Incumbent Members of Parliament today pledged their support for efforts to engage new MPs in campaigning for justice for Cyprus, at a working lunch in Parliament organised by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK.
Alan Meale MP and Roger Gale MP sponsored the event, which was hosted by Peter Droussiotis, President of the Federation and attended by the Minister of Labour and Social Insurance of the Republic of Cyprus, Mrs Sotiroulla Charalambous, the three Vice Presidents and the Executive Secretary of the Federation and numerous MPs.
Mr Droussiotis updated MPs on the latest developments in the current bi-communal negotiations in Cyprus, thanked parliamentarians present for their consistent support and emphasised the importance of recruiting new MPs to the cause of Cyprus after the election expected in the spring of this year. Mr Droussiotis said:
“The UK Cypriot community and the cause of Cyprus have enjoyed the long-standing support of a core group of MPs, some of whom are retiring at the general election. The new Parliament will contain Members who will have little or no knowledge of the Cyprus problem and certainly no first-hand experience of the events of 1974 which led to the island’s current division. Many of them would not have been born when Cyprus was invaded. In partnership with our friends and allies in Parliament, we will maximise our efforts to enlist the support of the new generation of politicians expected to enter the House of Commons at the next general election to our cause.”
Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, a veteran supporter of the Cypriot cause in the British Parliament, was the first parliamentary guest to address the lunch and underlined the unique position of Cyprus as the UK’s partner both as a member of the Commonwealth and the European Union, stating that, in those circumstances Cyprus remains “a running sore that has to be cured” within the context of UK foreign policy responsibilities.
Roger Gale MP, co-sponsor of the event, pledged the support of all Parliamentary friends of Cyprus to efforts to use the forthcoming general election campaign to “educate new candidates many of whom will represent Cyprus’s future supporters in Parliament”.
Andy Love MP, urged members of the UK Cypriot community to campaign for justice for Cyprus on their doorsteps, remarking:
“When someone knocks on your door asking for your vote, it makes all the difference if you can tell that candidate exactly what you want. And what you should tell them is what you expect your MP to do to help Cyprus”.
Nigel Waterson MP focused upon the need for the Cypriot community to target new MPs after the election, and to impress upon them their responsibility as MPs to acquire insights into a “huge and largely forgotten sweep of history”.
Joan Ryan MP emphasised how important it will be for the Cypriot community to use the months after the election, as well as before, in articulating the case for Cyprus, saying:
“The weeks after the election will be when new MPs choose the foreign policy issues upon which they will focus their efforts. We need to grab their support right then. Our Cypriot constituents are British citizens and have every right to ask for representation via their MPs.”
Theresa Villiers MP urged Cypriots to contextualise the Cyprus problem to campaigning candidates, saying:
“Ask the people who want your votes exactly how they would feel if a third of their country – or constituency – had been invaded and occupied by a foreign power.”
David Burrowes MP highlighted the need for all politicians with an interest in Cyprus to focus on the essence of the problem and the need for a just settlement that serves the interests of Cypriots.
Alan Meale MP urged all British Cypriots to “take the Cyprus problem to your candidates, on the doorsteps”, adding “ you need to create the agenda on Cyprus and take it to those who seek your vote.”
Cyprus Minister Charalambous echoed the sentiments expressed by British parliamentarians and thanked them for their support pointing out that she was heartened to hear so many MPs speak out for the Cypriot cause in the House of Commons. She also stressed that it was President Christofias’s political mission to strive for a just and lasting settlement to the Cyprus problem. She said:
“President Christofias speaks the language of truth and, in doing so, has reconciled the Cypriot people to the fact that we will have to make a painful compromise. But our flexible approach has to be matched by the other side in negotiations so that we can reach a viable solution for the benefit of all Cypriots.”
In bringing the lunch to a close, Mr Droussiotis expressed the Federation’s and the UK Cypriot community’s heart-felt thanks for the work of retiring MPs who had given their support to Cyprus over many years:
“Since the invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish army in 1974, we are privileged to have enjoyed the support of many eminent politicians in Britain, including many cabinet members, Ministers, shadow Ministers and hardworking backbenchers. We intend to honour those of our parliamentary friends who are standing down at an event after the general election but, in the meantime, we send them our very best wishes for the future. Their contribution to the cause of Cyprus will never be forgotten.”