The British Speaker of Parliament Sir Lindsay Hoyle has confirmed that he will be meeting with Turkish Cypriots during his historic trip to Cyprus this week.
It follows an outcry from British Turkish Cypriots ahead of Sir Lindsay’s three-day visit to the divided island that those north of the Green Line were being deliberately excluded by the United Kingdom.
“Our pressure has paid off,” said Eren Ramadan, founder of the popular Young Turkish Cypriots (Y.T.C.) group, on hearing the news from T-VINE.
Y.T.C. was among those in the British diaspora to call on Sir Lindsay to “treat both sides even-handedly” by meeting Parliamentarians from both North and South Cyprus, after his itinerary showed meetings with only Greek Cypriots.
News of Sir Lindsay’s landmark visit first broke in the Greek Cypriot press last week. The trip, which was initially due to take place in 2020 but was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, marks the first official visit by a House of Commons Speaker to Cyprus since the island gained its independence from Britain in 1960.
Sir Lindsay had been invited by Anita Demetriou, the pioneering female president of the Greek Cypriot House of Representatives.
The British Speaker, who arrived in Cyprus on Monday evening, has met with the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, as well as Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, Ms Demetriou, and members of the Greek Cypriot assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
Earlier today, Sir Lindsay addressed the House plenary at a special session. The Commons Speaker was also due to participate in a roundtable discussion with university students about parliaments and democracy, said the announcement from the Greek Cypriot House of Representatives last week.
Sir Lindsay is also scheduled to visit the walled city of Nicosia, the British contingent in UNIFYCP and the British bases at Episkopi and Akrotiri.
The lack of details about any meetings with Turkish Cypriots, including TRNC President Ersin Tatar, grated with the British diaspora, who were quick to take to social media to highlight the exclusion.
Turkish Cypriots ask Sir Lindsay to be “even-handed”
Dear Sir Lindsay Hoyle @CommonsSpeaker,
Will you on your upcoming visit to Cyprus make efforts to meet with elected Turkish Cypriot officials to fulfil UK’s Guarantor position to be even-handed in the treatment of Turkish and Greek Cypriots?
Thank you and safe travels pic.twitter.com/Qunq0qlqWS
— Japha (@JaphaOfficial) February 13, 2022
Singer-songwriter Japha Huse was one of the first to raise the issue, tweeting his message to the British Speaker:
“Dear Sir Lindsay,
“I’m a British Turkish Cypriot and would like to know what plans there are for you to meet elected Turkish Cypriot officials in North Cyprus during your upcoming visit to the island?
“As a Guarantor power, I feel it’s imperative that the UK treats both sides even-handedly and if you are going to meet with Greek Cypriot Parliamentarians, it’s vital a parallel opportunity is made in the North too.
“Failure to do this would leave our Speaker of Parliament, open to accusations of ‘discrimination’. It would also go against the UK’s pledge to end the international isolation of Turkish Cypriots.”
In a written statement to T-VINE, Fahri Zihni, chair of human rights groups Embargoed! said:
“Britain, alongside the European Union and the United Nations, has a well-established policy of supporting the economic development of Northern Cyprus. Also, as a Guarantor Power of Cyprus, it has legal and moral obligations to both communities of Cyprus, Greek and Turkish.
“Lord Justice Burnett, in his judgement of a landmark case in the UK in February 2017 concluded that it is perfectly legal for the British Government and its officials to liaise with their opposite numbers in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), despite the fact that the UK does not recognise TRNC as a state.
“Britain’s role is also central to the negotiations taking place between the two communities to find a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem.
“We would urge Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons to fulfil Britain’s legal, moral and economic obligations by visiting Northern Cyprus, which comprises 320,000 Turkish Cypriots, and 15,000 British expatriates.
“There are no reasons whatsoever as to why this visit cannot, or should not happen. Former such visitors to Northern Cyprus include Foreign Secretaries Dominic Raab and Phillip Hammond, and many other politicians and officials.”
Umbrella body the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations UK (CTCA), also tweeted about the issue:
“The [British flag icon] Parliament Speaker Sir Lindsey [sic] Hoyle is travelling to Cyprus on Monday for 3 day meetings with President N. Anastasiades. Has the UK Parliament Speaker asked to meet with anyone in TRNC to pursue a diplomatic solution to strengthen relationships between Britain & TRNC?”
FCDO Parliament Speaker Sir Lindsey Hoyle is travelling to Cyprus on Monday for 3 day meetings with President N.Anastasiades.
Has the UK Parliament Speaker asked to meet with anyone in TRNC to pursue a diplomatic solution to strengthen relationships between Britain & TRNC? pic.twitter.com/urjcsUK0Mf
— CTCA UK (@CTCAUK) February 11, 2022
The UK does not recognise the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), but as one of three Guarantor Powers in Cyprus, it is legally and politically obliged to treat both sides equally.
However, since a brutal coup by Greek Cypriots in December 1963, when Turkish Cypriots were thrown out of the power-sharing republic and forced to create a separate administration, the UK has chosen to treat Greek Cypriots as the only legitimate authority on the island, referring to them as the “government of Cyprus”, while deliberately down-grading the Turkish Cypriots to that of a “community”.
This long-standing policy has led to ongoing discrimination of Turkish Cypriots and a violation of their basic human rights by the UK.
“The UK’s strong and historic bonds with Turkish Cypriots”
In response to the concerns raised by the Turkish Cypriot diaspora about Sir Lindsay’s visit, a spokesperson for the Speaker’s Office told T-VINE:
“The visit of the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsey Hoyle, to Cyprus, was at the invitation of the Republic of Cyprus’s House of Representatives and arrangements for the visit have been taken forward by the Office of the President of the House, reflecting the longstanding relationship between the two parliaments.”
The spokesperson confirmed that Sir Lindsay would meet with Turkish Cypriots, but no other details were given about which Turkish Cypriots or where the meeting would take place.
“During his visit the Speaker will meet members of the Turkish Cypriot community at an event organised by the British High Commissioner, this reflects the UK’s strong and historic bonds with Turkish Cypriots.”
I’m looking forward to a busy programme in Cyprus this week, hosted by @AnnitaDemetriou, the first woman to be elected President of the House of Representatives. It’s been great to have productive discussions covering parliamentary links and Commonwealth connections. pic.twitter.com/rE2SRxsqZ4
— Sir Lindsay Hoyle (@CommonsSpeaker) February 15, 2022
“Racism has no place in British foreign policy”
The positive sentiment from the Speaker’s Office, however, has done little to dispel the concerns of British Turkish Cypriots given the disproportionately high level of contacts in South Cyprus and the token levels contact with the North.
In a strongly-worded statement, posted on its social media pages on Monday, Y.T.C. said: “Greek Cypriots do not represent Turkish Cypriots – they never have and they never will!”
The full Y.T.C. statement reads:
“It’s great that Sir Lindsay Hoyle is making an official visit to Cyprus – the first by a British Speaker of Parliament. Yet it’s concerning that Turkish Cypriots appear to have been excluded from such an historic visit. No one seems to know if he is going to cross to North Cyprus or meet with any Turkish Cypriots.
“The United Kingdom is a Guarantor Power and it is important those representing the UK treat Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots as equals. Sadly the UK Foreign Office implements a racially biased policy that systematically discriminates against Turkish Cypriots.
“This was most recently evidenced when North Cyprus and Turkish Cypriots were deliberately excluded from the Queen’s Baton Relay in Cyprus in October 2021. The Young Turkish Cypriots were among the hundreds of British Turkish Cypriots to speak out about this type of racism, which has no place in British foreign policy.
“It’s vital Sir Lindsay makes time go meet with Turkish Cypriot representatives to avoid similar accusations of discrimination.
“Greek Cypriots do not represent Turkish Cypriots – they never have and they never will!”
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Y.T.C, which has over 8,000 social media followers, has previously challenged the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and their diplomats in Cyprus over racism and discrimination of Turkish Cypriots.
The group mocked Ben Rawlings, the Deputy British High Commissioner in Cyprus, after he was photographed in October with Greek Cypriot athletes touring the Queen’s Baton Relay across the southern areas of Cyprus as part of the promotion of the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July 2022, where Turkish Cypriot athletes are currently banned from participating.
To highlight the deliberate exclusion of Turkish Cypriots and their homeland, Y.T.C. took Mr Rawlings on a “virtual” tour of the major sights of North Cyprus.
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