Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 80-99)



  Q80 Chairman: Mr Sanberk, one question before I turn to Mr Mackay: equally, Turkey does not recognise the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. It is very probable that as from December Turkey will be in negotiations with 25 members of the European Union; do you foresee any technical difficulties in Turkey negotiating with the European Union, one of whose members it does not officially recognise?

  Mr Sanberk: First of all, I believe that the call for recognition of the Republic of Cyprus is irrelevant under present conditions because Turkey has expressed its readiness to recognise the new partnership state which was going to emerge as a result of the negotiations between the two sides under the comprehensive settlement plan of the United Nations, but this plan is rejected. Again, my answer to you would be the same as my answer to Mr Hamilton, I trust that the European Union will find ways; the European Union has the experience I would think of intractable situations and I hope that we will sort this out but, if not, they will have a real problem. This problem was foreseen when the European Union applied this one-sided conditionality in the absence of a level playing field.

  Chairman: Thank you.

  Q81 Mr Mackay: Can I just explore a bit further with you how the Annan Plan might have been saved and the referendum won. Clearly, that was dependent upon the Greek Cypriots voting differently in the majority than the way they did. It is clear that the Greek Cypriots were very worried about the security situation and the phasing of troop withdrawals within the Plan. Do you feel that the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey might be more accommodating in this respect?

  Mr Sanberk: I do not think so, because the Annan Plan was based on a very fragile balance and it was very, very difficult to arrive at this conclusive stage. It was finalised painstakingly with huge efforts from all parties, including the United Nations and the European Union and both sides. The failure of the Annan Plan, in my opinion, is the lack of the political will of the Greek Cypriot leadership, they did not speak up for the Annan Plan and I remember that Commissioner Verheugen was not allowed to speak for the Annan Plan before the referendum, I think before the 24th.

  Q82 Mr Mackay: If I could just take you to Bu­rgenstock in March of this year, it was the fresh proposals that were put on the table and insisted upon by Turkey and Turkish Cypriots which led to the final version of the Plan. That seemed to be its undoing with the Greek Cypriots—we are talking about the continuation of the Treaty of Guarantee and a very large number of Turkish troops remaining on the island, being phased out only very gradually, at a time when one knows Greek troops have withdrawn from the island. I can understand why it was proposed but it was also very provocative and also ensured a Greek "no" vote, which is why you and I are now here, because there is an impasse.

  Mr Sanberk: I do not think so. Of course, I was not in Bu­rgenstock and it is very difficult for me to speak on it, but the main reason in my opinion was the lack of political will in the Greek Cypriot side to push the case with the rest of the Greek Cypriot population. Again, I have confidence in this matter in one third of the Greek Cypriots because they expressed their willingness to share their destiny with the Turkish Cypriots, but they are only a few and the majority, unfortunately, do not see their future with the Turkish Cypriots. One thing which is very worrying for me is the high percentage of the youth, young Greek Cypriots—I think about 96% of the Greek Cypriot young population according to some polls expressed negatively, they do not share their future with the Turks. This is something which should be addressed. I think these are the real issues.

  Q83 Mr Mackay: 96% of young people were against the Plan.

  Mr Sanberk: Of the Greek Cypriot young population.

  Mr Mackay: That is very interesting. We will pursue that, I hope, next week when, as you know, we are visiting the island. Thank you.

  Q84 Chairman: Under the last-minute proposals there would still be Turkish troops indefinitely on the island, reducing to 650 by the year 2019. Is it your judgment that this was a red rag to the bull, that this was highly provocative to the Greek Cypriot population, the continued position of Turkish troop on the island?

  Mr Sanberk: Again, this is an irrelevant question, with all due respect, because the answer is contained in the Annan Plan; Turkey has expressed its readiness to withdraw its forces, together with the withdrawal of Greek forces and Greek Cypriot forces, according to a timetable as foreseen in the Plan. But this Plan is rejected so now I think we are back to square one and we all have to sort out this problem; it is a real problem.

  Q85 Mr Maples: One of the things Lord Hannay suggested was that with the opening of the Green Line the political parties on either side should start to talk to each other; at least maybe that would allay some of their suspicions, and of course we all think that is a good thing. Do you think that that is possible? Does it need a facilitator or will it happen by itself? I would have thought there was a danger that if a Greek Cypriot political party talked to a Turkish Cypriot political party, then its opponents in the southern part of Cyprus would say "They are getting ready to sell out to the Turks", Mr Papadopoulos would make that an election issue, and maybe the same in the as well. Do you think it needs some sort of neutral facilitator to get them talking to each other, or do you think they will do it by themselves?

  Mr Sanberk: Facilitators are always useful if they are real facilitators, if they are even-handed and impartial, but I think that the Turkish Cypriots by unilateral decision, as you recall, opened the borders before the referenda and in the face of the negotiations. I think it was a very intelligent and good initiative because it has shown a political will which was shared by the Turkish Cypriots, it was not only a decision belonging to the Turkish Cypriot leadership, it was a decision which was met with enthusiasm by the Turkish Cypriots. It was reciprocated a great deal by the visits, but today again there is something which is disturbing, and I am going to refer to the EU Council regulations defining the terms under which the Turkish Cypriots' trucks and taxis can travel to the south. I think there is a problem there, Turkish trucks carrying Turkish goods and taxis are not allowed. It has an indirect relation to your question, but it also shows reciprocation of the goodwill is not assured.

  Q86 Mr Maples: Are the political parties actually talking to each other at the moment?

  Mr Sanberk: I do not know. I think some groups talk to each other and some groups do not; how we can open the new channels of communication is a good question and I am sure each of us can play a role there.

  Q87 Mr Maples: In trying to get more cross-border activity do you think cross-border trade is an absolutely crucial ingredient in that, or do you think just social contact is sufficient?

  Mr Sanberk: I think social contact and also the cross-border trade, but without hindrance. There needs to be cross-border free trade and also direct trade with the rest of the world.

  Q88 Mr Maples: Do you think that the rejection of the Annan Plan implies, at least on the part of the Greek Cypriot President, that he is looking for a completely different kind of agreement? Do you think it is a rejection of bi-zonality as a concept? He is on record, I think, as saying that he would prefer a solution in which minority rights as citizens were guaranteed to Turkish Cypriots but not in a bi-zonal state; do you think that that is the position that he is still seeking to achieve, or do you think it was details of the Annan Plan that he did not like?

  Mr Sanberk: You mean the Greek Cypriot leadership?

  Q89 Mr Maples: Mr Papadopoulos.

  Mr Sanberk: Again, it is very difficult for me to interpret his views, but I personally believe that he is against the major parameters of the Annan Plan because he made a statement, as we all recall, either on 23 April or sometime just before the referendum and he said "I have assumed a state but I cannot have a community afterwards", so he was against the Annan Plan.

  Q90 Mr Maples: Because?

  Mr Sanberk: Because of the basic thrust which lies behind the Annan Plan.

  Q91 Mr Maples: Let me ask you one more thing: it looks as though in December negotiations between the European Union and Turkey will start up, and most members of the European Union now want that to happen and want it to be brought to a successful conclusion. It may take a long time, but nevertheless the process will start. How do you think that is going to affect the Cyprus problem? I do not mean this winter, but as the negotiations progress do you think it is conceivable that Turkey will join the European Union without the Cyprus problem being solved? If your answer to that is that it cannot—which I suspect it would be—does that mean that the European Union has got to find a solution to the Cyprus problem, or does it effectively hand the veto on Turkish membership to the Greek Cypriot government and give them negotiating leverage over the Turkish Cypriot Government?

  Mr Sanberk: First of all, I do not believe that it is possible for Turkey to join the European Union without a solution to the Cyprus problem and I do not believe it is desirable because it relates to the stability of the whole Eastern Mediterranean and also our relations with our Greek friends in Athens. So it is going to be solved, I trust it is going to be solved. You mentioned the Turkish accession process, which is a very important process indeed because it will help all parties to see the equation in a different light, in a more positive light, because then we will have a perspective of the future under the same umbrella as some sort of a balance between the two communities on the island and their respective Motherlands. This is something that is very important. From that I would like to come to the strategic argument which, in my opinion, is crucial; one of the reasons why we are facing now this deadlock in Cyprus is the fact that the balance which was struck by the Lausanne Treaty and which was reconfirmed by the 1960 London and Zurich Treaties, was upset by the unilateral admission of the Greek Cypriots, and even when Turkey will be under the same umbrella like Greece, then of course there will be Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots and this balance will be re-established in the Eastern Mediterranean and, definitely, it will help a lot to the solution of the problem. This is something which is so very important that I do not how to re-stress it.

  Q92 Mr Maples: If I could just take it a little bit further, if the settlement is going to have to be agreed by the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots how do the negotiations between Turkey and the European Union start to either encourage or put pressure on both of those people to solve it? It could, it seems to me, have the opposite effect and give them each an incentive to hold out for a better deal because there is a bigger game being played above this. You seem to think that it will bring pressure on both of them to reach a settlement, encourage both of them to reach a settlement. I am not sure how that force on, say, Mr Papadopoulos and Mr Talat would work.

  Mr Sanberk: Not only pressure but most of all the interest would lead them to be more conciliatory, if I may say so, because the enlightened self-interest of all parties will lie in finding a solution. I think the compromise is something different than the concession; compromise has an element of the future, prepare the future together. Concession is an offending word, it involves lots of nationalism and jingoism, whatever you can imagine, but compromise is very important and it lies at the bottom of the European Union. I think that when the Turkish Cypriots said yes to the Annan Plan it was an expression of a compromise; the Turkish Cypriots are not European Union members, but our Greek Cypriot friends who are members of the European Union acted as a non-European Union member, so this is something which is also very important.

  Q93 Sir John Stanley: Mr Sanberk, I think you were in the room when Lord Hannay said to me that he considered the UN was going to be indispensable in facilitating and certainly in endorsing a final settlement of the Cyprus problem. Do you take that view yourself, or do you think that a settlement could actually be achieved without UN involvement?

  Mr Sanberk: I think the UN is very important and, definitely, the involvement of the UN will be inescapable and it is a good thing. The only thing of course, let us not forget first of all that it is inescapable that Cyprus is a standing item on the United Nations Security Council agenda, so the United Nations has to deal with it. The next step must be the endorsement of the United Nations Security Council of the Annan Plan; this is something which is still pending.

  Q94 Sir John Stanley: If that endorsement is forthcoming, do you see any early role for the United Nations in trying to get the negotiations restarted, or do you think it is some years away?

  Mr Sanberk: It is very difficult to be a fortune teller; I do not believe that in the months ahead of us it is going to happen, but again I am going to refer to our Greek friends. If our Greek Cypriot friends show the will and the capacity to share their future with the Turks on the island and they make it clear to the rest of the world, then we are all going to be heartened and the United Nations will take the lead in taking up this issue, because no one is ready to start something which is going to be doomed to failure. So the signals coming from the Greek Cypriots are crucial.

  Q95 Sir John Stanley: Do you think the European Union would be well-advised to stay out of this negotiation of the Cypriot settlement and leave it entirely to the UN, or do you think the European Union should play some role here?

  Mr Sanberk: I think both have a role to play; it is impossible for the European Union to be out of the equation because first of all the Greek Cypriots are members of the European Union and Greece is a member of the European Union and Turkey will hopefully start the negotiation process. These elements can be usefully put in the service of the compromise altogether, if we work constructively and positively with goodwill on each side to reach a compromise.

  Q96 Sir John Stanley: Do you feel there is any danger that the European Union would be seen to be not wholly impartial, given the fact that the Greek Cypriot element is an European Union member state whereas Turkey is not?

  Mr Sanberk: Definitely that is going to be the case, but it is a little bit up to the European Union. At the moment, when you look at the situation from outside, you see that the European Union holds part of its population under blockades and under siege, so the European Union is unable to unable to sort out this problem and has no currency at the level of many people in both North Cyprus and in Turkey. So definitely this is the reason why the European Union is very important. Whether the European Union will show the capacity and the wisdom to be even-handed and sort out the difficulty that it faces at the moment, I do not know, but—and this is my personal opinion of course—I do not believe that a solution is possible without the European Union and also the United Nations.

  Q97 Sir John Stanley: This Committee has particular responsibility for and its primary focus is the foreign policy of the British Government. Would you like to give us your views as to the role that the British Government should be playing to try to produce a settlement?

  Mr Sanberk: The British Government is, of course, a United Nations Security Council member and Britain is a Guarantor power. Of all the European Union members and countries, Britain is about the best-placed country to know the intricacies of the Cyprus problem. For the British Government to be successful I think there is one condition, to be even-handed to both sides and stop pretending Turkish Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriot Government, the Turkish Cypriot state do not exist. There is a factual situation there and if the British Government shows the capacity to recognise the existence of the two peoples on the island with equal rights and equal status, then all British Governments can play a very positive and effective role.

  Chairman: Mr Mackinlay, please.

  Q98 Andrew Mackinlay: Can I just apologise for not being here throughout your evidence session; no discourtesy was intended, I was unavoidably detained, but I shall read what you said. There are one or two things that I would like to pick up upon. You heard me asking Lord Hannay earlier about the nature of the Turkish community, and it does seem to me legitimate for us in the international community to examine that. Do you know really what the breakdown would be of people who are either children of or were Turkish citizens before the invasion? Do you not think that if there was to be any settlement, any negotiations, whilst the people who have moved there from the mainland in recent years should not have their interests dismissed, they are a separate category which either should be represented or counted in a different way? I would like to bounce that off you if I may.

  Mr Sanberk: First of all, let me just refer to the "invasion" which, of course is misleading and is local to its political past. I am not going to enter into why Turkey made the entry, we all know. I think Turkish Cypriots need to be treated equally; that means recognising the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as a state with all the competencies of a state. So from a Turkish outlook they believe that the Turkish Cypriots are entitled to at least grant citizenship to any other people who are of Turkish origin, coming from Turkey, so this is something which we believe is irrelevant, to challenge the authority of the Turkish Republic because we also know that the Greek Cypriot government grants citizenship to people coming from the Black Sea region, from Australia and elsewhere without asking the Turkish side. So I think, again, this is a serious problem and to present a plan such as the Annan Plan which also stipulates and has some disposition to sort out this—unfortunately, the Plan was rejected and we start back to talk about the same questions as we were talking about for the last 20 or 40 years.

  Q99 Andrew Mackinlay: The settlement of Cyprus is a matter for the people of Cyprus, but European Union citizenship is my business, is it not? Basically, the people who have come from Turkey in recent years, you are inviting those of us in the European Union to accept them into European citizenship unilaterally; why should we accept them as European Union citizens when they are not citizens of the de jure Government of Cyprus?

  Mr Sanberk: They are not citizens of the European Union as I understand, they are citizens of the TRNC which is not a member of the European Union.

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