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Although cross-green line trade is increasing as a percentagefrom north to south up it is up by 53 per cent., and from south to north it is up by 164 per cent.it does not amount to much in volume, remaining almost negligible. In the autumn, the World Bank published a devastating report on the TRNC economy, predicting economic collapse in the near future. Tourism in the north is failing, due to the sale of holiday homesformer hotel customers who buy property, and their friends who stay with them, do not need hotelsand environmental standards are undermined by development.
The university sector, an important part of the economy of the north, will lose out, as its degrees will not be accredited under the Bologna process. Students will not have access to the EU Erasmus programme, and there is increased competition from Turkey and from southern Europe. The unreformed public services are overstaffed and do not deliver the services, and the huge budget deficit is financed by Turkey.
The cross-green line banking system is badly in need of reform. When the power supply failed in north Nicosia in the summer, the TRNC had to buy electricity from the Republic of Cyprus. The electricity bill was paid, literally, with a truck-load of cashfolding money. Test transfers, via the French bank Société Générale, routed through London, took three days to get from south to north Nicosia, and a further three days to get back.
Reputable banks also have serious concerns over the risk of money laundering, given the outlaw nature of the norths legal system. I am pleased that the United States is funding experts to work with the banks in the north to try to overcome some of those problems. The better news is that souths economy remains strong and is on course for euro entry on 1 January 2008, with a fixed exchange rate between the Cyprus pound and the euro in autumn 2007.
I turn to bi-communal activity. When we were there, the political parties across the green line had fallen out in a big way. Not only had sister parties AKEL and CTP effectively suspended political meetings, but CTP had blocked bi-communal party activities, such as the annual joint youth camp, which in 2005 attracted 8,000 people, including 2,000 Turkish Cypriots. CTP young people did not attend this year, although a smaller number of Turkish Cypriots went under their own steam.
CTP and DISY, too, have poorer relations: Mr. Anastasiades, DISY President, used to see Mr. Talat regularly, but they had not met for a year when we saw him last October. Some events have proceeded at a local level, with CTP people defying the leadership. Recently, the Famagusta CTP invited Mr. Christofias, president of the House of Representatives, and other AKEL members to a successful and well-attended dinner, at which Mr. Ferdi Soyer was present. The Ozker Ozgur peace and democracy foundation was launched at a bi-communal memorial event in north Nicosia on 22 November, which was attended by many Greek Cypriots.
There have been problems at the green line checkpoints. Turkish Cypriots have had their papers searched and copied, which they regard as an intrusion. The Greek Cypriots may be looking for architectural
plans and estate agent paraphernalia, presumably to stop the marketing of occupied Greek Cypriot land to tourists in the south. That, too, is understandable, but it needs to be better communicated.
In his report to the United Nations Security Council, the Secretary-General referred to a serious incident on 22 November, when a group of Turkish Cypriot students at an English language college in Nicosia were attacked by masked Greek Cypriot students from outside the school. Three were arrested, and the attacks were strongly condemned by President Papadopoulos. Greek Cypriots, particularly activists, also suffer delay, harassment and meaningless searches when they go north, as I witnessed myself when crossing the line with one of them. I also saw the new development in Morphou, the neglect of older buildings and, most serious, the desecration of cemeteries and church buildings in the occupied town.
Mrs. Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for securing this debate. Does he believe that the Foreign Office should strengthen its advice to British holiday makers not to buy property in northern Cyprus because much of it has been seized from its rightful owners?
Mr. Dismore: The hon. Lady makes an important point. The Foreign Office strengthens its advice from time to time, but in the light of the Orams case to which I hope to refer shortly it could be made stronger still.
There generally seems to be far less formal bi-communal activity. That is the product both of the breakdown of trust and of attacks within each community on those who work bi-communally. Although good relationships continue at a personal levelas evidenced by a Greek Cypriot crossing back south, who gave us a lift after meeting a Turkish-Cypriot chess-playing friend to plan a joint birthday party for their wivesit does not translate into a political benefit, but indicates the desire for a settlement on an individual basis.
That is not to say that there are no bi-communal activities. We found a most interesting history project that is trying to bring to schools an understanding of shared experience. It is planning to renovate a building in the buffer zone for seminars, a library, exhibitions, meetings and receptions, as well as working on its primary project, which is historical research and dialogue. It needs financial support; perhaps the Government would consider helping it.
The bi-communal choir has more support than ever, and it has recovered well from difficulties after the April 2004 referendums. However, there appears to have been a general overall chilling effect, putting a settlement into the deep freeze, as one leading Turkish Cypriot told us.
As for politics in the north, the governing coalition of CTP and the Democratic party ended, and a new coalition formed between CTP and three deserters from the DP and the National Unity partythe UBP. The irony is that the right-wing UBP and DP parties, which had in the past expelled left wingers from their parliament, were now boycotting parliament themselves and protesting outside on the pavement.
There appears to be increasing dissatisfaction with Mr. Talats regime. It has not delivered the progress CTP promised, and its popularity is waning. The risk is of a return to right-wing rule, with a majority of settlers in the north, over the Turkish Cypriots. That could lead to a realignment, a settler party, and even the possibility of a referendum for taksim, or partition. Turkish influence is clear. The north is already more Turkish than Turkish Cypriot, but if that scenario turns out to be correct, it will foil completely Turkeys bid for EU membership and will encourage Turkish Cypriots to claim their land in the south by moving back to the Republic.
As always, a plethora of legal actions impinge on the political process in Cyprus. The most famous recently is the Orams case, in which a Greek Cypriot is trying to enforce through the UK courts a Cypriot judgment against a British couple who bought a property on the Greek Cypriots land in the north. The British judge upheld the basic principles of the judgment, but would not enforce it. The case will ultimately go to the European Court of Justice. The Loizidou case is before the European Court of Human Rights for enforcement of earlier debts. The Arestis case concerns Greek Cypriot property in Varosha. The ECHR seems to have ruled on the effectiveness of the local remedy that Turkey put in place to comply with earlier rulings, awarding €800,000 compensation. However, the issue remains one of restitution. The total cost, if only Varosha people were to claim, has been estimated at £5 billion.
The question is whether Turkey has a budget for that, or whether an extra lever might be provided to persuade Turkey to hand back Varosha. The local remedy is the property commission under the TRNC. We were told in the north that 55 Greek Cypriots had applied, and that four of five cases had been decided, including one restitution. Further progress depends on how the Arestis case ruling is interpreted and whether similar sums are awarded. In the meantime, apart from a few dozen urgent cases, 1,500 outstanding European Court of Human Rights cases have been stayed.
The Arif case in the Republic concerned a Turkish Cypriot who moved back south and was resident there. The Republic court ordered restitution, the Greek Cypriot family living in his property were removed and the property was handed back. More Turkish Cypriots who were either resident in the Republic or living overseas before 1974 are now claiming restitution of their property. Turkish Cypriot newspaper editor Sener Levent is bringing a European Court of Human Rights case in relation to his desire to be a candidate in Republic elections. He claims he was discriminated against as he had to fill in a form, which he refused to do as it was not required of Greek Cypriots. On a more positive note, the various prosecutions against him by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Turkish military have been dropped.
Again, on a more positive note, the UN committee on missing persons is working effectively on a bi-communal basis. Some 184 sites have been identified: 160 in the north containing about 1,000 bodies and 24 in the south containing about 300 to 350 bodies. Bi-communal teams of archaeologists and anthropologists are recording the sites and recovering the bones. The laboratory in the UN buffer zone is on
UK land, using a UK building and is functioning bi-communally with Argentinean experts. The job is extremely skilled and involves matching up jumbled piles of bones. I visited the lab and saw the amazing and complicated work that takes place. However, funding is a problem; they need €3 million a year to keep going and uncertainty of the funding means the Argentinean team is only on a two-month rolling contractwe could perhaps do more to help with that.
Demining is proceeding well as a UN project, funded by the EU through the work of a UK-based company. Demining has been completed in the Republic, and buffer zone demining of 13 Turkish mine fields has been completed. The UN now wants to move further afield and the United Nations Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus is negotiating with the Turkish army to include the remaining mine fields in the buffer zone.
I visited the enclaved Greek Cypriots in the Karpas. The conditions in which they live, the petty restrictions to which they are subjected, and the general intimidation and lack of protection from the law they experience amount to an appalling abuse of human rights. In Rizokarpaso only about 230 people remain and there are not many more in the remainder of the Karpas. Of the 12,000 people who stayed on in 1974 the rest died or gave up in the face of oppression. Those still there are terrified of drawing attention to their condition for fear of victimisation. Indeed, two of the people with whom we spoke were questioned by the police almost immediately after we left.
I have raised the issue of the enclaved people with the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe and I believe we should be doing more to raise this firmly with Turkey as part of its accession process. Near the end of last year, David Hencke, a Guardian reporter, visited the enclaved people and wrote an accurate article for TheGuardian fully describing that oppression. Regrettably, that was shelved by the editors because it was seen as too pro-Greek. I find it appalling that TheGuardian, which should have a good record on human rights, has fallen into the same trap as far too many others. It has overlooked that appalling abuse because it does not fit its political agenda and because the victims are Greek Cypriots and the story does not promote Turkish accession.
Dr. Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for his detailed analysis, but before he concludes will he pay a few minutes attention to plan Annan V because we should acknowledge that it did not observe all the UN resolutions?
Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend may recall that we had an Adjournment debate in this Hall in the July immediately after the Annan plan failure, when we examined the plan in detail and the reasons for its failure. While Annan III may have secured a majority, Annan V was a step too far for the Greek Cypriots. It is important to look forward rather than look back at why things failed. We need to establish what we need to do to make the plan a success, if possible by building on those foundations.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con):
Does the hon. Gentleman feel that it would be appropriate at some stage, and if so when, for Ban Ki-moon to come
forward with a further plan following the failure of Annan V, or does he think there will not be a further plan in the foreseeable future?
Mr. Dismore: If the new Secretary-General is to embark on a good offices process, we need some meat on the bones of the structures set up through the committees, which were established as a consequence of the Gambari process that started in July and was reaffirmed by an exchange of correspondence in November. Whether that process develops remains to be seen, but there has been far too much focus on process and far too little on substance. I hope that we will now see some substance as that could create the climate for a new good offices process.
Prospects as they stand for progress towards a settlement look remote because of the concentration on process rather than substance. The status quo is not fixed and developments work against settlement all the time. There is a breakdown of meaningful bi-communal contact; indeed, it is apparently deliberately frustrated in some quarters, especially in the north. There is a failure to develop green line trade, which is deliberately discouraged in official Turkish Cypriot circles. Official statements by spokesmen have also contributed to a sense of drifting apart. People are policed by their own propaganda rather than by empathy for suffering or shared concerns.
The Turkish Cypriots are living in an unreal economy that is unsustainable. Demography and political failure in the north create a high risk of return to the old nationalist politics of the Denktash era, with the former opposition failing to make progress in government. It is clear that the TRNC has little room for independent movement and its actions and decisions are, as ever, dominated by Turkey, particularly the Turkish military, and support from Turkey is essential for the economy. Building on Greek Cypriot land and the immigration of Turks from Turkey continues.
Turkey's EU accession process, which is the key to making progress in Cyprus, is in trouble despite the brave face put on the outcome in December. Partition seems more likely than a settlement, and would be based on the bi-communal, bi-zonal federation principle theoretically accepted by both sides. I hope that the Gambari initiative will produce substantive progress, but that may be the triumph of hope over experience.
Confidence-building measures on missing persons and demining are progressing well, but need longer-term funding. However, the problem of respect for human rights remains, especially for the Karpas enclaved in the north. Even journalism has taken sides rather than informing and judging according to the standards expected of Turkey and Cyprus, and by anyone committed to human rights and the rule of law.
My hon. Friend mentioned the positive role that the Finnish presidency had played in moving things forward. That has been replaced by the German presidency and there has been some concern about the attitude of the Germans in relation not just to Cyprus, but to Turkeys accession negotiations. Does my
hon. Friend think that the Germans can play a positive role in carrying on the good work of the Finnish presidency?
Mr. Dismore: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. As I mentioned earlier, although technically the processes of EU accession and the resolution of the Cyprus issue are not linked, in practice they inextricably are. I hope that the German presidency will try to play a positive role although, as I think was mentioned in a previous intervention, the prospects of any real progress are probably slim, particularly as there are elections in Turkey over the next year. As I have maintained throughout my contribution, time is running out and is not in favour of a settlement.
Unless the process moves on to substance rather than silencing or marginalising those attempting to make things work, the majority of Cypriots who want a settlement will find the chances of that slipping away. The future does not look very positive for a reunited island unless Cypriots can find a way to talk about the common ground they clearly possess, which is demonstrated whenever they have a chance to co-operate. The international community must accept its responsibility for encouraging the belief, wittingly or unwittingly, both on the island and in Turkey, that they can continue as they are without it resulting in permanent division. The international community must help to bring the parties together, including Turkey, to find that substantive common ground necessary for reunification of the island.
One issue that my hon. Friend has not mentioned is that of public opinion in the Republic about the bases that the UK has in the Republic of Cyprus. Have his visits to Cyprus and his discussions on the subject enabled him to form any view of that public opinion and whether it has changed over the years?
Mr. Dismore: In relation to bases, public opinion in Cyprus seems to vary depending on peoples view of the British Government. Whenever we are not particularly popular in the south of the island the issue of British bases comes to the fore and when things are going well it is less of an issue. It was important that even though the Annan process was unsuccessful it included an offer from the British Government to give back a significant proportion of the land that we do not need and that forms part of those bases. That should help to facilitate the land transfers and arrangements within the Annan plan.
I certainly think that if Turkey is to join the EU, it must inevitably recognise all member states. Equally, however, we must recognise that there is no prospect whatever of Turkey recognising Cyprus given the political situation on the island as presently
constituted. That is why the solution to the Cyprus issue is fundamental for Cyprus, Turkey and the EU as a whole.
I have been going on for a while, and other people will want to speak, so I finish by saying that the international community has a key role to play in creating the common ground necessary for the reunification of the island.
Mr. Edward O'Hara (in the Chair): Order. There is clearly much interest in the debate, and I ask those who wish to contribute to bear in mind that the winding-up speeches must start not later than 3.30 pm.
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