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Ambulance Dispute

11.56 pm

Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield) : I am pleased and proud to present a petition organised by the ambulance trade unions in Yorkshire in support of their claim, and their request that it be put to independent arbitration.

The 40,000 signatures attached to the petition are an addition to the 5 million--an all-time record, I understand--attached to the petition presented before Christmas by my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook). I know that the people of Yorkshire have been queueing up to show their support for the ambulance crews and to give money, and I only hope that the Government will take some notice of the contents of the petition and the number of signatures attached to it.

The petition reads :

That the ambulance dispute is in need of urgent resolution. Wherefore your petitioners pray that your Honourable House urge the Secretary of State for Health to use the good offices of ACAS and agree to arbitration in order to end this unnecessary dispute : and urge the Secretary of State to provide a pay formula for the ambulance service similar to that for the other emergency services. To lie upon the Table.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) : I wish to present a petition supporting the ambulance workers, which has been signed by 40,000 members of the public in west Yorkshire, including many of my own constituents as well as people from the neighbouring constituency of Calder Valley.

That the ambulance workers' case is just has been recognised by everyone except, possibly, the Prime Minister and one or two sycophantic Ministers. That they have behaved impeccably in the face of massive provocation is indisputable, and I urge the Government to listen to the people of this country and to end this unnecessary dispute. I do not intend to repeat the words in the petition, but I think that everyone recognises that it is time that justice was done, and time that the suffering that the Government are causing the workers and the public came to an end.

To lie upon the Table.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Durant.]

11.59 pm

Mr. Michael Knowles (Nottingham, East) : The case that I intend to make this evening is that Britain's policy towards Cyprus has been mistaken for many years. I came across a quotation that sums up the beginning and the end of the problem in Cyprus. It comes from the memoirs of Glafkos Clerides, one of the more liberal and far-sighted Greek Cypriot leaders. He said :

"In reality, the opportunity for a settlement was lost not only because of our refusal to give the Turkish community autonomy in local government but because Makarios continued after seven years of hard struggle at home and abroad to hold the view that the Turkish Cypriots being a minority on the island should be reduced from the position of partners given to them by the Zurich and London agreements to that of enjoying only minority rights."

That was Archbishop Makarios's policy. It was also President Kyprianou's policy. It is not President Vassiliou's policy. That is the problem. The Greek Cypriots want the Turkish Cypriots to accept that they are a minority. The Turkish Cypriots say that there has to be a bi-communal republic, as provided for in the London and Zurich agreements of 1960. A bi -communal republic was founded, with reserve powers for both communities.

The reason was simple. There never was and there never had been a Cypriot nation. There were two communities, both looking to their motherlands. One suspects that Archbishop Makarios did not sign that agreement believing that it was final. He signed it in the belief that it was only an interim measure, on the way to the final achievement of Enosis. He believed in that all his life.

The Akritas plan for the overthrow of the republic was formulated and adhered to. In April 1963, the supreme constitutional court in Cyprus ruled illegal Greek Cypriot amendments to the law relating to municipalities. The Greek Cypriot executive ignored the ruling and overrode it. Consequently, the neutral German president, Dr. Ernst Fortshoff, resigned. At that point, constitutionality and the rule of law in the republic of Cyprus ended. Everything else flowed from that.

At that time, the guarantor powers did nothing, and the Akritas plan proceeded to unfold. In November 1963, Archbishop Makarios presented his 13 -part proposals to amend the constitution. The amendments consisted of removing all the Turkish Cypriot safeguards. Needless to say, the Turkish Cypriots refused to accept them. In December, what was proclaimed to be a double Christmas for the Greek Cypriots took place. There was an all-out attack by Greek Cypriot forces and EOKA gunmen on the whole of the Turkish Cypriot community.

The facts are recorded in the Select Committee's report : that 103 villages were destroyed, that there were 27,000 refugees, that there were hundreds of hostages and that people were murdered--we do not know how many. At that point the plan faltered. The Turkish Cypriots were not destroyed immediately. They managed to fight back. Makarios appealed to the United Nations, thus involving the United Nations. The result was that all Turkish Cypriot representatives in the organs of state were expelled--by force in many cases. The Greek Cypriots unilaterally abrogated the constitution and abolished all Turkish Cypriot safeguards and rights.

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In April, the President of the republic, Archbishop Makarios, denounced the treaties establishing the republic. From that moment, there was a de facto division of the island. From possessing 30 per cent. of the island, the Turkish Cypriots were confined to about 30 ghettos covering only 3 per cent. of the island. They were under an economic embargo ; they were starved. If they ventured outside, they were shot.

The violence flared over 11 years from 1963 to 1974, and the guarantor powers did not intervene. Finally, when Archbishop Makarios was toppled by a coup instigated by the Greek colonels and wholesale slaughter--Nicos Sampson, a well-known EOKA gunman--

Sir Antony Buck (Colchester, North) : Perhaps my hon. Friend will agree with me that Nicos Sampson caused us enough difficulty during the period to which he is referring. That the Turks should have had to consider being ruled by a regime headed by Nicos Sampson causes one to have the greatest sympathy with the Turkish side of the question.

Mr. Knowles : My hon. and learned Friend is correct.

The Turks intervened ; they landed. That was a warning, but the Greek Cypriot attacks did not cease. After the Turkish forces had landed, the inhabitants of five villages were slaughtered. I know that some of my hon. Friends have seen the memorials. Everyone, from six-week-old babies to 85- year-old women, was butchered in cold blood. In Famagusta, the entire Turkish Cypriot population were threatened with massacre. So the Turkish forces rolled on. I am not sure what the British Government expected then to happen. It seems that, once the ceasefire line had been established, they expected the Turkish Cypriots happily to return to the rule of the Greek Cypriots under an illegal republic whose constitution had been illegally amended. Instead, the Turkish forces stayed to safeguard the Turkish Cypriots. During the following year, an exchange of population took place. Shortly afterwards, the Turkish Cypriots established their part of the federal state, which was what they were after.

The British Government's reaction was to continue to recognise the republic of Cyprus--the Greek Cypriot two thirds of the country--as the legal Government, although it was the Greek Cypriots who had instigated the destruction of the republic. They were rewarded by continuing to be recognised as the legal Government and the Turkish Cypriots were ignored. How were the Turkish Cypriots supposed to survive? They decided to form their own state, which we did not recognise. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will make the point that no other country has done so apart from Turkey. In all justice, I do not see that the Turkish Cypriots could have done anything else.

There were eight years of negotiations, primarily with President Kyprianou, which led nowhere. Finally, in 1983, the Turkish Cypriots decided that they had to declare their independence, and they founded the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. I fail to see what else they could have done in the circumstances. The 1960 constitution was dead ; it had been abrogated by the Greek Cypriots. We could not expect the Turkish Cypriots voluntarily to return to Greek Cypriot rule, or perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister thinks that we could. The problem has been well summarised by one writer on Cyprus : "The Turks can't forget and the Greeks can't remember."

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If one talks to Greek Cypriots about the days before 1974, they paint Cyprus as an idyllic island. That may have been the position for the Greek Cypriots, but it was not for the Turkish Cypriots. The Turks, however, will not go back to Greek Cypriot rule. They have a lower standard of living in the north than is the case in the south, but friends of mine in northern Cyprus have put the case to me. In many instances they lost great wealth, lands and houses, but they say, "At least our children can play outside ; they are not going to be shot."

A powerful argument must be advanced to overcome that degree of fear. The tragedy is that the Greek Cypriots did not look at a map. Cyprus is 40 miles from Turkey but 400 miles from Greece ; they forgot that simple reality.

Could any Turkish Government have ignored what was happening on Cyprus? They were legally justified as a guarantor power to the 1960 agreements to bring their forces on to the island. Apart from that, could any Government 40 milies away have ignored the potential slaughter of 150,000 Turkish Cypriots? One remembers the reaction to the threat to 1,800 inhabitants of the Falkland Islands 8,000 miles away, so one can imagine the pressure on the Turkish Government. Any Turkish Government in a similar position would have had no choice but to intervene.

A story has been put about that, somehow, a trade-off for Turkey's entry into the European Community could be the withdrawal of its troops from Cyprus. I recall--I should be glad of the confirmation of my hon. Friend the Minister on this--that there was a trilateral agreement between the Community, Turkey and Greece that Greece would not use its influence when Turkey's entry was discussed.

There are worrying factors at present. There has been an enormous Greek Cypriot arms build-up in the south and full conscription with reserves of 80,000 men. I do not ignore the possibility of further armed conflict. If a single Turkish soldier is a threat to the Greek Cypriots--those are the terms in which they think--he is the only acceptable guarantee to Turkish Cypriots, because when they were being slaughtered, the only country that cared and the only country that sent troops was Turkey. Without a Turkish guarantee, I cannot foresee the Turkish Cypriots reaching agreement.

Is it the Government's view that the 1960 treaties and constitution are still in force? If so, what pressure have we exerted on the Greek Cypriots to declare null and void their unilateral amendments to the constitution? If that is not our position, why do we not recognise the two republics? Once the 1960 republic and constitution had been destroyed, either both remaining parts of Cyprus were illegal regimes or they were both legal regimes. We adopted an illogical position by recognising only one and not the other. I seriously question whether we got it right. I suspect that, at that time, the British Government hoped that their action would bring about a settlement, but after almost 30 years we must ask whether that was realistic or correct. If the Secretary-General of the United Nations can meet the leaders of both communities, why cannot Foreign Office Ministers? We say that we support the Secretary-General's position, but do we if we meet the leader of only one community? Foreign Office Ministers should meet President Vassiliou and President Denktash. If my hon. Friend the Minister believes that the 1960 constitution is still in force and we do not recognise both republics,

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President Denktash must be recognised as the vice-president of the republic of Cyprus, which was his position under that constitution. It seems to me that we have got ourselves into a logical impasse. The Greek Cypriots say that they are in favour of restoring the partnership and want to be friends with the Turkish Cypriots. Yet the Turkish Cypriots have seen nothing but unremitting hostility since 1963. There are attempts to destroy the economy, embargoes, pressure on flights and violent attacks on the United Nations forces on the green line.

Another worry is the Greek Cypriots' view of President Denktash. I do not know whether they believe it, but they portray President Denktash as a personal obstacle to a settlement. I believe that the absolute reverse is the truth. He remembers Cyprus as one island. He has friends who are Greek Cypriots. Anyone who is a great deal younger than him is not in that position. If this generation of leaders cannot reach an agreement, I am not sure that an agreement can be reached.

The Government must be clear on several points. If the Turkish Cypriots are not treated as partners and if equality is denied, there can be no federation on Cyprus. If there is no federation, the two former partners will live separately. Any peaceful settlement must take notice of the basic anxieties of both sides.

12.15 am

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Francis Maude) : This has been a useful debate. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Knowles) and I congratulate him on raising the issue. He speaks about the issue with a good deal of knowledge. I know that he has studied it carefully and knows Cyprus well. He has a particular understanding and knowledge of northern Cyprus. He has deployed his case temperately and moderately and that is valuable.

Inevitably, a good deal of what my hon. Friend said involved the history of this troubled island. Sadly, the sense of history in Cyprus is predominant. Memories are long and people in both communities have not forgotten the history that led the island to its present condition.

I hope that the House will forgive me if I concentrate my remarks not on the history of the island, but on the present position and prospects for improvement. We must focus our attention on that. My hon. Friend asked questions, quite properly, about the Government's position and about the possibilities for the island, to which I shall endeavour to give answers. It is right that this matter should be aired in the House and that the views of both communities are ventilated so that the House can understand the issues fully. The last time that the House debated this subject was on 26 May 1989 in an Adjournment debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs). Regrettably, there has been little positive movement since then. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in that debate, we believed that the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, President Vassiliou and Mr. Denktash, had negotiated with a degree of flexibility up to that point. He called on them to show yet more flexibility and imagination, with more of the spirit of compromise, to

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crown the United Nations Secretary- General's efforts with success, to re-unite the Republic of Cyprus and to remove a cause of instability in the eastern Mediterranean.

My right hon. Friend registered our strong hope that the two leaders could agree on a draft outline settlement before their next meeting with the Secretary-General. That joint meeting took place on 29 June. Sadly, it had proved impossible beforehand to agree the terms of an outline. Nevertheless, the meeting took place in a cordial atmosphere. The Secretary -General noted that the ideas discussed with the two leaders up to that point offered a real possibility of bridging the positions of the two sides. He sought and obtained their agreement to continue their work on the outline, with a view to a further joint meeting with him in the autumn. But here we are, six months later, and the two leaders have yet to resume their face-to-face talks under United Nations auspices. It is right that we should ask ourselves and endeavour to answer the question, what went wrong?

First, there were the unfortunate events of 19 July, just a week before Mr. Vassiliou and Mr. Denktash were due to hold the first meeting in the new round of the talks. I shall not rehearse the story of those events in detail to those of my hon. Friends present, nor to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) who is just about present with us. Those matters are familiar to the House. Suffice it to say that Greek Cypriot demonstrators, many of them violent, were allowed to penetrate the United Nations buffer zone in the heart of Nicosia, where the zone is wide enough to take a couple of vehicles only. They overwhelmed the small contingent of the United Nations force, which did not know in advance where the demonstrators would be, and entered an area whose status remains at issue between the United Nations force on the one hand and the Turkish Cypriot authorities and Turkish military on the other.

The House will recall that members of the security forces on the Turkish side then entered the scene en masse, and the upshot was the arrest, trial and detention of more than 100 Greek Cypriots in gaols in the north. Most of those were released fairly quickly, but the last, including the bishop of Kitium, did not return to the south until the end of July. These events could hardly have made the atmosphere for resumption of the intercommunal talks worse. Secondly, we saw a dispute about the status of the draft outline settlement which the United Nations had prepared in close consultation with the leaders of the two communities. That, too, is now history. But I must say that the claim by one side that the draft had been prepared in contravention of the understandings that the Secretary General had reached with the two leaders does not square with the facts as we understand them. We made our views clear in a statement on 24 August.

I much regret that those events should have served to undermine the good progress which had certainly been made up to that time. Much constructive work was done up to June, and I give the credit for that to both sides.

I hope that that effort and the good will expended on that process will not prove to have been wasted, and that the ideas in the UN paper, which the House should remember was submitted to the two sides as food for

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thought to aid their discussions--not as a formal UN proposal--should continue to be available to be drawn upon by both sides when the talks resume.

The emphasis must now be on where we go from here. The signposts are clearly marked in the Secretary-General's report to the Security Council before the council's debate on renewal of the UN force mandate on 14 December. It summarises recent developments, dispassionately and factually, and I commend it to the House. I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Library. In it the Secretary-General describes his separate meetings with the two leaders in October and again at the end of November and early December.

At the most recent round of meetings the Secretary-General invited both parties to attend an extended session of talks with him in February to agree on the headings for a draft outline settlement, and to proceed to negotiate its terms. He suggested that those headings should include a joint statement underlining the close relationship between the negotiating process and the overall atmosphere in which the negotiations took place and in which the two leaders would indicate their willingness

"to promote in words and in deeds reconciliation and mutual trust between the two communities".

The Secretary-General went on to report :

"President Vassiliou stated his willingness to proceed along the lines suggested. As regards a joint statement, he did not reject the preparation of such a statement at the appropriate time, adding that it should not detract from the agreed objective of arriving at an overall agreement.

Mr. Denktash stressed the need first to agree on a joint declaration of intent on the relationship between the two communities and then to discuss the headings of an outline."

We take no view on what the terms of that joint statement might be. But I believe that the proper place to go into that is at the face-to-face talks between Mr. Vassiliou and Mr. Denktash, when at last those talks resume. That was very much in our minds when we contributed to the drafting of a statement in the name of the Security Council which was issued on 14 December. I have also arranged for a copy of that to be placed in the Library.

In line with that statement, I strongly urge both sides to co-operate with the United Nations, with a view to restarting the talks as soon as possible. I see every advantage in the Secretary-General's proposal to reconvene the talks in February. Certainly a resumption should not be left until after the internal elections to be held in the north, which will inevitably preoccupy Mr. Denktash and his colleagues in the Turkish Cypriot leadership from the spring to mid-summer. That is too long to wait. A settlement is achievable and overdue. It would be distressing if the island of Cyprus had to wait that long for further progress to be made. We also hope that neither side will put preconditions of any sort in the way, or say or do anything that would sour the atmosphere again. Our concern is simple and unchanging. It is to promote, in whatever way we can, a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement to the dispute. In doing so, we recognise as cardinal that no settlement can endure if it does not enjoy the support of both Cypriot communities. An agreement that ignored the fundamental concerns of one community would be no agreement at all.

In our own dealings, as the House will be aware, our aim is to be scrupulously even-handed towards each community. We follow that approach to the limit.

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However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East and other hon. Friends accept, our policy of recognition of the Republic of Cyprus and non-recognition of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus imposes limits on what we can do.

I want to talk about the future, but I shall take this opportunity, as my hon. Friend suggested, to restate the Government's view that the 1960 treaties remain in force.

I have listened carefully to the case made by my hon. Friend and assure him that we shall continue to give full weight to the interests and legitimate aspirations of the

Sir Antony Buck rose

Mr. Maude : I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will forgive me if I do not give way because I have only three minutes left and I wish to cover the other points of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East.

We continue, as we have consistently done, to give full weight to the interests and aspirations of the Turkish Cypriot community. However, there can be no prospect of any change in our basic policy on recognition of the TRNC. Our purpose is, and must remain, to promote reconciliation and not to perpetuate division.

It sometimes seems that proponents of such a change in our policy on recognition feel that it is we who are out of step, not the Turkish Cypriots. But I remind them that the entire international community, with the exception of Turkey, takes the same view as us.

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Let no one think that, if the current UN- sponsored negotiations fail to achieve progress within a reasonable time span, we and the rest of the world will be content to see the status quo solidify or that we will slowly move towards recognition of the Turkish Cypriot state. That could not possibly lead to a lasting settlement. Maintenance of the status quo is simply not a tenable option in the long term, and it is the ordinary Turkish Cypriots who will suffer most from prolonged delay in moving to a settlement. It is sometimes argued--as my hon. Friend argued--that our policy cannot be even-handed if we deny to Mr. Denktash the access to Ministers which President Vassiliou enjoys. I am familiar with that argument.

However, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said in the previous Adjournment debate, Mr. Denktash made it difficult for us to give him the access that he used to have when the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was declared in November 1983. I repeat also that we do not rule out for ever a meeting between Mr. Denktash and a British Minister. Of course, I would consider one if I was satisfied that it would materially assist the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement in Cyprus. But those conditions do not yet apply--

The motion having been made after Ten o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order. Adjourned at twenty- nine minutes past Twelve o'clock.

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