Cyprus Mail
Guest Columnist

The Cyprus issue and the tyranny of terminology

The Ledra Palace 1964. After half a century of deadlock, it is necessary to take a hard look at historical truth

By Ozay Mehmet

NOTHING is more sacred in Greek Cypriot political culture than certain terms, such as “invasion” in 1974 that created a “pseudo-state” in the north, compared with the “legitimate” all-Greek Cypriot regime in the south. This culture, amounting to a tyranny of terminology, is so entrenched, it blocks reason and historical truth.

Dogma is the nourishment of brainwashing in education and religion. The result? Frozen minds and failed leaders lacking courage to compromise with the Turkish Cypriots to solve the Cyprus problem.

After half a century of deadlock, it is necessary to take a hard look at historical truth for no lasting peace and settlement is feasible on the island unless and until history is faced accurately and objectively.

Take the legitimacy issue. How did the Greek Cypriot administration in the south come about? Dogma would ignore the Makarios coup of December 1963. His 13-point plot, backed by armed force, ejected the Turkish Cypriot partnership as laid down in the 1960 Constitution. The Greek Cypriot administration in the south owes its birth to the violence of inter-communal fighting.

Branding the Turkish Cypriot administration in the north “pseudo” or “puppet” of Turkey because it was created by force is, therefore, like the pot calling the pan black. The doctrine of necessity, too, applies equally in the north as in the south.
For the UN and international actors, the status quo on the island is “unacceptable.” It has been so since UN Resolution 164 only talked of “the Government of Cyprus”, meaning the defunct 1960 accords.

The UN’s peacekeeping mission was mission impossible from the start: It rested on two communities, two leaders on equal political footing, an admission of the constitutional vacuum that existed at the time.

Throughout the 1960s, the all-Greek Cypriot administration in the south emerged to function as the RoC but this is simply by assumption.
Now, let’s look the facts and logic of the 1974 “invasion”. Yes, the Turkish army landed and many Greek Cypriots lost their homes and land.

But was the “unprovoked” Turkish aggression illegal and totally unwelcome? Turkish Cypriots, dispossessed in the preceding decade, welcomed Turkish troops as liberators. Ankara justified it as legal intervention under the Treaty of Guarantee.
Most significantly, it was provoked by an Enosis coup.  Greek Cypriots prefer to ignore it, but history cannot be erased. For five days, from July 14-19, Greeks fought Greeks, left, right, fascist, communist.
How could the Enosis coup plotters imagine a non-response from Turkey?

For Ankara, then in the hands of a fragile coalition led by the poet-politician of leftist persuasion, Bulent Ecevit, the installation of Nicos Sampson by the Greek Cypriots was the straw which broke the camel’s back. Enosis would be the final phase of ethnic cleansing of Turkish Cypriots on the island, and, at the same time, with Cyprus joining Greece, Greek territorial waters would bottle up Turkey itself.
In the preceding decade, several times inter-communal fighting had occurred on the island. Turkey, threatening to come to the protection of Turkish Cypriots had been prevented from doing so, most notably in 1967 by US President Lyndon Johnson.

On July 19, 1974, the Turkish PM ordered the troops to Cyprus. He called it a Peace Operation, hoping to restore the 1960 constitutional order on the island. The Greeks, “enemies until yesterday”, now joined forces to fight the Turkish soldiers. They lost.

The island was divided into a Turkish north and a Greek Cypriot south. An attempt in Geneva, in the middle of the Turkish military operation, failed to produce any diplomatic solution. Makarios, who miraculously had survived the Enosis coup, and his lieutenant Glafcos Clerides, rejected Turkish plans for a return to constitutionalism.

The Greek Cypriot leadership instead opted for the Long Struggle, a policy of non-cooperation with the Turkish side. The Long-Struggle has remained in force ever since.

The creation of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) was born out of the Greek Cypriot Long Struggle.  Rauf Denktash had reached an accord with Makarios in 1977 on a federal division of the island. Perhaps Denktash would have settled had Makarios lived longer. After Makarios, Greek Cypriot leaders, from Spyros Kyprianou to the present Nicos Anastasiades, have doggedly rejected cooperation with the “pseudo” TRNC, focusing instead on painting Turkey as the aggressor, insisting that the Cyprus problem is a problem of invasion and occupation, and dismissing every UN mediator as being pro-Turkish.

Ignoring the historical facts is unhelpful, repressing facts self-delusional. So long as the Greek Cypriots and especially their leaders rely on dogma, unreason will rule in the south and the north will move ever more closer to Turkey.

Ozay Mehmet, Ph.D (Toronto) is Senior Fellow, Modern Turkish Studies, Distinguished Research Professor, International Affairs (Emeritus),
Carleton University, Ottawa, Ont., Canada

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