By Thanasis Gavos – London
This week marked a substantial step forward in the long process of consolidating international support for the reopening of the ghost-town of Famagusta and its return to its lawful inhabitants.
A rather ordinary meeting in a parliamentary office in Westminster, between a four-member delegation of the Famagusta Association UK and the President of the Liberal Democrats, turned out to be unexpectedly fruitful.
Tim Farron MP, tipped to be among the forerunners in a future race to succeed rate tumbling leader Nick Clegg, listened carefully to the passionate plea of the Famagustians for endorsement of their committed efforts to put right an issue “which concerns a fundamental deprivation of human rights.” And a full endorsement was what they got.
For the Lib Dem president not only pledged to make the Famagusta reopening a focus of the party’s policy, but he offered to raise the issue with Foreign Secretary William Hague, both in the next Foreign Office questions session at the Commons and in a formal, “lengthy” letter. As Mr Farron said, “I’m sure the British government supports efforts on the Famagusta issue, but I want to see an active support; it’s not about what we say, it’s about what we do.” Even further than that, the meeting ended with the Northwest England MP promising to sign a declaration of support for Famagusta and Cyprus.
A key point in the observations of Mr Farron with regard to Famagusta was that he considered its return to be “a vital bridge towards the comprehensive settlement in Cyprus which we all want to see.” He spoke of a key confidence building measure, as have so many other British politicians. The significance of this point though is that he clearly singled out Famagusta as an issue that could be considered on its own merit, in a way other than being part of a comprehensive settlement – nevertheless stressing that its reopening would bring us closer to a comprehensive solution. This delighted the Association delegation, as they have heard in the past some of even the warmest supporters of their cause in the Commons eventually adopting the official government position that everything should be considered in the wider framework of the complete package settlement.
Tim Farron also affirmed the Liberal Democrats’ position, the coalition government’s junior partner, that the solution in Cyprus should be based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with a single sovereignty, a single international identity and a single citizenship. His statement came a few days after the same assurance was provided by Prime Minister Cameron in the joint communiqué that followed his talks with President Anastasiades in London. In pursuing their goal, the Famagustians managed to score in a bigger pitch, enhancing the message sent from London to Mr Eroglu and Turkey.
The Liberal Democrats’ warm endorsement of the double pursuance of the Association brings the third major party in the UK (pending the next elections’ results of UKIP) onboard the whole effort. In the past party members of both houses have declared their allegiance to the efforts for a reunified Cyprus, but in general the party has been considered to lag in authority with regard to Cyprus in comparison to the Conservatives and the Labour party. It will be interesting to see how other members of the party, keen supporters of Turkey, especially members of the House of Lords, will react to the new emphatic support of Cyprus.
This seemingly robust policy statement is to a large degree down to the work of the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge Julian Huppert. The meeting with the party’s leadership was arranged after concerted actions by him, the hard working deputy mayor of Cambridge George Pippas and of course the tireless President of the Famagusta Association UK Dr Vassilis Mavrou and the association’s officials.