British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, whose country once occupied Cyprus, said he believes a solution is at hand to reunify the island divided since an unlawful Turkish invasion in 1974.
He was responding to a question in the House of Commons during the Queen’s Speech debate on June 1, the Cyprus Mail said.
Conservative MP David Burrowes from North London, which has a big Cypriot community, asked Hammond “what prospect he sees and what priority he holds for the reunification of Cyprus”.
Hammond said that the question was “timely” as he believes “we have not, certainly in my political lifetime, seen the stars as optimistically aligned as they are now for Cyprus.”
“We have a Turkish Cypriot community leader who is committed to a settlement, we have a Greek Cypriot President who is committed to a settlement, we have a government in Athens which is distracted with problems of its own and we have a President in Turkey who is also clearly amenable to the idea of a settlement being produced and we have an excellent UN-appointed intermediary who is making progress with talks that are going on right now,” said Hammond.
“I am hoping to visit Cyprus in the very near future and I have been discussing this issue with my Cypriot counterpart over the last few days. I think we should be optimistic, and of course the UK is fully supportive of the process of finding a lasting resolution to the situation in Cyprus; and by the way the UK has made a very big and I think generous offer that as part of a proper comprehensive settlement we will surrender a significant proportion of the land mass of the Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus to allow economic development of southern Cyprus.”
Hammond had been due to visit Cyprus in March but backed off after reports he might visit then-Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, a hardline nationalist who lost in the elections and was replaced by moderate Mustafa Akinci.
It was that change that led to growing optimism as Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has also reached out for an answer and offered concessions.