The role of UK diplomacy
167. In 1996, the then Foreign Secretary, Malcolm
Rifkind, asked the United Kingdom's former Ambassador to the United
Nations, Sir David (now Lord) Hannay, to take on the newly-created
role of the United Kingdom's Special Representative for Cyprus.
He did this, Lord Hannay told us, because
the British Government felt at the time, so
they told me, that having committed themselves to Cyprus's membership
of the European Union and that having some quite tricky implications
for the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, it was really
part of our duty to make a further effort, a further serious effort,
to get a settlement to the Cyprus problem to obviate some of the
tensions that would arise.
168. As is clear not only from Lord Hannay's recent
book, but from
the comments of others,
he expended a great deal of effort on his role as the United Kingdom's
Special Representative. With his experience at the United Nations,
he was able to work closely with the Secretary-General's special
representatives and with international diplomats and political
figures, many of whom he knew personally. However, after the collapse
of the Annan 3 negotiations in March 2003, Lord Hannay requested
that his appointment not be renewed. He was not replaced.
169. Lord Hannay's important contribution to efforts
to find a way round the obstacles in the path of a settlement
of the Cyprus problem was complemented by the work of another
distinguished British diplomat, Sir Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General
for Political Affairs at the United Nations. Although not able
to work on the Cyprus problem full timehe has also been
responsible for the UN's contribution to the Middle East Peace
Process, among other thingsSir Kieran has over a period
of some years made a huge input to the negotiations on Cyprus,
which we hope may not yet be over. We are fortunate to have been
able to discuss the Cyprus problem with Sir Kieran on a number
of occasions, most recently in October 2004.
170. As well as its diplomatic engagement with Cyprus,
carried out with distinction by the high Commission in Nicosia,
the United Kingdom is also actively involved in supporting financially
a number of worthwhile projects in both communities. As the poorer
community, with a standard of living well below that of the Greek
Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots naturally receive the greater part
of this aid. For example, British aid to northern Cyprus in 2004-05
included £150,000 under the Reuniting Europe programme for
public administration reform, customs reform and assisting the
Turkish Cypriot administration to plan and prepare project proposals.
For 2005-06, northern Cyprus has been designated a "priority
region" and aid under the programme will increase to £500,000.
171. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic
of Cyprus obliquely expressed its annoyance with the United Kingdom's
policy on Cyprus, by informing us of the "disappointment"
of Greek Cypriots about United Kingdom actions during the Annan
Plan negotiating process "trying to undermine the positions
of the Greek Cypriot side" and about
the fact that British policy, following the
24 April 2004 referendum, has not shown, in practice, respect
for the will of the overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriots,
as expressed during the voting. There is a feeling that the British
policy towards Cyprus, although in words purports to aim for the
reunification, in actual terms consolidates the division and the
alienation of the two communities bringing feelings of disappointment
to the Greek Cypriot community.
Dr Claire Palley, who from 1980 to 2004 acted as
constitutional consultant to the President of Cyprus, told us
that "the long-standing and consistent attempts to balance
Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot interests were, from late 2002
onwards, subordinated to a desire to secure Turkish and American
interests, with this policy being supported by Her Majesty's Foreign
We received comments of a similar nature also from some individual
Greek Cypriots and from some representative Greek Cypriot organisations,
but we do not accept that such assertions can be substantiated.
172. Our own view is that the United Kingdom's actions
in relation to Cyprus have continued to be motivated by a genuine
desire to end the "division and alienation of the two communities"
and we conclude that, despite assertions to the contrary, there
is no wish or intention on the part of the British Government
to perpetuate the present state of affairs on the island, still
less to move towards a permanent and legal partition, which would
be in no one's best interests.
173. In October 2004, the Minister for Europe visited
Cyprus. His visit
demonstrated the British Government's continued interest and active
involvement in the search for a settlement. Although there was
never any real prospect that the Minister's visit would produce
a new initiativenor was one intendedwe believe that
it was welcomed by all concerned.
174. During our own visit to the island, we visited
the British High Commission and we called on the British Council's
premises on both sides of the Green Line in Nicosia. Both the
High Commissioner and his staff and the Council have been carrying
out a great deal of work to break down barriers between the two
main communities, which they have listed in evidence to us.
One of the main activities of the British Councilwhich
is largely self-financingis assisting young Cypriots from
either side of the Line who wish to study for British educational
qualifications, in the United Kingdom or in Cyprus. We strongly
support this work.
The Sovereign Base Areas
175. When we visited Cyprus, we spent several hours
in the Eastern Sovereign Base Area (ESBA). As well as being briefed
on the United Kingdom's continuing requirement for the use of
its facilities in Cyprus, we observed and discussed a number of
factors which relate closely to the prospects for a long-term
settlement of the Cyprus question.
176. Most graphically, we were able to see from a
distance both the abandoned town of Varosha, which since 1974
has been occupied only by the Turkish Army and has no permanent
residents; and the bi-communal village of Pyla (Pile). Both these
are adjacent to the ESBA, but each presents a different prospect
of Cyprus. Varosha exemplifies the destructive, divisive conflict
between the two communities: formerly a thriving tourist area,
it has fallen into decay while being retained by the Turkish side
as a bargaining counter. Pyla, on the other hand, is a settlement
situated entirely within the UN-administered buffer zone.
The village comprises 950 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots.
Each community has its own mayor, school and place of worship.
We were told that in Pyla, Greek and Turkish Cypriots co-exist
peacefully, and co-operate on matters of common interest. In microcosm,
Pyla is a symbol of the new Cyprus every bit as much as Varosha
sums up the waste and pointlessness of the past 30 years of division.
177. At Strovilia and at Pergamos, we saw the day-to-day
difficulties caused by the presence on the perimeter of the ESBA
of two of the four Green Line crossing points. Effectively, these
crossing points are situated at an external border of the European
Union, although the SBAs are not part of the EU. As at November
2004, 36 staff of the United Kingdom Customs and Excise work in
the SBAs, spending a considerable proportion of their time countering
illegal smuggling operations and performing border checks.
178. The two Sovereign Base Areas, which cover 99
square miles of the land area of the island of
Cyprus, are sovereign territory of the United Kingdom under the
1960 Treaty of Establishment. The Eastern Sovereign Base Area,
located between Famagusta (Maðusa) and Larnaca, contains the
main British Army units on the island. The Western SBA, to the
West of Limassol, contains further Army units
at Episkopi and a RAF base at Akrotiri. A further 13 sites, most
notably the listening post on Mount Olympus, the highest point
on the island, are retained by the United Kingdom under provision
made in the Treaty of Establishment.
The importance of the bases and some of the sites to the United
Kingdom's national interest and to wider interests was impressed
upon us when we visited Cyprus.Eastern
Sovereign Base Area, showing proposed territorial adjustments
(Source: The Annan Plan)
Sovereign Base Area, showing proposed territorial adjustments
(Source: The Annan Plan)
179. Nonetheless, the 99 square miles of territory
include large areas of land which no longer have any real military
value. These areas are settled by Cypriot civilians; they consist
largely of arable and grazing land, with some private houses.
As part of the settlement envisaged under the Annan Plan, the
British Government was prepared to transfer 46 square miles of
SBA territory to Cypriot sovereignty, most of it within the boundaries
of the Greek Cypriot constituent state but some within the Turkish
Cypriot constituent state.
The United Kingdom's military facilities would have remained as
sovereign territory and, we were assured, their operational value
and capability would not have suffered. Indeed, as one witness
pointed out, one side-effect of the Annan Plan would have been
"to re-legitimate the position of the SBAs" under international
180. Because the British Government made the offer
to transfer sovereignty as part of the wider settlement envisaged
under the Annan Plan, it was rendered null and void along with
the Plan itself by the result of the referendum in the South of
the island. However,
like the Plan, the offer remains on the table. We therefore asked
the Minister for Europe whether the offer might be reactivated
if the Annan Plan process itself is revived. He told us that he
saw "no problem in handing some of it [the SBA land] back,
but in the context of an agreement."
From the briefings we received when visiting the Eastern SBA,
we are content that the transfer of sovereignty over the land,
which is already owned by Cypriots, would have no adverse effect
on the United Kingdom's interests.
181. One of our witnesses raised the question of
whether the bases as a whole should be returned to Cypriot sovereignty
even before an overall settlement. Christopher Brewin acknowledged
the value of the bases to the United Kingdom, but suggested that
the sovereign status of the areas was an anachronism. He called
for "leasehold now".
Dr Claire Palley also suggested that the efficient functioning
of the SBAs could suffer "If Cyprus-UK relations become embitteredas
they well may".
Our Parliamentary colleague, Andrew Dismore MP, told us that the
status of the bases was becoming an issue on the island.
However, when we visited, we encountered no significant pressure
from Cypriots to alter the present arrangements, and it appears
that the only political party in the South openly calling for
such a step is the small Green Party.
We were also told that changes in status can be made only with
the agreement of Greece and Turkey, which we believe is unlikely
to be forthcoming in isolation from progress on the broader issues.
We do not, therefore, agree with those who seek an immediate change
in the status of the SBAs, or indeed any change outside the context
of an overall settlement.
182. We conclude that the Government's decision
to offer to transfer sovereignty over almost half of the United
Kingdom's sovereign base areas on Cyprus to the island's two communities
as part of an overall settlement was a constructive and useful
gesture, with no negative consequences for the United Kingdom's
interests. We recommend that the Government be prepared to renew
the offer with the same conditions as before in the event that
progress towards a settlement is resumed.
230 Third Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee,
Session 1986-87, Cyprus, HC 23, paras 19 and 20 Back
Ev 38 Back
Q 40 Back
Cyprus: The search for a solution, David Hannay, I B Tauris,
December 2004 Back
Qq 33 [Brewin], 69 [Sanberk]; Ev 38 [FCO], 91 [Claire Palley] Back
GOF Reuniting Europe Programme: Projects Database 04/05, available
at www.fco.gov.uk Back
GOF Reuniting Europe Programme: Strategy and Bidding Guidelines
2005/06, available at www.fco.gov.uk Back
Ev 119 Back
Ev 124 Back
Ev 39 [FCO] Back
Ev 59-60 Back
Outside Nicosia, the 'Green Line' is in places several kilometres
wide and contains a number of settlements and farms. Back
HC Deb, 19 January 2005, col 949W Back
See also Ev 104 [Brigadier Henn] Back
See Maps 3 and 4 Back
Ev 128 [Claire Palley] Back
Q 200 [MacShane] Back
Q 201 Back
Q 33 Back
Ev 126 Back
Ev 244 Back
See also Q 203 [MacShane] Back