The Cyprus Conflict
The Main Narrative, continued

A view over the "green line" from the Turkish Cypriot side of Nicosia.  
Photo: © Nike Zachmanoglou, 1999


On 30 November 1963, President Makarios wrote to Vice- President Küçük proposing thirteen amendments to the constitution which, he said, would 'remove obstacles to the smooth functioning and development of the state'. He did so apparently with the knowledge and encouragement of the British High Commissioner, Sir Arthur Clarke, whether personally or officially is not clear: the full story of this remains obscure. The approach certainly had the qualities of comprehensiveness and candour.

Taken together, the amendments would have had the effect of resolving all outstanding issues in the Greek favour. The President and Vice-President would lose the right of veto; the necessity for separate majorities of Greek and Turkish members for the passage of certain laws, including taxes, would go, so would separate municipalities; the ratio in the public services and in the army and police would be the same as the ratio of population; the Public Service Commission would be smaller and take decisions by a simple majority; the separate Greek Communal Chamber would be abolished (though the Turks could keep theirs); and the administration of justice would be unified so that a Greek could not demand to be tried by a Greek judge and a Turk by a Turkish judge. It must be said in favour of these proposals that they streamlined the administration and removed many of the features that laid stress on whether a Cypriot citizen was Greek or Turkish. But from the Turkish Cypriot point of view they removed almost all the props to their claim to be the 'co-founders' of the Republic and demoted them to the status of a minority. In the view of the Greek Cypriot constitutional lawyer, Polyvios Polyviou, who is a sharp critic of the 1960 constitution, the course followed by the Archbishop was 'a grievous error' which 'could not but have appeared to the Turkish Cypriots as a dangerous development that might change the internal balance of power and be taken internationally as a sign that the bicommunal nature of the State was giving way to unitary and majority principles' . In Polyviou's opinion it would have been much better to have tried to change things gradually; a view shared at the time by the Greek Government which, not having been warned in advance, told Makarios that if he had asked their advice it would have been against. The Archbishop's proposals were hastily rejected not by the Vice-President, though he did so at length later, but by the Government of Turkey. C

The atmosphere after the presentation of the thirteen proposals was very tense, with the Turkish Cypriots interpreting the move as a preparation to slide into enosis. On 21 December 1963 a street brawl in a Turkish quarter in Nicosia between a Turkish Cypriot crowd and Yorgadjis' plainclothes special constables was followed immediately by a major Greek Cypriot attack by the various para-military forces against the Turks in Nicosia and in Larnaca. At first an attempt to calm the situation was made jointly by the President and the Vice-President and by other leaders but it had clearly got out of hand and in any case the ex-EOKA element was strong in the security forces. Although the TMT organized the defence of the Turkish minority and there were a number of acts of retaliation directed at the Greek Cypriots, there is no doubt that the main victims of the numerous incidents that took place during the next few months were Turks. 700 Turkish Cypriot hostages, including women and children, were seized in the northern suburbs of Nicosia. The mixed suburb of Omorphita suffered the most from an independent gang of Greek Cypriot irregulars led by Nicos Sampson who, claiming to be rescuing a Greek section surrounded by Turks, in fact made a full-dress assault on the Turkish Cypriot population. During the first half of 1964, fighting continued to flare up between neighbouring villages. 191 Turkish Cypriots and 133 Greeks were known to have been killed while it was claimed 209 Turks and 41 Greeks remained missing and could also be presumed dead. There was much looting and destruction of Turkish villages. Some 20,000 refugees fled from them, many of them taking refuge in Kyrenia and Nicosia. Food and medical supplies had to be shipped in from Turkey. 24 wholly Turkish villages and Turkish houses in 72 mixed villages were abandoned. Later Turkish Cypriots returned to 5 of their own villages and 19 of the mixed villages. Most of the moves seem to have been spontaneous and hasty, following a local incident of violence, the people leaving clothing, furniture, and food behind. But in some cases orders were received for the people to go, and once villagers had moved, the Turkish paramilitaries, now much expanded in numbers and known simply as 'the Fighters', exercised substantial coercion to prevent returning in most cases to government-controlled areas. The necessary territorial basis for partition was being found.  C

In Nicosia the guarantors began to move over the Christmas week. The 650-man Turkish army contingent in Cyprus under the terms of the Treaty of Alliance moved out of its barracks and positioned itself astride the Nicosia-Kyrenia road. Turkish jets from the mainland buzzed Nicosia. The Turkish fleet set sail for Cyprus. President Makarios, by now alarmed that a Turkish army might indeed land, agreed that the British should intervene from the Sovereign Bases in order to avoid worse. This produced a cease-fire in Nicosia, an exchange of hostages, and the establishment of the 'Green Line', a neutral zone between the Greek and Turkish quarters in the capital which has existed till the present day. The Turkish Cypriots expelled from their side of that line the entire Armenian community of Nicosia on the ground that it had aligned itself with the Greek position.

What the guarantors did not do was to carry out the one purpose for which they existed-- the restoration of the 1960 constitution. The establishment of the Green Line brought peace to Nicosia though not yet to other places, but it did not bring the fractured Government together. The Greek and Turkish Cypriot ministers remained on opposite sides of the line. According to the Turkish Cypriot thesis there was, from this time on, no legal government in Cyprus---solely provisional bodies on both sides pending the establishment of a new legal order, the old one having been overthrown by force. According to the Greek Cypriot thesis there continued to be a legitimate and democratically elected Government representing the great majority of the people which had, as many ex-colonial countries were doing, asserted its right to gain control of its institutions---and had done so at a time, moreover, when the Vice-President and minority ministers had wilfully continued to absent themselves. C

At a conference in London of the three guarantor states and the two Cypriot communities, Makarios demanded the termination of the 1960 agreements as unworkable and their replacement by 'unfettered independence'---a unitary government with freedom to amend the constitution. He offered the Turkish Cypriots minority rights, which as usual they rejected out of hand. The Turks said that the December fighting proved that the two communities should be physically separated. Consequently they demanded a fully Federal State of Cyprus with a border between Turkish and Greek provinces known as the Attila line, which is not unlike the present cease-fire line, or, failing that, 'double enosis' which would bring a frontier across Cyprus between Greece and Turkey themselves---both solutions that would imply a population transfer. The London conference broke down with no chance of agreement.

While the cease-fire held in Nicosia, the British were unable to prevent the Greek Cypriots from attacking the Turkish Cypriots at Limassol, causing widespread casualties and damage. Turkey announced for the second time that her fleet was sailing for Cyprus, and the British, desperately anxious not to get bogged down in another Cyprus conflict, insisted on the peace-keeping burden being shared. Aiming above all at preventing a clash between two NATO partners---but wanting to keep the dispute within the NATO family---the United States tried to organize a NATO intervention but Makarios would not consider it. It was necessary after all to bring in the United Nations. By the Security Council resolution of 4 March 1964, UNFICYP (UN Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus) and a UN mediator were set up and despite a further severe Turkish warning the danger passed. Makarios interpreted the UN resolution as recognizing the 'unfettered independence' which he sought and appointed Greek Cypriot ministers to take over the Turkish portfolios.

The UN force which was set up and remains till the present day* was originally of over 6000 men of over 6000 men and is now [1984] about 2300. It has always had a substantial British contingent often over 1000, but now down to 750, making it unusual among UN forces which normally exclude contingents from the permanent members of the Security Council. It is otherwise supplied by Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Ireland and Canada. It has achieved a good deal but not what was expected of it by either side since, as is usual with peace- keeping operations, it does not use force except in self-defence. As Dr Richard Patrick, who served in UNFICYP, put it: "It could not kill Cypriots to prevent them from killing each other. The force's main deterrent was its presence. Its observers ensured that the communities' version of events could now be verified and internal support for their causes could be lost or gained by these observers' reports." By use of persuasion they were able to prevent many killings that would almost certainly have happened, but they could not be everywhere and they could not stop a determined attack. In the first few months the UN had the greatest difficulty in getting a purchase on events because there were repeated outbreaks of fighting in different parts of the island.

Since there was no Cypriot Army, President Makarios now formed a National Guard, introducing conscription and ignoring the veto of Vice-President Küçük Supplies of arms came in from Czechoslovakia and a Greek general from the mainland took command. In April Makarios paid a long visit to Athens during which George Papandreou, the Prime Minister of Greece, committed himself to the campaign for Cyprus's self-determination. He declared publicly that the UN resolution made the 1960 agreement invalid. According to Andreas Papandreou [from his memoir, Democracy at Gunpoint], who was then a Minister in his father's government:

A clandestine operation then began on a huge scale of nightly shipments of arms and troops, of "volunteers" who arrived in Cyprus in civilian clothes and then joined their "Cypriot" units. The process was not completed until the middle of summer. No less than 20,000 officers and men, fully equipped, were shipped to Cyprus.

Greece undertook to defend Cyprus militarily in case of Turkish attack. 'A war', George Papandreou remarked, 'between Greece and Turkey would be madness but if Turkey decides to enter the insane asylum we shall not hesitate to follow her.' At the same time he laid down to Makarios the doctrine of the 'National Centre'. If Greece's policy was to be committed to Cyprus she must not take initiatives without consulting Greece.

In June there was another alarm. It was learnt that a decision had been made in Ankara to establish a Turkish bridgehead in Cyprus and bring about the complete separation of the two communities. The Americans intervened swiftly and effectively. Lyndon Johnson promptly sent what Under-Secretary George Ball described as 'the most brutal diplomatic note I have ever seen' to Ismet Inönu, the Turkish Prime Minister, which had the effect of stopping the expedition in its tracks. Papandreou and his son Andreas were in turn told of America's inability to go on protecting Greece from Turkey's military action. The object was to get both to accept American mediation between them so as to find another solution that could be imposed on Cyprus.

Meanwhile, despairing of the disorder and anarchy prevailing on the island because of the large number of weapons in the hands of undisciplined gangs, the Greek Government sent Grivas back to Cyprus. He went there to command the mainland Greek troops but it was not long before he also took over the National Guard. Grivas did very rapidly restore discipline but, noting that possession of the beach-head at Kokkina was enabling the Turks to bring in arms and men from Turkey, in August he launched, in defiance of the UN who were seeking to negotiate a local cease-fire, a major attack to eliminate this sore spot. Turkey attacked Greek positions from the air with rockets, bombs and napalm. Makarios threatened that unless these air attacks were called off within two hours he would order an attack on every Turkish Cypriot on the island. He also appealed for help both to the Greek Government and to the Soviet Union. 'We did not [send planes]' Andreas Papandreou later wrote, 'not because we did not wish to but because it was technically impossible.' Khrushchev sent word to the Archbishop that a cease-fire would be 'an important contribution'. C   Grivas was obliged to abandon the attempt to eliminate the Turkish beach-head and a UN cease-fire was accepted by Cyprus and Turkey. There followed a period of comparative calm. The clash at Kokkina had drawn sharp attention to the realities of Cyprus's geographical situation--vulnerable to Turkish strikes, beyond the range of Greek planes. Diplomatically, too, there was soon bad news for Makarios: the Soviet Union and Turkey were mending diplomatic fences with a series of top-level visits during 1965. As early as January the Soviet delegation spoke, to the evident discomfiture of Moscow's Cypriot supporters in AKEL, of there being 'two communities' with sovereignty and legal rights on the island. Shipments of Soviet arms to Cyprus continued until May 1965 but then apparently stopped.

The crisis of 1967

In 1964/5 two major attempts to settle Cyprus by outside mediation failed:

(1) The Acheson plan

In the margins of the UN mediation in Geneva, Dean Acheson, the former Secretary of State, attempted to settle the problem by a political deal between Greece and Turkey. This would give Cyprus the choice of independence or union with Greece, in exchange for a sovereign Turkish base on the eastern panhandle of the Karpas peninsula and the cession to Turkey of the Greek island of Kastellorizon, which is just off the coast of Turkey. The Turkish Cypriots would have two or three areas in which they would have local self-administration and a resident international commissioner would look into complaints of discrimination. The plan was initially accepted in principle by both Greece and Turkey, but finally rejected by George Papandreou as 'partition masquerading in the rhetoric of enosis' because of the total opposition of Makarios. The Turks then rejected a revised version which sought to meet Greece's willingness to see a base leased to Turkey in Cyprus but not ceded.

(2) The UN mediator's report (26 March 1965)

This was the work of Galo Plaza, the former President of Ecuador. Superb in its analysis of the problem, it was instantly rejected by the Turks as being grossly partisan in its conclusions. It considered the 1960 solution as 'a constitutional oddity' which could not in practice be maintained against the will of the majority. The mediator saw enosis as the decisive problem but he did not detect unqualified support for it among Greek Cypriots as a whole. Cyprus after all had a higher standard of living and a higher wage level than Greece. As an act of 'enlightened statesmanship', preferably to be confirmed by popular referendum, Cyprus should voluntarily undertake not to give up her independence. She should also be demilitarized. The UN mediator rejected the Turkish case for federation because this would involve 'a compulsory movement of the people concerned contrary to all the enlightened principles of the present time'. He recommended a unitary constitutional system that embodied generous provision for minority rights, some of them of a transitional nature until Turks would have been more integrated into the Cypriot community. There should be a general amnesty, incorporation of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights into the constitution and, for as long as necessary, a resident UN commissioner and staff to see that fair play was being observed.

The reaction of the Turks was that they would have no further dealings with Galo Plaza; as with Count Foike Bernadotte in the early days of the Arab-Israeli dispute he had no sooner spoken than the idea of UN mediation was dead. Later UN contributions towards peace in Cyprus have had to be couched in much more tentative and circuitous language.

The majority of the Turkish Cypriot community had by now concentrated into enclaves in various parts of the country. They were organized into groups of villages, sub-regions where full-time Fighter units were stationed and where Turkish army officers were posted, and seven regions, mostly based on the Turkish quarters in the towns, where civil government was controlled by District Officers and the Fighters were commanded by Turkish army colonels. In Turkish Nicosia the top civilian authority was the General Committee, headed by Vice-President Küçük, which subsequently became the Provisional Government, and military command was exercised by a Turkish general, Kemal Cokun, who went under the nom de guerre of Bozkurt (Grey Wolf). All told there were about 5000 Fighters. There was therefore in miniature the apparatus of a 'state within a state'. It was, however, fragmented and did not enjoy any of the services of the Cyprus Government since it excluded its officers.

The Cyprus Government also imposed an economic blockade against the enclaves, which was at first total but which was soon modified under UN and Red Cross pressures to let in quotas of food. Later, passage of specific 'strategic materials' was prohibited; this was a large and growing list which severely affected economic activity. There was some passage and commerce between Greek and Turkish areas but this was subject to much delay, tedious searches, and--sometimes--instances of kidnapping and hostage taking mainly by the Greeks but also sometimes, when opportunities for retaliation were seen, by the Turks. This was, perhaps, inevitable when the two communities were on a permanent war footing though even now this atmosphere did not prevail everywhere. In parts of the country Dr Patrick speaks of local understandings' which 'often represented a compromise by local officials of both Cypriot communities between instructions from distant superiors and a desire to live and let live.' In the Paphos district for example an imaginative UN commander was able to turn a series of vendettas between Greek and Turkish villages into a system of local cooperation. The trouble was that the Turkish Cypriot leaders who were themselves confined to the Nicosia enclave where they were protected by the Turkish army contingent could not allow their people to conform too much to the UN's conception of normality because that conception included the recognition of the existing (Greek) Cypriot Government. Determined not to become a minority in Greece (which would be the consequence of enosis) they believed that once the Greek Cypriots really overplayed their hands their woebegone situation was totally reversible once the aid of the Turkish army could be enlisted. The Greek and Greek Cypriot forces now amounted to some 30,000. There was continual work being done on coastal defences and by both sides on fortifications. The UN were continually engaged in negotiations to secure Turkish Cypriot 'freedom of movement' without needless molestation, and in mixed rural areas mediating complicated arrangements about police patrols.

On 21 April 1967 democracy was overthrown in Greece, bringing to power a group of colonels, some of whom--such as Colonel George Papadopoulos--had had experience of serving in Cyprus. They declared that the Cyprus dispute had gone on long enough and should be wound up. On 2 July they issued a statement calling for the resignation of those leaders in Cyprus who 'on the eve of decisive developments', set 'groundless conditions and subversive, prerequisites'. In September the Greek and Turkish leaders had what was intended to be a dramatic meeting on the Greco-Turkish border, at which Papadopoulos made the Turks a secret offer in return for their permitting enosis which he thought that they could not refuse. It was probably very much on the lines of the Acheson plan. To Papadopoulos's surprise the offer was turned down; the bold move did not come off.

Relations with Makarios who did not fancy either union with a dictatorship or the junta's solution for Cyprus became increasingly strained. The President began cutting the budget of the National Guard, building up his own para-military force, and becoming more amenable to UN suggestions for easing tension. Road blocks, for instance, were removed from outside the Turkish quarters of Paphos and Limasol, and they were allowed to buy 'strategic materials'. General Grivas, meanwhile, was getting out of hand. The number of shooting incidents, which had fallen off since August 1964, began to increase alarmingly. There were also terrorist attacks on AKEL and its affiliated movement, the Pan-Cyprian Federation of Labour.

On 15 November, arising out of a long drawn out but minor dispute about police patrols, Grivas--arguing that he must deny the Turkish Cypriots access to the coastline--attacked them at Kophinou. Fighting was heavy. Turkey instantly sent an ultimatum to the junta in Athens, demanding that Grivas be recalled immediately, that all Greek troops in excess of those permitted by the Treaty of Alliance be withdrawn, that Greek Cypriots be disarmed and that all economic restrictions on the Turkish Cypriot community be removed. The Turkish air force made sorties over Greek Thrace and troops were concentrated on the Greco-Turkish border. The junta withdrew Grivas at once and after an intense period of American shuttle diplomacy by Lyndon Johnson's envoy Cyrus Vance (the future Secretary of State) an agreement between Greece and Turkey was reached. Besides the withdrawal of excess Greek and Turkish troops within 45 days the National Guard was to be dissolved and the size and powers of the UN force was to be increased. These terms were partially implemented. Some 12,000 Greek troops were shipped back to Greece, and, in March 1968, the last economic restrictions were withdrawn from the Turkish enclaves, a gesture which was not reciprocated by the Turkish Cypriots who continued to maintain their road blocks in order to bar Greek Cypriots from their enclaves. But in a decision which he lived to regret, Makarios did not dissolve the National Guard with its officers from Greece and its intense anti-communist indoctrination, and he blocked any increase in the UN force.

The events of 1967 had a profound effect on Archbishop Makarios's sense of direction. Although he may perhaps have favoured independence in 1959-1961, he had certainly later swung back towards his original aim of union with Greece. But the failure of Greece, especially under a military government to stand up to the Turks altered his outlook. He publicly acknowledged this on 12 January 1968. 'A solution by necessity', he said, 'must be sought within the limits of what is feasible which does not always coincide with the limits of what is desirable.' He then called a presidential election to endorse his position, whereupon the bishops of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus expressed the view that if he were to be forced to give up enosis he should not continue as President. He ran nevertheless receiving 95.4% of the vote, with an intransigent enosist getting 3.7%.



Return to beginning of main narrative