Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnes (Questions 60-65)



  Q60 Andrew Mackinlay: You and others keep referring to the electorate of northern Cyprus having endorsed the Annan Plan, but there seems to be a marked reluctance by anybody to give some disclosure as to that franchise and what it constituted, how many were, if I may say, indigenous Turkish Cypriots and how many were post-invasion. It does seem to me to be a material factor if that is going to be advanced so that northern Cyprus endorse this. I can well understand the logic, the desire of people who are recent-comers from the mainland of Turkey to endorse it because it gives them immediate European Union citizenship, but can you throw any light upon this at all?

  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I cannot do very much, except to say that it was apparent to, I think, everyone involved in the negotiation that if the United Nations had imposed an obligation to sort out the whole status of the various people in the north, some of whom had received citizenship and some of whom had not, there would have been a very long delay in any vote. The voting rolls which existed for Turkish Cypriot parliamentary elections and Turkish Cypriot presidential elections were in existence and they were what they were. I think it was generally agreed, and indeed the Greek Cypriots knew all about this, that this was a valid basis on which to seek an opinion. For a very long time it was assumed that the presence of Turks in the north, possibly many of them voting, was actually liable to overturn the settlement reached because they were likely to be motivated or influenced to vote against it and the worry always was that the Turks in the north would outweigh the Turkish Cypriots who wanted a settlement. Now, in actual fact that did not happen and perhaps for the reasons you say, perhaps the Turks in the north felt that their interest really was in the settlement, although of course some of them were going to have to get up and move and lose their houses and so on; but they did seem to think on balance that they did and they did seem anyway, many of them, to vote for a settlement. I think in those circumstances we may be slightly at risk of arguing about how many angels we can get on the head of a pin; if it had gone the other way, I think it would have been more valid. If the presence of the Turks had resulted in the rejection of what was otherwise a majority Turkish Cypriot view that they wanted a settlement, then I would get a bit more hot under the collar about it.

  Q61 Andrew Mackinlay: Finally, can I take you to the question of the opening of the ports and trade to northern Cyprus. I think the Dutch European Union Presidency says that it is not going to be addressed during their Presidency and in fact it could fall to being pushed by the United Kingdom Government during their Presidency, but in any event both Greece and the Cyprus Governments have a veto on this. There is a very strong case in international law that goes to the heart of sovereignty about who and how there should be access to a member of the European Union and there is the question of the flights, direct flights, to northern Cyprus. Are we heading for a European Union crisis of quite serious proportions or in fact is there really no prospect of this being dealt with, bearing in mind the Cypriot Government would see that as the unofficial Republic having its cake and eating it?

  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: First of all, I think that if the Dutch judgment is that it cannot be adopted during their Presidency, I would not find that very surprising. But there is a Luxembourg Presidency after that; and I do really think that it is rather urgent to get this sorted out because you are not going to be able to narrow the gap between the north and the south in prosperity if the north cannot trade, so I do think that it would be very desirable if it can be sorted out. Now, you have juxtaposed one set of considerations, which are what I call the `legal status considerations', against ones that I would argue are equally and perhaps more compelling, which are the commonsense ones about how do you move towards a reunited island within the European Union; and it does not seem to me very evident that you pass by a continuation of the period of isolation in the north, particularly when the north has now accepted an internationally validated Plan that the European Union itself accepted. It is clear that you are right that either Greece or Cyprus could prevent this, and I believe that does seem to be the ruling of the European legal authorities, but I just hope that they will, on reflection, conclude that it is not in their interest or anyone else's to do so.

  Q62 Sir John Stanley: Lord Hannay, are you saying to us that you believe that from where we are today there is an achievable, viable basis for commencing the negotiations again to achieve a unified Cyprus or are you saying to us that that is still now possibly some years away? Secondly, regardless of that timescale, the answer to that question, could you just distil out for us what is your own personal road-map towards a Cyprus settlement?

  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I do not think that it would be sensible to try to dash back to the table now on the basis of the Annan Plan, with the Government of Cyprus still extremely hostile to it and public opinion still very unconvinced of the benefits from it. So I would not think that it made a lot of sense to dash back to it. I think, as I say, that the next step is the decision on EU/Turkey on 17th December which I think will change a lot of people's attitudes to the medium and long term; and then probably one needs, as Kofi Annan said, to wait for a clear indication from the side of the Government of Cyprus that it is ready to re-engage in a realistic way. But during that time I think it is absolutely vital that the Annan Plan is not abandoned because there is not another plan completely different from that which is going to spring from the head of Athene or someone else and be accepted by both sides, so I think it is very necessary to keep that in being. Now, what is the process? I would not like to try to prescribe that. I hope that there will be a much increased process of contact between the political parties in the north individually and the political parties in the south. I think that it is now possible to cross the Green Line in a perfectly easy way and I think that, if the various political parties saw a lot more of each other and talked through their problems, they might be able to identify areas where there could be modest shifts in the way that the Plan approaches things, which would not be to the detriment of the other side even if they were to the benefit of the one; but that would not be a formal process. After all, the politicians are going to have to man, to staff the institutions of a reunited Cyprus, these are going to be the people who are going to be the Federal Government, who are going to be the Government of the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot Constituent States, they are going to have to work together, so if they need to get used to talking to each other and respecting each other. One of the things that really used to distress me in Cyprus was the derogatory terms in which both sides spoke about the other, despite the fact that these people are going to have to work together one day if there is to be any settlement of the problem. So I think if that could be developed over the period ahead, then when the moment comes when it is a bit more fruitful to engage in something which really could be called a negotiating process, the ground might have been prepared. Also I do think it is absolutely vital that politicians on both sides of the divide tell their electorates that they cannot have everything; that there is going to have to be a compromise on various points. They do not need to say exactly what, but that the Cyprus problem is not going to be resolved by the total victory or defeat of one or the other.

  Q63 Sir John Stanley: Do you think there is any risk that the present status quo could continue more or less indefinitely? We have knocked out of the hands of the UN the single most important negotiating card which was EU membership and why do you believe that somewhere down the line there might come a sufficient combination of pressures on the Greek Cypriot Government to, in your own phrase, engage in a realistic way in negotiations? Why should they not continue to settle for the status quo as it now is?

  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I do not know. I do not want to predict that far ahead. Obviously Turkish accession negotiations are going to take a certain amount of time. I do not myself favour trying to fix a precise length of time at this stage. I think some politicians are tending to bandy around figures that they will subsequently regret because they are so long. One thing which does seem to be fairly evident is that you cannot believe seriously that Turkey is going to become a member of the European Union without the situation in north Cyprus in a limbo being resolved. I really do not think you can believe that. I do not see how it could come about. I do not see what the legal handling of that would be, so I think that this may dawn on people after a bit and may make them a bit more proactive in searching for a settlement.

  Q64 Sir John Stanley: Why do you say that in relation to northern Cyprus? Is it not perfectly possible? I can see it is anomalous, but is it not surely possible for Turkey to achieve entry and for the present status of northern Cyprus to remain in limbo?

  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: No, I do not think so, but I will be prepared to be proved wrong, though I would be sad to be so, but I do not think so, no. I think it would not be a sustainable position.

  Q65 Chairman: If you were still advising the British Government, what would you advise them to do over the immediate future?

  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Well, I would advise them to stick with it because I think Britain does have a role to play in Cyprus, much misunderstood though it often is, and I believe it can be a helpful role. But I would advise them not to rush at it because I think that some of the attitudes on the ground have to change before there is a realistic hope of getting a settlement. Finally, I would say do not forget that in the end the United Nations is going to have to be the vehicle for any settlement. It is still not true that some alternative vehicle called the European Union or NATO or whatever is available; it is not available because it is not acceptable to all the parties. For Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, they cannot accept the European Union as the guarantor of a settlement when Turkey is not in the European Union, and the European Union quite rightly has a primary responsibility towards Cyprus which is in it. So I would hope that they would stick with Cyprus, stick with the UN and proceed with caution.

  Chairman: Lord Hannay, you described this as a discussion, but it has been the most productive discussion and thank you very much indeed.

  The Committee suspended from 3.53 pm to 4.21 pm for a Division in the House.

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