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Media Watch 2007

27 April 2007
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 27 April 2007.
Britain and Cyprus announce new era in relations
"British Minister for Europe Geoff Hoon met with Foreign Minister George Lillikas in Nicosia to cement what they deemed a "new era" of "mutual understanding."

"Britain and Cyprus this week announced they have opened a new and improved chapter in bilateral relations.

British Minister for Europe Geoff Hoon met with Foreign Minister George Lillikas in Nicosia to cement what they deemed a "new era" of "mutual understanding".

As part of this "a new stage in our relationship" an annual UK-Cyprus forum will be established giving government ministers, political leaders, opinion formers and academics the opportunity to exchange views on a range of matters of common interest.

The first forum will be held in Cyprus before the end of 2007.

Lillikas said the two sides focused on bilateral relations, as the objective of Hoon's visit was to further improve and develop ties between Britain and Cyprus that have not always been this cordial.
He agreed that the forum would promote a wide range of contacts at every level.

The forum is a culmination of a structured dialogue that was agreed by President Papadopoulos and Tony Blair in July 2005.

''We have made real progress in two years ...but we believe that we can do still more so there will be regular meetings between officials in both the Foreign Office and Foreign Ministry to look at significant new developments and issues of concern, obviously including the Cyprus problem," said Hoon.

Emphasis was placed on how the long-standing relationship was getting "better and stronger" but Hoon conceded rocky periods had to be navigated.

"We have a really good relationship...I've been married for 26 years and sometimes in those 26 years there are good weeks and bad weeks, the important thing is that we stay married."

The British minister said the test of a really good relationship "is when you can say difficult things to each other and have disagreements".

He called Turkey's EU bid a strategic opportunity to resolve long-standing, difficult, sensitive questions," adding that ''the UK is willing to help" embrace such big issues.

On the issue of direct flights with the Turkish occupied areas Hoon made clear that "we have rejected a proposal for direct flights and I turned it down because I did not judge that the legal situation was right and I recognised that it is important that we make progress more generally on the issues in which that is one part."

Hoon said Britain could help facilitate the July 8 agreement process, but "it is for other people to make it happen and the government here has made significant steps forward."

"We want to see a reaction to those steps. I want to see some response to some of the initiatives that have been made. All these diplomatic issues require flexibility, require confidence, require mutual understanding and in the end the UK government can help, the others have to make it happen," Hoon said."