tragedy, especially for those in the north. The beaches of the north were once the most hospitable in Europe, but they have been deserted by western European tourists since 1974. The hotels of Varosha have been destroyed and, instead of being a haven for tourists, have become a home for stray dogs and rats. The north-south divide has been accentuated in Cyprus; incomes in the north have been depressed, whereas the south has prospered due to the resilience of the economy, the tourism industry and the hard work of everyone who works there.

In northern Cyprus, the population has been transformed. There are 30,000 troops in northern Cyprus today, and that—as befits me—is a conservative estimate. Other estimates suggest 35,000 or more. We should remember that we have never had more than 15,000 troops in Northern Ireland, facing the might of the IRA. There are twice as many troops in northern Cyprus as we have ever deemed it necessary to station in Northern Ireland. As Keith Kyle has recently pointed out, there were 104,000 Turkish Cypriots in northern Cyprus in 1960. Today, there are 198,215. Bearing in mind the fact that some people have left northern Cyprus, that means that more than half its population consists of settlers from Anatolia, instead of native Greek Cypriots.

One of the tragedies of the ethnic cleansing of 1974 lies in the fact that a whole generation of Cypriots has been denied the chance to mingle with each other. Rauf Denktash and Glafcos Clerides, the two leaders of their respective communities—the latter, the President of Cyprus who volunteered for the RAF in the second world war—were contemporaries who knew each other as young men. The tragedy today is that young Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots cannot play football together or go to the cinema or even drink coffee together. Instead, they have to come to London if they want to meet one another.

Another tragedy is the group of enclave people in Northern Cyprus—the small number of Greek Cypriots who said, "This is our home; this is where we were brought up; this is where we want to live." That may be so, but it is also where they have suffered. No one should be pushed around or punished for wanting to stay in the village where his family has lived for generations. I know that the late Lord Finsberg went to see the enclave people on behalf of the Council of Europe and was shocked by the treatment meted out to them.

The legacy of 1974 has been especially cruel to the relatives of missing persons. I have only once spoken on the same political platform as the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), but he and I, my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton and the hon. Members for Knowsley, South and for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche) all spoke in Trafalgar square at the annual rally against the continuing occupation of Cyprus by Turkish troops. It was very moving to see mothers showing pictures of their sons taken in 1974, wives showing pictures of their husbands and children showing pictures of their parents. They still do not know, 23 years on, what has happened to their loved ones. It is surely wrong that these people, many of them in the evening of their lives, should still be in that position.

There has been much discussion of the Cypriot Government's decision to buy 20 Russian S300 ground-to-air missiles. We must acknowledge that Cyprus is one of the most heavily militarised islands in the world. Why are there 35,000 Turkish troops in the north? Are they there to intimidate the local population? If so, they should not be there. If not, their purpose is purely aggressive.

Cyprus is only a few minutes' flying time from Turkey. Every country needs to be able to defend itself. We do of course regret the perceived need for the missiles, but we must all defend the right of the Government of Cyprus to self-defence. We can understand why the missiles have been ordered, and we must hope that the attempts to create peace will come to fruition before those missiles are fired.

Since I last spoke on this subject in the House, there has been a great deal of activity. The Foreign Secretary has been to Cyprus. I am sure that we all welcome the fact of his visit, and the fact that he said that there should be no right of partition or secession under a Cypriot agreement. Sir David Hannay has been busy; Ambassador Muratov of Russia has said that there will be a meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council in mid-March to discuss Cyprus; and Madeleine Albright, the United States Secretary of State, has also made it clear that she wants a settlement to this tragic problem. If the chances of success are related to the amount of diplomatic activity going on, those chances are much better now than they have been for a very long time.

This has been called the year of Cyprus. There must certainly be hope—23 years is far too long to wait. Many have died without the chance to see their homes again. Many still do not know the fate of their loved ones, and many have been unable to visit family graves for 23 years. Whole generations have grown up as citizens of a divided island. No Cypriot under the age of 30 can remember talking to his Greek or Turkish counterpart. The wait has been too long.

The people of Cyprus should not despair. Her friends in this House will continue to ensure that the problem receives the oxygen of publicity. Who in 1974 would have forecast that the Berlin wall would be knocked down? Who then would have guessed that Israel and King Hussein would sign a treaty of peace? Who in 1974 would have guessed that Nelson Mandela and the leaders of the National party in South Africa would be part, at least for a short time, of the same Government? It is said that God works in a mysterious way his miracles to perform. May 1997 be the year of miracles; may those miracles begin in Cyprus long before 1 May.

Photo of Dr Ian Twinn Dr Ian Twinn , Edmonton 7:26 pm, 3rd March 1997

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) on raising this subject on the Adjournment. We had expected to find ourselves sitting here for half an hour at the end of the day listening to him with the Minister nodding in agreement, so this is a wonderful chance for us to have our say. It was typical of my hon. Friend to rise from his sick bed to set out the hopes and fears of the Cypriot people so clearly.

A great deal is said about Cyprus's past, about the divisions, the human rights problem, and the security problems for both communities—not to mention the missiles. In the end, however, there is only one objective to consider: the possibility of a just and lasting solution that will allow both communities on the island to live together in peace. The message with which we must concern ourselves is a simple one, but the path to that simple solution is a minefield, as the Labour Front-Bench spokesman recently discovered to his cost recently—when he suggested a rotating presidency, he found other things rotating rather quickly above his head.

We cannot allow ourselves the colonial luxury of dictating a solution to Cyprus: any solution must come from the hearts and souls of the people of both communities, who all want a solution and a prosperous island in which all can live together peaceably. It is not for us to dictate policy or to argue the details of Cyprus's history. There are two sides to all the arguments over that history since independence, and over Turkey's history.

In all fairness, both communities have good points to make about why better security arrangements are needed in Cyprus once we have a solution. Both communities have severe worries about what has happened in the past, especially in terms of security. Turkish Cypriots rightly think back to what happened in the early 1960s—for many of them 1963 was a year of horrors. Similarly, the coup, the invasion, the occupation and then the division of Cyprus in 1974 are a cause of nightmares for whole families of Greek Cypriots. There have been serious human rights violations in Cyprus, which need to be dealt with by the international community as well as by both Cypriot communities.

I have no doubt that the solution to the Cypriot problem is the one to which Mr. Denktash, President Clerides and other Cypriot leaders have agreed—a bi-zonal, bi-communal, federal solution for the whole of Cyprus, with one Government but with administrations that look after the interests of the two communities. It is not for the House of Commons to say what those arrangements should be, but it is for us to take action. That action should be taken in 1997 to bring about those solutions. After all, we are a guarantor power and it will for ever be a blot on our international reputation that we took no action in 1974-we allowed Turkey to respond to the Greek military coup and we all know what followed while Great Britain sat back with its troops on the island—in Britain's as well as Cyprus's interests, and in the interest of British and world peace.

We have no right to sit back and do nothing now, and I am glad that that view is shared by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Boothferry (Mr. Davis), who is taking such an active role in seeking a solution.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South said, action has already been taken. The Foreign Secretary has visited Cyprus for the first time since independence. He also spoke to the Cypriot community in London this week at a meeting of Conservative Friends for Cyprus, with more than 20 hon. Members and parliamentary candidates throughout the country, demonstrating our interest in ensuring that we get a just and lasting solution.

This is not a party political issue. The deputy leader of the Labour party addressed a similar meeting in London and we give him due credit for that. To balance our Conservative Friends for Cyprus, the Labour party has the National Committee for Cyprus, run by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale). The House has an all-party group of which the hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) is an active member, as are the hon. Members for Tooting (Mr. Cox) and for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche). We are an active group and we try to find ways of using the powers and authority of this House to move the argument forward. We do that in conjunction with the Cypriot community, to which we are grateful for keeping us briefed.

It is interesting to note how the political parties of Cyprus, which are all represented formally in this country with their own branches and organisations, work together across the political divide. We have as much in common with AKEL, the Cypriot communist party, EDEK, the socialist party, the Democratic party of Mr. Kyprianou, and the Democratic Rally party of President Clerides. We work together to ensure that the voice of Cyprus—the voice for justice, human rights and the interests of all Cypriots, whether Greek or Turkish—is heard. We pay great tribute to those in the Cypriot community who have tirelessly sought to attract the attention of hon. Members of this House and of the other place to put that case forward.

After 23 years, however, Cyprus is still divided. In truth, we have not made much progress. The outlines of a federal solution were agreed between the two communities many years ago but we still face the prospect of a divided island. It is a scar across Europe: a European country with two allies as fellow guarantor powers—Turkey and Greece—who cannot agree with each other, with us or with the people of Cyprus about how to proceed.

It may seem strange for some hon. Members to hear those such as me extolling the virtues of the European Union to resolve the problem, but I believe that a secure future for Cyprus lies within the European Union. That is one reason why my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South and I are keen to support the concept of the European Union. We want a wider European Union encompassing all the people of Europe so that we can live together in peace and help each other with our problems. We have a duty to help Cyprus, and to help it to become part of the European Union.

My hon. Friend has already outlined our concerns about whether Turkey should be allowed a veto. Of course it should not be allowed a veto on who joins an organisation of which it is not a member. We all know that it would he infinitely preferable, in the words of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, if we had a united Cyprus by the time Cyprus joins the European Union. It would be in Europe's interests and those of both communities. It would be particularly in the interests of Turkish Cypriots, because the economic and security advantages that could be put in place by that solution would boost their living standards and sense of security.

Before I sit down, may I make a plea to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State? While we are proud of what the British Government are doing, and are keen that our voice should be heard in Europe and that our European partners should support our objective for Cyprus, we also realise that this is a world problem, which could ruin world peace. Cyprus is part of Europe; it is in the Mediterranean, but it is also close to Africa and the middle east. We do not want security problems in that region. It is in nobody's interest, least of all that of the United States. We understand the close relationship between Turkey and the United States. Over the years, they have worked together for peace in many ways.

None of those of us who make the case for Cyprus is anti-Turkish. We regard Turkey as a valued ally within NATO. That is the route that we should go down. However, we need to ask our friends in the United States to increase their influence on Turkey, to raise Turkey's place on their agenda from the lower end of their top 10 world problems to the top, so that America tells Turkey that there will be a solution and says that it will put its full weight behind achieving a solution in 1997. That is the sort of action that we expect from the House of Commons and which our friends across the water in the United States also want. I hope that we can all work together so that by the end of 1997 we can feel more confident about peace in the Mediterranean.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara , Knowsley South 7:37 pm, 3rd March 1997

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words in this debate. Having noted it in my diary, I expected merely to come along and support the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), whom I congratulate on securing this debate on the important topic of Cyprus and on his admirable resume of the different aspects of the problem.

I endorse the hon. Gentleman's remarks about Famagusta, which has poignant memories for me. In the past I secured a debate on the subject of Famagusta, which is a tragic waste of what should be the jewel of the Mediterranean. The town could be a test-bed for a solution and for demonstrating that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could learn to live again in harmony. I also agree with the hon. Gentleman about the missing people. He will recall that last year I promulgated a private Member's Bill suggesting that a commission of inquiry should be set up to delve into the fate of the missing people. It is heartbreaking to see, at any demonstration of Greek Cypriots that one attends, those aging ladies clutching to their breasts photographs of their loved ones as they were in 1974. In all human decency they should be allowed before they die to know the fate of their loved ones. That is all that they demand.

I endorse the remarks of the hon. Member for Hendon, South about the enclaves. I would add that when young Greek Cypriots in the enclaved areas finish primary school, they have to leave the area to pursue secondary and further education and they are not allowed back. That is a violation of human rights and as good an instrument of ethnic cleansing as one will ever get.

I agree with many of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Edmonton (Dr. Twinn). We are members of different political parties, but he is right that Cyprus is not a party political issue among us: as he said, we work together across the parties in the House and with all the political parties of Cyprus. We are not conscious of political affiliation when we address the problem.

I agree with the hon. Member for Edmonton also when he says that we should not dictate to the Cypriots how they should come to a solution, but as a guarantor power we have an enormous legal and moral responsibility to do all that we can to secure a situation in which the two sides can reach an agreed, just and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem.

I have been concerned about the torrent of literature that I have received in the mail recently from various organisations identifying with the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot cause, all of which looks back with hatred and anger to the position 30 years ago—a generation even before the invasion of 1974. That distresses me because it helps no one. We should say to all the Cypriots—Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots—that we should look not backward in anger, but forward with hope of a future together in prosperity for all Cypriots.

There is a danger in the present situation. There were three awful murders on the dividing line in the summer of 1996, when an unarmed Greek Cypriot, Tassos Isaak, crossed the barbed wire, as has been done many times, to demonstrate his demand to return to his rightful homeland and was beaten to death by people wearing Turkish Cypriot uniform. Indeed, I am told that he was beaten so violently about the head with iron bars that his eyes popped out of their sockets. That gruesome murder was recorded on television.

The next week, in demonstrations following the funeral of that unfortunate young man, a relative of his, Solomos Solomou, climbed a flagpole from which a Turkish flag was flying. Perhaps he should not have been doing that, but it was a peaceful demonstration. Again, recorded on videotape and seen throughout the world, a person in Turkish uniform could be seen taking careful aim and shooting him—not in the knee, elbow or ankle to bring him down from the flagpole which he had climbed only to the height of a few feet, but in the head. As he lay on the ground clutching his head, one could see more shots being fired at his head. Soon afterwards there was a third case of a person being shot, but I will not give the gruesome detail of that.

I have given those awful details because they illustrate the fact that the present situation is fraught with the danger of even more bloodshed than there was in the 1960s or in 1974.

The House should never forget the legitimacy of the Turkish invasion of 1974, and the illegitimacy of the Turks' continued stay, occupying northern Cyprus. In 1974 there was an attempted coup d'état against the lawful Government of Cyprus, supported by the Greek military junta. The junta fell as a result of its action in fomenting the coup. The attempted coup lasted several days and, after it failed, the lawful Government were restored.

Under the treaty of guarantee, the Turkish Government had the right to intervene to restore the status quo, but once the status quo was restored the Turkish army did not have the right to stay. It is well to have it established once again on record in the House that the continued occupation of northern Cyprus by the Turkish army is therefore illegitimate.

The most important step that could be taken towards a speedy solution of the Cyprus problem is the demilitarisation of the island. One recognises that one could not tell Turkey to take its 35,000 troops away immediately, but a scaling down could begin immediately. President Clerides has made the offer to demilitarise on the southern side of the island, in return for demilitarisation in the north, and to support the costs of an international peacekeeping force with no ethnic Greek or Turkish troops on the island.

Demilitarisation is urgently needed. We have seen the consequence of the S300, to which the hon. Member for Hendon, South referred. While there is an excess of armaments on Cyprus, the potential for armed conflict will continue to exist.

As the hon. Member for Edmonton implied, when we speak of human rights in Cyprus, we are not talking only about the human rights of Greek Cypriots, although of course they are at stake; we are talking of the human rights of Turkish Cypriots, too, and of Maronites—the human rights of all lawful citizens of the Republic of Cyprus. When we speak of the interests of the Cypriots in the context of entry into the EU, we are not talking of the interests of Greek Cypriots alone. We are speaking even more of the interests of Turkish Cypriots, because their economy has suffered grievously since 1974.

Finally, I echo the concluding remarks of the hon. Member for Edmonton when he referred to the need for peace and stability in the Mediterranean. I remind the House also that although the Cyprus issue is separate, it cannot be disconnected from the issue of relations between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean. There is an extremely volatile situation there between two members of NATO which daily carries the risk of armed conflict, and an escalation of that conflict does not bear thinking about. That situation in the Aegean will never be resolved until the situation in Cyprus is resolved. Like all hon. Members, I hope that, with the renewed interest and activity in Cyprus, the year 1997 will be the year of Cyprus, when we achieve a just and lasting solution that brings prosperity to all in Cyprus.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 7:49 pm, 3rd March 1997

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) for giving us the opportunity to discuss events in Cyprus once again, and I congratulate him on his eloquent contribution this evening. I hope that the people of Child's Hill ward will forgive my hon. Friend's absence: we are grateful to them for allowing him to be here this evening. I understand that he has also lifted up his bed and walked in order to attend, so we are doubly grateful for his presence.

Many of the subjects mentioned tonight have been covered in previous speeches in the House. I have responded to them, and all my answers given at the Dispatch Box stand. I shall not repeat them tonight. My hon. Friend mentioned the need to make debates and speeches on the same issue exciting. I shall not endeavour to be as exciting as any husband of Elizabeth Taylor

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I shall aim at least for greater longevity.

I shall try to be measured in my response, as I believe that that is the most constructive contribution that I can make to both the debate and the Cyprus question in future.

We last debated the subject shortly before my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary visited the island in mid-December. During that debate, I said that, if 1996 could be described as a year of danger, 1997 might be seen as a year of opportunity: time for a serious effort to settle the Cyprus problem. We had some cause for encouragement: both President Clerides and Mr. Denktash told the Foreign Secretary in Cyprus that they, too, viewed 1997 as an important year. Mr. Denktash said publicly that he believed that a settlement could be achieved with give and take on both sides.

For all that, 1997 has not yet brought much cheer to those who want to see a settlement in Cyprus. The first two months have been difficult. I shall devote most of my remarks this evening to developments during that period, and to the conclusion that I believe that we should draw from them: this is a time neither for bright optimism nor for deep gloom but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Dr. Twinn) said, for action.

In the first week of this year, the Government of Cyprus announced their plan to buy a Russian surface-to-air missile system, to which several hon. Members have referred. The quick reaction from the Turkish side was both threatening and bellicose. Neither move has helped to promote a climate congenial to progress on a settlement. Rather than intensifying it, the result has been to divert energy and attention from the serious efforts needed to achieve a settlement. It has no doubt also given great encouragement to those in both communities who want to derail those efforts.

There has been much talk about the defensive nature of weapons and the right of states to defend themselves. I do not question that right. However, I do seriously question whether this missile purchase was the right decision at this time of some opportunity in Cyprus—especially when the United Nations Security Council has again underlined its concern about the excessive levels of military forces and armaments in Cyprus.

After that unpromising start to 1997, can things get better? I believe they can, but only with readiness on both sides to stop looking for excuses and start looking for solutions. I do not think that anyone doubts the determination that the United Nations, the United Kingdom, the United States—to which my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton referred—the European Union and others have shown in recent months in a methodical and concerted effort in support of a settlement. They have worked to build a basis of understanding on which the leaders of the two communities can engage. However, it is that engagement that will count in the end: no matter how committed our supporting efforts and encouragement, only the parties themselves can make the decisions that will underpin a comprehensive political settlement.

For that reason, I hope that, in the crucial months ahead, both leaders will engage seriously and positively with the United Nations Secretary-General's special representative and all those who visit Cyprus to support his mission. I hope that both leaders will focus with determination on how to move quickly to face-to-face negotiations, and beyond that to the goal of a comprehensive agreement.

What are the prospects of success? I mentioned the visit to Cyprus in December by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. He had detailed talks with both leaders, and set out in his press conference afterwards a list of 10 points that he believed constituted the best basis for making progress. The points draw on positions established over many years of efforts to achieve a settlement, and I believe that they reflect a significant degree of common ground in setting out the general shape of an acceptable settlement.

However, neither side yet has a clear route map of how it will move towards that settlement. The international community—the United Nations, supported by the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union and others—has a crucial role to play in helping to draw that map. However, in the end, it will be up to the Cypriots whether they wish to use it. Should they choose to do so, we are under no illusions: difficult choices and compromises lie ahead for both sides in a number of areas. For example, how will a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation look in practice? How should political equality be expressed in the new constitution? How will the powers of the two zones be defined? What powers should the presidency be given? What arrangements should be made for those who became refugees in 1974? Fundamentally, what security arrangements will there be to underpin a settlement? We can put the questions, and we may even suggest some answers, but the Cypriots are the only people who can provide those answers. Security is a case in point. In his 10 points, my right hon. and learned Friend said: the security of each of the two communities and of the settlement as a whole will be achieved by means of international guarantees and by such measures of international collective security as may be agreed by the parties.

As ever in Cyprus, the statement has been construed in some quarters as calling for the dilution of the 1960 treaty of guarantee; in others, it has been described as unqualified support for it. The statement actually reflects the simple fact that a settlement will need to be based on security arrangements with which both sides can be comfortable. Beyond that, it reflects implicitly that the present situation provides no real, lasting security. At best, it provides a short-term and inadequate comfort blanket, wherein each community's security is obtained at the cost of the insecurity of the other community.

By way of conclusion, I mention once again the European dimension. I make no apologies for retreading ground that we have covered in previous debates. It is important that the issues are clearly understood. The European Union factor is a comparatively new and positive development. It offers a real opportunity, but how can that opportunity best be taken?

Few disagree that the best solution is for a political settlement to precede the accession negotiations. In those circumstances, negotiations would be joined by the Government of a bi-zonal, bi-communal, federal Cyprus. The date for negotiations to start has been agreed by the European Union, and that commitment will be honoured. However, we remain convinced that the negotiating process will be much easier and the path to accession much smoother if, by then, a settlement is assured or in sight.

Again, let me make it absolutely clear—in direct response to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South—that nobody, I repeat nobody, outside the European Union can, whatever the circumstances, veto Cyprus's accession to the Union. It is not impossible for a divided Cyprus to enter the European Union, but no one should assume that negotiations by a divided Cyprus would be simple or straightforward.

In that context, I want to spend a few minutes on the question that arose at last week's General Affairs Council in Brussels about the participation of the Turkish Cypriot community in Cyprus's accession negotiations. We were, of course, disappointed that it proved impossible to reach agreement among all member states on the question, and that, as a result, the structured dialogue meeting with Cyprus that was scheduled for 25 February had to be cancelled. It was a particular pity, because we felt that it was rather straightforward and uncontentious simply to express the hope that a situation would be achieved in which all Cypriots could participate in the negotiation process.

Clearly, a settlement before the negotiations started would achieve such an aim. It is a separate question—and one that we cannot judge now—what other circumstances might permit Turkish Cypriot participation in the accession negotiations. We wanted the GAC message to encourage the Turkish Cypriot community to see EU accession as an opportunity. What we seek to achieve is what the March 1995 Council envisaged: that accession should benefit all communities in Cyprus, as I have heard reflected in this debate.

The events of last summer and the developments in the past few weeks reminded us how easily steps backwards can be taken. The arguments for steps forward should be all the more compelling. That is why the Government will persevere and persevere in their efforts in support of a settlement.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at one minute past Eight o ' clock.