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Op-Ed: Does Turkey want a Cyprus Settlement?
October 23, 2008—No. 71 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed: Does Turkey want a Cyprus Settlement?

WASHINGTON, DC—The following Op-Ed appeared in the Greek News 10-20-08, and the National Herald 10-18-08.

By Gene Rossides

October 14, 2008

Word count: 1,352

The response to the question “Does Turkey want a Cyprus settlement?” is no. Turkey’s military and political leaders during the past 34 years have stated many times that the Cyprus problem was settled in 1974. In March of this year Turkey’s military Chief of Staff, General Yasar Buyukanit so stated in effect in a visit to Cyprus. The ruling AKP party of Prime Minister Erdogan has not challenged the military on the Cyprus issue.

Can the Turkish military and political leaders be pressured to accept a fair, equitable and viable solution to the Cyprus problem which includes (1) the removal of all Turkish armed forces; (2) the return to Turkey of the 160,000 illegal settlers; (3) a financial cost to Turkey for its ethnic cleansing of 170,000 Greek Cypriots from the north of Cyprus, three weeks after the legitimate government of Cyprus had been restored, and taking of their homes and property and preventing their use of their homes and property; and (4) the right of return of the Greek Cypriots to their homes and property?

My answer to that question is a definite “yes” if the West and the UN have the political will to act. By the West I mean Britain, the United States, the European Union and NATO.


Britain, the former colonial ruler of Cyprus, is a guarantor power along with Greece and Turkey under the 1960 Cyprus constitution. Britain’s Prime Minister MacMillan threatened to implement a partition plan if President Makarios would not sign the London-Zurich agreements. Those agreements were undemocratic in that they provided that the 18 percent Turkish Cypriot minority had veto rights over all major legislative and executive decisions.

As history Professor Perry Anderson of UCLA has abundantly documented, Britain’s colonial rule of Cyprus, particularly after World War II, in denying the Greek Cypriots self-determination and using its divide and rule tactics by encouraging Turkey to get involved, was the main cause of the Cyprus problem until 1974 when the U.S. under the actions of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, encouraged Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus on July 20, 1974 and its second phase on August 14-16, 1974. It should be noted that Turkey renounced all rights to Cyprus in the Lausanne Treaty of 1923.

Britain could play a major role in bringing diplomatic, political and economic pressure on Turkey to remove its troops and settlers and to allow the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat full authority to negotiate with President Demetris Christofias with no interference from Ankara.

Britain’s new Europe Minister Caroline Flint on her first visit to Cyprus said “These negotiations offer the best opportunity to solve the Cyprus problem and I encourage all Cypriots to see this…you must not let this opportunity slip or let the talks falter.”

Flink did not answer the question as to what practical support Britain could give the peace process nor the question of the U.K.’s stance on its guarantor power status.

Frankly, what she needs to do is to publicly call on Turkey to remove its illegal troops and settlers and not to interfere in any way in the negotiations between Talat and Christofias. Britain has a moral duty to do this since she reneged on her duties as a guarantor power to stop Turkey’s invasion in 1974 which she could have and should have done.

United States

It is now well know that the United States caused the problem in 1974 by the actions of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in encouraging Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus and refusing to enforce U.S. law which required an immediate halt in U.S. arms to Turkey because of its illegal use of U.S. arms to invade Cyprus.

What can the U.S. do to assist the negotiations between Christofias and Talat? The U.S. could do a great deal if it had the political will to do it. The new American administration, be it McCain or Obama must reject the State Department’s policy of appeasement of Turkey and the double standards on the rule of law applied to Turkey.

In our own self-interest we should tell Turkey to get its troops and settlers out of Cyprus and to let Talat and Christofias negotiate in good faith without interference from Ankara. And we should call for the immediate turnover of Famagusta/Varosha to UN administration for the resettlement of refugees to their home and property as was stated in 1978 as a key argument to lift the arms embargo.

We should tell Turkey that our relations with Turkey will depend on Turkey taking these actions. And that if Turkey refuses to act that we will apply diplomatic, political and economic pressure including the withdrawal of benefits and sanctions.

European Union (EU)

The EU has told Turkey that its path to membership lies through Cyprus and that Turkey’s membership is dependent on a proper settlement of the Cyprus problem. The EU needs to do more. It should also tell Turkey to get out of Cyprus regardless of EU membership and that Turkey’s customs union with the EU will be affected if Turkey fails to act. And the Council of Europe should inform Turkey it will be expelled if it does not get out of Cyprus.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a regional alliance created under article 52 of the United Nations Charter for collective defense against aggression. The fundamental principles, objectives and purposes of the North Atlantic Treaty are to deter aggression and to support democratic government. The preamble and article 1 of the North Atlantic Treaty state in part:

“The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all Governments.

They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law….

1. The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

Turkey violated article 1 of the North Atlantic Treaty by failing “to settle” the Cyprus problem “by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered” and also by her “use of force…inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.” Turkey also violated the policy set forth in the NATO preamble.

Turkey contravened the fundamental policies against aggression and in support of “democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law” set forth in the preamble and underlying the North Atlantic Treaty. Turkey breached both the letter and the spirit of the Treaty.

Some argue that the North Atlantic Treaty applies to aggression against a member country only and not to aggression by a NATO member against a third party non-member. This interpretation is inconsistent with the plain meaning and purpose of the North Atlantic Treaty. Article 1 prohibits the use of force in “any international dispute.”

At a minimum, NATO should have suspended Turkey in 1974 until its aggression in Cyprus had been “purged” as called for by George Ball and Cyrus Vance in testimony to Congress in 1975. Instead, NATO assisted in supplying arms to Turkey after the Congress enacted an embargo in 1974. Furthermore, NATO’s Secretary General Joseph Luns joined the Administration’s lobbying effort to persuade the Congress to lift the embargo against Turkey.

Although Turkey continues to violate the North Atlantic Treaty by its presence in Cyprus, NATO has ignored the transgression. Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus is a stain on NATO’s history and will remain until Turkey ends its illegal occupation of Cyprus.

If the U.S., Britain, the EU and NATO decide to put appropriate diplomatic, political and economic pressure on Turkey then the Cyprus problem would be solved in a relatively short period of time to the benefit of all concerned, including Turkey.

Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.


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