Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th April 1998.

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Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green 12:00 am, 7th April 1998

What recent discussions he has had with the Turkish Government on Cyprus; and if he will make a statement. [36529]

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Foreign Secretary

I have regular discussions with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ismail Cem. We last spoke on 26 March.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has telephoned the Turkish Prime Minister twice this year. As a result of their discussions, he has twice sent Sir David Hannay as his personal envoy to the Turkish Prime Minister for meetings which included issues to do with Cyprus.

We are seeking to establish a meeting of the Association Council in order to deepen political dialogue and economic co-operation between Europe and Turkey. It remains our firm view that Cyprus has a valid application for membership of the European Union and that the people of Cyprus are entitled to have that application judged on its merits.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that a great many Cypriots in this country, including in my constituency of Hall Green, who supported Labour in May 1997, will be delighted that we are maintaining yet another manifesto commitment? Will he give the House an assurance that no party outside the European Union will have a right of veto on the process of the Cypriot application for EU membership?

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Foreign Secretary

I am pleased to report to my hon. Friend and the House that, last Tuesday, we received the Foreign Minister of Cyprus at the General Affairs Council of the European Union, when we heard for the first time the start of the negotiations between the European Union and Cyprus on its application for accession. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that no third country can have a veto on whether a sovereign state should apply for membership of the European Union, or whether the European Union should respond positively to that application.

It would, of course, greatly enhance the prospects both for Cyprus's accession and the success of that accession if, in the course of the negotiations, we could also make progress on the parallel question of the division of the island. Britain will continue to do all that it can to try to find a solution.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that a sad stumbling block regarding the current Cyprus position is the refusal by the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktas, to talk to Sir David Hannay? I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about this country's role, and particularly the EU position under our presidency, but will he take any positive steps to try to encourage Mr. Denktas to speak to Sir David Hannay?

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Foreign Secretary

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have repeatedly encouraged Mr. Denktas to do that and other things as well, without—as the hon. Gentleman records—receiving a positive response from Mr. Denktas. I particularly regret the fact that he flatly turned down President Clerides's offer to include representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community in a mixed delegation to negotiate on accession to the European Union. I discussed that offer with President Clerides before it was made. I believe it was a fair and a generous offer, and it is a matter of regret for the Turkish Cypriot community that its leader ruled out its participation.