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Cypriot leaders need to show courage and make compromises, UK says

Screen grab from the debate

Both sides in Cyprus will need to show courage and make compromises to reach a solution, the UK believes, urging the two leaders to seize the current opportunity.

The comment came from Lord Whip, Baroness Goldie, during a House of Lords debate on the Cyprus issue on Thursday, in which she was answering questions on behalf of the government.

The short debate was titled: ‘Government’s assessment of the likelihood of a solution to the situation in Cyprus before the end of 2016’.

“This government believes there has never been a better opportunity for pace in Cyprus and this is down to the unstinting efforts of the leaders of the two communities,” the Baroness said, adding that there was some justification for a degree of optimism though “no one should underestimate the scale of the challenges to reach a solution by the end of 2016”.

“But with compromise and courage we believe a deal within the timeframe is achievable,” she added.

The UK would support whatever the two leaders decided, particularly as regards to Britain’s guarantorship, “It is not for the UK to dictate outcomes.”

Baroness Goldie said the benefits of a solution were clear in terms of economy, exploiting hydrocarbons and stability in the region.

“The government believes a solution by the end of the year is achievable,” she added. “All parties will need to show courage and will have to be willing to make compromises but we firmly believe the rewards will outweigh the sacrifices and we urge the leaders to seize the opportunity.”

Earlier in the session two members of the House, Lord Northbrook and Lord Balfe spoke in defence of the positions of the Turkish Cypriot side.

Northbrook said he had visited the north in July and had come away with the impression that many issues still remained that would make it impossible to reach a solution in 2016.

Most of his impressions however had been gleaned from Turkish Cypriot ‘government’, many of whom do not support leader Mustafa Akinci’s efforts. Northbrook said he hoped the leaders would prove him wrong though he referred to President Nicos Anastasiades’ “unfriendly behaviour” when he refused earlier in the year to attend a dinner hosted by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey because Akinci had been invited without his knowledge.

“We had hoped that when the leaders met in September with the UN, that it would lead to a multi-party conference but Anastasiades refused to accept this and refused a timetable”.

Northbrook also referred to a hostile letter he received from the Cyprus High Commission in London about his visit to the north but did not elaborate.

The next speaker Lord Balfe did however, complaining that he had never seen a diplomatic letter written in such a fashion when it referred to Northbrook’s visit in July on the “despicable anniversary” referring to July 20, the date of the 1974 Turkish invasion. “No diplomat discusses things in this way. It was out of line,” Balfe said.

He called Akinci very brave in the face of the opposition he was up against in the north. “Many on both sides are not looking for a solution,” he said. “Both sides have got to want a solution.”

Balfe said in case there was no solution, “north Cyprus will have to be brought in from the cold”, he added. He suggested as part of this, that when the UK would be negotiating a Brexit, it set aside all restrictions on the north of Cyprus that were imposed by the EU “and play our part”.

The ‘TRNC’ he said should become like the Channel Islands for Turkey.

“My view is that north Cyprus could survive and even prosper. It’s not the end of the world if the talks fail. We can’t go on year after year having abortive talks and not getting anywhere”.

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