London, December 31, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Thanasis Gavos
The UK Government sees good progress in the ongoing talks in Cyprus over the reunification of the island, according to the Minister for Europe David Lidington.
The recently published minutes of the House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee’s hearing show that Mr Lidington was very encouraged by the latest developments. “I never want to sound overoptimistic, but I would characterise what is happening in Cyprus as rather better than a little bit of progress,” said the Minister. “I am really heartened to see that the leaders themselves and their representatives are addressing those (sensitive) issues.”
As he added, people in the leaderships of both communities in Cyprus to whom he has spoken talk in terms of this being the best opportunity since the Annan plan.
He attributed the “transformation” of the mood in the last year to President Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci who are “very publicly and strongly committed to securing a settlement on the island” and are working with the UN envoy Espen Barth Eide.
Mr Lidington referred to a number of “extremely welcome moves forward”, such as the walk that the two leaders took together across the green line in Nicosia.
In terms of the role the UK can play in the settlement process, he repeated the official and well documented line that London is there to support the efforts of the UN and of both community leaders.
“It is not for the UK to lay down the blueprint for a solution. In fact, that would be the one thing that would be guaranteed to bring everybody in Cyprus together in unanimity: they would all say, ‘There is absolutely no way you are telling us what to do’. But we are helping, and our High Commissioner in particular is extremely active behind the scenes,” elaborated Mr Lidington, noting the recent visits by himself and the Foreign Secretary to the island.
He also made clear that the UK Government’s position remains that it wants to see a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation in conformity with the relevant United Nations resolutions and with respect for human rights for all.
The Minister or Europe was asked by the members of the Lords’ committee to convey the Government’s position on Turkey and where it stands in relation to its EU accession path. “We think that Turkey has quite a way to go before she would meet the standards that would be necessary were we to complete chapters 23 and 24 of the EU accession process,” replied David Lidington.
Responding to a comment by Lord Dubs about an “increasingly authoritarian nature of the Turkish regime”, the Minister said it was worth noting that Turkey remained a multiparty democracy. “It is a very vigorous, rumbustious multiparty democracy… I am very firmly of the view that the best way to address the issues of the rule of law and human rights, including minority rights, in Turkey is through the EU accession process.”
He assured the committee that whenever he has talked to his Turkish opposite numbers, they have been absolutely adamant that they see Turkey’s future in the EU, complementing the role that Turkey has as a key member of NATO. “I believe very strongly that it is in the strategic interests of the whole European Union that we are able to anchor Turkey, through the accession process, firmly in a Euro-Atlantic alignment. If we can bring Turkey forward and deal with the Cyprus issue satisfactorily, then huge possibilities open up that really are very much in our interests,” concluded the British Minister for Europe.