Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Cyprus

Delivered in Plenary - April 21st 2004

Mr President

As a friend of the large Cypriot community which I represent in London, I have always supported peaceful reunification of Cyprus. However, I have never underestimated the practical and political difficulties created over the 30 post-invasion years in which Turkey has moved 120 000 mainland settlers into the north, when they do not share the common historical heritage of the island and generally do not speak English or Greek, previously the bicommunal languages.

The Annan III Plan has gone a long way towards settling differences in a fair sui generis way. However, I have received hundreds of e-mails from my Greek Cypriot constituents who are concerned that this plan offers no guarantees on Turkish implementation of troop withdrawal and territorial and property restitution. It is interesting that even the Greek Cypriots - the lucky ones who have been promised the return of their homes - seem to oppose the plan. They also object to mainland settlers being granted citizenship, as this would appear to reward the aggressor and violate the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the settlement of outside populations by the occupying power.

Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has rejected the proposals and called for a 'no' vote by the Greek Cypriot community. I personally believe it is best for outsiders, including Members of this House, not to put any pressure on a referendum process as this would be perceived as interference in Cyprus's sovereign affairs.

Furthermore, if both communities do not give their free consent and the arrangements break down in the future, blame will be apportioned to the players who leaned on the Cypriot people to get a 'yes' vote.

The British Government is prepared to cede some of the sovereign base territory surplus to its needs, if this will help. I, like many of my colleagues, wish the referendum process well and will support the outcome of the vote on the 24 April, whichever way it goes.