UK Foreign Secretary hopes for end to torment of continuing division in Cyprus

UK Foreign Secretary hopes for end to torment of continuing division in Cyprus

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond had expressed hope that the Cyprus issue settlement talks are “on the brink of resumption”, this time with sufficient momentum for a chance of success, leading to an end to “the torment of the continuing division of the island”.

At an event in north London on Friday evening, organised by the “Conservative Friends of Cyprus”, Hammond identified the need for the Turkish Cypriot community “to be clear that it wants to engage in a settlement process” as the “key issue” in achieving progress. Hammond’s reference to the Turkish Cypriot community was in response to a question posed by a member of the Greek Cypriot audience about the circumstances under which Turkey could change its approach towards the Cyprus issue.

“The UN-led process, the [UN Secretary-General Special Adviser] Eide process had developed a momentum; we were very sorry that the dispute over hydrocarbons has caused a hiatus in it, but I hope we are now on the brink of resumption – and I hope and I am told by experts that there is sufficient momentum and sufficient points of agreement to give these talks a chance of success,” said the Foreign Secretary.

“If we can get that momentum going I can assure you that the international community will apply the maximum pressure on governments outside Cyprus to be supportive or at least not to interfere with that process going on. Also, the EU has a close working relationship with Turkey and will want to ensure that the UN-led process in Cyprus is able to run its course with good will on all sides,” he added.

The Foreign Secretary received the audience’s applause with his remark that the UK government “will continue to champion Cyprus’ right to exploit its economic zone around the island without interference from others.”

He reiterated the Conservative-led government’s stance on the Cyprus issue by saying that as a long-standing friend of Cyprus it is committed to doing whatever lies within its hand to help sustain, support and advance the Cypriot-led process under the auspices of the UN and Eide. “We hope (the process) will lead to an end to the torment of the continuing division of the island and the reunification. We want to see a lasting and just settlement leading to a reunified Cyprus,” said the Foreign Secretary. He assured the Greek Cypriot community that when he and the Minister for Europe David Lidington hold talks with all parties concerned, they constantly remind them of the importance the UK is attaching to the resolution of this issue.

He also referred to practical ways in which the UK’s Conservative-led government has offered support to Cyprus: the encouragement of civilian development on the British Bases’ areas, grassroots trust building initiatives such an event recently hosted at the Foreign Office with the participation of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot chambers of commerce, and the support for the Committee on Missing Persons.

Identifying other areas where the two countries share a common agenda, Hammond mentioned dealing with the ISIS threat, the concern over the situation in Syria, Libya and other Middle Eastern and eastern Mediterranean countries, as well as EU reform.

He also said that he is proud of the way the UK was there at the time of economic need for Cyprus, by offering technical assistance at the highest level; a move acknowledged by President Anastasiades as he extended his thanks to Hammond for the practical and symbolic support when they first met in New York last year. The Foreign Secretary commented that this assistance strengthened the bond between the two countries.

The pre election event was held at the premises of the Greek Cypriot Brotherhood in Finchley, in the presence of the Conservative candidate MPs of the north London constituencies, on whose behalf Hammond asked for the UK Cypriots’ vote on the 7th May election.

The party’s candidate MPs seeking their re-election to the House of Commons who were present were Theresa Villiers, David Burrowes, Matthew Offord, Nick de Bois and Mike Freer. Hammond told the UK Cypriot voters that their Conservative MPs have all been doing a ‘fantastic’ job on their behalf.