A Foreign Office letter addressed to the President of The Federation of Cypriot Refugees in the UK Leonidas Leonidou has summarised the British government’s position on a number of issues relating to Cyprus and Turkey.
In his letter just before the 46th tragic anniversary of Turkey’s invasion to Cyprus, addressed to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Leonidou was urging the UK Government to review its relationship with Turkey.
The Foreign Office response letter comments that the events of 1974 “continue to cast a long shadow over Cyprus”.
The UK officials signing the letter state that “the best way to address these issues is through a just and lasting settlement on the island. The UK’s commitment to a deal on Cyprus remains unwavering”.
The UK fully supports all relevant Security Council resolutions, including Resolutions 550 and 789 relating to Varosha, reads the letter.
Regarding Turkey’s illegal actions in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus, the Foreign Official letter notes: “The UK has been clear from the start that we deplore Turkish drilling in the waters around Cyprus. We believe it is critical for stability in the Mediterranean and for the integrity of the rules-based international system that disputes such as this are resolved, not through force, militarisation or coercion, but through dialogue and in accordance with international law.”
On the relations between Greece and Turkey, the UK Government urges de-escalation through bilateral dialogue.
“Further tensions between our two NATO allies and friends is not in anyone’s interests. We also remain committed to supporting Greece and Turkey`s efforts to manage migration effectively, and are working both bilaterally and with our international partners to that end.”
Addressing Leonidou’s point of concern about Ayia Sophia being turned into a mosque, the British officials repeat that “while we note the concern that President Erdoğan’s decision to turn Ayia Sophia into a mosque has caused, in the orthodox world in particular, the Government regards this as a sovereign matter for Turkey.”
They add: “However, we would expect that Ayia Sophia – part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – remains accessible to all, as testament to its global cultural and religious significance and Turkey’s rich and diverse historical and cultural legacy, and that its precious artefacts are preserved. We therefore welcome the public statements by Turkish leaders that this historic building will continue to be accessible to people of all faiths and nationalities, which would be consistent with the Turkish constitution’s provisions for freedom of conscience and religion for all.”
The letter also notes that human rights form an important part of London’s policy towards Turkey and that the UK has long encouraged Turkey to work towards the full protection of fundamental rights, particularly in the area of freedom of expression, CNA reports.
Regarding Turkish military involvement in Libya, raised by Mr Leonidou, the Foreign Office wants that it risks further aggravating the conflict. “We continue to call on sides to de-escalate, support a ceasefire and a return to UN-led political talks. The UK is clear that lasting peace and stability in Libya will come only through an inclusive political settlement.”
As for Turkey’s military activity in northern Iraq, it is stated that the British Ambassador in Ankara has spoken to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including on reports of civilian casualties.
The UK has also made clear its opposition to Turkey’s military intervention in north-east Syria. The letter notes, however, the “enormous generosity” of Turkey in hosting 3.6 million Syrian refugees.