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Hammond visit not ‘firmed up’

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond

By Jean Christou

Political parties were all riled up on Thursday over reports that British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond would be in Cyprus on March 31 and would visit Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on April 1, the 60th anniversary of the EOKA uprising against colonial rule.

The Greens, Citizens Alliance and socialist EDEK were most the most vociferous saying such a thing could not be tolerated by Greek Cypriots, and on that particular date.

The British High Commission said it could not confirm both for security reasons and because no date of arrival had been finalised, on what day Hammond would arrive or who he would be meeting, and when.

But informed sources said the foreign secretary was moving towards a visit “at some point”. “It has not been firmed up,” they said.

The visit, if it goes ahead will be part of a tour Hammond is doing in Europe focusing on Britain’s EU reform agenda and would hope to get Cyprus onside. Britons got to the polls in May.

According to reports in the Greek Cypriot press, Hammond would go to the north to meet Eroglu ahead of elections there on April 19.

In the government-controlled areas, the reports said he would meet President Nicos Anastasiades and Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides.

If Hammond goes north, and especially on April 1, it is likely to spark a furore not seen since his predecessor Jack Straw did something similar in 2006 and was subsequently snubbed by the late President Tassos Papadopoulos.

Late last year, Straw called on the international community to accept the division of Cyprus as a reality.

Last year, US Vice President Joe Biden cross to the north to meet Eroglu but the meeting was held at Eroglu’s residence rather than his offices, which are next door to each other and separated by a hallway.


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