Shadow Ministers put their support behind a solution to the Cyprus problem at 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.
Both the Shadow Minister for Europe, Gareth Thomas MP, and the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie MP, addressed the event, stating their party’s commitment to UN-led negotiations to reunite the divided island.
Hosted by Peter Droussiotis, President of the National Federation of UK Cypriots, the reception welcomed many Labour politicians, conference delegates and British Cypriots from Parliament and Assembly Members, councillors and conference delegates. The Cyprus High Commissioner, H.E. Euripides Evriviades, also welcomed guests, having spent the day visiting fringe events with a foreign policy agenda.
Addressing the event, Mr Droussiotis spoke of how British Cypriots will be looking to politicians in this pre-election period, to keep the pressure up on Turkey to help deliver a solution, saying:
“The UK, has moral and treaty obligations to Cyprus, and must do more to exert influence on Turkey. We look to the Labour Party – especially in the few months prior to the general election – to be more assertive in pressing David Cameron and his government to use whatever leverage they have on Turkey, proactively and constructively.”
Mr Droussiotis also pointed to the importance of the return of Famagusta to its legitimate inhabitants and emphasised that this must be a priority of British policy on Cyprus.
Shadow Minister for Europe, Gareth Thomas MP, re-stated Labour’s support for Cyprus in its pursuit for reunification:
“The Labour Party is determined to play our part in assisting a negotiated reunion, to see the efforts to open Famagusta succeed and to discover the fates of the people that went missing in the invasion of 1974. It’s our ambition to have justice delivered for all the people of Cyprus.”
Chris Leslie MP spoke of the “strong warmth and affection within the Labour Party, for the Cypriot community and the important role that it plays in neighbourhoods and communities across the UK.” He said that a solution must be led by Cypriots, for the benefit of Cypriots. Mr Leslie added that he had been engaged in dialogue with the Cypriot community regarding moving Cyprus’s economy towards a strong recovery.
Prospective parliamentary candidates in seats with a significant Cypriot population and/or with Cypriot backgrounds introduced themselves to the fringe event’s attendees, adding their support and commitment to fighting for the cause of a united Cyprus. Cllr Bambos Charalambous (Enfield Southgate), Suzy Stride (Harlow), Sarah Sackman (Finchley and Golders Green) all pledged their support for the Cyprus cause.
Leader of Merton Council Stephen Alambritis also addressed the fringe, thanking Cypriots and others for their help and support in his own efforts in London to support the causes of Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Seb Dance MEP, who was elected to the European Parliament earlier this year, talked of his pride at representing London and its Cypriot community, saying that he and others in the Labour group of MEPs would continue to make Cyprus a priority in the European Union’s insitutions.
In addition to the guests that addressed the event were many Labour stalwarts of the Cyprus cause as well as new faces showing their support for Cyprus and the UK’s Cypriot community. They included: Labour’s Chief Whip Rosie Winterton MP, former Shadow Minister for Europe Wayne David MP, Shadow Minister for Works and Pensions and former Minister for Europe Chris Bryant MP, David Crausby MP, Lord Dubs, Mike Gapes MP, Lord Harris of Harringay, Jimmy Hood MP, Andy Love MP, Fiona Mactaggart MP, Jim Sheridan MP, former MP and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Enfield North Joan Ryan, GLA members Andrew Dismore and Joanne McCartney, Leader of Camden Council Cllr Sarah Hayward, Harringay Councillor Emine Ibrahim, Barnet Cllr Andreas Ioannides and former MP Ivor Caplin.
Also present were HE the Greek Ambassador to the UK, Mr Konstantinos Bikas, the Luxembourg ambassador to the UK, Chairman of the Labour Finance and Industry Group David Offenbach, veteran Daily Mirror journalis and author Paul Routledge, Federation Vice President and AKEL in Britain Secretary Bambos Charalambous, AKEL in Britain organising secretary Charalambos Pitris, veteran Federation Executive Secretary Andreas Karaolis, former President of the Greek Orthodox Communities of Great Britain and solicitor Kypros Nicholas 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.