Historical Background

The salient historical facts are that despite successive invasions and occupations Cyprus until 1974 had retained a predominantly Greek character. This continued even after Cyprus' conquest in 1571 by the Ottoman Empire and its partial Turkish colonization. From the inception of British rule in Cyprus (the United Kingdom assumed jurisdiction in 1878, and annexed Cyprus in 1914 following Turkey's entry into World War I) the Greek Cypriot community, constituting over 80% of the island's population, demanded union (enosis) of Cyprus with its cultural motherland, Greece. In the nineteen-fifties post-World War II era of decolonisation and claims to self-determination, the United Kingdom nonetheless declared that Cyprus would never be independent and was subject to claims by Turkey (despite the latter's unconditional renunciation in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne of any claim to Cyprus). The EOKA independence struggle then developed. Britain responded by invoking a need to protect the minority Turkish Cypriot community (18.8% of the population). Turkey herself demanded retrocession or partition along a line giving Turks 38% of the island. It is more than coincidence that she again claimed this line in 1964, that Turks proposed it to the UN Mediator in 1965 and that it is virtually the 'Attilaline ' (so named by Turkey's Generals to inspire fear) where the Turkish Army finally halted its August 1974 invasion, and where it is to this day deployed (See annexed map). In February 1959 at Zurich, in secret diplomacy, Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, concluded arrangements for an independence constitution, guaranteed by them. These arrangements were imposed under duress on Cyprus and reluctantly acquiesced in by Archbishop Makarios upon threat of partition. The resultant constitution was described by world experts as the most complex, most rigid and most ethnically divisive ever devised and as a recipe for failure‚. Turkey, meanwhile, was well satisfied to bide her time, knowing that this artificial edifice would result in crisis, affording her pretext to intervene and to wreak her will on Cyprus. The core aspect of the Zurich Treaties for Turkey was that together with a "right of armed intervention" they immediately permitted her to station a Turkish Army contingent of 650 men strong enough to be operational, "militarily influential", and proving 'Turkey has gained a foothold in Cyprus"3. That there would be misjudgments and mishandling by Greek and Turkish Cypriot political leaders was inevitable in a newly independent inexperienced country just emerging from a bitter war of liberation in which there had also been inter-communal violence, which commenced at Turkey's instigation with a massacre in 1958 at Geunyeli of Greek Cypriot villagers and the burning and looting of the Greek sector of Nicosia. Indeed, preparing for continuance of such violence, Turkey, even after the Zurich Agreements, arranged for arms shipments to Turkish-officered para-militaries in Cyprus. The inflexible constitution of 1960 not only denied the 82% of the population who were Greek Cypriots their legitimate right to self-determination in the shape of that long-desired union with their motherland, Greece, but in practice even denied the great majority of the population the possibility of effective self-government and internal democracy. In these circumstances it was not unnatural that political discontent encouraged hardline sentiments in many Greek Cypriots. These were fuelled by the Turkish Cypriot political leadership's, obstruction between 1960 and 1963 - under Turkey's tutelage - of democratic decisionmaking and by Turkey's continued build-up of a Turkish-officered para-military force. The two communities were soon locked into a constitutional crisis, which became even more serious when proposals by President Makarios for amendment of the unworkable constitution were rejected out of hand by Turkey. Soon thereafter, in December 1963, illegal organisations in both communities, the product of mutual suspicion and fear stirred by Turkey's policy of dividing the two communities, clashed. From then until 1968 inter-communal violence caused grave suffering to both communities.4 When these tragic disorders began, Turkish Cypriots were clearly well prepared. Their public representatives and public servants boycotted 1960 constitutional organs, describing these as dead, and set up their own governmental arrangements in areas which by force of arms and with aid from Turkey's contingent they kept separate in order to pave the way for Turkey's policy of partitioning the island. The UN Secretary-General, reporting on this situation in 1965, stated:
'The Turkish Cypriot leaders have adhered to a rigid stand against any measures which might involve having members of the two communities live and work together or which might place Turkish Cypriots in situations where they would have to acknowledge the authority of Government agents. Indeed, since the Turkish Cypriot leadership is committed to physical and geographical separation of the communities, as a political goal, it is not likely to encourage activities by Turkish Cypriots which may be interpreted as demonstrating the merits of an alternative policy. The result has been a seemingly deliberate policy of self-segregation by the Turkish Cypriots5. At the same time, Turkey threatened to invade Cyprus. She was only restrained from so doing by UN Security Council involvement and by President Johnson's direct intervention in 1964 and again in 1967. Indeed, during this period in order to pre-empt Turkish invasion a Greek regular armed force of 12,000 men was moved to Cyprus, but, on renewed threat of Turkish invasion, this force was - in conjunction with international diplomatic activity securing a Greek Turkish stand-off - withdrawn at the end of 1967. At the same time the political leaderships of both Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities were persuaded to begin the interminable process of inter-communal negotiation for a just settlement of the Cyprus question. The negotiations were however doomed because external powers interested in Cyprus manipulated both communities' fears and aspirations and blocked any agreement which would deny Turkey partition of the island or which would ensure the preservation of an independent non-aligned Cyprus State. There was now to be a turning point in Cyprus' history leading to catastrophe. Whatever the rights and the wrongs, actual or assumed, which preceded this turning point, the magnitude of the catastrophe and the massive suffering, ferociously and mercilessly inflicted by Turkey, was so grossly disproportionate as to vitiate any claim that she was acting in aid of the Turkish Cypriots. What followed was barbarism and atrocities.


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