Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary written evidence submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office


  1  Ercan—or Tymbou—Airport is the main commercial airport in northern Cyprus. It has been operating since April 1976 and currently handles about 16-20 incoming and outgoing flights and 70-80 overflights each day. Flight levels increase during holiday periods.


  2  Since 1 May 2004, the whole of the island of Cyprus is now in the EU but under Protocol 10 to the Accession Treaty, the EU's acquis is suspended in the north pending a settlement. The suspension of the acquis means that the EU open skies arrangements do not cover the north. EU operators wishing to fly to the north therefore need a route licence and to file flight plans with the relevant authorities in accordance with the appropriate national legislation.

  3  The only way of changing this would be to withdraw partially the suspension of the acquis to extend open skies to the north. This would require a unanimous decision in the European Council. The Commission have made clear they consider flights to the north as primarily an issue for national governments and do not plan any initiatives themselves.


  4  All direct commercial flights between the UK and airports outside the EU's open skies arrangements or other similar arrangements require permission either from the Civil Aviation Authority (for UK operators) or from the Department for Transport (for non-UK operators). The DfT also has various enforcement powers. Under the Civil Aviation Act 1982, the power to make provision for air services in an Air Navigation Order is expressed to be for the purpose of "carrying out the Chicago Convention."

  5  Cyprus Turkish Airlines, a Turkey-registered carrier, flies between the UK and Turkey about 50 times a week. These flights then fly on to Ercan. HMG policy to date has been to refuse to issue permits for direct flights to north Cyprus. We have not yet reached a decision on whether to change this policy in response to the new situation created by the referenda of 24 April.


  6  The US Government has not yet made a policy determination on the issue of direct flights to northern Cyprus. We understand the US legal position is different to ours. The US has open skies arrangements with a range of third countries, including Turkey. We believe that pursuant to most of these agreements any carrier from the relevant third country can fly to the US via any intermediate airport without permission from the US authorities provided that the intermediate airport meets US security standards.


  The Committee asked for a list of Organisations to which Turkey belongs, where entry is by unanimity and where Turkey has exercised its veto to prevent the Republic of Cyprus from joining. I should point out that the only examples we are aware of are those that have been brought to our attention by the Republic of Cyprus, who claim that Turkey has taken action to prevent Cyprus from joining the following organisations/initiatives:

    European Council of Ministers of Transport

    European Centre for Medium Weather Forecast

    European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT)

    Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Open Skies Agreement

    Missile Technology Control Regime

  The Republic of Cyprus has also claimed that Turkey has taken action to prevent Cyprus from joining the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). However, it should be pointed out that Cyprus is one of 15 countries wishing to join, and as yet the OECD has not reached agreement on the candidature of any of these countries.


  The Committee asked for the Government's view on whether we would favour a census monitored by independent international observers to accurately establish the number of people living in the north, including the number of people who had emigrated from the Turkish mainland.

  As I said to the Committee at the time, we recognise the value of the Turkish Cypriot authorities being able to announce clearly the number of people and where they came from and where they were born and to put that in the public domain. I commented that it is a normal situation for any administration, whether it is a local council or a national government, to need to know the number of people living under their administration in order to decide allocation of schools, housing, land, water, electricity and so on.

  The Government continues to believe that the Annan Plan represents the best possible basis of reuniting the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. We hope that the two communities on the island can soon resume negotiations on the basis of the Annan Plan. Establishing clearer figures on the population in northern Cyprus may well be a factor in these negotiations, and will of course affect the implementation of the plan if agreed. We think an accurate census would be a good thing. But the question of how to bring one about is best addressed in the context of renewed efforts towards achieving a settlement. It would be for the two communities on the island, in conjunction with the United Nations, to discuss the contribution that a census could make to the achievement of an overall solution. Obviously, any census in the north could only be conducted with the support of the Turkish Cypriot authorities.

  As the Committee flagged up, this is a sensitive area but we can take some comfort from the fact that the parties made significant progress in this area in the course of the Annan Plan negotiations. The Foundation Agreement in the Annan Plan established the criteria of eligibility for Cypriot citizenship and residency. The federal citizenship law, as agreed by both sides during the negotiations, set out the detailed rules and procedures for granting citizenship of the new United Cyprus Republic. In the final version of the Annan Plan, the number of those resident in north Cyprus of mainland Turkish origin who could become citizens of the new Cyprus was capped at 45,000, with preference given to spouses of Turkish Cypriots and people born in Cyprus. Others eligible were identified on the basis of length of stay. Each side submitted to the UN before the referenda on 24 April a list of less than 45,000 persons who would acquire citizenship, in addition to those who had citizenship in 1963 and their descendants, on entry into force of the Foundation Agreement.


  As a general principle, the British High Commission (BHC) aims wherever possible to make its activities on the island bi-communal as does the British Council. The British High Commissioner regularly hosts a wide range of receptions and other events at his residence involving politicians, members of the business community, civil society, the media and other opinion formers from both sides.

  Every year, the High Commission organises meetings between Greek and Turkish Cypriot Chevening Scholars. In early 2005, there will be a training seminar for Greek and Turkish Cypriot journalists on "Reporting the EU". Wilton Park will also be holding a conference in Cyprus, inviting representatives from both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, as well as international experts, to discuss future prospects.

  In the last year and looking ahead to next year, BHC efforts have focused particularly on EU training for both sides. The BHC works closely with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus on EU issues. Through an intensive programme of technical assistance we have shared our expertise and developed important and valuable links between our two governments. Because of our close ties and shared history, Cyprus is an important EU partner for the UK. Over the last four years the BHC's European Union Series of conferences, seminars and training workshops, developed and managed jointly with the British Council, has evolved into one of the largest EU public awareness programmes organised in the region. Over 60 major events have been held, and many of these (since the easing of restrictions on crossing the Green Line in 2003) attended by members of both communities.

  However, given the different needs of the two sides, and as a result of the asymmetric relationships with the EU, it is not always appropriate to involve members of both communities in every event. An example of an activity necessarily confined to participation from the Greek Cypriot side has been a series of closely focused projects, conducted with the active involvement of the office of the EU Co-ordinator and the Government ministries, seeking to develop the capacity of the Republic of Cyprus's public administration to participate effectively in EU institutions, to develop EU policies and to implement European programmes.

  BHC events in north Cyprus are designed to meet the twin objectives of a) bringing Turkish Cypriots closer to the EU and b) facilitating an eventual settlement and reunification of the island. Since February 2001, the BHC has been organising EU training courses for the Turkish Cypriot community. Over 1,200 people have received general or specialised training. Course participants included lawyers, judges, businessmen and women, journalists, teachers, as well as representatives from the public sector, political parties, trade unions and NGOs. Two more courses are planned before April 2005 for a further 300 people. Since 2002, BHC has organised bi-annual conferences aimed at giving not only those who have participated in the EU training courses but also the general public the chance to update and to improve their understanding of events and trends in the EU. Topics have included: the Constitutional Treaty, the Lisbon Process, Economic and Monetary Union, Regional Policy and the Single Market. A further conference will be held in March 2005.

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