UK Cypriots reassured over British political commitment to Cyprus in post-referendum landscape

UK Cypriots reassured over British political commitment to Cyprus in post-referendum landscape

London, July 21, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Thanasis Gavos

In the rapidly changing landscape of British politics in the post-EU referendum era, the UK Cypriot community demonstrated quick reflexes as it looked to make sure the push for reunification of the divided island retained momentum from all parties involved.

July sadly offers quite a few opportunities for the Cyprus issue to come to the fore, owing to the anniversaries of the 1974 coup, invasion and beginning of occupation, a tragic period of death, grief and wounds that are still open.

The Conservative UK Government under Prime Minister Cameron had developed an excellent working relationship with that of President Anastasiades in Nicosia. Now, Mr Cameron is back in the backbenches, the Foreign Office leadership has been passed on to the hands of the unknown and unpredictable quantity that is Boris Johnson and key friendly MPs are out of the cabinet.

The justified questions over how all these shifts in government could affect the sustained lobbying efforts of the UK Cypriot diaspora were quickly answered in a way that calmed fears. A couple of weeks after the referendum an event organised in the Parliament by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK was described as one of the most successful yet, with many MPs from both big UK political parties, among whom some rather new faces, attending and reaffirming their support for the Cypriot cause.

The Federation President Christos Karaolis (photo) urged the UK Government and the new Prime Minister “to do more and to use the leverage and the strategic relationship it has with Turkey to exert real pressure, as Turkey holds the key to a solution in Cyprus.”

The onus was again firmly on Turkey a few days later, during the annual rally of the UK Cypriots outside the Turkish embassy in central London, very soon after the failed coup d’ etat. “Enough is enough; now is the time for real deeds and not words to resolve to Cyprus issue,” said Mr Karaolis.

Delivering a letter addressed to Prime Minister May, the Federation President said that it urged her “to make sure that the Cyprus issue would be kept high on the political agenda of the UK.”

Recently resigned from cabinet MP Theresa Villiers was also there, a reassuring presence showing that the friends of Cyprus in the Conservative Party will not lose sight of the target despite the coming and goings of people in Government. “We have a new Prime Minister in Britain, a whole new Government and a new Foreign Secretary and I will do whatever I can to make sure that Cyprus is high on their agenda. It is important to support the Cypriots to reach a lasting, balanced and just settlement to reunify the island and bring all of its people together once again,” she said.

And then, as UK Cypriots were marking 42 years since the Turkish invasion and beginning of the ongoing occupation of the northern part of their island, a reminder that the Labour Party is behind them too. The party’s leader himself, Jeremy Corbyn, embroiled in a bitter fight with his own MPs, made time to attend a Famagusta Association event in north London and reaffirm his decades-long support for a free Cyprus.

“You stood steadfast for all these years with your wish to return home, the wish to reunite, to bring your people together whatever their faith, language, religion or background… Surely, our message to the British Government is ‘you signed the Guarantees agreement in 1960, you have a responsibility to bring together the people of Cyprus, a responsibility to guarantee the Cypriot unity and independence.’ Let’s work for it, let’s make sure that we achieve it,” said Mr Corbyn.