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31 Oct 2002 : Column 927Wcontinued
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the mandate of the Convention on the Future of Europe Working Group on Defence is; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. MacShane: The Government welcome the European Convention's decision to set up a Working Group on Defence. The Working Group's mandate is set out in Convention document CONV 206/02 of 19 July 2002 and reads as follows:
Mr. Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when UK Visas will reply to the letter of 27 June from the hon. Member for Manchester, Central, regarding Mr. AM reference NBI/1003564/7/8. 
Mr. Rammell [holding answer 30 October 2002]: I am sorry for the delay in replying to my hon. Friend's letter of 27 June. A reply was sent to him on 30 October.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the status of Cyprus' application to join the EU 
Mr. MacShane : Cyprus has made very good progress in negotiations, having provisionally closed 28 of the 31 negotiating chapters. At Brussels the European Council confirmed its determination to conclude negotiations with Cyprus, along with nine other countries, at its meeting in Copenhagen on 12/13 December. It also reiterated its preference for a reunited Cyprus to join the EU. If there is no settlement, it said, Xthe decisions to be taken in December by the Copenhagen European Council will be based on the conclusions set out by [..] Helsinki" i.e. that the Council's decision will be taken without a settlement being a precondition and that all relevant factors would be taken into account.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress is being made towards establishing discussions between the communities in Cyprus on property rights as part of a settlement; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. MacShane: Property is one of the core issues, identified by the UN Secretary-General, being discussed by the two leaders in Cyprus as part of efforts to find a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement to the Cyprus problem. The UN Secretary-General has asked that the content of discussions during the settlement talks
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remain private. I urge the two leaders to do all they can to narrow their differences on property and on the other core issues.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with (a) Turkey and (b) Greece, concerning the prospects of a settlement in Cyprus; and if he will make a statement 
Mr. MacShane: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met Sukru Sina Gurel, Turkish Foreign Minister, on 24 September and George Papandreou, Greek Foreign Minister on 24 October 2002. He discussed settlement negotiations in Cyprus with both, made clear that our aim is for a reunited island to be invited at the Copenhagen European Council to accede to the European Union and urged both to take an active role in supporting the UN on Cyprus.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what bicommunal events and activities his Department and the British Council have supported in Cyprus in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement.[R] 
Mr. MacShane: The Government are committed to developing practical co-operation between the two communities on and off the island. The then Minister for Europe my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Peter Hain) hosted a reception and gave a speech to an intercommunal gathering on 10 April which was attended by senior politicians from both communities. The British high commission has made a significant contribution to intercommunal dialogue, bringing Turkish and Greek Cypriots together at a wide range of events.
Mr Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress is being made by the technical committees established under UN auspices to look at aspects of the Cyprus problem relating to constitutional and treaty matters; and if he will make a statement 
Mr. MacShane: I welcome the establishment of the technical committees to support the settlement talks on Cyprus, announced by the Secretary-General on 4 October. We hope the committees will start their work as soon as possible. The UN Secretary-General has asked that the content of discussions during the settlement talks remains private to the parties.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when Lord Hannay has visited (a) Cyprus, (b) Greece, (c) Turkey and (d) the United Nations in the last 12 months for discussions on the Cyprus problem; and who he met on each occasion. 
Mr. MacShane: Lord Hannay visited Cyprus on:
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Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken to extend the benefits of EU membership to Cypriot inhabitants of the SBAs, Cyprus; and if he will make a statement 
Mr. MacShane: As the Commission noted in its report on Cyprus of 9 October, as part of the preparation for Cyprus1 future EU membership, the British government has over the past year held meetings with Cyprus and the European Commission to discuss the arrangements that will come into force in the SBAs
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when Cyprus joins the EU. Our objective has been, as described in the written answer by my noble Friend Baroness Symons of 5 December 2001 (Official Report, column WA 140), to continue with the policy of the SBAs remaining outside the EU, except where necessary to ensure that Cypriots who live and work in the SBAs do not benefit less from Cyprus's membership of the European Union than their compatriots in the Republic of Cyprus. The outcome of these discussions will be considered by the European institutions, including the Council of Ministers.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus problem 
Mr. MacShane: I am pleased that talks are continuing between the two sides in Cyprus to reach a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement. Our aim, and that of our EU partners and the US, is that such a settlement should be reached as soon as possible, so that a reunited island can be invited, at the Copenhagen European Council, to accede to the EU. I fully support the UN in its efforts to bridge the gaps between the two sides and urge the two leaders to do all they can to narrow their differences on the core issues.
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