A well attended fringe reception held by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, in association with the Labour Cypriot Society, the Greek Cypriot Brotherhood, AKEL in Britain and EDEK UK, at the Labour Party’s annual conference in Brighton 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 politicians, parliamentarians, London Assembly Members and councillors as well as conference delegates and British Cypriot community representatives.
In welcoming guests, Mr Droussiotis echoed the sentiments expressed by Cyprus President, Nicos Anastasiades, in his speech to British Cypriots on Friday, saying:
“The division of Cyprus remains the biggest challenge for Cyprus and its resolution constitutes the island’s top priority. But a new negotiating framework must make Turkey accountable for its actions and for its proposals in negotiations.”
President Anastasiades will meet with Prime Minister David Cameron in November, whereupon, said Mr Droussiotis, Britain’s responsibilities would be reiterated:
“Britain is in a position to exert influence on Turkey. The return of Famagusta – which lies desolate and empty – to its legitimate inhabitants, would dramatically change the climate on the island and facilitate the success of new negotiations.
Mr Droussiotis went on to call for a more assertive approach from Labour’s own foreign policy team, saying that he looks forward to a more regular, constructive dialogue with the party.
Aristos Damianou, an AKEL member of the Cyprus House of Representatives, welcomed the chance to address the meeting, “at a point in time when the EU appears unable to provide convincing solutions …but the UK has broader experience than Cyprus in dealing with today’s world.”
“The role of the international community – and certainly of the UK – is important. Only by influencing Turkey’s foreign policy towards altering its intransigent stance, can there be hope. Cyprus reaffirms its own determination to negotiate a solution with our Turkish Cypriot counterparts.
“Cyprus has discovered hydrocarbon reserves in its waters. This can be a great catalyst for a solution to the Cyprus problem. If, however, Turkey continues to hinder progress towards a solution and acts aggressively on hydrocarbons, it will effectively exclude the Turkish Cypriot community from sharing in the wealth that these resources bring.”
Shadow Minister for Europe, Emma Reynolds MP, re-stated Labour’s support for Cyprus both in its pursuit for reunification and in its struggle to recover from the recent economic crisis, expressing the view that the British government should have done more to assist the island.
“The Labour Party fully supports a negotiated reunion, and stand by the island in this time of economic difficulties. It is regrettable that the British government took a back seat during negotiations for the bail out; negotiations that were critical to people in Cyprus with money in their banks.
Given the significant Cypriot diaspora in the UK, the historical links between our countries and our strategic relationship, our government should have done more to help Cyprus during negotiations at a very difficult economic juncture.”
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: Labour’s Chief Whip Rosie Winterton MP, Mike Gapes MP, former Minister for Europe and former Shadow Minister for Europe Chris Bryant MP and Wayne David MP respectively, former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott, David Crausby MP, Jim Dobbin MP, Lord Dubs, Barry Gardiner MP, Jimmy Hood MP, Andy Love MP, Steve McCabe MP, Sir Alan Meale MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Jim Sheridan MP, former MP David Lepper, GLA members Dr Onka Sahota and Andrew Dismore, Leader of Merton Council Cllr Stephen Alambritis, Cllr Allison Moore, Leader of the Labour Group on Barnet Council, Harringey Mayor Cllr Sheila Peacock, Councillor Andreas Ioannides, Leader of Islington Council and candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green Cllr Catherine West and candidate for Finchley and Golders Green Sarah Sackman.
Also present were Federation Vice President Bambos Charalambous and Executive Council member 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.