House Committee: Cyprus solution must be priority for Britain
London, Feb 22 (CNA) -- The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has recommended that the British government make the achievement of a solution to the Cyprus problem a priority of its foreign policy in 2005.
The Committee released today a report on an inquiry it conducted into UK policy towards Cyprus, noting that Turkey has the power to assist greatly both a settlement in Cyprus and its EU aspirations, by withdrawing some of its many thousands of troops from the island, and called upon it to do so.
Furthermore the Committee noted that as one of the permanent five on the UN Security Council, as President of the EU in the second half of 2005 and as a guarantor power in relation to Cyprus, the United Kingdom is ''in a uniquely special position to assist the process for a Cyprus settlement.''
''We conclude that a lasting settlement of the Cyprus problem is overwhelmingly in the interests of the people of Cyprus and that it offers important advantages for the European Union, for Turkey and for the international community. We further conclude that, although the prospects for success may not be great, the opportunities, which will arise in mid 2005, must be seized,'' the Committee said in the 19 paragraphs of its conclusions and recommendations.
It expressed regret ''that valuable aid for people of northern Cyprus is being held up by political and procedural disputes within the EU,'' and recommended that the British government use its good offices to persuade all parties to remove the remaining obstacles to disbursement of this aid.
''We conclude that undertakings given to Turkish Cypriots by the international community must be honoured. We recommend that the (British) government do more to turn its word into action, by working with the Luxembourg presidency of the EU to remove obstacles to direct trade with and travel to northern Cyprus, and that it encourage the wider international community to do the same,'' it said.
Furthermore it noted that ''in the absence of an overall solution to the Cyprus problem, a step-by-step approach is likely to be better than no progress at all. We also conclude that confidence-building measures have a role to play, but only if they are consistent with the principles, which underlie the Annan plan, and only if, they do not diminish the prospects of an overall settlement.''
The Committee reiterated its ''previous strong support for Turkish membership of the European Union,'' noting however, that ''in practice Turkish accession will be impossible for as long as there is no settlement of the Cyprus problem.''
''We also conclude that Turkey has the power greatly to assist both a settlement in Cyprus and its EU aspirations, for example by withdrawing some of its many thousands of troops from the island and we call upon it to do so,'' it said.
''We recommend that in any future negotiations on a settlement based on the Annan plan, the parties be invited to consider acceleration the withdrawal of Turkish and Greek forces and the demilitarization of Cypriot forces, so that all these are reduced to zero and security guarantees are provided by an external force acting under the terms of a mandatory resolution of the United Nations Security Council,'' it added.
''We conclude that a substantive financial gesture by Turkey on the property compensation issue would be a magnanimous and positive move which would reflect well on Turkey and should be of some assistance in reducing Greek Cypriot opposition to a solution which stops short of full restitution,'' it said.
It also recommended that a population census be held in northern Cyprus, funded by the European Union and carried out either by an appropriate international body or by the Turkish Cypriot authorities under close international supervision.
The Committee recommended that in its response to this report, if not sooner, the British Government clarify whether it has the power to authorize direct passenger flights between the United Kingdom and northern Cyprus.
''We further recommend that, if it does possess the power to authorize flights, the government announce a date from which such services will be permitted, subject to satisfactory safety inspections of the facilities at Ercan and other assurances,'' it said.
Furthermore it noted that ''in the absence of an early overall settlement, we recommend that the Government support political measures which will enable Turkish Cypriots to trade with the United Kingdom and other countries, such as refurbishment and then joint operation to EU standards of the port of Famagusta, as proposed by the government of Cyprus.''
The Committee said that ''it was right that all those on the electoral roll in northern Cyprus were able to participate in the referendum held in April 2004,'' and recommended that the same arrangements should apply in respect on any future referendum on a solution to the Cyprus problem.
''We conclude that there is as yet little evidence that the Republic of Cyprus has fully taken on board that its membership to the EU involves obligations as well as opportunities. We recommend that the Government work on a bilateral level, and with its European partners, to encourage Cyprus to adapt to EU values and methods of working,'' it added.
The Committee concluded that, despite assertions to the contrary, there is no wish or intention on the part of the British government to perpetuate the present state of affairs on the island, still less to move towards a permanent and legal partition, which would be in no one's best interests.
It noted the very strong feelings of the Greek Cypriot people about the need for restitution of property to its rightful owners and concluded that the property issue ''remains one of the most crucial to be addressed in the search for a solution to the Cyprus problem. We conclude that in any revival of the talks process it will be necessary to find ways of addressing Greek Cypriot concerns which do not disadvantage Turkish Cypriots. An element of outside financial support may by helpful in this regard,'' it added.
It concluded that the costs of a settlement in Cyprus ''may be considerable, but that the international community is able and willing to make a substantial contribution to them,'' and recommended that the British government seek to ensure that, before any further referendum is held on the island, clear information is available to the people of Cyprus on the extent of the financial contribution, which will be made by countries other than Cyprus.