|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): In this debate on foreign affairs, I want to concentrate on our relationship with a country that is a close friend and with which we have great tiesCyprus. In doing so, I should draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members' Interests about my recent visits to the island. I have only recently returned from the island with a delegation of Friends of Cyprus, of which I am vice-chairman.
It was an interesting time to visit Cyprus, given the onset of EU accession in May next year and the so-called elections for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus ParliamentI should put that in parentheses so that I do not imply any degree of recognition. The green line opened earlier this year, which created many new hopes, but it cannot be considered to be a solution. Kofi Annan has also made efforts to try to broker a settlement on the long-standing Cyprus problem.
During my visit, I had the opportunity to meet many leading members of both communities on the island. I shall start my detailed remarks by talking about the elections in the north that are due to be held on 14 December. I am worried about the extent to which the elections may not be fair. Ten days ago, I had the opportunity to see again the Costa Gavras film "Z" at a special showing to mark the 30th anniversary of 17 Novembernot the criminal gang, but the terrible events in Athens when the then Greek junta stormed Athens polytechnic and killed many students. It was also the 35th anniversary of the film itself and the 40th anniversary of the murder of the Greek politician in Thessaloniki on which the film was closely based. What I saw in northern Cyprus really brought the film home to me because the atmosphere there is redolent of the situation depicted in the film.
I had the opportunity to meet Sevgul Uludag, a journalist who has been subjected to frightening victimisation and death threats, all of which have remained uninvestigated by the Turkish Cypriot authorities. With Sevgul, I met the widow of Kutlu Adali, a journalist who was murdered in 1996. The intimidation of journalists continues, and I know that my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe is aware of many of the problems from the full, comprehensive and welcome answer that he gave to a parliamentary question that I tabled about the matter a couple of weeks ago.
The terrorist organisation Grey Wolves is active in northern Cyprus. It is organised and funded by the Turkish military, which gave it its headquarters. Murat Kanatli, the editor of a pro-solution newspaper, was attacked and beaten by 30 Grey Wolves and the so-called state of northern Cyprus is victimising journalists. For example, it has brought prosecutions in military courts over attempts by the Opposition to hold a referendum on the Annan plan earlier in the year, which was denied to the people at large in northern Cyprus by the Denktash regime. The state-supporting television company, Avrasya, staged a stunt at the offices of the BDH, which is one of the leading Opposition parties, by themselves stamping on a Turkish flag on the floor and citing that as an example of how the BDH shows disrespect toward the Turkish flag. The footage was broadcast and the matter was taken up in pro-Denktash newspapers without any
The intimidation in northern Cyprus is very worrying. Commanders of the Turkish army visit villages and intimidate settlers. While I was in Cyprus, I heard of an incident in which a Turkish army officer visited a village and used its facilities to speak at Friday prayers to tell settlers, "If you don't all vote for Denktash, you'll be on the first boat home leaving all your possessions and belongings here in northern Cyprus."
The extent of employment in the TRNC is rather peculiar because some 20 per cent. of the total population work for the state. That gives those people, to put it mildly, a vested interest in, or a real incentive to vote for, the Denktash regime. The situation is getting worse because there is a huge job creation programme effectively to employ more supporters of the Denktash regime. The state broadcaster, BRT, now employs 1,350 people, although its normal staffing level is 150. The stories of overmanning in Fleet street in the early daysI know that my hon. Friend the Minister has experience of thatare weak compared with what is going on there.
The Prime Minister's office in northern Cyprus has employed 50 new members of staff. I know that the Opposition have criticised additional staff in Downing street, but that situation pales into insignificance compared with what is happening in northern Cyprus. Those events are contrary to a protocol that was signed by Turkey and the TRNC to say that no more than 5 per cent. of people would work for the state. Surprise, surprise, the Government plan to pay bonuses to civil servants in November and Decemberthe run-up to the elections.
The military and embassy are also involved, and perhaps I may refer to the way in which the electoral roll has been manipulated. Some 10,000 extra voters have been put on the roll, which now stands at 140,000 people. That is a huge increase as a proportion of the overall total, and many of the extra people are settlers who have arrived on the island only recently. The Turkish Government are abetting the process because such people may join the electoral roll only if they have a certificate of good conduct, which must be produced by the Turkish embassy in the TRNC. All sorts of abuses are going on and the prospects for a fair election are slim.
The speech made by the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Erdogan, on the 20th anniversary of the so-called TRNC attracted much criticism from not only the Republic of Cyprus but the Turkish Cypriot Opposition because it seemed to back Mr. Denktash. There was no reason for Mr. Erdogan to attend the event because it coincided with the appalling terrorist incidents in Istanbul, so many people would have understood why he could have thought that it was a greater priority to deal with that rather than supporting the TRNC. There was perhaps a silver lining to what he said because he did not specifically endorse Mr. Denktash and he indicated that Cyprus
Mr. Gardiner: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is absolutely unacceptable that any prospective candidate country to the EU should fail to recognise the sovereignty and existence of an existing accession country, and that it is inconceivable that such a country should continue its occupation?
The Opposition have already challenged the fairness of the elections, and especially the register. Mr. Durduran has made a challenge in the European Court of Human Rights and the Opposition parties have made a challenge in the constitutional court of the TRNC. However, the outcome of the challenges is not expected until well after the elections. One could hope that if the elections are not seen to be fair and Mr. Denktash wins, it might give Turkey the opportunity to order them to be rerun, if it wanted to do that. However, it remains to be seen whether that would happen, so we have to hope that the Opposition parties can succeed. The elections probably represent the best chance that they have ever had, despite all the obstacles that have been unfairly put in their way.
Although there are three separate Opposition lists for the election, the parties have a common platform. They want a settlement based on the Annan plan and to join the European Union as a reunited island. They have the common platform of removing Mr. Denktash as the negotiator and replacing him from among their ranks. However, there are separate lists for the CDP, the republican Turkish party of Mr. Talat, the BDH, which is the peace and democracy movement of Mr. Akinci and Mr. Izan, and the CABP, which is the EU and populist party of Ali Erel. There is a risk that some of the votes might be dissipated because of the list and there is a chance that the CABP might not pass the 5 per cent. electoral threshold.
What is also interesting is the extent to which the Opposition parties are attracting support from the settler vote in addition to the traditional vote of Turkish Cypriots, themselves victims of the occupation. Dr. Nuri Cevikel, one of the leaders of the Turkish settler movement in the TRNC, is standing as a candidate for the Opposition party, the CDP, as No. 2 on its Famagusta list. He has paid a price for that: he has been sacked from his job as a university lecturer and faces victimisation.
The Turkish Cypriot Opposition are critical of the Republic for not doing more to implement its measures to ease the plight of the Turkish Cypriots and to build confidence measures. The problem is, however, that the Denktash regime has frustrated many of those measures and there has been a backlash as a result. I hope that the Republic establishes the proposed bureau for Turkish Cypriots as part of the administration of the Republic in the near future. That would provide a
If the Opposition win, some of the problems within Cyprus might be unlocked. They say that they will replace Denktash as a negotiator and are committed to a settlement. So rapid progress could be made. The key issue is whether Turkey would respect the outcome of the elections. Some people think that it would want to keep Mr. Denktash, damaged though he may be. Serdar Denktash, his son and leader of the minority party in the coalition, has said that he will be happy to form other alliances only if Mr. Rauf Denktash remains the negotiator. If the Opposition fail, there is little question of the UN re-engaging with the process, and Turkey will be left with a serious problem for its accession aspirations. It will have to find a way through the mess on its own. There are suspicions that Turkey and the Denktash regime are trying to work out a different plana bottom-up arrangementin response to the Annan plan, but that plan would imply recognition and enable a velvet divorce to take place from the new state of affairs shortly after it is established.
The Republic of Cyprus remains committed to the Annan plan as a basis for negotiation. There are, however, serious reservations about settlers, property rights, freedom of movement, and finance and economics. The opening of the green line has released some of the pressure building up in the north, but that is not a solution, especially as people travelling from the Republic need to produce passports. That has caused splits in the Greek Cypriot community.