The Secretary of State Was Asked – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st February 2017.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet 12:00 am, 21st February 2017

What steps he is taking to support the negotiations for a settlement to re-unite Cyprus.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State

The Foreign Secretary and I took part in the Geneva conference on the Cyprus settlement on 12 January. We welcome the Cypriot leaders’ commitment to resuming political level talks next month. We are keen to maintain momentum and stand ready to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

Will my right hon. Friend agree that third-country guarantees should have no place in a new settlement for Cyprus, because Cypriots should be able to determine their own future without the threat of external military intervention?

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State

It is up to the two sides to decide what future security arrangements they want for a united Cyprus that will enable both communities to feel secure. As a guarantor power, the UK is playing a supportive role and is open to any arrangement that is acceptable to the two communities.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality)

I thank the Minister for that reply. He will know that Northern Ireland has had a partnership Government who have moved forward, bringing communities together. What has been done to offer advice from Northern Ireland to bring forward a political process that works, especially in relation to gas and oil exploitation, which could benefit all of Cyprus?

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State

I think the example of Northern Ireland is an example to the whole world, and it has been of benefit in the likes of Nepal and Colombia. The issue of Cyprus is slightly different, but I hope that the lessons from Northern Ireland can be taken into account and that they can help inform the progress we would like to see in Cyprus.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Conservative, Enfield, Southgate

Does the Minister agree with the view of the all-party parliamentary group, which visited Cyprus last week, that the best hope for a solution is the dedication and courage of both Cypriot leaders, freely negotiating, and a realisation in the communities that the status quo of a divided Cyprus is untenable? Does he agree that we need to ensure that Turkey gets that when it comes to security and guarantees?

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I think we all applaud the good faith and dedication of the two leaders, who are working tirelessly towards a solution. There are other ingredients that are necessary, such as the co-operation of the two main countries next door, Greece and Turkey, and—this is very important—successful referendums in each community.

Photo of Khalid Mahmood Khalid Mahmood Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) (Europe)

The last time negotiations in Cyprus seemed close to a deal, the effort collapsed when hackers broke into the UN’s computer systems and the documents were leaked to a pro-Russian Cypriot newspaper. The inflamed communal tensions that followed had a major role in scuppering the chance of a deal. What assurance can the Minister give that lessons have been learned from that experience and that proper safeguards are now in place to protect the negotiations from any undue influence from outside?

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State

We have a very close association with the UN special representative, Mr Espen Eide. I am confident that he will have thought of this possible intrusion into the successful negotiations, and I hope that those safeguards are properly in place.