Britain says Annan plan provided Turkish troop withdrawal
London, Mar 22 (CNA) -- British Minister for Europe Dennis MacShane has said that Turkey supported UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's plan for a Cyprus settlement, which ''provided for a staged reduction in troop numbers.''
He said that ''if the island had reunited on the basis of the plan, Turkish troops would have been reduced by over 80 percent by the end of 2007, with a further 50 percent reduction within the following four years.''
MacShane, who was replying to questions submitted at the House of Commons by MP Tom Cox, regarding the number of Turkish troops currently in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus, said that Britain did not have ''precise figures of our own,'' noting that ''current estimates range from 20 to 35 thousand'' Turkish troops.
The British Minister noted that the Annan plan ''allowed for 650 troops to remain in the north of Cyprus, the same number of Turkish troops as set out in the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee.''
''This agreement would be subject to regular reviews with a view to eventual withdrawal by mutual consent,'' he said.
Replying to other questions by Tom Cox on the population composition in the Turkish occupied areas and the number of Turkish Cypriots and Turks residing there, MacShane said that ''the last census in the north of Cyprus carried out by the Turkish Cypriot authorities in 1996 found that there were 137,398 Turkish Cypriots and 54,626 people born in mainland Turkey.''
''However, these figures are not universally accepted. The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution in 2003 stating that there were 115,000 persons of Turkish mainland origin in the north of Cyprus. The Assembly also noted that in 2001 there were 87,600 Turkish Cypriots in the north of Cyprus. The Assembly's figures too are disputed,'' he added.
Britain, he said, believes that ''the population composition in the north of Cyprus will likely be an important factor in any new settlement negotiations,'' adding that ''in that context, universally agreed figures on the demographics of the north would clearly be desirable.''
He said however ''it is for the two sides, in the context of renewed efforts towards achieving a settlement, and in conjunction with the UN, to discuss the most appropriate way to deal with demographic issues pertaining to the situation in Cyprus.''
Replying to a question by Tom Cox regarding discussions the British Foreign Office was holding with the puppet regime in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus on the protection of the environment and the return of Greek Cypriots to those areas, MacShane said neither Foreign Secretary Jack Straw nor himself have had ''recent discussion with the Turkish Cypriot administration on these matters.''
He noted however that officials from the British High Commission in Nicosia ''meet regularly with Turkish Cypriot representatives to discuss the full range of issues related to the situation in Cyprus.''
''One feature of these discussions is the need to improve environmental protection, including by use of EU funds in this area,'' he added.
Turkish troops have been occupying 37 per cent of Cyprus territory since 1974, in violation of repeated UN resolutions calling for their withdrawal.