THE CYPRUS PROBLEM (*)
The search for a settlement of the Cyprus problem through inter-communal talks has been in progress since June, 1968. The success of the intercommunal talks must necessarily depend on identity of views on the diagnosis of the Cyprus problem.
The search for a settlement of the Cyprus problem through inter-communal talks has been in progress since June, 1968. United Nations Secretary-General, U Thant’s view of the talks in his last report (Document S/10005 of December 2, 1970) is not very encouraging; the Greek Cypriot press has virtually established its position against the talks, calling for recourse to the U.N. General Assembly; the Turkish Cypriot press is equally despondent, and suggests from time to time that the guarantor powers (Turkey, Greece and Great Britain) and the two communities should tackle the problem; the countries which pay for the U.N. peace-keeping operation in Cyprus, or contribute men to the Peace Force, are showing increased impatience at the slow progress of the intercommunal talks. Yet the quest for peace continues; the two sides have not thrown in their hands, and in all Cypriot hearts, Turkish and Greek alike, the hope for “a just and permanent solution” beams on and off, like a search-light in the middle of a turbulent sea.
The success of the intercommunal talks must necessarily depend on identity of views on the diagnosis of the Cyprus problem. At present it is difficult to maintain that such identity has been reached.
The Independent Republic of Cyprus was not the desired aim of the Greek Cypriot leadership’s 1955-58 EOKA struggle. Because of Turkish Cypriot resistance to the desired Greek Cypriot aim of ENOSIS (union of Cyprus with Greece), and the consequent intercommunal strife which brought Turkey and Greece to the verge of war, the setting up of an independent republic became, for the Greek Cypriot leadership, the only way of attaining a feasible solution without abandoning the desired aim of ENOSIS. The Turkish Cypriot leadership was thus handicapped from the very beginning. All acts and declarations by the Greek Cypriot leaders during the 1960-63 period were tested in the light of the knowledge that the Greek Cypriot leadership would destroy the feasible solution of independence which was reached for the sake of their desired solution – ENOSIS. This was the background to the 1963 events. It was difficult for a political partnership to function where one of the partners continued to aim for a political end (ENOSIS) completely alien to the spirit of the partnership.
The events which were to erupt in December, 1963, thus had a philosophy behind them, and they were neither accidental nor inevitable. They were carefully planned, and formed the last link in a chain of calculated events designed to remove all those aspects of the agreements which forbade any move in the direction of ENOSIS. A Greek Cypriot document, now known as “The Akritas Plan” has since been published in the Greek press giving full details of the Greek Cypriot motivation as regards the 1963 events (1).
It can thus be seen that the independence of Cyprus which was found to be the “just and permanent solution” to her problem was to be used for the same end (ENOSIS) which it purported to have prohibited as a sine qua non of peaceful cooperation between the two communities. The Turkish Cypriot fear that this intention still underlies all Greek Cypriot actions and proposals in the intercommunal talks continues to be the greatest stumbling block. Unfortunately neither the Greek Cypriot press nor the statements made by the Greek Cypriot leaders help to alleviate these fears (2).
But fears have to be cast off and suspicions curbed if a peaceful solution is to be found. Much depends on the attitude of the Greek Cypriot side. Passing off the Greek National Anthem as «the National Anthem of Cyprus» each time a foreign diplomat presents his credentials to Archbishop Makarios, playing this anthem as the closing-down tune on Cyprus television each night, having the word «ENOSIS» boldly printed in blue and white on all camps of the Greek Cypriot Army, the removal of the Turkish language from all road signs, and refusal to solve the problems of 20,000 Turkish Cypriot displaced persons are but a few of the overt Greek Cypriot acts which daily exasperate the Turkish Cypriots. It is with this background that the search for peace continues.
What does the Turkish Cypriot side hope or wish to achieve in the intercommunal talks?
The answer to this question is simple. Turkish Cypriots want to retain the community’s political and juridical status as laid down in the 1960 agreements – a status of partnership with vested and undeniable rights in the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus. “The independence and sovereignty of Cyprus was won by our exertions and because of our resistance to Greek demands to colonize the island by uniting it with Greece. But for our resistance to ENOSIS during the 1955-58 period there would have been no Independent Republic of Cyprus”, say the Turkish Cypriots. It is because of this deeply embedded belief that the Turkish Cypriot side is averse to any move to treat the Turkish Community as a minority on the island- a move which forms the axis of all Greek Cypriot offers, and is hammered in daily by the Greek Cypriot press.
From the Greek Cypriot point of view, the problem can be resolved “once the majority rule principle” is accepted. To them majority rule also includes “the right of the Greek Cypriots to decide the fate of Cyprus”, in other words, to decide on the union of Cyprus with Greece.! According to them, the fault of the 1960 agreements lies in the fact that ENOSIS is ruled out., and the independence and sovereignty of Cyprus are fully guaranteed.
The Turkish Cypriots’ partnership status and the community’s recognized rights and interests in the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the island give juridical backing to these guarantees. That is why the Greek Cypriot side feels inclined to continue the present situation rather than endorse the rights of the Turkish community which, they know, will continue to bar the way to ENOSIS.
The intercommunal talks began in June, 1968, in the wake – and probably as a result – of the 1967 November crisis. Two Turkish villages, Boğazköy and Geçitkale, had been attacked by combined Greek and Greek Cypriot forces as part of the pattern of overall Greek tactics to eliminate all Turkish Cypriot points of resistance one by one, Turkey’s
reaction was quick; a Greco-Turkish war became imminent. At this stage Greece agreed to withdraw from Cyprus its occupation forces – numbering some 12,000 men – together with General Grivas, their commanding officer who was then at loggerheads with Archbishop Makarios. The Greek Cypriot administration, on the other hand, promised full compensation to the Turkish villagers – a promise which has only partly been fulfilled to this day!
In other words, the armed struggle of December, 1963 – November, 1967 yielded no results. The 1960 Agreements, which the Greek Cypriot side thought would be thrown into the wastepaper basket, were still recognized as valid agreements throughout the world. Turkish Cypriot resistance was still continuing; no military victory had been achieved, and the de facto Greek Army presence in Cyprus had now been withdrawn. It was obvious, therefore, that to solve the Cyprus problem by armed force was an impossibility as long as the Turkish Cypriots resisted ENOSIS and Turkey backed them up in this resistance.
At the initial stages of the talks, it was necessary to eliminate subjects whose discussion would lead the negotiations nowhere. ENOSIS, partition, and any solution based on geographical separation were included in this category. What remained to be discussed was independence and the means of cooperation between the two ethnic communities in running a joint enterprise. As there was neither victor nor vanquished, mutual concessions appeared to be the key to success.
Now, almost three years after the beginning of the talks, both sides claim to have come to the limit of the concessions which they can reasonably make. These talks were said to be of an unofficial and exploratory nature, and secrecy was considered essential for their success. Consequently, in discussing the difficulties encountered in the intercommunal talks one has to be careful not to cross the boundaries of discretion, or to divulge anything which has not so far been disclosed by both sides.
From 1960 onwards, the Greek Cypriot propaganda machine told the world that “amendment of the Constitution was essential for the better functioning of the state machinery”. Their ostensible reason for the 1963 troubles was projected as “crisis due to constitutional abnormalities”. In fact, of course, their main objective was to remove all those parts of the Constitution prohibiting any move towards ENOSIS by giving specific rights to the Turkish Cypriots. At the intercommunal talks, the Turkish Cypriot side showed willingness to accommodate the Greek Cypriot demands for certain amendments, provided a) that they did not erode the Communal Status of the Turkish Cypriots, and b) that ENOSIS continued to be effectively barred. Another important question for the Turkish Cypriots was that of security of life and property. The Turks wanted a guaranteed regime which would prevent the tragedy of December 1963 from being restaged by the numerically greater Greek Cypriot side. The checks and balances introduced into the 1960 Constitution in the form of vetoes, etc. proved inadequate, and the December 1963 events were planned and staged in spite of them. Now the Turkish Cypriot side, in considering a future arrangement, wanted “more real” guarantees in the from of full autonomy in local affairs.
It has been agreed that:
a)The two communities shall share the responsibility of running the government in proportion to the population ratio (80 % Greek Cypriot and 20 % Turkish Cypriot);
General agreement has been reached on the functions of autonomous local bodies, although a few questions remain in abeyance on these. The difficulty seems to be in the interpretation given to the term “local autonomy” by the two sides. To the Turkish Cypriots it implies what it says: Autonomy in its proper sense. The Greek Cypriot treatment of the subject falls far short of this understanding. Hence the difficulty in resolving the conflict.
Other difficulties stem from the Greek Cypriot side’s refusal to reendorse the “functional federation” image of the 1960 agreements, under which the Government was shared between the two communites in agreed proportions, while each community had its separate Communal Administration for “communal matters”. It is this functional federation arrangement that has enabled the Turkish Cypriots to defend the independence of Cyprus from December 1960 to this day. The only concession that the Greek Cypriot side is willing to make is to “allow” the Turkish Cypriot side to retain its Communal Administrative set up – the Turkish Communal Chamber – without re-establishing its Greek Cypriot counterpart. Turkish Cypriot proposals for some solution to this question of retaining the “functional federation” image have been turned down, thus increasing Turkish fears that what the Greek Cypriots are hoping for is the creation of a Greek Cypriot state – which the Turkish Cypriots will be treated at best as a “privileged minority”. The Turkish Cypriots feel that acceptance of such a status would gradually move the avalanche of ENOSIS, under which they would sooner or later be crushed. For the Turkish Cypriot side, therefore, the preservation of the 1960 image of functional federalism is a sine qua non of any future agreement. “If the Greek Cypriot aim is not to use any future agreement as a ‘springboard for ENOSIS’, they should have no difficulty in accepting our proposals on this issue”, argue the Turkish Cypriot leaders. And this, really, is the crux of the whole matter. The Greek Cypriot approach to the problem is alien to the establishment of an independent Cypriot State. In the absence of a Cypriot nation, any attempt to base the State on one of the two communities while treating the other as a minority would, in fact, be an attempt to create a new transitional Greek State in the Mediterranean as a prelude to union with Greece, it is this Greek Cypriot tendency “to make Cyprus Greece” which caused the 1963 troubles, and continues to hamper the progress of the intercommunal talks. If Cyprus is to continue as an independent country, its government and administrative set-up have to be based on the recognized and agreed rights of the two ethnic communities.
The persistent attempt in Cyprus to gloss over this reality and to confuse the issue by importing into it questions of minority-majority rights do not infuse the Turkish side with confidence. Akritas’ Plan is still on record, and actions taken in accordance with its terms are not yet past history. The Turkish Cypriot side’s attempt to underline the community’s rights and status and to provide for adequate measures for protection of life and property must be viewed in the light of an existing Greek Cypriot plan to Hellenize Cyprus by hook or by crook, and to bring about ENOSIS by using any agreement which falls short of it as simply a transitional one, called “the feasible solution” which is to be used toward the desired objective of ENOSIS.
In short, the difficulties which lie ahead cannot be minimized; questions of principle on cardinal issues are still far apart, and the chances of bridging them in the near future seem rather dim. But the fact that a “search for peace” still continues, and that guns have been silent in the Island while the intercommunal talks have been in progress, nourish the hope that a solution to this thorny problem will be found through peaceful means – as, indeed, it must.
(*) Published in the fpi Quarterly “Foreign Policy”, Vol 1, No. 1