By Thanasis Gavos – London
Cyprus needs to become more assertive when reminding Britain of its responsibilities towards the island, Labour MP for Mansfield Sir Alan Meale has told IBNA.
In an interview to mark 40 years of the Turkish occupation of the northern part of the Mediterranean island, Sir Alan, a long-standing friend of Cyprus noted that rather than asking too much, Cypriots don’t ask enough. “Sometimes they go on the back foot and they are very gentle and very understanding. Unless you demand, you won’t get,” he said referring to how Nicosia and the organised Cypriot diaspora handle the British.
Sir Alan believes that Cypriots are now in a position to be more demanding as the discovery of natural gas reserves in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone has upgraded its international status and importance: “Cyprus should start to be taken more seriously now. Because actually what will occur is that Cyprus will become the second largest if not the largest country in the whole of Europe that will provide gas and Cyprus could be the gas station of the world. We must take advantage of that.”
He vented his anger towards the European Union and British governments for standing idle by, although Cyprus is a very important partner. “I think that Britain has a profound moral responsibility towards Cyprus. What’s occurred there has largely been caused by us not doing enough. We gave independence but we used that just as an excuse to leave, while leaving behind what we wanted on the island anyway.
“Cyprus is a full member of the European family. There is no doubt where Britain’s loyalty should lie. And I think it’s outrageous that people are denied access to their own country, to their own communities, to their families and their own history. I think what’s happened in Cyprus is appalling. At best it’s theft, at worst it’s treason,” said Sir Alan.
Although he acknowledged that Cyprus has not been top priority for European and British leaders, he declared his optimism. “I think it’s tragic and wrong that it’s taken so long. But in historical terms it’s a blink of the eye. Situations have gone on for much longer, we’ve had Hong Kong, East Germany, the eastern bloc. It takes time. When it happens you can’t remember how it was the other way round. I think we need to keep campaigning and by campaigning when it happens it happens,” he said. “Then comes the difficult bit, making it work. Making people get together, making the policing civil rather than army, making the public services work and all the rest of it. That’s the difficult thing. Getting reunited is just the beginning,” added the Labour MP.