Specific questions on Cyprus and Turkey were raised at the recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office Parliamentary Questions (PQs).
The PQs and their responses from the Government by Conservative MP, Wendy Morton who is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas), are printed below.
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what discussions he has had with his Republic of Cyprus counterpart on the reopening of the crossings between Northern Cyprus and the Republic.
A: On 14 May the Foreign Secretary raised the reopening of the crossing points with his Republic of Cyprus counterpart. Our High Commissioner in Nicosia and his staff have also been in contact with officials across the island on the issue of the crossing points, encouraging crossings to re-open.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, unilateral action was taken by both sides over the crossing points, which effectively temporarily ended the free movement of Cypriots across the island. This pandemic has highlighted the importance of cooperation between the two communities, in particular, through the bicommunal technical committees. We welcomed the agreement between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders that Turkish Cypriot students, Turkish Cypriot workers and Maronites would be able to cross the Green Line from 8 June. We urge both sides to take the appropriate action at the checkpoints to enable Cypriots to be able to travel across their own island unrestricted, as they could before the COVID-19 crisis. This is vital for bi-communal interaction in support of a settlement.
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he supports the reopening of Crans Montana talks after the postponed Turkish Cypriot elections.
A: Although the talks in Crans Montana ended without agreement, important progress towards addressing outstanding issues was made. We will continue to support the UN and other parties in their work towards a settlement. The UK is open to whatever arrangements the two sides and the other Guarantor Powers can agree on in order to meet the security needs of a reunited Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriot leader election will now take place in October 2020. It will be important that further talks progress following that election.
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he supports the reopening of Crans-Montana talks after the postponed Turkish Cypriot elections.
A: The UK is a strong supporter of a comprehensive and just Cyprus settlement based on the internationally accepted model of a bizonal, bicommunal federation. We regularly engage with the parties to the settlement talks at all levels. We continue to encourage all parties to engage constructively in talks about a settlement and demonstrate they are committed to making progress. We endorse the UN Secretary-General’s view that prospects for a settlement remain alive. We welcome his continued willingness to work with the parties, such as his meeting of 25 November 2019 with the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders, and the engagement of UN Secretary General’s Representative on the Cyprus Dispute, Ms Jane Holl Lute, and hope this will lead to a return to comprehensive negotiations. As penholder on the UN Security Council we fully support the renewal of mandate for the UN’s peacekeeping force on Cyprus.
The UK continues to contribute to a settlement through practical assistance to help the two sides move towards a settlement. We are one of the largest troop contributors to the UN Peacekeeping Force on the island, UNFICYP. It is for the sides to agree on the details of any final settlement deal which will require the agreement of the two leaders, the support of Greece and Turkey and – importantly – successful referendums in each community.
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what representations he has made to his Turkish counterpart on the detention of journalists and writers in that country.
A: We regularly raise our human rights concerns with the Turkish authorities at the highest level, particularly around detentions, freedom of expression and association. We continue to urge the authorities to ensure that all detainees are treated in accordance with relevant international human rights standards. We will continue to engage the Turkish Government on these important issues, and to urge respect for freedom of the media. We continue to be clear in our expectation that Turkey, like all countries, should live up to its human rights obligations towards all its citizens.
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of the situation for human rights defenders and journalists held in pre-trial detention in Turkey, in relation to the risk that overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in Turkish prisons pose to transmission of covid-19.
A: We regularly raise our concerns with Turkey about conditions in Turkish prisons and the risks posed by COVID-19 in Turkey. We continue to urge the authorities to ensure that all detainees are treated in accordance with relevant international human rights standards. Ministers and our Ambassador to Turkey continue to engage the Turkish Government on Covid risks and future work to tackle the disease.