By Demetris Papadopoulos
PEOPLE who have followed the political career of Mustafa Akinci would not have been surprised by the comments he made about the tragic events of 1974 this week. In a nutshell, Akinci’s position is that the military coup made the Turkish invasion inevitable and that the ensuing war caused pain and suffering to the whole population of Cyprus, but those that suffered the most were the Greek Cypriots.
Akinci has always held this view, has felt no need to change it since becoming the Turkish Cypriot leader and is now transforming his vision for peace and reconciliation into a political act. Recognition of the other side’s pain is essential for reconciliation. Another pre-requisite is to learn from our mistakes and put our past behind us.
The Turkish Cypriot leader’s view is both politically and historically correct. On July 20, 1974, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus enjoyed – unfortunately – the acceptance of the whole international community, including that of the Cyprus Republic. What Akinci said is far less than what was said and done prior to the invasion by Archbishop Makarios, whose legacies are the ideological foundation of the nationalist parties of the centre.
Fleeing Cyprus after the coup, Makarios sought Turkey’s help in restoring constitutional order and returning him to the presidency. On July 17, he met British Foreign Secretary James Callaghan in London and told him that the coup by Greece “had not been a revolution but an invasion”, and emphasised that there must be no recognition of a president (Sampson) who was a puppet of the military junta in Athens. He added: “The Turks certainly should not do so. The president was not the president of the Greek community alone but of the Republic of Cyprus as a whole.”
Callaghan asked Makarios in what way he thought he would be restored to power. Makarios replied that “It was for Britain and Turkey to press the Greeks in every way about the situation created and to seek to restore the status quo that existed before the coup.”
Makarios also met Prime Minister Harold Wilson and told him that the three powers in a position to put pressure on Greece were the United States, Britain and Turkey. “It is true that the Turks have an interest in the independence of Cyprus and they were opposed to enosis which was a divisive issue within the Greek community.” Makarios also said he “was not sure that the Turks liked him very much, but he thought they preferred him to Sampson.”
When Makarios addressed the UN Security Council he repeatedly referred to the Greek invasion. He told the Security Council that the Greek ambassador to Cyprus had contacted him on instructions from his government to explain that reducing the National Guard or withdrawing Greek officers would weaken Cyprus’ defence against the potential menace of Turkey. “I replied that as things developed, I consider the danger from Turkey of a lesser degree than the danger from them. And it was proved that my fears were justified,” he said.
Having said that the objective of the coup was enosis, he then identified the threat such a development posed to the Turkish Cypriots. “The coup by the Greek junta is an invasion, from the consequences of which all the people of Cyprus will suffer, both Greeks and Turks.”
The Cyprus Republic, which on July 16 asked for the Security Council to convene to discuss the coup, did not make a similar request after the Turkish invasion. The Greek military government did so, but even that discussion referred more to the coup than the invasion. In his contribution, Cyprus’ permanent representative at the UN Zenon Rossides, did not condemn the Turkish invasion to the degree (nor with the intensity) that Makarios had attacked the “invasion by Greece” the previous day.
Rossides’ criticism of the Turkish invasion was exhausted in a vague paragraph, in which he stated that recent developments had added to the tragedy of Cyprus “another intervention, another aggression following the first, in a cycle that is peculiar to the case of Cyprus, because the two countries which have grossly violated the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus are two of the guarantors of that independence and territorial integrity.” Beyond this general reference, Rossides also noted in his speech that the “responsibility may in some way – perhaps in a very important way – rest upon the one which started the aggression against Cyprus; but surely one aggression does not justify another.”
In an interview he gave to Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, Makarios speculated about the tolerance shown by the international community to the Turkish invasion. “Maybe it had fallen into the trap when Turkey asserted that it would conduct a small-scale operation, a type of police operation to restore constitutional order in two days.” But the reality is that Makarios did not differentiate his position from that of the international community or of the Soviet Union with which he was in constant consultation.
The Cyprus Republic, that is, Makarios tolerated the invasion, under the illusion that it would allow his return to power. Turkey justified its intervention on the basis of the 1960 treaties, even though its obligation was to restore constitutional order and withdraw. However, the unanimously approved Resolution 3212 by the UN General Assembly linked the withdrawal of the troops to the peace negotiations and an overall settlement.
Nobody wants Turkish troops in Cyprus – not even the majority of the Turkish Cypriots. But given the way our leaders shaped the situation, before and after the tragic events of ’74, there is no other way to secure the withdrawal of the Turkish troops but through negotiations. Having come to terms with partition, all those who undermine the prospects of a settlement through negotiations, in effect, are extending the presence of the troops in Cyprus.
Thankfully, conditions have changed. We have a president who is determined to push the procedure towards a settlement, while the Turkish Cypriot community elected a leader that considers all of Cyprus his country and is not willing to entertain the idea of partition.