By Demetris Papadopoulos
THE AMBASSADOR of the Russian Federation to Cyprus Stanislav Osadchiy increasingly seems to feel the need to defend the “policy of principles” his country adopts towards the Cyprus problem. This is a positive development. Until recently Russia’s “principled position” went undisputed.
Carrying out a historical review of Cyprus-USSR/Russia relations from 1960 until the present day, in an article published last Sunday in Phileleftheros, Osadchiy also refers to 1974 and particularly the Soviet Union’s condemnation of the coup. There are no questions about Moscow’s strong reaction to the coup. Osadchiy, however, was not very clear on Moscow’s stance on the Turkish invasion.
I should remind the ambassador that on July 20, 1974 the Soviet government announced that Turkey had intervened to “defend the Turkish community of the island”, “having been convinced that all peaceful means for resolving the crisis had been exhausted”.
No Western state made a statement like this on the day of the Turkish invasion, yet Moscow’s “principled position” was never doubted by Greek Cypriots. Instead of telling us what Moscow’s official position on the invasion actually was, Osadchiy in his article cited the 1974 headlines of newspapers such as Machi, Phileleftheros and Pravda, papers which slavishly repeated Soviet propaganda. It is frightening that the myths they served up in 1974 are still being used today.
Distorting events completely, Osadchiy also refers to the Soviet Union’s support for UN Security Council resolution 353 of July 20, 1974, which “calls for the termination of the foreign intervention and the removal from the territory of Cyprus of all foreign military personnel”. At Soviet insistence, the resolution did not refer to foreign troops but to “foreign military personnel”, and there was a reason for this. The Soviet Union’s permanent representative at the UN, in justifying his vote, said that the reference to “foreign military personnel” in resolution 353 referred “to Greek officers, whose flagrant intervention in the internal affairs of Cyprus, on orders from Athens, was the prime cause of the current crisis. (Provisional Verbatim Record, UN Security Council, July 20, 1974, S/PV.1781,p27).
In his selective historical references, Osadchiy also cites the Soviet government’s statement of July 28, 1974, which accused “certain Nato circles” of playing games behind the back of the Cypriot people. The games the Kremlin reported were the attempts to strike a deal in Geneva in order to avert a second offensive by Turkey. A part of the Soviet Union’s July 28 announcement which is completely ignored by Osadchiy is that it when it called for the implementation of resolution 353 of July 20 calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops it named only Greek troops. “The Greek officers that caused the coup have still not withdrawn from the island,” it pointed out.
From July 20, when it justified the invasion, until July 28 by which time Turkey had brought at least 10,000 soldiers to Cyprus, the Soviet Union did not utter a word. On July 28, when there was a slim chance of a diplomatic solution at the first Geneva meeting, the Soviets raised the issue of the Greek officers of the decimated National Guard. On the same day, Moscow made a demarche to the Athens government, demanding the implementation of resolution 353. The permanent secretary of the Greek foreign ministry said that the resolution also referred to Turkish troops, but the Soviet ambassador responded by saying “we disagree that Turkish troops were included in the definition of foreign troops”.
On August 14, 1974, Turkey’s second offensive began, ending with the capture of 37 per cent of Cyprus’ territory, the uprooting of 160,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes and the presence of 40,000 occupation troops. The Soviet Union, which made repeated demarches to Athens about the coup before and after the Turkish invasion, did not even issue an announcement voicing sympathy over the plight of the Greek Cypriots.
The Soviet Union dealt with Cyprus again on August 22 when it issued another announcement – mentioned by Osadchiy in last Sunday’s article – which took no position against the invasion but instead reported a new conspiracy by the West. On that day, Britain’s foreign secretary, Jim Callaghan, had sent out invitations for a conference in Geneva to discuss a diplomatic resolution of the Cyprus crisis. As a diversionary tactic, Moscow came up with the proposal for an international conference with the participation of all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, in which it played an effective part.
Archbishop Makarios took the bait, turned down Callaghan’s invitation and embraced Moscow’s proposal. Phileleftheros, as Osadchiy pointed out in his article, wrote on August 23, 1974: “Moscow proposes conference at UN – the participation of the ‘5’ of Security Council.”
There was never an international conference and in the 43 years since the invasion Moscow has never named Turkey, let alone condemned Turkey, for anything in relation to Cyprus. If the ambassador has any documentation that disproves this point he should give it to Phileleftheros to publish.
Forty years later, nothing has changed. Whenever there is some mobility and hope of progress in the Cyprus problem Moscow brings up the idea of the international conference with – of course – the participation of the permanent members of the Security Council. And all Moscow’s Greek Cypriot cheerleaders adopt it with the same zeal they had shown in 1974. By resorting to general and vague comments about the withdrawal of foreign troops (never naming Turkey), meaningless platitudes, the gross exaggeration of the role and importance of the UN Security Council, and with the help of Cyprus’ political and media establishment, Russian propaganda has successfully imposed a distorted understanding of historic reality on the Greek Cypriots and the view that the status quo is the best solution.
Turkey invaded Cyprus with the tacit approval of the big powers. The US closed its eyes because it did not want to lose Turkey, its most important and valued ally in the region. The USSR gave its support because its objective was to lure Turkey away from the West. This is the game that has been played ever since 1974. A Cyprus settlement would mean the reconciliation of Greece and Turkey and the strengthening of the latter’s relations with the West. No settlement would mean the perpetuation of this uncertainty and, in the longer term, Turkey’s move towards Eurasia. This is why the West actively supports a Cyprus settlement and Russia does not.
Now, there is an additional reason for these positions. Russia covers 60 per cent of Turkey’s huge energy needs. A Cyprus settlement would change the regional energy relations as it would open new sources of energy to Turkey. Only a simpleton or someone politically blind could fail to see that Cyprus’ geopolitical and financial interests are in direct conflict with Russia’s.
Unfortunately, it is not just a matter of political blindness caused by Russia’s propaganda. It is also an issue of the system’s dependence on Russian money, not to mention the subservience of Moscow’s local zealots who present Osadchiy’s words as gospel.