Declassified UK documents are said to reveal that Greece offered to send troops to Cyprus in November 1983 after the Turkish Cypriots unilaterally declared their breakaway state in the north of the island, according to online Turkish news outlet BGN.
It said an armed confrontation between Greek and Turkish soldiers was a real possibility as recently as 1983 after then Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou made the offer to then Cypriot President Spyros Kyprianou.
BGN said that according to the papers Kyprianou flew to London for discussions with Thatcher.
A memo of their conversation was made public under the declassification process, it said.
“He [Kyprianou] had been told that if he felt that Greek troops should go to Cyprus… and he so requested… the Greek government was ready to meet his request,” BGN quoted the documents as saying.
The note added: “If the news leaked that the Greek prime minister had offered to send troops to Cyprus – and [Kyprianou] then had to say that he was still studying the offer – he would be forced to resign.”
Thatcher was cited as saying that such action would be “a very big decision” and that “the hazards of military intervention should be avoided”.
BGN quotes James Ker-Lindsay, a senior research fellow on politics in southeast Europe at the London School of Economics, as saying the declassified documents offered an insight into events following the Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.
“It is a terribly interesting revelation about potential Greek troops but it doesn’t quite stack up,” he said.
“[Papandreou] was hawkish, no doubt about it, but a military response seems to be a very odd reaction. What did he want to do with the troops – to go and take back the north or to keep them in the south?
“I think Kyprianou was using it to increase the pressure on London to act – which they clearly already were by lobbying other countries not to recognise the TRNC.”
“There was a strong feeling in Greece that, following Greece’s inadequate response to the events of 1974, inaction or indifference on the part of the present Greek government would not be tolerated by public opinion,” the note of the meeting between Kyrianou and Thatcher said.
It continued: “[Kyprianou] was not suggesting that the Greeks felt stronger than the Greek-Cypriots but if the quick reversal of the Turkish-Cypriot move was not achieved, it was apparent from his talks with the Greek government that they were seriously considering severing diplomatic relations with Turkey.”
BGN said the declassified papers also revealed several nations were preparing to recognise the ‘TRNC’, which caused concern in Britain.
“The concerns were great enough for the foreign secretary of the time, Geoffrey Howe, to instruct British diplomatic missions to lobby six Muslim-majority countries against recognising the new state,” BGN said.
In a diplomatic note sent to British ambassadors in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Malaysia, Libya and Bangladesh on November 18 – a day after Kyprianou’s meeting with Thatcher – he wrote: “Unless you consider it would be counterproductive to do so, please approach the government to which you are accredited at a time you consider appropriate and encourage them not to recognise a ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’.”