‘BIASED’ BRIT MPS BLASTED
• UK politicians slammed for ‘one-sided’ stance on Cyprus
• Security intervene after House of Commons event turns ugly
By ELTAN HALİL
A GROUP of British MPs have been branded “biased” over their comments on the Cyprus issue during an event at the House of Commons in London.
Some of the politicians, who are members of the pro-Greek Cypriot All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cyprus, used phrases such as “invasion” and “occupation” when referring to the 1974 Turkish Peace Operation on the island.
Tensions flared at the end of the meeting when some Greek Cypriots allegedly tried to “intimidate” Turkish Cypriot attendees as they tried to speak to the MPs.
The MPs were speaking at a one-hour long event hosted in association with the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, a London-based lobby group run by Greek Cypriots.
The event was titled “Cyprus as a Regional Actor: Prospects, Challenges and Developments”. Guest speakers included Greek Cypriot foreign minister Constantinos Kombos.
It took place on July 18, two days before the 49th anniversary of the first phase of Türkiye’s military intervention on the island, which was launched following a Greek-led coup to establish “Enosis”, or union of Cyprus with Greece, and attacks on the Turkish Cypriot population.
Those who used inflammatory language included APPG for Cyprus chair and Conservative Party MP Sir Roger Gale, who referred to the “occupation” of Cyprus and called for a settlement that would result in the withdrawal of “every last occupying soldier from your land”.
“Without that there can be no settlement, let’s be clear about that,” he added.
He also compared the situation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying that “had we done more as the United Kingdom in 1974, Cyprus might not be where it is now”.
Labour MP Bambos Charalambous, an APPG for Cyprus vice chair, was unable to attend the meeting but said in a message “it is now 49 years since Turkey invaded Cyprus” adding that “it must be made clear to Turkey that talks for partition will never be tolerated”.
Conservative MP Theresa Villiers, who is also an APPG for Cyprus vice chair, sent a message in which she called for the abolition of the Treaty of Guarantee under which Türkiye used its legal rights to intervene in Cyprus in 1974.
“I’ve been clear that third-country guarantees or rights to military intervention have no place in a future settlement,” she said, despite the UK Government foreign policy stance that it is for the sides in Cyprus to agree on the issue of guarantees in any potential settlement.
Fellow Tory MP and another APPG for Cyprus vice chair, Caroline Nokes, who chaired the gathering, told those present in the room: “I know that for many, this is a very difficult time of the year, one with memories of the invasion coming to the forefront.”
Like Ms Villiers, she also called the abolition of the Treaty of Guarantee, stating: “As a 21st century state, a reunited Cyprus does not need guarantees.”
While other parliamentarians who spoke at the event were careful not to refer to Türkiye’s legitimate action in Cyprus as an “invasion” or “occupation”, they all called for a federal solution in Cyprus based on United Nations parameters, dismissing calls from President Ersin Tatar and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a two-state solution to the Cyprus problem.
Lord Ahmad, a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office minister, said the best solution would be a “bizonal bicommunal federation” that he said would create a “brighter, more stable and secure future for Cyprus, and importantly for the region as a whole”.
The language used by some of the speakers and the lack of any debate on alternative solution models for Cyprus angered Turkish Cypriots who were there.
Çetin Ramadan, co-chair of the UK-based Freedom and Fairness for Northern Cyprus, said: “The National Federation of Cypriots (NFC) in the UK and the APPG for Cyprus proved once again that they are vehemently against opposing views, especially by British Turkish Cypriots.
“The NFC purposely abandoned the idea of a question and answer session fearing that the panel, or indeed the Greek Cypriot foreign minister, might struggle to honestly answer our pressing questions.
“Instead we were allowed to approach the parliamentarians directly, only to be intimidated by a few Greek Cypriot individuals who felt it was their duty to protect the parliamentarians from civilised debate and open discussion.
“It was eventually the House of Commons security that had to escort one particular Greek Cypriot from the premises as he posed a real threat to us.
“The distinct lack of Turkish Cypriot participation on the panel and the misleading commentary by all panellists beggared belief.
“The uncompromising attack on Turkey was unforgiveable and without any basis. Through the evening, the two words ‘Turkish Cypriot’ were not mentioned once. This is testimony to the inclusion we always received from this group and indeed the APPG.”
Kenan Yaman, chair of the British Turkish Cypriot Association (BTCA), said: “The event was supposed to be about Cyprus as a regional actor.
“However, it was more about the Greek Cypriots confirming to their friends that their one and only aim is to continue negotiations to find a federal solution based on UN resolutions.
“Every speaker confirmed their support toward this aim. At the end, there was no question and answer session.
“We then approached MPs to ask them questions but this was not acceptable to some ‘NFC’ members and they tried to prevent us.
“One said that we were trying to influence their supporters and that we were there to start trouble. On the contrary, it was they who wished to start trouble.
“They asked why we were there. We told them we had a right to be there as Turkish Cypriots.
“Otherwise, we pointed out that they should have made the event solely for Greek Cypriots.
“There were no voices on the panel who supported the Turkish Cypriot view of the Cyprus issue.
“It was all one-sided. The whole event repeated well known Greek Cypriot propaganda, i.e. that the Cyprus dispute is one of ‘invasion’ and ‘occupation’ by Türkiye and it all started on 20 July, 1974.”
‘HOSTILE, AGGRESSIVE AND THREATENING’
Council of Turkish Cypriots Association and BTCA vice chair Halil İzzet said: “The National Federation of Cypriots claims to represent Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike, however, on the day of the event not one Turkish Cypriot was present as a member of the panel nor invited to contribute to the discussion.
“The event was titled ‘Cyprus as a Regional Actor: Prospects, Challenges, and Developments’, which suggested that this would be a proactive, positive discussion looking at the prospects of Cyprus and its future.
“However, the discussion on the day offered little more than a rhetoric of historical accounts claimed on behalf of the Greek Cypriot administration and centred around the ‘Turkish invasion’ in 1974 and how the removal of Türkiye’s influence in Cyprus could be achieved.
“There was no acknowledgement of the Turkish Cypriot position, interests or, fundamentally, the mass killings of Turkish Cypriots as a result of [Greek Cypriot terrorist group] Eoka’s actions and the political movement of Enosis, which led to the intervention of 1974.
“These omissions led one to question any notion of impartiality or an attempt to offer a balanced discussion.
“The panel concluded without offering the audience a formal opportunity for questions as one would ordinarily expect.
“However, there was an opportunity to speak with panel members, one to one, during the informal networking and mingling that took place at the end of the evening.
“Regrettably, some members of the audience did not welcome the presence of Turkish Cypriots, nor the questions they were entitled to raise at this event in Parliament, which is the legitimate space for democratic discussion and debate.
“Indeed the behaviour of some who opposed the presence of Turkish Cypriots was hostile, aggressive and, on occasion, threatening.
“Inevitably this resulted in the intervention of the members of security and the police, an appalling conclusion to a most disappointing evening.”
Azize Solmaz, chair of the Turkish Cypriot human rights group Embargoed!, said the event contained “constant regurgitation of misinformation and the lack of important facts that provide context for Türkiye’s intervention”.
References to historical events “entirely omitted crucial aspects of history, perpetuating biased views and spreading of misinformation and fake news”.
“Turkish Cypriots who attended the event faced hostility and aggression while trying to engage in networking and conversations like everyone else,” she said, adding that this was an “open demonstration of racism”.
Turkish Cypriot attendees were accused of “sabotage simply for asking questions about inclusivity”, she noted.
“The meeting was supposed to be about Cyprus as a regional actor; however the panel made no attempt to talk around how Cyprus could proactively pave a way for peace between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots and instead made the focus about their intolerance.”
Asked by Cyprus Today to comment on the reports of an incident at the end of the event, a UK Parliament spokesperson said: “At the conclusion of the annual meeting of the APPG for Cyprus and the National Federation of Cypriots, a Member of Parliament was approached, questioned and filmed by two individuals who had not been invited to the event. Permission for filming had not been sought in advance.
“After becoming abusive, the two individuals were asked to leave, and were escorted from the premises by a member of Parliament’s Security Department.”