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A prominent Turkish Statesman, Prof. Nihat Erim, who later becamethe Prime Minister of Turkey, has been involved with various phases of the founding of the Cyprus Republic and subsequent crises. Some of his personal recollections as given to the editor of “Foreign Policy” quarterly  in a special interview will no doubt become a significant contribution to the writing of Cyprus history.


My first involvement with Cyprus dates back to 1956. The then Prime Minister Mr. Adnan Menderes asked me, as a professor of law, to study and elaborate an internationally acceptable legal basis for our position on Cyprus, which had  then become a national issue. I went to the Foreign Ministry and studied the file. Up to then our official claim was based on the Treaty of Lausanne : We argued that we had trensferred Cyprus to Great Britain by the Treaty of Lausanne. If Britain wanted to leave the island it should be returned to its original owner, i.e. to Turkey. I considered this legally inadequate even though it could be sustained politically on the ground that the Lausanne Treaty had established a Turkish-Greek equilibrium in the Mediterranean where Cyprus played a pivotal role. From the legal point of view, however, if the sovereignty of territory was uncon­ditionally transferred to another country, the original owner could have no control over the new sovereign regarding the fate of that land.

In studying the subject, I recalled a certain provision of the United Nations Charter, in the formulation of which I had taken part at the San Francisco Conference in 1945. This clause was discussed and prepared at the committee which I had attended : Paragraph (b)| of Article 73 stated: «… to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspiration of the peoples”. Much discussions had taken place at the committee whether to use the word “people” in the singular or in the plural. In the end a consensus was reached that in many countries which had not yet attained self-government not only one but more than one people lived, whose aspirations had to be taken into account separately. Therefore, the plural form “peoples” was preferred.

In my report to the Government I stated : «lt is quite obvious that today in Cyprus two seperate peoples live. Admittedly Greek people on the island constitute the majority, but there is also a Turkish people with separate religion, separate language, separate past, separate future, separate hopes and aspirations that cannot coincide with those of the Greek people. While self-government demands of the Greek people were to be satisfied, the aspirations of the Turks had also to be taken into account and satisfied.”

The Government adopted this thesis and I was assigned with the task of presenting it to our delegation to the United Nations. As a result, this point was included in the Turkish presentation to the United Nations General Assembly of 1957 as an addition to our arguments based on the Lausanne Treaty, and the Assembly resolution of that year referred to a solution acceptable to “all parties concerned”, which without mentioning the term specifically, included both Turkey and the Turkish Community in the island.

Even before the United Nations discussions, upon the demand of the British government a draft constitution was prepared by Lord Radcliffe in 1956. His proposals were based on the existence of two separate communities in Cyprus which were to be co-partners within a dual government with two heads. At that time I visited Cyprus, discussed the situation with the then British Governor – General Sir John Harding and with the leaders of the Turkish Community and presented our counter­proposals to the Radcliffe draft. But due to the Greek hopes that they could obtain better terms from the United Nations, progress could not then be achieved on the Radcliffe draft. Later on in 1958, Mr. Harold Mac Millan put forward another plan which was  rejected by the Greek Government and by Archbishop Makarios. However, the Radcliffe constitutional proposals inspired the subsequent London and Zurich Agreements and the constitution we prepared in 1960 for Cyprus.

I was not involved in the preparation of the London and Zurich Agreements, but I was in the preparation of the Cyprus constitution. Prime Minister Menderes asked me to head the Turkish delegation at the mixed committee to prepare the constitution. We began our work in Cyprus and we worked for a while in Lausanne because the neutral advisor of the committee, Prof. Bridel, could not leave his chair at the University of Lausanne. The constitutional preparations lasted from the beginning of 1959 to March 1960 and during one year we spent 183 days in Cyprus. The crucial point on which it was difficult to agree was the rights of the executive organ. Achbishop Makorios was unable to reconcile himself to the notion that he had to share his Presidential powers with a Turkish Vice-President. The chief Greek Cypriot negotiator was Mr. Clerides and Makarios pushed him aside and wanted to negotiate with me directly. After a certain time he led the discussions to a rupture and I left Cyprus. Eventually Athens and Ankara agreed on the necessity that the clause in the Zurich Agreement relating to the powers of the executive be included in the constitution without change. This settlement was included in toto in the constitution which was at last accepted by Makarios. The aim of the Archbishop was to dilute the Zurich Agreement by including provisions favorable to himself, and we did not allow this to happen. I believe this point is extremely important since it explains all further actions by the Archbishop. After Cyprus became an independent state, all the faits accomplis he tried and the disputes he created have been based on his initial opposition to allowing the Turkish Vice-President to become his partner in running the state and sharing his authority. In 1963 he visited Ankara and during his discussions with Prime Minister İnönü he objected to the existence of seperate municipalities, the right of the Turks to veto the budget, etc., etc… While the constitution was being negotiated he had wanted to eliminate all these provisions. The Turkish Government responded to him that these were points on which agreement had been reached in the course of the London and Zurich negotiations and had become part of the Cyprus constitution; therefore, they could neither be diluted nor reinforced and he had to live with these provisions and share the Cypriot state with the Turks.

Nevertheless, ever since the Cyprus Republic became an independent and sovereign state he has attempted to upset the dual balance in his own favor by unilateral action. I must point out that the principal aspi­ration of Archbishop Makarios and most of the Cypriot Greeks is Enosis, that is to unite the island some day with Greece. Makarios hoped in 1963 that he could achieve this through a fait accompli by benefitting from the domestic problems of Turkey. But the attitude of Turkey and the heroic resistence of the Turks on the island prevented him. He repeated his action once again in 1967 when Mr. S. Demirel was Prime Minister of Turkey. He also stood firm and Makarios failed again. After 1967 the United Nations increased its interest in Cyprus and provided for intercommunal talks which continued on and off until 1974.

However, between the preparation of the Cyprus constitution in 1959 and Prime Minister İnönü’s visit to Washington in 1964, I was not invol­ved with developments or decision making on Cyprus. On this trip Prime Minister İnönü asked me to travel with him as a parliamentary advisor and I accepted. As is known, in the beginning of 1964 President Johnson had prevented a Turkish landing in Cyprus through a rather strange, harsh and threatening letter which had caused much resentment in Tur­key. In order to erase the effects of this letter President Johnson made an effort and invited the Turkish and Greek Prime Ministers to Washington, and stated that he wanted to settle this problem in a manner that would satisfy the Turks. He said that for this purpose, he would appoint Mr. Dean Acheson, one of his much trusted aides, and asked Prime Minister İnönü to appoint a similar Turkish personality to talk with him. Prime Minister İnönü said he wanted to designate me as his representative. Prime Minister Papandreou of Greece would arrive two days after us in Washington and would also be asked to appoint a negotiator for the Greek side. The original proposal of President Johnson was that the rep­resentatives of the three countries should be closeted at Camp David and kept there until they reached an agreement, say within two or three weeks, if necessary. İnönü accepted this proposal. Mr. Acheson was intro­duced to Mr. İnönü. The meeting took place on a yacht on the Potomac River and a declaration was prepared. As written by Mr. Acheson, the declaration reaffirmed the validity of existing agreements as a starting point for a new solution mentioning «…the binding effects of treaties”. Makarios wanted to change the constitution and we did not object to changing it, provided the binding effects and results of the treaties in force were taken as a basis. We accepted this and left Washington for New York. Mr. Papandreou arrived in Washington while we were in New York. We were told that Mr. Papandreou accepted the principle of tripar­tite discussions to take place among Turkish, Greek and American rep­resentatives; however, he wanted the discussions to take place under the United Nations umbrella. The United Nations Secretary General should appoint the mediator, who would be Mr. Tuomioja of Finland, and the discussions were not be held at Camp David but at Geneva so that they would not carry an American label. President Johnson accepted the proposal of the Greek Prime Minister.

While we were in New York we received the news that General Grivas had landed on the island and we were shocked to hear this news. We were told, however, by our American colleagues that this should not be considered a bad development since General Grivas had gone there to fight Communists and we should not worry about   his activities.

Soon afterwards we arrived in Geneva to start discussions; there we were to meet again another Greek demand. The Greek Government stated that their delegate could not attend a tripartite conference. They would negotiate individually with Mr. Dean Acheson and we should also talk with him alone. Mr. Acheson should try to reach a conclusion through these separate talks. The Turkish Government was agreeable also on this point, because what was important for us was Mr. Acheson’s propo­sals, and we accepted the Greek suggestion. Acting with remarkable good will and appreciating the political and legal justifications for the Turkish case, and Turkey’s desire not to resort to the use of force and security requirements, Mr. Acheson put forward a proposal which has bean known as the First Acheson Plan. This Plan provided a line from Akantou Pass, East of Kyrenia to the east of Famagusta — this portion of the island — and East and North of this line was to be left to Turkey. Turkey would have the right to maintain in this zone a military force of  divisional strength, thus assuring its security. Furthermore as the Turkish settle­ments were spread all over the island in such places as Paphos, Lymasol, Larnaca, Kyrenia, Omorpho, Famagusta, and Nicosia as well as many other localities, the creation of approximately eight Turkish cantons was also envisaged in the plan. I took this plan with me to Ankara. A Coun­cil of Ministers meeting was held in which I also participated. Our Go­vernment accepted it and authorized me to discuss it. The discussions lasted for some time. We had accepted the principle of a geographical separation, but we had certain qualms about placing a military force of a division within such a small area, where there would be little elbow room and no space for an air base. Yet all these points could be dis­cussed  further once this   principle was accepted by the  Greek  side.

In Geneva Mr. Acheson informed us that Mr. Papandreou had also accepted this plan, but since it was going to be carried out by Arch­bishop Makarios his view and concurrence had also to be obtained. Prime Minister Papandreou invited Archbishop Makarios to Athens. As soon as I heard of this invitation I lost all my hopes for a settlement because I could easily guess, on the basis of my experience with him during the constitutional talks, what his reactions would be. Indeed after a few hours of discussions with the Greek government in Athens the Arch­bishop left the meeting and told journalists that this plan was ac­tually a partitioning of the island even though its real name was not mentioned. He categorically refused to accept it. He denigrated Mr. Acheson as “a self-invited mediator” and claimed that a solution could only be found by the United Nations. Mr. Acheson was very upset, but there was another fait accompli.

After a few months, on August 8, 1964, the forces of Archbishop Makarios again attacked Turkish settlements in the area of Erenkoy-Mansoura, and we attacked these forces with our aircraft. The Greek forces were scared and they halted their operation. The United Nations Security Council met and asked Turkey to stop its operations. Yet Ma­karios could advance no  further.

We returned once again to neutral Geneva, and Mr. Acheson one day invited me and presented a proposal which he said was not his own but that of the State Department and of President Johnson, and he began to read from a telex message. The proposal rescinded comp­letely the original Acheson plan. There was no longer to be a separate geographical area belonging to the Turks, but merely a very small mili­tary base to be leased to Turkey just north of the British base at Dikelia. There was to be no turnover of sovereignty, and the base was to be leased by the Cypriot government. I had with me our military advisor, General T. Sunalp. As soon as we heard this we said that there was no point in elaborating further on a proposal which we would be unable to discuss, because our authority was confined to the original proposal. Mr. Acheson requested us not to reject the proposal then and there. The plan was being at that moment presented to the governments in Athens and Ankara, and they could reject it. Our discussions terminat­ed on this point and the proposal was rejected the same day by Prime Minister İnönü when it was presented to him by the United States Ambas­sador to Ankara.

During these discussions and the subsequent ones I reached the impression that there were two schools of thought which clashed in the State Deportment. One was represented by Mr. Dean Acheson, who had told me during a visit to Washington that Turkey was the only strong and stable country which the United States could depend on in this part of the world. All other considerations must remain secondary. He believed that Turkey’s legitimate demands should be satisfied, and she must be strengthened. It was with these considerations in mind that he had actively worked for Turkey’s admission to NATO yesterday and that he had prepared today his original plan for the future of Cyprus. On one occasion he had jokingly confided to me that the State Department considered   him  as   an  old-fashioned   Nineteenth  Century   diplomat.

The other view, which I believe was that of Mr. Dean Rusk, conside­red that the United States policy should be to keep both Turkey and Greece on the same footing, without hurting the feelings of either. I also believe that Mr. Kissinger’s policy has been similar to and even stronger than that of Mr. Acheson.

Much later, in 1971 when I became Prime Minister, I was once again interest – this time as political decision taker – in the Cyprus problem and I received a favorable response from Mr. Papadopoulos. My thesis was the following one: We are nearing the end of the Twentieth Century. Relations between states cannot be run in accordance with the menta­lity of Archbishop Makarios, who is basically a Nineteenth Century priest wishing to run a chauvenistic state. We have an excellent opportunity. On Cyprus two communities live side by side in a de facto federation. How nice it would be if they could make it operate. Turkey and Greece have so many points of common interest and have so much reason to be friends and allies that it would be a great pity to ignore these simply to please Makarios. Twenty years later the statesmen of both countries would laugh at us and scorn our policies. Let us not create such a situation. Through our Ambassador in Athens and through the Greek Ambassador in Ankara, Mr. Papadopoulos informed me of his agreement and expressed his similar thoughts: but his response stipulated that we improve upon Turkish-Greek relations without awaiting a solution to the Cyprus question (‘). I informed him that this was not possible. So long as there remained a Cyprus issue Turkish-Greek relations could not possibly be improved. In Cyprus the Greeks had shed much Turkish blood, Greece has to clean this blood away. Neither I, nor any other Turkish Prime Minister could succeed in developing Turkish-Greek re­lations before the restoration of the legitimate Turkish rights in Cyprus, I knew that our interests demanded the improvement of Turkish-Greek relations, but I did not have power to do anything about it before some­thing was done in Cyprus. Messages kept being exchanged between myself and Mr. Papadopoulos through our Ambassadors with solemn expressions of good will. You will recall that during this period significant quarrels took place between Makarios and Papadopoulos. I do not know what was the real cause but I have a feeling that these exchanges had some effect on those quarrels.

Again at about the same time, that is in the fall of 1971, a Swiss pub­lisher by the name of Mr. Nagel asked to see me to present a message from Archbishop Makarios. He said that he was a close friend of the Archbishop and had seen him in Nicosia in September. The Archbishop had told him that he appreciated my qualities as a statesman since he knew me during previous negotiations and that he believed a solution could be found to the Cyprus problem if he and I could meet, and he was ready to come to Turkey to see me. I gave him the following reply: “This is all very interesting. I know his qualities as well, since I negotiated the Cyprus constitution with him for three months. The Archbishop I know pretends that Turks on the island are a minority and he does not accept the principle that the Cyprus state is based on Turkish-Greek partnership. He claims that he signed the constitution under duress and he wants to get  rid of it”. I, therefore, asked the bearer of the message: ”Has Makarios changed his views? Does he admit that the Cyprus state is ba­sed on Turkish-Greek partnership ? If he does, we can meet at any time and indeed we can find a solution. But, first of all, I would like to receive an answer to my questions”. Mr. Nagel said that I was quite right, and I heard nothing further from him or from the Archbishop.


I took up this matter further during an offical visit to Paris in the beginning of 1972. During that trip at a reception in the Turkish Embassy I met Makarios’ envoy to Paris, Ambassador Modinos, whom I knew very well. I told him about Mr. Nagel’s visit and my reply to Makarios. He said that he did not know anything about it. But I insisted that he should con­tact the Archbishop and raise the matter with him; he promised to do so and to inform the Turkish Ambassador in Paris. As far as I recall, there was no response from him and this initiative failed to bring any reaction from Archbishop Makarios.


(1)  Editor’s note :   For a comprehensive Greek view see :    “Turkish-Greek  Rela­tions”, loannis Tzounis.  Foreign Policy, Vol. I. No. 2.


       (*) Published in the fpi Quarterly Foreign Policy, Vol. 4, Nos. 2-3

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