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Lords debate future of North Cyprus

23 October 2017

A debate was held in the UK House of Lords last Monday evening, regarding the fate of North Cyprus after the failure of the Cyprus Conference at Crans-Montana, Switzerland.

*Lord Sharkey asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the problems that will be faced by the people of Northern Cyprus in the event of the failure of reunification talks; and what plans they have to assist in resolving any such problems.

He declared an interest as co-chair of the APPG for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

North Cyprus News - Lord SharkeyThe Cyprus negotiations have failed, as they have over the last 50 years, he said:

“Most commentators on the failed talks, this time and every preceding time, agree that reunification would bring economic benefits to all the citizens of Cyprus. Those benefits will not now materialise and there is no realistic prospect of them materialising in the foreseeable future. That is because there is no prospect in the foreseeable future of any reunification. No matter how much talk there may be from Greek Cypriots about continuing talks, it is clear that that will not happen. It is clear because every possible solution and every possible permutation of every compromise is known and has been proposed and exhaustively discussed, not just this time but in the Annan plan and in the preceding conversations. They have always failed.”

He went on to say that: “There is no conceivable basis for any future talks without profound changes in what possibly both sides are prepared to accept. There is no sign that this will or can happen. The truth is that there is no incentive for the Greek Cypriots to compromise and no willingness on the part of the Turkish Cypriots to be subsumed into a Greek Cypriot-run state. There is no convergence of interests, not even over the exploitation of the offshore oil and gas finds, and there is no point in doing the same thing over and again and expecting something different to happen.”

Lord Sharkey noted that it was not the fault was the fault of the Turkish Cypriots nor could Turkey be blamed. He pointed out that Turkey had offered a substantial compromise in the Security and Guarantees chapter by offering to reduce their troop numbers on the island from 40,000 to 650.

He also pointed out that the failure of the Cyprus talks would impact the Turkish Cypriots far more because they were poorer in comparison to the Greek Cypriots. The Greek Cypriots also enjoyed the benefits of being an EU members state, while the Turkish Cypriots, although technically belonging to the EU, had none of the benefits.

“Greek Cyprus trades with the world; Turkish Cyprus is under embargo. The future of the people of the north looks bleak, with no trade possibilities, no real inward investment and no external relations. It is cut off and isolated. Through no fault of their own, the people of Northern Cyprus are isolated and impoverished. They are an economic dependency of an increasingly distracted, erratic and authoritarian Turkey. The whole region is aware of the tensions that exist between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey over the oil and gas deposits in the island’s EEZ. The eastern Mediterranean region emphatically does not need a continuation of this tension.

“However, we are where we are. The island has no real foreseeable prospect of reunification and the people ​of the north need help. I understand that help may be difficult to provide—not impossible, but certainly not straightforward. Ideally, help would take the form of ending or mitigating the effects of the embargo, restoring direct flights and shipping, and promoting inward investment. None of this is straightforward.”

Lord Sharkey noted that although security concerns were understandable, he asked why the UK authorities could not inspect Ercan Airport security facilities and if satisfactory, lift the imposition on passengers flying to the UK from Ercan. Travellers are currently obliged to disembark the plane when it lands in Turkey, go through security checks again and the reboard the plane.

He concluded by saying that since the UK is still a guarantor power, “I very much look forward to hearing the Minister’s assessment of the problems now facing those people and the ways that HMG might be able to provide concrete help.”

For full transcript click here

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