Lord Northbrook (Con)
My Lords, it is tempting to answer the two questions of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, rather succinctly. To his first, I say that there will be plenty of problems now that the reunification talks have collapsed. As for the second, I am sure the Minister will recite the usual FCO formula that both sides have to work out a new solution and the UK cannot assist until they have produced an almost final blueprint. That view needs revision, as I shall come on to discuss later; but, like the noble Lord, I want to praise the FCO for its efforts toward the end of the talks in trying to achieve a solution.
However, I think the question of the noble Lord needs much more detailed analysis. The main problem will be the continued isolation of Northern Cyprus, which will continue to rely upon Turkey’s support. That isolation comes in several forms. First, it is economic. For instance, I will cite the major problem of the relationship with the EU which, unbelievably, agreed in 2004 that Cyprus could join, regardless of whether agreement had been reached with the Turkish Cypriots. To add insult and injury to the north, it is the whole island that had formally acceded to membership, including the unrecognised and unrepresented Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus—TRNC. As a result, the north is deprived of favourable tariff treatment from the EU and other financial benefits to help the infrastructure and other projects.
The next economic problem applies to the natural resources available from the seas surrounding the island. If the island was reunited, there would be the possibility of exploiting the gas resources in, for instance, the Aphrodite field. At the moment, such exploitation is impossible. That gas could be piped to Turkey, giving Cyprus much cheaper energy on the way.
Another form of isolation is travel. As the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, has already stated, visitors to the north are unable to fly directly to the island, having to stop in Turkey on the way. Such a problem will not be solved as long as the island is divided. That has a direct effect on tourism for the north, as the hassle factor of getting to it deters many. Varosha, which was a prime tourist resort before partition, is still shut off; that is a benefit to no one.
Another problem faced by the north could be the attitude of Turkey. The unpredictable President Erdogan could seek to take in Northern Cyprus as another province of Turkey. That would be a very unsettling event as it could stir up the Greek Cypriot community and Greece itself.
What should be done to solve these problems? Like every other speaker, I fear that negotiations to reunite the island as one entity are now doomed to fail, basically because the Greek side has got exactly what it wants at present, especially with membership of the EU. As Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary, wrote in the Independent on 1 October:
“For any negotiation of this kind to succeed, both sides have to be able to gain something. But, from the Greek Cypriot point of view, conceding political equality with the Turkish Cypriots means giving power away. If the quid pro quo had been EU membership, a deal in my view would have been agreed. But absent that … no Greek-Cypriot leader will ever be able to get their electorate behind a deal. The status quo for the south is simply too comfortable”.
Jack Straw goes on to say that he believes the international community should,
“acknowledge this reality and recognise the partition of the island. That would be far more likely to improve relations between the two communities than continuing the useless merry-go-round of further negotiations for a settlement that never can be”.
So what should the role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office be? Several members of the APPG group for the TRNC, of which I am a member, visited the FCO in July. For myself, having watched the progress of the talks carefully over the last two years, there were major indicators of lack of progress, particularly when it appeared that the Greek side was expanding the convergences. The FCO was putting all its money on the negotiations succeeding and it was apparent that it had no plan B if the talks were to fail. That was too narrow an approach to take. The FCO should be much more proactive at an earlier stage and look to push forward the partition concept. An interesting article by Dr Sen Dervish of the Centre for the Study of International Peace and Security looks at that idea in more detail. First, she says that Cyprus is already a,
“de facto militarily-partitioned state between Turkey and Greece”.
She believes that reunification is,
“a pipe dream … A readiness for political compromise and social cohesion—undisputedly a precursor for any peace deal—is debatably non-existent on the island … The psycho-political stance of the two Cypriot communities indicates that they want to remain divided; Cyprus should not be left at the mercy of an endless peace process where issues are negotiated to a point of tautology”.
She believes that recognition of the two states,
“would consequently eradicate many legal and political problems surrounding partition, such as human rights and property issues … There are further axiomatic legal obstacles to partition, such as Article II of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee signed by the two Cypriot leaders, Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom. International organisations such as the EU perpetuate the existence of the 1960 Republic of Cyprus, granting it enjoyment of protections awarded to states under public international law. In reality, however, there exist two democratic states of Cyprus and obstacles to peace are overtly political rather than strictly legal … accordingly, the solution needs to be a political one. Partition would also result in the destruction of rights of residence and property of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots; justified mutual claims for compensation can, however, be raised following the recognition of the TRNC. Moreover, redistribution of land rights in the interests of permanent peace is not, however, a new concept and has been employed—contentiously but successfully— … in Colombia”.
“If the partition of Cyprus is internationally accepted, a wide variety of challenges of the ongoing peace negotiations can be resolved: derogations from EU law regarding living in the north without limits; freedoms will be restored throughout Cyprus; the contentious guarantorship will cease to be required”.
More controversially, she says that the,
“Greek Cypriot authorities will acquire the sole legal right to use the hydrocarbon findings that have been found on the south of the island”.
I am not sure I can agree with this last point because I feel the natural resources should be shared.