Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Second Report


1. The island of Cyprus has been divided between its majority Greek Cypriot and minority Turkish Cypriot populations physically since 1974, and psychologically for far longer. Attempts to end the physical division, to find a solution to what has become known as "the Cyprus problem" came closer to success than ever before in 2004, with the publication of a UN-brokered scheme—the 'Annan Plan'—on which both communities were able to vote in simultaneous referendums. The result of those referendums, in which two thirds of Turkish Cypriots supported the Plan, but three quarters of Greek Cypriots rejected it, was a stalemate. The internationally-recognised Republic of Cyprus, which exercises de facto control over only the Greek Cypriot-controlled parts of the island, entered the European Union in May 2004; the self-styled 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' is recognised only by Turkey, 35,000 of whose troops are garrisoned there. Turkey's candidature for membership of the EU is blighted by the fact that its forces occupy a large part of the territory of an existing member state. It is hardly surprising that, after decades of simmering on the back burner of international priorities, the Cyprus problem has become a focus of attention. A further attempt to find a solution which is acceptable to a majority of all the people of Cyprus is likely to take place later this year.

History of the Cyprus Problem

2. The long, complex and unhappy history of the Cyprus problem was set out in a Report of our predecessor Committee in 1987.[1] For some (mainly Turkish Cypriots) the Cyprus problem began in 1963; for others (mainly Greek Cypriots) it began in 1974. This Report considers developments since 1987. If anything, we heard too much about the history of the Cyprus problem during this inquiry, and heard less than we would have wished to hear about the future. We accept, however, that just as with Ireland, no-one can claim to understand the Cyprus problem who has not studied its history. Although our main purpose is to look forward, we set out here a brief chronology of events since the previous Report.[2]

3. The election of a new, pro-settlement Greek Cypriot President, George Vassiliou, in 1988 provided fresh impetus for inter-communal negotiations. These proved fruitless and with the momentous events of the period 1989-91 in Russia and Europe, the Cyprus problem fell down the list of priorities for the international community. It remained there until April 1992, when United Nations Security Council Resolution 750 was adopted, in which it was asserted that a settlement must be based on "a state of Cyprus with single sovereignty, an international personality and a single citizenship, with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded, and comprising two politically equal communities."[3] UN-sponsored talks with the active involvement of Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali began later that year on the basis of a document which came to be known as the Set of Ideas, but they had not been completed by the time Greek Cypriot Presidential elections were due in February 1993. The parties had in any case been unable to agree on a range of issues, not least the delineation of the areas to be under Greek and Turkish Cypriot administration.

4. Following the elections in 1993, Glafcos Clerides returned to the President's Palace in Nicosia and made Cyprus's accession to the EU his priority.[4] Although a great deal of work was carried out on the basis of the UN Set of Ideas in the period 1993-94, followed by some nugatory work on a series of confidence-building measures (some of which had been proposed by our predecessor Committee) there was little real progress towards a settlement during this period, which was characterised by occasional violence along the Green Line and in the UN-patrolled buffer zone. In 1994, the European Court of Justice declared direct trade between member states of the European Communities and northern Cyprus to be illegal and the following year, Greece agreed to support a customs union between the EU and Turkey only if Cyprus was accepted as a candidate for full membership.[5] In May 1996, the British Government appointed its former Ambassador to the United Nations, David (now Lord) Hannay, to the newly-created post of Special Representative for Cyprus.[6]

5. Early in 1997, Mr Clerides made moves to acquire surface-to-air missiles from Russia—a step certain to annoy Turkey, which duly threatened to take military action. Despite these setbacks, and thanks not least to the efforts of Lord Hannay and Malcolm Rifkind,[7] in July and August 1997 Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and President Clerides met for direct talks, first in the United States and then in Switzerland. Like all the previous talks, these failed (in this case, Lord Hannay told us, partly because of tensions concerning Turkey's application to be a candidate for membership of the EU).[8]

6. Glafcos Clerides was narrowly re-elected as President of Cyprus in February 1998. In April, Turkey and northern Cyprus created a 'joint economic zone', further cementing the divide. The missile crisis was still at its height in September 1998, when the then House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee visited Cyprus as part of its inquiry into EU enlargement.[9] It was resolved only in December, following the application of strong pressure by Greece, which was concerned for its own relations with Turkey. Greece and Turkey had been close to war several times in the 1990s over territorial disputes. This tension was dissipated by the resolution of the missile crisis in Cyprus and then the mutual assistance between Greece and Turkey after the earthquakes of August and September 1999, so preparing the way for Turkey to take a further step towards EU membership. However, Greece accepted this development only in exchange for explicit undertakings that Cyprus's accession would not depend on a settlement of the Cyprus problem.[10]

7. With both Cyprus and Turkey aspiring to join the EU, the minds of the international community once more focused on the Cyprus problem and, in the words of Lord Hannay, "we had a further and much more elaborate attempt in which we, the European Union, the United States and the United Nations worked systematically together and that led through a series of negotiations … to the Annan Plan."[11] We summarise the process which led to the Plan in the next chapter of our Report.

Reasons for the present inquiry

8. Had it not been for the rejection of the Annan Plan by the majority Greek Cypriot population of Cyprus, it is most unlikely that we as a Committee would have carried out this inquiry and produced this Report. However, when that rejection happened, there was a natural desire among all friends of Cyprus to know how and why the best opportunity to secure a peace deal on the island had been missed, and whether there was any prospect of rescuing it.

9. Those of us who were members of the Committee in the last Parliament had visited Cyprus in 1998, in order to assess the preparedness of Cyprus for EU accession. This work had been followed up during a further visit in 2002, when we met all the major participants in the then talks process. We also went to Ankara in 2002, and subsequently produced a Report in which we considered Turkey's candidacy for EU membership;[12] and we discussed Cyprus with leading Greek political figures during Greece's Presidency of the European Union in 2003. We decided to draw together and follow up this work by seeking answers to a number of questions which, we felt, arose from the referendum result:

  • whether the UK should continue to back the Annan Plan;
  • the implications for the EU of the admission of a divided country;
  • what role the UK should play in the continuing process of negotiations between the two communities on the island;
  • implications of the Annan Plan's rejection for the northern part of the island;
  • whether the British Government should seek to alter its relationship with the northern part of the island, and if so how; and
  • implications for the EU's relationship with Turkey.

10. Below, we discuss these questions under three broad headings: the Annan Plan; the role of the European Union; and the role of the United Kingdom. In a final section on the way forward, we set out our ideas on how progress might yet be made towards a final, complete and fair settlement of the Cyprus problem.


11. We received more than 260 written submissions to our inquiry. This degree of public interest and involvement in the work of the Foreign Affairs Committee is unprecedented, certainly in the last ten years. As well as submissions from the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Cyprus and from the administration of the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" we received a number of useful contributions from academics, interest groups and informed observers of the process. Those of us who went to Cyprus in November 2004 also met many political, business and community figures on both sides of the Green Line, including President Papadopoulos, Mr Denktash and Mr Talat.[13] A full record of these meetings was made for the benefit of those of us who were unable to participate.[14] We learnt a great deal from the written evidence and from the discussions held during the visit.

12. In Westminster, we heard oral evidence from the Minister for Europe, Dr Denis MacShane; Mr Pierre Mirel, Director, Enlargement Directorate, European Commission; Lord Hannay, former United Kingdom Special Representative to Cyprus; Mr Özdem Sanberk, former Turkish Ambassador to the United Kingdom; Mr Philippos Savvides, Research Fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP); and Dr Christopher Brewin, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Keele University. We were also fortunate to be able to hold private discussions in London with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and with Sir Kieran Prendergast, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. We decided at the outset of our inquiry not to hear oral evidence from representatives of the Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot administrations or from the two communities' expatriate groups in London. Our deliberations were well-informed by the extensive written evidence received from all these.

13. The bulk of the written evidence to our inquiry (210 out of over 260 submissions) came from private individuals, the great majority of whom, we judge, fall broadly into three groups: Greek Cypriots, or those of Greek Cypriot origin; Turkish Cypriots, or those of Turkish Cypriot origin; and Britons who live or own property in Cyprus. We are grateful to all those who took the trouble to write to us with their views. All submissions received were read, circulated to the Committee and evaluated as we compiled our Report. For reasons of space and because of the very similar terms in which many of the submissions received from private individuals were expressed, we have decided not to publish a large number of them. However, those which we have not published are listed on page 86 of this Report and have been deposited in the Records Office of Parliament, where they may be consulted.[15]

14. Finally, we have made some use of published sources in preparing our Report. Most notably, these include the Annan Plan itself;[16] the Secretary-General's Report to the Security Council on his mission of good offices;[17] Lord Hannay's book, Cyprus—The Search for a Solution,[18] published during our inquiry; and the 'Lordos study' of Greek Cypriot public opinion, Can the Cyprus Problem be Solved?, which was also published while our inquiry was under way.[19] Where these sources have been used, they are cited in the text.Cyprus as it would look after the Annan Plan

(Source: The Annan Plan)

1   Third Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 1986-87, Cyprus, HC 23 Back

2   Ibid, paras 18-43 Back

3   Full text available at Back

4   Mr Clerides had previously been President in 1974, pending the restoration to office of Archbishop Makarios. Back

5   Q 228 [Mirel] Back

6   Q 40 [Lord Hannay] Back

7   Foreign Secretary until May 1997. Back

8   Q 41 Back

9   See Third Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 1998-99, EU Enlargement, HC86. Back

10   Q 228 [Mirel]. See also ibid, para 88. Back

11   Q 40 Back

12   Sixth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2001-02, Turkey, HC 606 Back

13   For the full itinerary of the visit, see Annex. Back

14   In order to preserve the confidentiality of discussions held during its visits overseas and with incoming visitors, it is the practice of the Committee not to publish its notes of such meetings. Back

15   Application may be made to the House of Lords Record Office, London SW1A 0PW, tel 020 7219 3074 Back

16   Available at Back

17   Report of the Secretary-General on his mission of good offices in Cyprus, UNSC document S/2003/398 Back

18   I B Tauris, London, 2004 Back

19   Alexandros Lordos in co-operation with Cyprus Market Research Ltd, 2004 Back

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Prepared 22 February 2005