Sammy Wilson: ‘The UK has a moral duty to resolve the Cyprus issue’

The United Kingdom has a long history with many nations around the world. The strength of our relationships and diplomacy is reflected in the unparalleled and powerful Commonwealth of Nations.

The Commonwealth exists due to the moral duty that the UK has. A moral duty to those nations that were once part of the British Empire. To nations and their citizens that were once governed from Westminster and thus the responsibility of the United Kingdom.

The world has moved on from the time of vast empires, but the bonds forged in those times remain. We have a shared history and common bonds that link all members of the Commonwealth together. Our duty to our fellow members of the Commonwealth is unchanged.

It is that duty that should drive much of our foreign policy and that drives me to say that we are failing Cyprus. Cyprus is one of only two other European member of the Commonwealth (Malta is the other) and is home to two British sovereign military bases. It was still governed from Westminster within living memory.

Yet, Cyprus has existed in a state of frozen conflict from nearly the moment it gained its independence. For over 50 years, the island has been divided along ethnic and religious lines.

Southern Cyprus, the Greek majority area is seen as the legitimate authority and is internationally recognised. Northern Cyprus, the Turkish majority area declared independence in 1983 but this is not recognised by any nation aside from Türkiye.

As a member of the Commonwealth, we have a duty to each other. As one of the mother nations of modern-day Cyprus, we have a duty to its citizens. We have a duty to those who were once British citizens and those Cypriots who still are.

We are failing that duty. Cypriots on both sides of the ceasefire line are stuck in limbo. The vicious intercommunal fighting is hopefully now just part of the past, but the scars still remain. We must not forget that the violence started after the legitimate democratic government was overthrown by a military coup from pro-unification Greek terrorists.

The UK has a long history of supporting new states declaring independence on ethnic and religious lines. We supported Kosovo’s independence and that of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is no legitimate reason why we should not be honouring the clear wishes of the Turkish Cypriots to be an independent state. We support a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. What makes the situation in Cyprus different?

It is time for the British government to step forward and lead by example. This frozen conflict is something that can and should be resolved. Our shared history and continued ties to the island means we have a responsibility to Cyprus. If we want the best for Cyprus and its peoples, we should be looking to ensure the best possible outcome for all who live there. Continuing to insist on reunification is not helping anyone and only adds to the problem. Cyprus has changed and cannot be considered one state anymore. We must change with it.

The Commonwealth is a shining example of cooperation and what our post-Brexit future should look for us. However, the reason the UK is so invested in the Commonwealth is not simply because of the opportunities that it offers those involved. We must remember that and it should drive us to be better and do better. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.