D. Burrowes: The solution framework is “unchangeable” but negotiations need new dynamic

Over the coming months the British Government should be pressing Turkey to enable a solution to the Cyprus problem, said David Burrowes, the Conservative MP who chairs the British-Cyprus All Party Parliamentary Group, in a CNA interview.

The MP for Enfield Southgate in north London explained that the pressure should aim at Turkey showing respect for its international obligations such as the customs union and UN resolutions in relation to Famagusta and missing persons.

“The fact that we still do not have a solution and have an island in Europe which is divided and has Turkish troops on it cannot make me satisfied. Britain has an ongoing role as a guarantor power and with the EU to seek a just and equitable solution. Britain also has an important relationship with Turkey, which it needs to use well for the best interests of Cypriots,” said the ruling party MP commenting on whether London’s policy and actions leave him satisfied. He added that since the British Government is a key strategic ally of Turkey – particularly with respect to trade and NATO operations – and supports its application to join the EU, there is a relationship that could provide “a positive opportunity to ensure a solution to the Cyprus problem is a priority.”

Regarding the nature of the solution, David Burrowes described the framework of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal solution as “unchangeable” and clearly set down by the UN. He does hope though for a change in the dynamic of negotiations. “First, away from numerous and technical meetings over a longer period of time and towards a concerted period of time devoted to meetings between Greek and Turkish Cypriots and with guarantor powers available to converse when appropriate,” elaborated Mr Burrowes.

Although in the past the Cyprus problem has been “littered with ‘windows of opportunity’”, the British MP agreed with the view that the absence of elections in all concerned parties for a substantial period of time after the presidential election in the Republic of Cyprus would give the new President the opportunity to focus not only on the significant economic issues but also on a solution to the Cyprus problem.

As he has done many times in the past, he stressed the role that could and should be played by the civil society in making progress over the Cyprus issue: “When I visit Cyprus all communities tell me that the problem is the politics, not the people. The challenge is to make the people of Cyprus the leaders of the solution and not devolve a solution to the politicians alone.”

He added that there was great scope to see religion and cultural heritage restoration projects as a source of unity and not division, while praising the work of the Committee of Missing Persons as a model of good bi-communal work in practice. Burrowes also said he was impressed by some work in the buffer zone promoting peace and dialogue such as the Cyprus Community Media Centre.

For Burrowes the natural gas reserves can add to the momentum towards a solution. His view is that only as a reunited island can Cyprus make the best use of this resource and see it fulfil its potential. “The natural resource, important for all Cypriots, can provide real confidence and security for an independent united Cyprus,” he noted.

Asked to give his assessment of the level of participation and interest by the Cypriot community in the UK, David Burrowes said that there is significant interest in village associations, community groups and political organisations. However, he noted, the involvement of younger generations is a challenge, as with non-Cypriots. “Unfortunately there does seem to be a growing disinterest from the younger generation in the prospect of a solution to the Cyprus problem,” was Burrowes’ conclusion after numerous gatherings and discussions in his capacity as head of the All Party Parliamentary Group(APPG) for Cyprus but also as an elected representative of a constituency with a populous Cypriot community.

The APPG’s role is to promote better relations between Britain and Cyprus. As Burrowes himself explained, “it provides a useful form for Parliamentarians understanding and friendship for Cyprus to increase.” The continued task to ensure the solution to the Cyprus problem is a key priority of the UK Government and there are regular meetings with ministers in this regard.  Under Burrowes there is a strong wish to support civil society from all the communities in Cyprus and “see the APPG having a role in encouraging the Greek and Turkish Cypriot UK communities to build confidence in a reunited island.”

Summarising the components missing for a solution Burrowes pointed to the lack of international concern for a solution (“the United States making the Cyprus problem a priority would have a significant impact”), the need for a louder voice from civil society in both communities, Turkey’s unwillingness to fully respect the self-determination of Cypriots and the need for “new dynamic concerted talks between Cypriot leaders over a defined period with guarantor powers available for consultation when required.”

He finally sent a message to Ankara and to Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu: “The division of Cyprus and preservation of Turkish troops is unacceptable and unsustainable. As Turkey rightly looks to strengthen its relationship with the EU it must respect international agreements and resolution and remove its influence and control over the North of Cyprus.”

 

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