HL Deb 14 June 1976 vol 371 cc1071-95

10.4 p.m.


My Lords, we must all be extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, with his unrivalled knowledge of Cyprus and its problems, for having tabled this Unstarred Question this evening. It is only tragic that it has been necessary for him to do so yet again and that it is yet again necessary for us to discuss this intractable situation and to address ourselves to it. We are all familiar with the tragic background of the situation which exists today—a situation which goes back more than a hundred years, a situation of rivalry and hatred between two nations, which still seems to exist in some measure even in 1976.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, pointed out, after 1960 there was a situation in which the Turks could be forgiven for feeling that they were underdogs, and many of them have explained to us in the past two years, when they have been under criticism by some of us, how the Turks of Cyprus felt to be second-class citizens for more than a decade after the Treaty of Guarantee and Independence was given to Cyprus. It is a harvest: of this feeling of inferiority, to some extent, which the Greek Cypriots, which Greece and which the whole world is reaping today—a harvest of neglect by Greek Cypriots and a neglect by many other nations throughout the world, a belief that the problem would remain dormant, that it would go away if we did nothing and ignored it. Now we are all paying the penalty. As the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, pointed out, the situation has not improved in the past two years since the war in 1974; if anything it is getting worse. Two years ago the fighting took place in the wake of the Sampson coup, and there was looting, raping, killing and destruction. Although it was a terrible catastrophe for that island, as well as a ghastly loss of human life, it was somehow hopeful in that out of the killing and slaughter some solution would be found, because very often in the wake of such a cataclysm solutions are found. It can be a purge to an intractable problem.

But this has not happened. In recent months the situation has seemed to be deteriorating. There are still expulsions of Greek Cypriots to the south, and intimidation of Greek Cypriots, with officials, army officers, forcing them to apply for emigration to the South, thus having to leave the homes where they and their families have spent their lives. There is still the destruction of churches and the desecration of graves and of the remnants of Greek culture in the North of the island, as documented by a recent ITV programme and by an article in the Guardian by Mr. John Fielding, the evidence of which I believe it is impossible to doubt, horrible though the evidence is. There is the evidence of the changing democratic situation on the island. There is the fact that the 120,000-130,000 Turkish Cypriots are now being reinforced not only by the 40,000 Turkish soldiers, who are thought to be necessary to guard and protect the 120,000 Turkish Cypriots, but by the tens of thousands of Turkish immigrants from the mainland.

There must now be 200,000 Turks on Cyprus, and as the Turkish population increases, I am afraid that the Greek Cypriot population is decreasing, as people find that in the South of the island they are unable to make a living, that they have lost their property and their means of livelihood. There are not the jobs that there used to he, there is not the economic potential, so much of it being in the hands of the occupying Power, and so many of the people are leaving. The oft-quoted figures of 18 per cent. against 80 per cent. now no longer apply, and while it may be right for us to base our judgment of the relevant rights of the majority and the minority on this original figure, we have to recognise the fact that it is changing month by month and that it may happen in the next few years that the majority could become the minority, and vice versa.

My Lords, there is only one point where I would disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, and where I think, or hope, that there could be a chink of light coming through this cloud that hangs over the island and over the whole of Europe, and indeed over the world. This is that it seems that some sort of democratic action is still possible on Cyprus. I do not know why it is, but the recent local elections in Cyprus, in the North. have not received very much publicity in the Western Press, but they are extremely interesting because they seem to indicate, my Lords, that support for Mr. Rauf Denktash is very low. I have read that in local elections on the 23rd May—only a few days ago—in Kyrenia, Mr. Denktash's Party, the Party of National Unity, received only 13.1 per cent. of the votes; that in Lefka his Party received only 5 per cent. of the votes; and that in Nicosia his Party received only 33.4 per cent. of the votes.

I do not know the reasons for this lack of popularity by Mr. Rauf Dcnktash and his Party, and I cannot interpret it with any exactness; nor would I wish to interfere with the internal affairs of that electorate. But I think it is a factor we must now take into account, that the Turkish Cypriots in the North, the voters, seem to be turning quite seriously against their acknowledged leader and, by implication, against the occupying army; because the Turkish Press is full of reports of slogans on walls, of little demonstrations and of public proclamations of hostility by the Turkish Cypriot population against the Turkish occupying army. This is something which could well have some political significance in the near future, particularly on the 20th June, when there will be Parliamentary and Presidential elections in the North of Cyprus—and I must say that the results of those I await with the keenest interest.

Now I am not optimistic about this particularly because I want to drive a wedge between the Turkish Cypriots and the Turkish Army. This would be impertinent; but it is, I think, of the greatest interest, and leaves cause for optimism, that it seems that the Turkish Cypriots are able to express their opinions and that there is political activity in spite of the presence of this enormous military force in the North—one which amounts to overkill. I cannot for the life of me think why 40,000 well-armed soldiers are necessary to protect a small area and a population of only about three or four times the number of the soldiers, leaving one soldier for every three or four of the population. Nevertheless, it seems interesting that political activity can take place and that the Turkish Government, who of course control the Turkish Army, would be in a position, did they wish to do so, to stamp out political activity. Good heavens!, it happens in enough countries of the world as it is. Until recently it was the case in Greece.

But the Turkish Government seem able to allow political activity to take place. It must surely follow that if opposition to the present policies of the so-called autonomous State persist, and if it becomes clear that the Turkish Cypriots as a whole disapprove of what is happening at the moment, then, assuming that the Turkish Government permit free elections to happen, which we hope and expect that they will because up to now they have permitted such elections, they will have to act in a situation where perhaps the present leaders of the North of Cyprus may not be in office, and where they may have a different set of policies and a different set of Turkish Cypriot leaders to deal with. I hope that this does not sound too optimistic. It is, t think, only a chink of light; but it leaves me with a little ray of hope which may, I trust, help to mitigate the gloom of this situation. If we share this hope, if we share this belief that there is a chance that the Turkish people will become visible, will become a force, will return to their own identity, will demand their own identity, will demand a federal solution which will be acceptable to their Greek Cypriot countrymen, then we, the British, must think how we can best help such a desirable state of affairs. I appreciate the Government's dilemma in such a matter; because it is very dangerous and wrong to interfere in the political processes of Turkey or the Turkish Cypriots. The key to this whole problem is often thought to be the internal domestic situation in Turkey. It is impossible for the British Government to interfere between Mr. Demirel's Party and Mr. Ecevit's Party. How can we influence, bring pressure or help a development towards a solution?

There may be a few answers which we could contemplate. These are the relations that exist in numerous bodies between ourselves and Turkey, a country with which we have for decades been on friendly relations, on relations of allies, a country with whose soldiers our soldiers fought in Korea, a country which has contributed immensely to NATO and to the defence of Western Europe. The importance of NATO in this, I think, is very great and I hope that the Government will emphasise it and will use the NATO platform to talk to our Turkish allies and to the Greeks, who still attend some meetings, I believe. This is one platform where we can perhaps get people together and move towards some sort of understanding. The Council of Europe is attended by Greece and Turkey and I have been present at Strasbourg at meetings where Greeks and Turks have talked amiably about the problem of Cyprus. I believe that this also is a platform where we can help.

As to the United Nations, I think the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, with his great experience, has explained that better than I can. Clearly this is an area where great things can be attempted. The EEC—and I know a little more about this—is another area. I should like to ask the Minister whether when he replies he can tell us what initiatives Britain has taken within the context of the EEC on the Cyprus issue and, in particular, what action the Government have taken within the political co-ordination machinery of the Nine. Is this discussed regularly and is it planned at the next meeting to raise the question of Cyprus within the political machinery of the Nine and in particular with the Government of West Germany which, because of its large population of Turkish immigrants, is in a uniquely influential position vis-à-vis the Turkish Government? I very much hope that at the next opportunity the British Representative will take the chance of discussing this problem with his German colleague

The other point which I hope the Minister will be able to clear up at the end of this debate is something to which not much reference has been made so far. This is the question of British property in the North. I wonder whether the noble Lord could give us, in a few words, the situation about the compensation which has been requested from the Turkish Government for the large amount of British property which was damaged and looted during the fighting of 1974. The last I heard about it—admittedly about a year ago—was that the victims of this armed action were being advised by the Foreign Office to sue in the Turkish courts. I wonder whether this is still the policy, to advise those who had suffered to take this rather unrealistic step in the context of a person of modest means who had lost everything and who did not know the Turkish language.

The situation in Cyprus, my Lords, is something which we have discussed five or six times over the past two years. The more often we discuss it, the more terrible it seems to be. I simply wish to end my speech by saying that I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, was wrong when he said that he thought things were getting worse. I am not convinced he was wrong. I hope he was wrong and I hope that this time next year we shall not have to discuss Cyprus.

10.22 p.m.


My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Brockway, I first went to Cyprus and loved it in what one may call the old days—in my case the 1930s—when one could observe Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, as he said, living and working together side by side quite amicably. This may yet again be possible, though so much has happened since, so many bad things have happened more recently, that it is going to be pretty difficult to restore that ideal situation. If I may speak personally for a moment, 1 have been more profoundly interested in Cyprus since 28th July 1954 when there was a debate in another place, which I think the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, may well remember and which really started all the modern difficulties about Cyprus.

However, tonight I must also declare an interest in the technical sense of the term, because only a few weeks ago I accepted a directorship in a company based in Cyprus. One of the reasons I did so was the sense I had, during a recent visit, of the extraordinary recuperative powers of the Greek people of Cyprus. They seemed to have a new, revived sense of purpose—pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, as one says, out of the slough of despond in which they had been. It was a totally different atmosphere from the atmosphere of a year ago. Early last year I was also in Cyprus. The people seemed stunned by the magnitude of the disaster which had overtaken them, with the coup, the attempt on the Archbishop's life, and, above all, the Turkish invasion. Now they have somehow pulled themselves together. Houses and factories are being built, and they are getting on with the business of living—which is at any rate something —while the negotiators continue with their terribly slow progress in trying to come to some settlement.

We have heard a certain amount during this debate about the statistics of the so-called " refugees ", who are more correctly described as displaced persons; but these statistics cannot give any vivid realisation of the terrible hardships that have been endured by the large number of Greek Cypriots who are homeless and jobless and have been turned out of their area and made to go into the South. The simplest way of describing the size of this Cyprus problem is to compare it with the position in the United Kingdom if one were to take the same proportion of people suddenly made homeless and jobless. In the United Kingdom the proportion would represent 22 million people; so one can see that it is a vast problem in a small island republic like Cyprus.

I was very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Files, mentioned one point which is of great concern to the Government of Cyprus and to many families; that is the 2,000 or so missing Greek Cypriots who have simply vanished. One fears for their lives. They may still be alive —who can tell?—but at any rate they are listed as missing, and whatever practical steps can be taken, with the co-operation of the Turkish authorities, to find them would be a great benefit to humanity.

It is perhaps not realised that there are as many as 7,000 Greeks still living in the North-Eastern corner of the Northern territory, which is usually called " the panhandle ". They are being harassed and forcibly expelled, family by family and person by person—and about 80 of them a week are being sent to the South. They are being harassed in a way familiar in many dictatorships—the knock on the door at midnight, the strange interrogation and then the warning, " Unless you get out pretty soon …" This is one aspect of the tragic situation.

It has also been said quite truly by several speakers tonight that the situation is almost as unhappy for the Turkish Cypriots as for the Greek Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots living in the North are extremely uncomfortable, to put it mildly, with the sudden influx of many thousands, not only of Turkish soldiers but of Turkish civilians from Anatolia in the mainland, who have been sent to Cyprus. One gathers that if there are jobs going in the North they go to the Turks from the mainland rather than to Turkish Cypriots already resident there. That is one aspect of the whole complex problem.

Also, I must mention in passing one aspect that has been touched on, which is quantitively much less than the problem of the Greek Cypriot refugees but which none the less should be of concern to Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, who preceded me, also mentioned this: it is the problem of the British refugees. They are very few in number but they are people whose future it seems impossible to imagine. They are quite often elderly, retired Britons who had decided to go and live in a warm climate and spent their savings in buying a small house there, or something like that—not necessarily just tax-dodgers either, but perfectly ordinary British people. There are still a few in Anzio camp, and they should never be forgotten by Her Majesty's Government.

I wrote to my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts about this matter a week or two ago, and he was kind enough to send me a long letter describing the situation and what is being done for these unfortunate Britons who are entitled in every way to the protection of Her Majesty's Government. Some of them may have Greek names, because they are English women married to Cypriots. I asked about the rations and things of that kind. They receive the ration which is distributed to all refugees, who have no other means of support, by the Republic of Cyprus.

If I may quote one sentence from my noble friend's letter, which is itself a quotation from a letter sent by the British High Commissioner in Cyprus to a Cypriot inquirer, it states: It is intended to provide a basic level of subsistence and can be supplemented according to individual choice with the cash allowance amounting to £12 per family of four per month. I do not think that that is tremendously lavish charity, with all respect to the Government of Cyprus or Her Majesty's Government, or whoever the £12 comes from. I think a little more could perhaps be done to give practical help to these people, whether, as the noble Lord suggested, helping them with their claim for compensation or in some more immediate way. They really are at the end of the road, towards the end of their lives, and they are being very actively helped and backed up by Mr. Bradfield, chairman of the United Kingdom Citizens' Association; hut, of course, everything depends upon the action of Her Majesty's Government.

But we must keep in our minds the principal problem of Cyprus, which is naturally the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot problem. Here I may say that the Turkish Government and the Turkish so-called Administration in the Northern part of Cyprus are very much to blame in certain respects. The Foreign Office sometimes seems to take the view that one must never say a rude word to a Turk or to the Turkish Government, because it will be counter-productive. That is reminiscent of the kind of attitude they took before the Second World War, when we were told: " Don't be rude to Hitler. It will only make him worse ". It is the attitude of appeasement, and I do not think we should apply it to the Turkish Government if they are behaving badly.

Certainly, the looting and vandalism in the North of Cyprus is unspeakably appalling, especially the vandalism of all the Christian orthodox churches and, most particularly, of the graveyards attached to those churches. Some of your Lordships may have seen a very good article about this in the Guardian a week or two ago by Mr. John Fielding, who was a member of a television team which recently went to Cyprus. He took the opportunity of going, more or less as a tourist, to the Northern territory where he took hundreds of photographs, many of which I have seen, of the vandalised graveyards. He could not, of course, visit every one of the many hundreds of villages in the North. He was in only one small area.

He visited, I think, 31 villages and not one of the churches or graveyards in those 31 villages was intact. In every one there had been vandalism. Icons had been chucked on dung-heaps or in the mud—unless, of course, they were old and valuable, in which case they were looted and eventually found their way to some saleroom in England or America. There was terrible devastation, particularly of the graveyards, and this was not the kind of vandalism which would have been done casually by soldiers getting drunk on a night out. It was quite calculated vandalism. Solid marble or granite tombstones were cut into small pieces, obviously with very powerful instruments. It was a quite calculated policy, and the Turkish authorities ought to put a stop to it, if they have not tried to do so already. Perhaps they have. I hope so. This is one of the most upsetting features of that situation. Then there is the looting and vandalism of houses in Famagusta, in Kyrenia and all over the place.

The Select Committee Report has been very much attacked in the newspapers—briefed by the Foreign Office, of course, very promptly on its appearance and by Mr. Hattersley in another place. It is said that the report is one-sided, biased and so on. Well, I think that the Select Committee consisted largely—perhaps entirely—of people who knew something about Cyprus. It is not a bad idea to appoint people who already know something about a territory if one is going to examine that territory and prepare a report upon it, because, naturally, the Select Committee does not have a great deal of time to spend upon a particular object. So I reject these accusations.

I notice, incidentally, that some colleagues in another place, in attacking the Select Committee, referred to some of its members as " notorious philhellenes ". I had never thought that to a British audience the word " philhellene " could be a term of abuse—least of all, perhaps, in your Lordships' House where I suppose the greatest philhellene of all once took part in your discussions, if he had time to spare from his fighting for Greece, his poetry and his lovemaking. I cannot see that " philhellene " is a term of abuse, nor do I see that it means that because one loves the Greeks one must hate the Turks. On the contrary. Of course one should not hate the Turks, even if one has a bone to pick with them at the present time because of the conduct of their troops in Cyprus.

It occurs to me that some of your Lordships may feel, although they do not say so, that recourse to the United Nations is, somehow, rather futile. I have heard people say this in Cyprus. Some of the people on the Right politically in Cyprus say that it is quite useless to go to the United Nations again. Another friend in Cyprus, who probably knows more than any other Cypriot about the workings of the United Nations, said, " Not at all. It helps to keep the issue alive internationally, and recourse to the United Nations is the only weapon that small nations have ". So I hope very much that the proposals of my noble friend Lord Caradon, who made that admirable opening speech, will be taken account of by Her Majesty's Government.

It may also be that there could be a change in Western attitudes to Cyprus after the American presidential election. That would not be impossible. I see today that the front runner for the Democratic nomination has said that if he becomes President he will sack Dr. Kissinger. Nothing could be more welcome in Cyprus—because of course the main fault of Her Majesty's Government is that they trailed along feebly in the wake of Dr. Kissinger, who cares nothing about Cyprus. When the Cyprus situation arose critically two years ago Dr. Kissinger did not suddenly fly there. He usually flies all over the place, as we know, but he merely telephoned and obviously had no interest at all in the problems of Cyprus or the Cypriots themselves. He was very much interested in Turkey, for the simple reason that America, and I suppose NATO, need the powerful scantling equipment established in Turkey, by means of which they spy on the Soviet Union. That is what Dr. Kissinger cares about. However, ruthless as he is, I hope he will not be with us for very much longer; at least I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not merely do as Dr. Kissinger says.

I must end by saying that de facto partition, which is pretty well what we have got now in Cyprus, although we do not acquiesce in it and the Greek Cypriots do not acquiesce in it, is a shameful retreat from what was always understood in 1960 and afterwards, that neither partition nor Enosis was acceptable. They were things which balanced each other: the Turks might want partition, some of the Greeks might want Enosis. Both were ruled out under the new constitution, and despite what is said about the cruelty of some of the Greek Cypriots and some of the Turkish Cypriots in the past, I believe that Archbishop Makarios, for the first few years after 1960, tried genuinely to create a new pan-Cypriot citizenship. He wanted the Greek Cypriots to think of themselves primarily as Cypriots, not as Greeks, and the same with the Turkish Cypriots. It did not work, unfortunately, partly I suppose because the percentages quoted by the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd, simply were not practicable in a population which was only 18 per cent. of the total population. There were not enough Turkish Cypriots competent and willing to undertake the kind of service required of them. So that proved impracticable.

However, we look forward. We cannot be entirely pessimistic, although it is pretty difficult not to be, but we look forward to a time when there is no de facto or de jure partition; when all the people of Cyprus enjoy their human rights; and when Her Majesty's Government remember the pledges undertaken in the past.

10.44 p.m.


My Lords, I think we ought to thank the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, very much for his timely Question. I had the honour of serving under him for a short time when he was Governor, and the things he did were absolutely marvellous. But he aimed at abolishing both partition and Enosis from the 1960 Constitution, and had a lot to do with the Treaty of Guarantee. All these things are greatly to his credit, but unfortunately they did not work. As we have heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, who was his Minister, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, these things simply did not work. But there we are. Now we have a very difficult situation. I was very pleased to hear the description by the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell, of the terrible refugee problem, and the desecration of churches, and so on. I think this is absolutely terrible.

I would remind your Lordships of three realities which to my mind govern the whole situation. They are these. We as members of NATO will never accept that occupation of Cyprus will go to a Power outside NATO. Although it has very poor harbours, the island has two very fine airfields. That is the first reality. The second is that Turkey will not accept that the Government or people of Cyprus will work secretly or otherwise for Enosis. So far as I know, the Greek Cypriots have done this during the whole of the British occupation, which has been going on for nearly 80 years.

The third reality is that Turkey is 40 miles from Cyprus—I have seen it from the " panhandle "—whereas Greece is 400 miles away, so Turkey can invade any time she likes, whenever it suits her. None of us can turn out 30,000 or 40,000 troops, with their 50 tanks, and start afresh; we cannot wipe the slate clean. In these three realities we must take account of working towards the lasting solution for which we all pray. Noble Lords should remember that the last attempt lasted for only four years. It has been proved that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots cannot live mixed up together. I realise that a few educated families can in fact do so, but the bulk of them cannot. Fighting or threats of violence have broken out about four times since 1960. The noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, said that the time for British intervention as a guarantor Power was 1964, not 1974.

My Lords, it remains to be seen, therefore, whether they can live alongside each other. I am sufficiently optimistic to believe they can. In other words, of the two extremes, Enosis and partition, we are forced now by the Turkish occupation to accept partition. I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, in effect say that—at least, I hope I am right in that.


My Lords, I have never said anything of the kind. I have spoken of the desirability of a federal constitution, but ever since I was associated with this problem I have been wholly opposed to the partition of the island, and remain with that view.


My Lords, it remains an open question whether the Greeks will accept it or not. Incidentally, Great Britain has not got a very good record as a guaranteeing Power. The Select Committee of the other place practically said so. Therefore, I think that we ought to go by the facts.

With regard to method, according to the memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office giving the views of the Turkish Government, page 75, the Turkish Government firmly believe that inter-communal talks offer the best hope for reaching a solution. I should like to add to that—and this is a question for the Government in replying—that they are given a time limit. It works wonders. The Jeep was invented on a time limit, and the Jeep was a great success. I am not saying that they should rush home from Vienna to Cyprus but it can be done, to my mind, in three or four months; either they reach agreement or they do not.

The noble Lord, Lord Caradon, said that the Secretary-General was in effect the chairman of the inter-communal talks, and the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, said that they were under his supervision; I think that was the word he used. I think that the inter-communal talks should go ahead if possible. It may be wise and indeed necessary to use the United Nations machinery, though I am doubtful if a succession of resolutions are effective. There have been since July 1974 nine Security Council resolutions and one resolution of the Assembly, and the Turks have not taken the slightest notice. The UN record, therefore, is not very good on this subject. It would be better, in my opinion, to use the good offices of NATO or the EEC. If this procedure is adopted there will be a danger that the Soviet operates its veto in the Security Council. That has to be taken account of. It might be better to do it through the EEC. The UN peace-keeping force could not stop the Turkish Army. It was probably not intended to; but it did not, that is the fact.

If the inter-communal leaders do not reach agreement, then my second question to the Government is this. Could an independent arbitrator be appointed from the EEC or NATO to supervise their talks and reach a temporary solution. He would he appointed, I imagine, by the guaranteeing parties. Much would depend on the tasks set for the intercommunal leaders. Lord Caradon suggested they are the following three: First, to adopt an independent federated State, and therefore a central Government in charge of foreign affairs, economics, et cetera. Secondly, the frontier—the Turks are 20 per cent. of the population and therefore entitled to 20 per cent. of the land, in my opinion. They have over 40 per cent. at the moment. I will come to the reasons why the Turks should be amenable on this subject. Thirdly, the new constitution. I think that the new constitution is too big a thing for the inter-communal talks. I should personally prefer to see it as a task for the new central Government. The Turks ought to take part because they want a settlement just as much as Greece.

The NATO situation is very questionable; the strategic situation in the Eastern Mediterranean is not at all good; the Middle East is utter confusion, and the economics are pretty bad. The last point however may be very strong: in spite of. the terrible refugee position so well described by the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell, the fact remains that Cyprus still has a skilled labour force, and even the tourist trade will pick up quickly if. politics will settle down. So there is from the Turkish point of view quite an attraction for a quick end to the intercommunal talks. One thing is clear, Makarios, as President, has failed entirely. He failed to stop the fighting from 1964 onwards; he failed to stop this Turkish invasion; and he failed to stop the Sampson coup. Therefore, I think he ought to go. In fact, I think it might be better if the Security Council appointed a neutral President for the first five years. That is my last question to the Government, and I should like to finish now.

10.57 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join in the thanks that have been expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, for raising this very important Question. He is uniquely qualified to do so. The only pity' is that we discuss this matter in what can only be called a rather thin House. However, the number of speakers and the quality of the debate have borne ample witness to our deep concern and sympathy with the sufferings of the island and our real sense of urgency.

I should like to start from the Report of the Select Committee on Cyprus in another place, and look first of all at the implications for British domestic policy of the events of 1974. I should like to draw particular attention to the evidence submitted by the Camden Committee for Community Relations, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, and from the London Borough of Haringey. In passing, I should like to pay the greatest possible tribute to the Borough of Haringey for the marvellous way in which it reacted to the sudden influx of refugees from Cyprus in 1974. I am aware that these questions are outside the normal Departmental brief of the noble Lord the Minister. However, I have given him notice and I hope that he will be able to reply.

I support most strongly Recommendations 11, 12, and 13 of the Select Committee. The most important one of these was that a permanent unit should be established to direct the British Government and British local government action in relation to refugees and displaced persons arriving in this country. Those of your Lordships who have had experience of the Uganda Asian influx will realise that not only is it necessary to have a body to cope with the immediate reception on the day of arrival but it is also necessary to have an ongoing body that can take care of the much more long-term questions of resettlement. We had a demand for such a permanent unit very recently when we were threatened with a renewed influx from Malawi and there may be many countries in the world from which we can expect sudden and unexpected arrivals in future. I believe that a study of what has been done in Western Germany would be extremely worth while in this connection. Western Germany has over the years received a large number of its citizens who have been expelled from countries further to the East and has developed a very comprehensive and effective system of dealing with this.

I come to the humanitarian issues in Cyprus, and I confess to having been pestering Ministers and others about them ever since the first cease-fire in 1974. These questions are urgent because neglect of them breeds hatred, fear and mistrust. They are particularly important issues in Cyprus, which is a country of great humanity, of wonderful hospitality and where there exist the strongest ties of family kinship. In my view, these humanitarian issues should have priority over the political and general questions and it may be necessary to take the humanitarian issues out of the inter-communal talks. But whether they are in or out, it is clear that Her Majesty's Government have a considerable responsibility for these issues in their role as a guarantor.

The first and perhaps most pressing of the humanitarian issues, one which has already been mentioned tonight, is that of missing persons. These number some 2,000 and include 152 women. Many, alas!, may be dead but there is evidence that some at least were alive and well in the hands of the Turks after the end of the fighting. The International Committee of the Red Cross, as the appropriate body, has tried to investigate this situation, but it has stated that its officers were deprived of full facilities for investigation both in North Cyprus and in Turkey. I hope very strongly that Her Majesty's Government will bring all possible pressure to bear to enable the Red Cross to do the job for which it exists, and I hope that all other countries which take part in the International Red Cross will join in that pressure.

The second highly important humanitarian issue is that of freedom of movement within the Island of Cyprus. This, it might be said, covers a multitude of sins. It is, I believe, the key to implementing the numerous resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly on the subject of refugees, a matter which has been raised tonight. Freedom of movement affects the International Committee of the Red Cross, it affects the United Nations forces in Cyprus, it affects British residents in Cyprus and it affects the Maronite community and very much the enclaved Greek Cypriots in the North and North-East parts of the island. These Greek Cypriots urgently need free movement to enable priests, doctors and teachers to reach them. Uppermost, probably, in Greek Cypriot minds at the present time is the question of access to Varosha, which is the Greek Cypriot quarter of the town of Famagusta and of the nearby potato and carrot growing villages. Freedom of movement depends to a very large extent on freedom from fear, the fear of what may happen to one if one attempts to travel from one part of the island to another. Much of this could perhaps be removed if all the military and police forces in the island were under clear instructions to facilitate access instead of preventing it, as has sometimes happened.

Lastly, I come to the political and international aspects of the question. I should like to look at them primarily from the point of view of the responsibilities of the British Government and, if I may, I shall go back as far as 1963, when there was a constitutional breakdown followed by fighting and some 80 or more Turkish Cypriot villages came to be abandoned. Turkish Cypriots were left in physical control of only 2 per cent. of the island. They suffered a severe economic blockade and that affected them very severely, because unlike the majority community, they had neither a sufficient market for their goods nor sufficient employment within their own community and were in practice cut off from trading with the majority community and the outside world. I think it important to remember those facts when, as now, the Turks are accused of having seized an unjustly large proportion of the island.

In 1963–1964, Her Majesty's Government intervened militarily and took steps to bring about the establishment in the island of the United Nations force. However, the constitutional issues were left to inter-communal talks without any time limit being set on them. That may have seemed a reasonable approach, but 1974–10 years later—showed that it had been an unfortunate one when unconstitutional regimes were in power both in Athens and, rather briefly, in Nicosia. I suggest that Britain failed to do enough as a guarantor Power between 1963 and 1974.

To turn to the events of 1974, I believe few would disagree with the proposition that Turkey acted in the first place in July entirely correctly as a guarantor. Britain should have joined with Turkey at that time. If, with the force we then had in Cyprus, we had protected the Turkish Cypriot communities in the South of the island, many subsequent evils would have been prevented. This was the argument put forward by Brigadier Harbottle, the former Chief of Staff of the United Nations force, in a letter to The Times on 25th May this year.

Having thus failed to act in July, Her Majesty's Government failed again in August when Turkey broke the cease-fire. After that weakness, the Government made a unilateral concession on the movement of Turkish Cypriots from the Sovereign Base Area to the North in January 1975. It is not surprising that our seriousness of purpose has been called in question and that the interests of British subjects in Cyprus go by default. I agree with the Select Committee in the other place in its Recommendations Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 6. I also agree that conciliation has proved a failure so far. I suggest that either we should abandon our position under the Treaty or, if we stand by our obligations, we should take up and act upon our responsibilities as a guarantor. In no circumstances should we hide behind the United Nations, the Commonwealth or the EEC, though that is not to say that all three of those bodies may not have important parts to play in the present situation.

My Lords, could we not act on two levels simultaneously—on the level of the inter-communal talks and on the level of the three guarantor Powers? Could we not ensure that the inter-communal talks are given an agenda and a timetable, and that, if necessary, the participants in the talks arc locked in, rather like a jury, until such time as they reach agreement? Furthermore, could we not call together all three guarantor Powers to act jointly in preparation for, and in the later implementation of, a long-term solution, such as we all so much desire?

11.11 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Caradon has once more voiced the continued concern of all of us about the tragedy which has befallen the beautiful island which he knows so well and which he has served with such distinction. He has done so without recrimination about the past and in an effort to contribute to a possible solution for this intractable problem—the problem of Cyprus, where many people are suffering hardship and misery as a result of the forcible division of their country. It is the view of Her Majesty's Government that the inter-communal talks, under the auspices of Dr. Waldheim, as set up by the Security Council through its Resolution No. 367 of March 1975, and accepted by all concerned, provide the best forum for the peaceful solution of this tragic problem. It is important to remember that this key resolution was adopted only after weeks of negotiation and discussion, and disappointing as the results are so far, we should not set aside lightly, nor endanger, a basic consensus attained so painfully, so slowly, in the United Nations.

Her Majesty's Government have therefore consistently and actively supported the Secretary-General's efforts. His agreed mandate is to conduct a personal mission of good offices to ensure that the communities in Cyprus, whose future they alone can, and should, decide, should engage in direct negotiation. Five rounds of intercommunal talks have taken place under the auspices of Dr. Waldheim, and while no one can claim that there has been much progress as a result so far, neither can it easily be claimed that any other negotiating device or formula would be more successful. At least this device has the unanimous support of the United Nations, and to disturb it would present us all with the task of reassembling hopefully, but not inevitably, a new consensus of approach to this problem. Indeed, there might well be a danger that any other method would distract the parties—those directly concerned—from direct negotiation, and would in a way internationalise this problem away from Cyprus, and from the people directly concerned and with the greatest responsibility, so that it becomes another international problem divorced from the people themselves.

The best way to achieve a settlement and to implement the United Nations resolutions is for the two Cypriot communities to resume direct substantive discussions. Of course, the political will to negotiate must be there, and no amount of eloquent idealism about what should be done can break down the basic fact that here we are facing so far implacable nationalistic animosities. It is not the lack of will in Britain or the lack of will in the United Nations, or in many other countries of the world, that is standing in the way of a solution to this problem. It is the fact of built-in animosities, which somehow must he resolved.

Now a number of noble Lords have asked: What, then, is the initiative, the policy, of the British Government? Before I come to the question of guarantees, I want to deal with the question of what we have been doing and what we propose to go on persistently doing. A number of noble Lords suggested, in particular, that we should be making use of the Community, joining with our partners in the EEC in order to try to break this deadlock. This is exactly what we have been doing for months; and never in my experience of some ten or twelve years has the Foreign Office seen so much assiduous devoted diplomacy as that directed to somehow breaking this deadlock and reaching out for every possible organisation internationally, including the EEC, in order to do that.

The noble Lord, Lord Bethall, in particular, asked me whether we were using the political co-ordinating machinery of the EEC. The answer is: Yes; we have been doing it for a long time, and we shall continue to do it. At a time when the United Kingdom is being blamed for everything, apparently, that has happened in Cyprus and for everything that is not happening to help Cyprus, it is time we realised, over the years, from the time when the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd, and my noble friend Lord Caradon were so directly engaged with the island, how much the United Kingdom, under successive Governments, have tried to do to make sure that Cyprus emerged in Europe, in the world, as a sovereign independent State; and I suspect that when others have forgotten Cyprus this country will continue to do everything it can to help it and its people. We and our Allies have made an incessant series of representations in Ankara, in Athens, in Nicosia and at the UN with the aim of persuading those concerned to face up to their responsibilities and to create the right atmosphere for the Secretary-General's efforts to bear fruit. We do not believe that a change in his mandate —which, I repeat, was agreed only after prolonged and difficult negotiation—is either necessary or, indeed, practical.

I come now to specific points raised by a number of noble Lords and the noble Baroness during the debate—a debate, by the way, which will certainly bear re-reading and study; a debate of the highest standard. The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and others referred to the subject of the guarantee. Before we begin to denigrate this country about this as well as everything else, let us refer to Article 4 of the Treaty of Guarantee. The noble Baroness quoted Article 2. The noble Viscount, who has a very good memory stretching over 17 years, because he wrote this as well as signing it, quoted it correctly. It is not very long but it is very precise: In the event of a breach of the provisions of the present Treaty, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom undertake to consult together with respect to the representations or measures necessary to ensure observance of those provisions. It goes on: In so far as common or concerted action may not prove possible, each of the three guaranteeing powers reserves the right to take action with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs created by the present Treaty. First of all, " reserves the right " to do so. This is not a legal obligation, it is a legal right, if you care to exercise it, in the circumstances and according to the best judgment that you come to. Nothing could be clearer. I hope that there will be not too much accusation of breach of faith by the United Kingdom that it did not rush in in 1974, any more than in 1963, under another Government, to fumble at a guarantee, to misinterpret a guarantee which is very precise and couched in absolutely the right terms in relation to the situation.

The noble Baroness also raised a number of points relating to the situation in Cyprus itself today. I will refer to those as I come to the specific points made by other speakers. Before doing so, may I pay my need of tribute to the noble Viscount for what I regarded as a superb speech in which he placed this matter in historical perspective. It is absolutely true that he and my noble friend, and indeed the British Government of the day, did their utmost in circumstances of the greatest difficulty. It requires a little effort to recall what was happening and had been happening in Cyprus during those dreadful years. Terrible things have been happening in the last two years. Terrible things happened in those years also. Our own soldiers were in the thick of it.

At that time a genuine attempt was made to usher the new State, as a Member of the Commonwealth, into the international family. The noble Viscount, I thought, put the matter in proper historical perspective. What happened to the Agreement? It became unworkable. I join my noble friend in not ascribing blame, or rather I join my noble friend Lord Maybray-King in saying that some blame attached to everybody in Cyprus. This Agreement became unworkable, and by 1963 there was serious fighting in the island. It is as a result of that that the British took the initiative not to apply this guarantee—they had every right not to apply it—but to move for the setting up in March 1964 of the United Nations force in Cyprus. That is the genesis of UNFICYP—March 1964. What came out of that very serious crisis in 1963 was not an invasion by Britain of the island of Cyprus to repeat the situation out of which we had so painfully climbed, hut the creation of a peace-making force in the island. This is the perspective of statesmanship. I am deeply grateful to the noble Viscount for leading the House to a proper appraisal of these facts.

My noble friend Lord Caradon made three important points. They are for serious consideration. He suggests, for instance, that there should he real consideration of a federal system. There is a substantial consensus for that now—and I am trying not to put this too high—on both sides. Indeed, there is a consensus generally that the future for Cyprus, as a single sovereign State unpartitioned, must nevertheless include some system of devolution—if I may mention such a word today—some arrangement quasi-federal or actually federal within that united system. I believe this is fairly generally accepted; it was not so only a short time ago.

He also mentioned that there should be some initiative so that there should be talk about zoning, about territorial arrangements. I think I quote him correctly. In fact Dr. Waldheim rescued the fifth round of the inter-communal talks precisely by raising this matter. He produced a map. He did not get very far; it was not Dr. Waldheim's fault. That did not prove that conciliation had broken down. It was not the Secretary-General's attempt which had broken down, but the reception to it. When he produced a map for discussion it was found impossible for the time being to get down to substantial talk about territorial arrangements. On that second point, too, I think there has emerged a general readiness to discuss a bi-zonal arrangement. The noble Lord, Lord Banks, I believe, used " multi-regional " in the sense of cantonal devolution. He did not rule out the possibility, if it were acceptable, of a hi-zonal arrangement.


My Lords, what I said was that the bi-zonal solution was the one that was most likely, but that the Greek Cypriots would have preferred a multi-regional one, but that they were prepared to accept a bi-zonal one.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I regret that I misheard him; he has put it absolutely right. It does seem—and I address myself particularly to the noble Lord on this point—that a bi-zonal arrangement on the basis of a central Government asserting the single sovereignty of the island, is emerging as an acceptable system, though I do not want to put it too high. Whenever one thinks one is on the verge of an agreement as between the Communities on a political or any other matter, one speedily finds that there are all sorts of qualifications and reservations to hand to prevent further progress. But that does not mean that we should not persist and press on, because this is the only solution that will stick, one which is engendered organically by the will of the Communities themselves. Nothing imposed on them by any agency from outside will stay, will prove durable. What will prove durable will be the equity of which they themselves are the authors, and that is why this technique, coming from the United Nations itself, fathered and led by the chief executive of the United Nations, must be the right approach to this very difficult problem.

It is not my wish unduly to delay your Lordships at this hour. There are a number of practical points which I appreciate should be answered: freedom of movement within the island; the plight of the refugees; missing persons and, indeed, our own fellow British nationals in the island. I think a better opportunity will be provided for dealing with these matters, and the kind of points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, when the Select Committee Report is made available to us together with the Government's considered observations on the Report, and there will be a Government paper in due course and in appropriate form, which will be presented to both Houses and which will enable either or both Houses to debate it.

I am responding to the appeal of the noble Baroness that I should take very careful note of everything that has been said in this excellent debate. Had it not been held, it would have had to be arranged. I welcome it. It will be followed by other debates based on other documents, as I have suggested, and in the meantime I wholeheartedly give the noble Baroness and the whole House my undertaking to present to Her Majesty's Government, with the Official Record, the feeling as well as the opinions of the House on this poignant matter.