By Thanasis Gavos – London
“A renewed friendship between the Labour party and the people of Cyprus” was declared in the beginning of the week by the shadow Minister for Europe Gareth Thomas MP, following a succession of meetings relating to the divided island.
Mr Thomas seemed like a politician in a mission as he held three separate meetings with the visiting Cypriot Foreign Minister, the President of the Republic of Cyprus and a delegation of the London based Famagusta Association.
The Cypriots in the UK have a well established access to the Conservative party, helped by the strong Tory representation of the densely Cypriot-populated north London in the House of Commons. There has also been a concerted effort to engage the Liberal Democrats, not least through the active Cambridge Greek Cypriot community and the local LibDem MP.
The link to the Labour party has also traditionally been very strong, with some of the most active and long-standing political friends of Cyprus based in Labour dominated constituencies, not necessarily considered Cypriot hubs. But a well organised lobby is all about maintaining and renewing all political friendships, and the meetings with a keen Labour shadow Europe Minister aimed at exactly that.
Mr Thomas was briefed about all matters significant to Cyprus, from the resumption of the talks and the Famagusta return campaign to the economic reality and the natural gas prospects. As he said, he hopes to visit Cyprus soon in order to experience firsthand the realities on the ground and better appreciate what Britain can do.
What Britain can do was a constant theme of the discussions the Cypriot officials had in London, as well as in the frequent meetings of the Famagusta Association and other similar groups with British officials. Mr Omirou stated that his visit to London, which also included meetings with the Speaker of the House of Commons and members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cyprus, gave him the opportunity to remind of the obligations and the capabilities of the UK as a guarantor power and as a permanent Security Council member.
The standard request is for London to exercise its influence over her ally, Turkey, so it adopts a constructive role in the Cyprus issue. With the next British general election coming up in just a bit over a year and the Cypriot community in the UK growing stronger and more vocal, as well as with the Turkish administration raising some British eyebrows with democratically questionable decisions lately, it might just be a good opportunity for Cyprus to make a few more friends this side of the Channel.