A well attended fringe reception held by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK at the Labour Party’s annual conference in Manchester on Monday evening heard from Shadow Minister for Europe, Emma Reynolds MP, as she reiterated her party’s commitment to delivering justice in Cyprus and the island’s reunification.
Hosted by Peter Droussiotis, President of the National Federation of UK Cypriots, the reception welcomed many Labour MPs, MEPs, peers, Greater London Assembly Members, councillors and conference delegates.
Mr Droussiotis welcomed guests, and asked them to join him in a celebration of Cyprus’s Independence Day but, at the same time, expressed regret at the fact that, 38 years after it was invaded by Turkey, the island remains divided.
He emphasised that the island’s continuing division is entirely due to Turkey’s intransigence and her unwillingness to allow the island’s indigenous people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, to determine their own future.
He called on the British Government to use whatever leverage it has on Turkey in relation to Cyprus, citing the UK’s treaty obligations, its partnership with Cyprus in the EU and the Commonwealth, its permanent membership of the UN Security Council and its deep strategic ties with Turkey.
Mr Droussiotis bemoaned the fact that the British Government did not seem to be doing enough in this direction and that Cyprus did not seem to be high on Prime Minister David Cameron’s foreign policy priorities. He then said:
“The large and successful community of British Cypriots that I was elected to represent and I would like the Labour Party foreign policy team to give greater focus to Cyprus. We want to have a more regular, more engaged and more meaningful dialogue with the Labour Party at all levels and to work together to help Cyprus reunite. This would serve Britain’s vital interests too and would be a major achievement for all of us.”
Emma Reynolds MP, Shadow Minister for Europe, echoed Mr Droussiotis’s sentiments on the anniversary of Cyprus’s independence, adding that the prospect of celebrating that milestone in a united Cyprus next year was a motivating prospect. She added:
“Our two countries share a historical relationship, a strong relationship. It is regrettable that our Prime Minister seems to have other priorities and has not yet met with President Christofias in Downing Street.
“In opposition, as in government, the Labour Party remains committed to a united Cyprus, a negotiated settlement by Cypriots for Cypriots, under the auspices of the UN, bringing the two communities together. The Memorandum of Understanding, signed by [then] Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Christofias, was incredibly important and we stand by that memorandum.”
Ms Reynolds praised the government of the Republic of Cyprus for its stewardship during its current Presidency of the Council of the EU. She said:
“I’d like to pay tribute to Cyprus’s presidency of the EU. Cyprus assumed the Presidency of the EU at an incredibly difficult time, with the crisis in the Eurozone. And we face a critical December summit, where critical issues will be discussed, crucial to the future of the EU.”
Among the many guests at the reception were Labour stalwarts of the Cyprus cause as well as new faces showing their support for Cyprus and the UK Cypriot community. They included Ian Lavery MP, Mike Gapes MP, Derek Vaughan MEP, former Minister for Europe and former Shadow Minister for Europe Chris Bryant MP and Wayne David MP respectively, Lord Pendry, David Crausby MP, Jim Sheridan MP, Opposition Chief Whip Rosie Winterton MP, Barry Gardiner MP, Andy Love MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Lord Harris of Harringey, Jeremy Corbyn MP, GLA member Dr Onka Sahota, Leader of Merton Council Cllr Stephen Alambritis, Cllr Angeliki Stogia, Cllr Allison Moore, Cllr Bambos Charalambous, Cllr Sheila Peacock, Cllr Gideon Bull, Cllr Andreas Ioannidis, Kypros Nicolas (former Chair of the Greek Orthodox Communities in the UK). Also present were the Deputy Cyprus High Commissioner, Yiorgos Christofides, Federation Executive members Bambos Charalambos and Neophytos Nicolaou, Federation Executive Secretary Andreas Karaolis and numerous other valued members of the Cypriot community.
The event was organised by the Labour Cypriot Society, the Greek Cypriot Brotherhood, AKEL in Britain and EDEK UK and held under the auspices of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK.
Earlier, Peter Droussiotis met with Labour’s General Secretary, Iain McNicol, to discuss prospects for greater engagement between Labour and the Cypriot community in the UK. Mr Droussiotis said of the meeting:
“I was delighted to have the opportunity to talk to Iain about the importance that our community attaches to a regular dialogue with the Labour Party at all levels and explored ways in which to enhance such dialogue in the future. The General Secretary showed great interest in the community and our work through the Federation and other community organisations.”