British Minister: Annan plan the only realistic basis for settlement
by Kyriakos Tsioupras
London, Dec 16 (CNA) -- The British government remains strongly committed to achieving a Cyprus settlement and continues to believe that the Annan plan represents the only realistic basis for a comprehensive solution, British Minister for Europe Dennis MacShane has said.
MacShane was replying to a question by British Labour MP Ben Chapman, in the House of Common, on what plans he has to take forward the Annan plan on Cyprus, with particular reference to direct flights from the UK to Cyprus' Turkish occupied areas.
The British Minister said ''ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community will help moves towards a settlement and it is clear that direct flights to the north of Cyprus would contribute to ending that isolation.''
Asked by Chapman if he agrees that the best way to end Turkish Cypriot ''isolation'' is not just through the establishment of direct flights, but through the flow of EU aid and direct trade, MacShane said Chapman was right on his points, adding that ''the EU is contributing 259 million-worth of aid to the north.''
''He is right to stress that trade and investment are by far the best ways forward. We are in active discussion with all our EU partners on the matter. If we get a positive result on Turkish accession at the European summit this Friday, I hope that that will also send a signal that the time has come to allow trade...,'' he noted.
Asked by Conservative MP Roger Gale on the Turkish Cypriot pseudostate's status and what the British government is doing to secure, first, the removal of the illegal army of occupation in the north, and secondly, a restitution of the property stolen from Cypriots, MacShane said the British government does not recognise the pseudostate.
He added that he has raised the issues that Gale mentioned with the Turkish government and on the record, publicly, in Turkey, ''but it needs two sides to talk.''
''On a recent visit to Cyprus, I urged both the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to come together and have their own meetings at all levels to find their own solutions, because ultimately the problem of Cyprus needs to be resolved by the Cypriots themselves,'' he added.
Answering a question in the House of Lords by Lord Hylton on the minefield clearance in Cyprus, Minister Baroness Symons said the British government welcomes the fact that the Republic of Cyprus began de-mining activities in the buffer zone on 18 November this year ''and that, on the same day, Mr (Mehmet Ali) Talat, elected leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, said that the Turkish Cypriots would soon sign an agreement with the United Nations to allow them to begin mine clearing operations.''
She also said the British government welcomes ''any action by both communities that will aid in the normalisation of the situation on the island. De-mining is an important step towards this.''
To another question by MP Chapman to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on direct UK trade links with Cyprus' Turkish occupied areas the answer was that the British government strongly supports EU efforts to enable preferential direct trade with northern Cyprus.
''At the April General Affairs Council, EU Foreign Ministers committed to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. At the Council's request, the Commission produced a draft regulation to deliver on this commitment and enable preferential direct trade between the north and EU member states on a tariff quota system,'' the answer read.
It also noted that ''this regulation, along with a regulation disbursing 259 million euros of aid to northern Cyprus, has yet to be agreed. The Government strongly supports the presidency in their determination to agree these regulations and to fulfil the Council mandate to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.''
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.