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Op-Ed on “Cyprus History: Turkish Aggression and Occupation, British Colonialism and State Department Illegalities”
August 3, 2006—No. 64 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed on “Cyprus History: Turkish Aggression and Occupation, British Colonialism and State Department Illegalities”

Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed by AHI President Gene Rossides appeared in the July 29, 2006 issue of The National Herald, page 9 and the July 31, 2006 issue of Greek News, page 32.

Cyprus History: Turkish Aggression and Occupation, British Colonialism and State Department Illegalities

It is particularly appropriate on the anniversary of the 32nd year of Turkey’s occupation of 37.3 percent of Cyprus to stress that the Cyprus problem is basically a problem of Turkey’s aggression and occupation in 1974; and that the solution is not difficult if the U.S., the EU and the UN fully recognize and accept the facts and have the political will to act.

It is also appropriate and useful to remember that the Cyprus problem really started after World War II, when Britain refused to relinquish its colonial rule of Cyprus despite its rhetoric during World War II that the allies were fighting for freedom, liberty and democracy and that Britain had asked the Greek Cypriots to volunteer and “Fight for Greece and Liberty.”

After World War II, Britain did not willingly give up any of its colonies despite U.S. pressure on Britain and the other colonial powers to end colonialism. We all remember Mahatma Gandhi and his successful efforts to end British colonialism in India after World War II. All of the colonies except Cyprus achieved a full or workable independence.

Cyprus was threatened by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1958 with partition unless they agreed to the British plan of fettered independence which became the London Zurich Agreements of 1959-1960 and which included the so-called “sovereign” British bases area. The British have refused to pay rent for the use of Cyprus territory—a continuing vestige of colonialism.

The London Zurich Agreements were heavily weighted in Turkey’s and the Turkish Cypriot’s favor including a minority veto for the 18 percent Turkish Cypriot minority on all major legislative and executive decisions. It was that constitution and Turkey’s interference in Cypriot affairs which added to the disunity between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots started by the British during their colonial rule and accelerated in the 1950’s when Britain raised the 18 percent Turkish Cypriot minority as an obstacle to self-determination for the 80 percent Greek Cypriot majority. Britain then raised the issue of partition of Cyprus.

Worse, Britain brought Turkey into the arena in 1955 by inviting Turkey to a tripartite conference on the Cyprus issue in London in late August and early September 1955 despite the fact that Turkey had renounced all rights to Cyprus in the Lausanne Treaty of 1923. The British then privately urged Turkey to have a demonstration in Istanbul to blunt the Greek government’s efforts on behalf of self-determination for Cyprus and to show Turkey’s interest in Cyprus.

As C.L. Sulzberger stated in his New York Times column Foreign Affairs:

“[T]he British privately encouraged the Turks to express their interest. That was all Ankara needed. Ever since Turkey has been whipping itself into a frenzy over Cyprus. Instead of being dismayed, the British Foreign Office—which had taken over the hot potato from the colonial office—was pleased to cite Turkey’s arguments as further excuse for doing nothing about changing the island’s status.” (N.Y. Times, Aug. 24, 1955, at A26, col.5)

What followed Britian’s suggestion was the infamous and horrendous massively organized Turkish pogrom against the 100,000 Greek minority in Istanbul. Dr. Speros Vryonis, Jr., a world renown scholar of Ottoman and Byzantine history, documents the horror and destruction in his magisterial volume of 700 plus-pages titled: The Mechanism of Catastrophe: The Turkish Pogrom of September 6-7, and the Destruction of the Greek Community of Istanbul (2005).

In the 1950’s Britain was anxious to keep control of Cyprus because it wanted to use Cyprus as a base for aggression against Egypt. In late October 1956, Britain, France and Israel did commit aggression against Egypt after Egypt legally nationalized the Suez Canal. Britain utilized Cyprus as its base.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower was outraged by the actions of Britain, France and Israel and demanded a halt to the aggression and withdrawal from Egypt. It has been written that Eisenhower called British Prime Minister Anthony Eden and told him to stop and withdraw or he would bankrupt England.

It is worth recalling Eisenhower’s words during the 1956 Middle East crisis. In his October 31, 1956 television and radio report to the nation on the Middle East crisis, Eisenhower said

We believe these actions to have been taken in error, for we do not accept the use of force as a wise or proper instrument for the settlement of international disputes.


The present fact nonetheless seems clear. The action taken can scarcely be reconciled with the principles and purposes of the United Nations to which we have all subscribed. And beyond this we are forced to doubt that resort to force and war will for long serve the permanent interests of the attacking nations.

Now we must look to the future.


There can be no peace without law. And there can be no law if we were to invoke one code of international conduct for those who oppose us and another for our friends. (emphasis added)

The United States should follow the policy established by President Eisenhower; laws must be applied to friend and foe alike. If, in 1974, the United States had joined with the world community in condemning Turkey’s aggression in Cyprus, would Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, have invaded Kuwait in 1990? The force of precedent should not be underestimated.

Turkey’s July 20, 1974 invasion of Cyprus was aided and encouraged by then Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. Turkey controlled about 5 percent of Cyprus when a UN cease-fire was declared on July 22, 1974 and negotiations among Turkey, Greece and Britain were begun in Geneva.

Kissinger refused to denounce Turkey’s aggression as Britain and most of the major countries did; and he refused to apply U.S. law to Turkey by halting all arms to Turkey as required by the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

Turkey issued a 36 hour ultimatum to Britain and Greece on August 13, 1974 to accept Turkey’s proposal for 6 separate cantons for Turkish Cypriots, tantamount to partition, in conjunction with a shocking statement on the same date from the State Department spokesman Ambassador Robert Anderson, cleared by Kissinger, that the Turkish Cypriots needed more security, which had no basis in fact. The full statement is as follows:

“The United States position is as follows: we recognize the position of the Turkish community on Cyprus requires considerable improvement and protection. We have supported a greater degree of autonomy for them. The parties are negotiating on one or more Turkish autonomous areas. The avenues of diplomacy have not been exhausted and therefore the United States would consider a resort to military action unjustified. We have made this clear to all parties.”

Turkey then broke the UN cease-fire with a massive attack on the Greek Cypriots from August 14 to 16, 1974 and grabbed another 33 percent of Cyprus, and forced 180,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes and properties. That attack came three weeks after the legitimate government of Cyprus had been restored.

The State Department acted at that time to cover-up Kissinger’s role in support of Turkey’s aggression. Since then the State Department career officials have continued to use a double standard on the rule of law for Turkey and have appeased Turkey to the detriment of the U.S. in general and to the specific detriment of Greece and Cyprus.

Kissinger refused to condemn Turkey’s invasion in July 1974 and its violation of the cease-fire and renewed aggression in August 1974, the only major nation to do so. If the U.S. had acted by condemning the coup against the Makarios government on July 15, 1974, the Sampson government and the Greek junta would have fallen and no invasion of Cyprus would have occurred.

If the U.S. State Department had condemned Turkey’s invasion of July 20, 1974 as every other major country did, the Sampson government and the Greek junta would have fallen and with the legitimate government of Cyprus and the status quo ante restored, Turkey would have had to withdraw from the small amount of territory it had occupied.

If the State Department wants to be an “honest broker” in the Cyprus issue it should take the following action:

  1. Call for the immediate removal of Turkey’s armed forces. We need to follow the same policy we used regarding Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
  2. Call for the immediate removal of Turkey’s 120,000 illegal settlers from Turkey.
  3. Call for the “tearing down” of Turkey’s barbed wire fence across the face of Cyprus.
  4. Support the Cyprus government’s offer to open the Famagusta port under joint Greek and Turkish Cypriot operation under the EU supervision coupled with the return of Varosha for the resettlement of upwards of 35,000 Greek Cypriot refugees under UN supervision.
  5. State publicly its support of former President George H. W. Bush’s statement of July 7, 1988 as Vice President of the U.S. and as presidential candidate of the Republican Party:

    “We seek for Cyprus a constitutional democracy based on majority rule, the rule of law, and the protection of minority rights….I want to see a democratic Cyprus free from the threat of war.”

  6. Call for compensation from Turkey to the 180,000 Greek Cypriot victims, forced from their homes and properties, for damages suffered and for loss of use of their homes and properties

Accepting the Turkish position that the troops and settlers and barbed wire fence are part of the negotiations has made the U.S. an accomplice in Turkey’s invasion and occupation. The logic is as simple as that.

I urge readers to write to President Bush and Secretary Rice and urge them to support American values for Cyprus and to pressure Turkey to get out of Cyprus in the name of democracy and decency and to let the world know that aggression will not pay.


For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at