Hoon: Land development in occupied Cyprus hinders efforts for a solution
Nicosia, Nov 6 -- The British government expresses concern over the land development in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, deeming that it hinders the efforts to reach a settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Answering on behalf of British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett to questions by British MP Andrew Dismore, British Minister of State for Europe Geoff Hoon said that the British government is concerned “that the development and transfer of much of the land in northern Cyprus makes efforts to achieve a comprehensive settlement more complex, and so underlines the importance of making progress to that end in the near future”.
“We have raised concerns about the poor regulation of much of the property development in northern Cyprus, including holiday homes, hotels and marinas, and particularly its environmental impact”, said Hoon.
Invited to refer to the EU aid to the Turkish Cypriots in the last five years, he said that the EU Commission had advised that a third of the pre-accession assistance to Cyprus from 2000 to 2003 was spent on bi-communal programmes, roughly half of which was spent in northern Cyprus, in addition to a special aid package in 2003.
“Final figures for 2006 are not yet available. But we welcome the EU Commission’s recent financing decision for 38.1 million Euros to encourage the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community”, he said.
Answering to other questions he said that the British government is committed in supporting the EU Presidency in its efforts to find a way for the Turkish Cypriots to trade directly with the EU.
“We remain committed to supporting the Turkish Cypriots and the EU Commission in economic and regulatory reform, and to supporting the EU Presidency in its efforts to find a way for the Turkish Cypriots to trade directly with the EU”, he said.
Hoon added that the preliminary findings of the World Bank report “on the economy in northern Cyprus are that the external constraints on access to EU markets for the Turkish Cypriot community are one of the two biggest constraints to economic development in northern Cyprus”.
“I would endorse the conclusion that the long-term welfare of all Cypriots is in jeopardy if steps are not taken to ensure the convergence of living standards on the island”, he noted.
Regarding the number of illegal Turkish settlers in the northern part of Cyprus, Hoon said that the UK has made no formal, independent assessment of the numbers of Turkish Cypriots and Turks from Turkey living in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus.
Referring to the Greek Cypriot enclaved persons who still live in their homes in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, he said that according to UN data, there are 385 enclaved Greek Cypriots, adding that their population has fallen dramatically from an estimated 20,000 in 1974, when Turkey invaded Cyprus.
Answering to another question by Dismore as to whether UK flagged vessels were prevented from calling at Turkish ports, Hoon said that the the British government has no detailed information on the scope of the Turkish restrictions and their application to Republic of Cyprus vessels and is not aware of any UK flag vessels being prevented from calling at Turkish ports under any of the circumstances cited.
Cyprus, an EU member state since May 2004, is divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied one third of its territory. Turkey, a country aspiring to become an EU member state, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus and refuses to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessel and aircraft.