Written evidence submitted by Andrew Dismore
I previously submitted my speech of 6 July,
in the adjournment debate on Cyprus, as evidence to the select
committee inquiry. After my visit to Cyprus from Sunday 10 to
Wednesday 13 October 2004, I thought that I would offer some further
comments. I also visited Athens in the previous week.
In the aftermath of the failure of the referendum,
and consequent events, relations between the UK and Cyprus are
very poor. Indeed, it was commented to me, that they were "as
bad as the 1950's" by a leading Greek Cypriot. Support for
this view is shown by the number of people who raised the question
of the sovereign base areas. I do not think there is any serious
attempt to open up the future of the bases, but the fact that
they are raised by so many people is an indication of the poor
relationship. The real problem is not so much UK support for the
Annan plan and arguing for a "yes vote" in the referendum,
but the reactions to the "no vote" afterwards. This
was perceived as hostile to the Republic, and the talk of "punishment"
and "rewards" to the Turkish Cypriots has been seen
as entirely counterproductive, in the Republic.
Turning to the referendum, the overall view
both in Athens and in Cyprus, was that Annan 5 was bound to fail.
It seems to be more about Turkey than about Cyprus, to the Greek
Cypriots. Whilst Annan 3 might have had a better chance, I suspect
that would also have failed. There is great resentment over the
accusation that the referendum failed because of a lack of leadership.
This is not only factually inaccurate, as is shown by the exit
polls (see my speech in the Adjournment Debate on Tuesday the
6th of July 2004), but also suggests that the Greek Cypriots could
not think for themselves. They are educated people and are well
able to analyse the issues. This is shown by the reaction of many
of those who have campaigned long and hard for rapprochement with
Turkish Cypriots, who came to the conclusion that they should
vote no, often for different reasons. If there was any leadership
failure, it was an overstatement by certain leaders, that they
could deliver their supporters for a yes vote, when realistically
they had no prospect of selling what was regarded as an unsaleable
product by their own people. This is shown, for example, by the
serious divisions within AKEL which meant that the leadership
had to change their position: whilst the leadership supported
the yes vote, they could not bring the central committee with
them, thus leading to the "finessing" of their position,
calling for postponement of the referendum. DISY suffered badly
for their support, in the subsequent European election campaign.
It seems to me that UK policy must aim to do
what we can, to restore equilibrium in our relationships with
Cyprus. We have to work to bring the prosolution forces in the
North and the South together. We have to support progressive forces
in the North, who are under threat from a resurgent Denktashh.
There is little prospect of a major international initiative from
the outside. Indeed, it seems that whenever proposals come from
outside these are doomed to failure. There is little enthusiasm
from the UN to attempt another initiative in the immediate future.
What we ought to do is to help create the climate for a solution
from inside the island, looking at confidence building measures.
We have to do so in the context of the relationship
with Turkey in the accession process. Turkey must be given its
date to commence negotiations, otherwise there is no prospect
for Cyprus. It is worrying that DIKO, the President's party with
the support of EDEK the Socialist party, are talking about the
possible use of a Cyprus veto on Turkey's application for a commencement
of negotiations date, if the recommendation from the Commission
is not amended to include references to Turkish troop withdrawals
from Cyprus and progress towards a settlement. The process with
Turkey provides the key opportunity to keep up efforts towards
It is also interesting to note the attitude
of Greece. The incoming Karamanlis New Democracy Party Government
did not adopt a leading role in the referendum, unlike Pasok.
The New Democracy Government said that they would support the
(Greek) Cypriots under President Papadopoulos, whatever they decided.
From my discussions in Greece, it seems clear to me that the Greeks
now regard Cyprus as a lower priority, and will not allow differences
over Cyprus to affect their relationships with Turkey. They are
much more concerned about solving their own bilateral problems,
as evidenced by the Commission recommendations on Turkish accession,
which refer to the Aegean disputes.
We also ought to be aware of the position of
UK nationals in Cyprus, with particular reference to those in
the North. There is a major construction boom in the North and
the largest number of property purchases, mainly of holiday homes
and indeed permanent residences and mainly built on Greek Cypriot
land, are by UK nationals, who not only help create a poor climate
with the Greek Cypriots, but also are potentially jeopardising
their own financial position.
It seems to me that we need to look at "win/win"
President Papadopoulos ought to be invited to
London for an official visit. There is a lot of ill feeling that
"Prime Minister" Talat was invited to the UK, albeit
for an "unofficial" visit as leader of the Turkish Cypriots,
rather than "Prime Minister" of the "TRNC"
but it is resented that President Papadopoulos has not been invited
since his election, even though there are informal discussions
at European Union meetings between the UK Government and President
The issue of direct trade with the North has
created a significant backlash. This is not the way forward. The
real problem on the island is the lack of trade, altogether. Direct
trade would not make a great deal of impact on the Turkish Cypriot
economy, probably as little as 60-70 million dollars. Trade across
the Green Line is only 50 million euros. The Turkish Cypriots'
argument in favour of direct trade and direct flights is a protectionist
argument; and the resistance to direct flights in the South is
a misguided protectionist argument, rooted in concerns over the
reduction in the tourist trade over the last three years.
With the conclusion of the Customs Union Agreement
to include Cyprus / Turkey direct trade, strange consequences
have followed. For example, Turkish goods imported into the Republic
of Cyprus are cheaper than Turkish goods on sale in Northern Cyprus.
However, the Turkish Cypriots are not coming with "clean
hands". There is still an absolute ban by `TRNC' on trade
travelling South to North, and efforts to open new crossing points
have been met with spurious arguments over the cost of staffing
them from the Turkish Cypriot side. The Turkish Cypriots are worried
about the Greek Cypriots getting a larger foothold in their economy,
a protectionist argument. In fact, there is very little economy
in the North, the manufacturing is not competitive, and nor is
There are significant delays at the few crossing
points that already exist, which deter Greek Cypriots from travelling
North. This is particularly so at weekends and holidays periods,
when they would be happy to travel North and spend their money
there, a home grown and reliable tourist market, largely untapped
due to TRNC restrictions. The crossing point delays are a major
Having also discussed the issue with the Turkish
Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, it seems to me the way forward is
to talk about free trade on the island rather than direct trade.
If the barriers to trade within the island could be removed, on
both sides, this is the quickest and easiest way significantly
to improve the Turkish Cypriot economy, particularly allowing
much more freedom of movement to tourists from outside the island
to travel North, using Larnaca airport for this purpose, for example.
This can only really happen if the Turkish Cypriots lift their
embargo on goods from the South, and allow much more freedom of
movement across the Green Line. There are also complaints about
the Republic imposing various unnecessary restrictions, for example
on lorries and drivers travelling from the North. It is said that
these are for safety purposes, but there ought to be a system
of adjudication of such disputes to find out what are required
by EU rules, and what constitute unnecessary red tape or political
postures, from both sides.
If we can promote free trade and make this happen,
the question of direct trade can be subsumed into a wider strategic
overview, dealing with the major problems which have arisen as
a result of too narrow a view, to the benefit of the economies
of both communities.
The time is good for a further initiative on
the missing persons. The Greek Cypriots have provided information
about the fate of a large number of Turkish Cypriot missing persons,
to the `TRNC', but Denktashh has failed to pass that information
on to the Turkish Cypriot relatives. This could be a way for Mr
Talat to reinforce his position in the North, if he were to adopt
a more constructive approach, as against Denktashh (who will not).
The EU aid package needs to be looked at very
carefully as to what it is being used for. It is restricted, and
cannot be used for development on Greek Cypriot land, whether
in private or state ownership, but it may be possible that some
of this could be used towards reconstruction of Famagusta. It
is also appropriate to consider a new Famagusta / Varosha approach.
It seems that there is likely support for a joint initiative from
the two local communities, as the Mayors work closely together,
with a view to obtaining international funds for restoration of
the old town, rebuilding of the port and also opening Varosha
to the return of the Greek Cypriot community, based around growth
of tourism to the mutual benefit of both sides. The joint initiative
with bids perhaps to the EU for reconstruction funds, or UNESCO
(cf Dubrovnik) could be a way of making progress on all these
We should look at the implications of the major
construction boom in the North. This is creating serious facts
on the ground which will become more difficult to unscramble,
the longer it goes on. Many UK nationals are buying properties
with dubious titles. What they do not realise are the risks they
are taking, and in particular that their homes in the UK could
be at risk from legal action by Greek Cypriots who own the land
on which their Northern Cyprus properties are built. A Greek Cypriot
could obtain a Judgment very easily in, say, the Kyrenia Court
in the Republic of Cyprus, which is then enforceable in the UK
courts against a British property owner. Indeed, plans are already
afoot to bring such a claim against a UK company, and it cannot
be long before such a case is brought against a UK national. I
believe it is important that we must give much clearer and better
advice to UK nationals who are looking to buy property in Northern
As well as confidence building measures, we
should consider what we can do to encourage progress towards a
settlement. The Republic of Cyprus needs to indicate clearly what
they want changed in the Annan plan. There has been a lot of discussion
around this, and AKEL say that they are "90%" in agreement
with the President as to what needs to be changed, but it is not
clear whether this applies to the remainder of the parties.
There are two `classes' of issue. There are
the questions of implementation (deadlines, dates); and of substance,
for example the presence of Turkish troops and the right of intervention
It would make sense for efforts to be made,
to see what could be done on the implementation issues which only
affect the Cypriot community, North and South. I certainly formed
the opinion that the Turkish Cypriots are willing to negotiate
on these issues direct with the Republic, once they know what
One of the difficulties is that President Papadopoulos
will not meet Mr Talat, as he is not seen as leader of the Turkish
Cypriots, whilst Denktashh is around. It is important that Mr
Talat (or another progressive) wins the elections for the Presidency
of the `TRNC' in April. President Papadopoulos needs to be encouraged
to meet with Mr Talat in whatever format can be made acceptable.
One of the problems is the relationship between
the various pro-solution parties in the Republic; and between
pro-solution, North and South partiespolitical relations
between AKEL and CTP are regrettably particularly strained. There
are also long standing divisions between the pro-solution politicians
in the North, much of which is rooted in personality as much as
There is no doubt, though, that if any settlement
is to be possible, progress has to be made on the Turkish troops
issue, and from discussions in Northern Cyprus it is clear that
they have no real enthusiasm for Turkish troops being permanently
stationed after the settlement, long term, and especially after
Turkish EU entry.
There are risks in any Republic of Cyprus policy,
to "play it long", hoping that the Turkish accession
procedure will give some conditionality towards a possible settlement.
Greece is not going to be supportive to Cyprus blocking progress
on Turkey. The demography is working strongly against the Republic,
in that, for example, Turkish Cypriots are moving South in greater
numbers both to work and also to access EU passports to either
work in the South or leave the island altogether. As they do so,
they are replaced by Turkish settlers, particularly in the building
trade working on the construction boom to which I have referred.
Time is not on the side of the island, progress has to be made.
If anyone visits Cyprus in the near future,
there are people I would suggest that they should meet who are
not normally on the "usual list": these include Costas
Apostalides, who worked on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus on
the technical committees behind the Annan plan, and who is a expert
on the economy and measures that can be taken to avoid the legal
and technical problems that have arisen to block trade; Ali Erel,
from the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, who has good ideas
on how to develop trade; Elias Georgiades, the Greek Cypriot representative
on the UN Missing persons committee who can give a lot of information
about possible confidence building measures on this issue; and
Achilleas Dimitriades, a Greek Cypriot lawyer who handled the
Loizidou case, and who is dealing with a large number of cases
over property issues as a result of the occupation, and who can
give a lot of information about the risks to UK nationals of buying
in the North.
Contacts should also be made with Costas Carras
who is the Chair of the Greek/Turkish Forum, and who is extremely
well connected as a member of civil society in Greece and is a
long standing expert on the issue of Greek / Turkish relations,
as well as the Cyprus problem.
It would also be sensible to meet Mr Kassoulides
now MEP, former Foreign Minister in the Clerides Government; and
Mr Anastassides, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and
leader of DISY.
I would be happy to expand on and support this
note either in oral evidence or informally, with members of the
Andrew Dismore MP
Vice Chair, Friends of Cyprus