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Op-Ed: British and U.S. Responsibility for Turkey’s Aggression in Cyprus
June 3, 2008—No. 37 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed: British and U.S. Responsibility for Turkey’s Aggression in Cyprus

Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed appeared in the Greek News, 5-26-’08, p.36, the Hellenic Voice, 5-28-’08, p.5, the National Herald 5-31-’08, p.11 and in the Hellenic News of America.

British and U.S. Responsibility for Turkey’s Aggression in Cyprus

By Gene Rossides

May 21, 2008

I have long written about the British and U.S. responsibility for Turkey’s aggression in Cyprus, and the tragedies that have befallen Cyprus since the 1950’s. I have documented Britain’s irresponsibility in bringing Turkey into the picture in the 1950’s when the Cypriots sought self-determination to join with Greece. Turkey had renounced all rights to Cyprus in the Lausanne Treaty of 1923. Britain threatened partition of Cyprus if Archbishop Makarios would not sign the undemocratic London-Zurich agreements of 1959-1960, written by the British, which gave the 18 percent Turkish Cypriot minority veto rights over all major legislative and executive actions.

I have also documented at length the growing U.S. involvement since the creation of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960 including Presiden Lyndon Johnson’s important letter of June 1964 which deterred Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus at that time, and Cyrus Vance’s successful diplomatic efforts to prevent warfare in 1967 and 1968.

I have particularly documented Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s infamous role in encouraging the military junta in its assassination attempt against President Makarios, which failed, and its coup against the Makarios government, which succeeded; and his support and encouragement of Turkey’s aggression against Cyprus on July 20, 1974, which gained control of 4 percent of the island, and its subsequent breach of the UN ceasefire and renewed aggression on August 14 - 16, 1974, which grabbed another 34 percent of Cyprus three weeks after the legitimate government of Cyprus had been restored.

You can imagine, therefore, my gratification to read in my April 24, 2008 issue of the London Review of Books a lengthy article titled “The Divisions of Cyprus” by Perry Anderson, Professor of History at UCLA, in which he details the original British and U.S. responsibility for the Cyprus problem and British and U.S. responsibility for Turkey’s aggression against Cyprus and the 34 years of Turkish occupation of nearly 40 percent of Cyprus.

Professor Anderson, who is in the history department at UCLA, details British responsibility for the 1950’s and the 1960 undemocratic constitution and the British and U.S. roles thereafter. He places the blame for Turkey’s invasion of 1974 on the British and Henry Kissinger. He stresses Britain’s failure, as a guarantor of power, to prevent the Turkish invasion.

Regarding negotiations he makes a devastating critique of the British inspired Annan Plan, the U.S. support, and Sir David Hannay’s role.

While I take issue with several of Anderson’s comments in this lengthy article and his characterization of certain Greek and Greek Cypriot officials, I concur fully with his main thrust regarding British and U.S. responsibility for Turkey’s aggression against Cyprus and Kissinger’s role.

This article should be required reading for all U.S. diplomats involved in U.S. relations with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey; and think tanks.

Above all it should be read by (1) President Bush, particularly if he is interested in doing something in support of the rule of law and his legacy in the final months of his presidency; and (2) the three remaining presidential candidates of the major parties, Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) for the Democrats and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for the Republicans.

Let’s look at some of what Professor Perry Anderson has to say.

Turkey’s Invasion of Cyprus

Following the Greek junta’s illegal coup against President Makarios’ government, Professor Anderson states: “The coup was undoubtedly a breach of the Treaty of Guarantee and within 48 hours the Turkish Premier, Ecevit, was at the door of Downing Street, flanked by ministers and generals, demanding that Britain join Turkey in taking immediate action to reverse it.” Britain, Greece and Turkey were the Guarantor powers.

Anderson continued: “The meeting that ensued settled the fate of the island. It was a talk between social-democrats: Wilson, Callaghan and Ecevit, fellow members of the Socialists International. Although Britain had not only a core of well-equipped troops, but overwhelming air-power on the island—fighter-bombers capable of shattering forces far more formidable than Sampson and his minders—Wilson and Callaghan refused to lift a finger. The next day, Turkey readied a naval landing. Britain had warships off the coast and could have deterred a unilateral Turkish invasion with equal ease. Again, London did nothing.”

I have detailed elsewhere that the Treaty of Guarantee did not authorize the use of force, and if it had it would have been void as contrary to the UN Charter.

Anderson continued: “The result was the catastrophe that shapes Cyprus to this day. In complete command of the skies, Turkish forces seized a bridgehead at Kyrenia, and dropped paratroops further inland. Within three days, the junta had collapsed in Greece and Sampson had quit. After a few weeks cease fire, during which Turkey made clear it had no interest in the treaty whose violation had been technical grounds for its invasion, but wanted partition forthwith, its generals unleashed an all-out blitz—tanks, jets, artillery and warships—on the now restored legal government of Cyprus. In less than 72 hours, Turkey seized two-fifths of the island, including its most fertile region, up to a predetermined Attila Line running from Morphou Bay to Famagusta. With occupation came ethnic cleansing. Some 180,000 Cypriots—a third of the Greek community—were expelled from their homes, driven across the Attila Line to the south. About 4,000 lost their lives, another 12,000 were wounded: equivalent to over 300,000 dead and a million wounded in Britain. Proportionally as many Turkish Cypriots died too, in reprisals. In due course, some 50,000 made their way in the opposite direction, partly in fear, but principally under pressure from the Turkish regime installed in the north, which needed demographic reinforcements and wanted complete separation of the two communities. Nicosia became a Mediterranean Berlin, divided by barbed wire and barricades for the duration.”

Kissinger’s role

“The brutality of Turkey’s descent on Cyprus, stark enough was no surprise…Political responsibility for the disaster lay with those who allowed or encouraged it. The chief blame is often put on the United States. There by the summer of 1974, Nixon was so paralyzed by Watergate—he was driven from the office between the first and second Turkish assaults—that American policy was determined by Kissinger alone… He wanted Makarios out of the way, and with Sampson in place in Nicosia, blocked any condemnation of the coup in the Security Council. Once Ankara had delivered its ultimatum in London, he then connived at the Turkish invasion, co-ordinating its advance directly with Ankara.”

Britain’s “overwhelming responsibility”

“But though America’s role in the dismemberment of Cyprus is clear-cut, it is Britain that bears the overwhelming responsibility for it. Wilson and Callaghan, typically, would later attempt to shift the blame to Kissinger pleading that the UK could do nothing without the U.S. Then as now, crawling to Washington was certainly an instinctive reflex in Labour… The reality is that Britain had both the means and obligation to stop the Turkish assault on Cyprus. After first ensuring Turkish hostility to the Greek majority, it had imposed a Treaty of Guarantee on the island, depriving it of true independence, for its own selfish ends: the retention of large military enclaves at its soverieign disposal. Now, when called upon to abide by the treaty, it crossed its arms and gave free passage to the modern Attila, claiming that it was helpless—a nuclear power—to do otherwise.”

House of Commons Report

“Two years later, a Commons Select Committee would conclude: ‘Britain had a legal right to intervene, she had a moral obligation to intervene, she had the military capacity to intervene. She did not intervene for reasons which the government refuses to give.’ The refusal has since, even by its critics, been too conveniently laid at the American door. In an immediate subjective sense, the trail there is direct enough: Callaghan in reminiscent mood, would say Kissinger had a ‘charm and warmth I could not resist.’ But much longer, more objective continuities were of greater significance. Labour, which had started the disasters of Cyprus by denying it any decolonization after 1945, had now completed them, abandoning it to trucidation. London was quite prepared to yield Cyprus to Greece in 1915, in exchange for Greek entry into the war on its side…In the modern history of the Empire, the peculiar malignity of the British record in Cyprus stands apart.”

Hannay and the “grotesque” and “inequitable” Annan Plan

Professor Anderson discusses the origins of the Annan Plan and its several versions at length. He states that the successive Annan Plans were essentially the work of Sir David, now Lord David Hannay.

Anderson writes that “In the summer of 1999. the UK and US got a resoplution through the G8 pointedly ignoring the legal government of the Republic of Cyprus, and calling on the UN to superintend talks between Greeks and Turks on the island with a view to a settlement.

This was then rubber-stamped by the Security Council, formally putting Kofi Annan in charge of the process. Naturally—he owed his appointment to Washington—Annan was, as Hannay puts it, ‘aware of the need for the UN to co-operate as closely as possible with the US and the UK in the forthcoming negotiations.’ In practice, of course, this meant his normal role as a dummy for Anglo-American ventriloquists. Recording the moment, Hannay does not bother to explain by what right the UK and US arrogated to themselves the position of arbiters of the fate of Cyprus; it went without saying. A UN special representative, in the shape of a dim Peruvian functionary, was chosen to front the operation, but it was Hannay and Tom Weston, ‘special coordinator’ of the State Department on Cyprus, who called the shots. So closely did the trio work together that Hannay would boast that a cigarette paper could not have slipped between their positions. In command was, inevitably, Hannay himself, by a long way the most senior, self-confident and experienced of the three. Successive Annan Plans for Cyprus which materialized over the next four years were essentially his work, the details supplied by an obscure scrivener from the crannies of Swiss diplomacy, Didier Pfirter.”

Andersen points out that Hannay remarked that for all the modifications in “its five versions, the essence of the ‘Annan’ plan remained unaltered throughout. It contained three fundamental elements. The first prescribed the state that would come into being. The Republic of Cyprus, as internationally recognized for forty years—repeatedly so by the UN itself—would be abolished, along with its flag, anthem and name. In its stead, a wholly new entity would be created, under another name, composed of two constituent states, one Greek and the other Turkish, each vested with all powers in its territory, save those—principally concerned with external affairs and common finance—reserved for a federal level. There a senate would be divided 50:50 between Greeks and Turks, a lower chamber elected on a proportionate basis with a guaranteed 25 percent for Turks. There would be no president, but an executive council, composed of four Greeks and two Turks, elected by a ‘special majority’ requiring two-fifths of each half of the senate to approve the list. In case of deadlock, a supreme court composed of three Greeks, three Turks and three foreigners would assume executive and legislative functions. The central bank would likewise have an equal number of Greek and Turkish directors with a casting vote by a foreigner.

The second element of the plan covered territory, property and residence. The Greek state would comprise just over 70 percent, the Turkish state just under 30 percent, of the land surface of Cyprus…Restitution of property seized would be limited to a maximum of a third of its area or value, whichever was lower, the rest to be compensated by long term bonds issued by the federal government at taxpayers’ cost, and would carry no right of return…

The third element of the plan covered force and international law. The Treaty of Guarantee, giving three outside powers rights of intervention in Cyprus, would continue to operate—‘open-ended’ and undiluted,’ as Hanny records with satisfaction—after the abolition of the state it was supposed to guarantee. The new state would have no armed forces, but Turkey would maintain 6000 troops on the island for another eight years, and after a further interval, the military contingent accorded it at Zurich, permanently. Britain’s bases, somewhat reduced in size, would remain intact, as sovereign possessions of the UK. The future Cypriot state would drop all claims in the European Court of Human Rights, and last but not least, bind itself in advance to vote for Turkish entry into the EU.

The enormity of these arrangements to ‘solve the Cyprus problem, once and for all,’ as Annan hailed them, speak for themselves. At their core lies a ratification of ethnic cleansing, of a scale and thoroughness that has been the envy of settler politics in Israel, where Avigdor Lieberman—leader of the far right Yisrael Beiteinu, now the figth largest party in the Knesset—publicly calls for a ‘Cypriot solution on the West Bank, a demand regarded as so extreme that it is disavowed by all his coalition partners. Not only does the plan absolve Turkey from any reparations for decades of occupation and plunder, imposing their cost instead on those who suffered them. It is further in breach of the Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power to introduce settlers into conquered territory. Far from compelling their withdrawal, the plan entrenched their presence: ‘no one will be forced to leave,’ in Pfirter’s words. So little did legal norms matter in the conception of the plan, that care was taken to remove its provisions from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and Court of Justice in advance.

No less contemptuous of the principles of any existent democracy, the plan accorded a minority of between 18 and 25 percent of the population 50 percent of the decision-making power in the state. To see how grotesque such a proposal was, it is enough to ask how Turkey would react if it were told that its Kurdish minority—also around 18 percent—must be granted half of all seats in its Senate, sweeping rights to block action in its executive, not to speak of some 30 percent of its land area under its exclusive jurisdiction. What UN or EU emissary, or apologist for the Annan Plan among the multitude in the Western media, would dare travel to Ankara with such a scheme in his briefcase? Ethnic minorities need protection—Turkish Kurds, by any measure considerably more than Turkish Cypriots—but to make of this a flagrant political disproportion is to invite hostility, rather than restrain it.

Nor were the official ratios of ethnic power to be all. Planted among the tundra of the plan’s many other inequities, foreigners were imposed at strategic points—supreme court, central bank, property board—in what was supposed to be an independent country. Topping everything off, armed force was to be reserved to external powers: Turkish military remaining on-site, British bases trampolines for Iraq. No other member of the European Union bears any resemblance to what would have been this cracked, shrunken husk of an independent state. Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected it, not because they were misinformed by Papadopoulos, or obeyed directives by Christofias—opinion polls showed their massive opposition to the plan before either spoke against it. They did so because they had so little to gain—a sliver of territory, and crumbs of a doubtful restitution of property—and so much to lose from it: a reasonably well-integrated, well-regarded state without deep divisions or deadlocks, in which they could take an understandable pride. Why give this up for a constitutional mare’s nest, whose function was essentially to rehouse the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, condemned as illegal by the UN itself, as an equal partner in a structure jerry-built to accommodate it? Cut to foreign specifications, the constitution Zurich had proved unworkable enough, leading only to communal strife and breakdown. The constitution of Burgenstock, for more complicated and still more inequitable, was a recipe for yet greater rancour and paralysis.”

Take action-your voice is needed

I urge readers to write to the President and call the White House and urge the President to stand for democratic values for Cyprus as his father did in 1988 when he stated: “We seek for Cyprus a constitutional democracy based on majority rule, the rule of law, and the protection of minority rights.”

I also urge readers to do the same with the three presidential candidates, their two U.S. Senators and their U.S. Representatives.

Act today. Your voice can make a difference. Tell them that it is not in the interests of the United States to support an undemocratic constitution for Cyprus; that the U.S. has a responsibility to redress the situation and that it is in the best interests of the U.S. to do so.


For additional information, please contact Nick Larigakis at (202) 785-8430 or at For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at