From an English Lawyer’s unbiased perspective: The Cyprus Issue
The Greek Cypriots claim that the Cyprus problem was caused by the landing of Turkish troops in 1974 and that if only they would withdraw, the problem would be solved. This is a serious misconception, for the landing of Turkish troops was the consequence, not the cause, of the problem.
Dr. Oliver Barış Bridge / Oxford, 28.12.2020
Michael Stephen L.L.M. is a Barrister and international lawyer and was a member of the UK Parliament 1992-97. At the same time he held the Harkness Fellowship in International Law at Stanford and Harvard Universities. He is a distinguished lawyer who served as Assistant Legal Adviser to the UK Ambassador to the UN for the 25th General Assembly. He is the author of “The Cyprus Question.” (London, July 2001). The article below includes the unbiased observations of Stephen taken in the UK Parliament and House of Commons in 2004 regarding the Cyprus issue. This issue is important in terms of how it maintains its relevance and currency across the years.
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS OF THE GREEK CYPRIOTS
It is necessary to know what happened in Cyprus between the foundation of the Republic in 1960 and the Turkish intervention in 1974, not for historical interest but in order to determine whether the political status of the Greek Cypriot Administration today, and its acceptance by the world is justified. If the Turkish Cypriots had simply withdrawn from the institutions of the Republic in 1964 with no reasonable excuse, and if the Turkish army had invaded in 1974 without any legal right or humanitarian justification, then perhaps the world would be right to treat the Greek Cypriot Administration as if it were the Government of Cyprus. The truth of the matter is however very different.
This is an important question, because the ability of the Greek Cypriot Administration to enforce an embargo on Turkish Cypriot trade, sport, and communications derives from their acceptance by other countries and institutions as if they were the lawful government of all Cyprus.
The former British Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home said in his memoirs he had been convinced that if the Greek Cypriots could not treat the Turkish Cypriots as human beings they were inviting the invasion and partition of the island.
The American Under-Secretary of State, George Ball, said in his own memoirs, that the central interest of the Greek Cypriot leader, Makarios, “was to block off Turkish intervention so that he and his Greek Cypriots could go on happily massacring Turkish Cypriots. Obviously we would never permit that.” The fact is however that neither the US, the UK, the UN, nor anyone, other than Turkey ever took effective action to prevent it.
The most remarkable feature of the Cyprus question is the extent to which the Greek Cypriots have been able to repudiate solemn international agreements and violate the human rights of the Turkish Cypriots on a massive scale and yet by a quite astonishing feat of public relations, have secured for themselves acceptance as the government of all Cyprus and have persuaded the world that they, and not the Turkish Cypriots, are the injured party. The consequence of this is that they have been able to extract one-sided resolutions from the United Nations and other international organisations, and have been able to secure court judgments which have been immensely damaging to the Turkish Cypriots and have placed the Turkish Cypriots under a crippling embargo on their international trade and communications.
For more than 40 years the Turkish Cypriots and their government have been faced with one of the hardest tasks in the whole range of international affairs—how to get the world to change its mind after it has got hold of the wrong end of the stick and clung to it year after year.
THE CONSEQUENCE OF THE LANDING OF TURKISH TROOPS ON THE ISLAND
The Greek Cypriots claim that the Cyprus problem was caused by the landing of Turkish troops in 1974 and that if only they would withdraw, the problem would be solved. This is a serious misconception, for the landing of Turkish troops was the consequence, not the cause, of the problem. Moreover, there were in fact two military actions in 1974; the first was by Greece and the Greek Cypriots, which caused the second by Turkey.
In the view of Greek Cypriot journalist Aleccos Constantinides the Greek Cypriot political parties DIKO and EDEK “are acting as if the Cyprus problem began and ended in 1974. They refrain from talking about the previous coups. The first coup was not in 1974, but only a few years after we had attained our independence (in 1960). Had it not been for the first coup there would not have been the 1974 coup.”
Another Greek Cypriot journalist, Stavros Angelides, wrote in Fileleftheros on 16 September 1990 “With the passage of time we the Greek Cypriots forget, or wilfully disregard, the events which led to the present situation in Cyprus. We forget our faults and we ask all the more emphatically everybody else to deliver to us justice as we understand it. We talk in generalities and in vague terms about UN Resolutions, and actually mean those which favour us. The others, such as Resolution 649 are not fair—we do not want them—let them go to hell.”
The independence negotiations in Zurich and London were long and difficult, but in 1960 it was agreed by way of compromise between all five participants; Britain, Greece, Turkey, the Turkish Cypriots, and the Greek Cypriots; that the new Republic of Cyprus would be a bi-communal Republic with a single territory but a unique Constitution which embodied an agreed political partnership between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and which prohibited the political or economic union of Cyprus with any other State.
The bi-communal structure was fundamental to the 1960 accords, on the basis of which the Republic of Cyprus achieved independence, and recognition as a sovereign state from the international community. Accordingly, from its very inception the Republic of Cyprus was never a unitary state in which there is only one electorate with a majority and minority. The two peoples of Cyprus were political equals and each existed as a political entity, just as both large and small states exist within the structure of the European Union. They did not however have the same constitutional rights because the agreements took into account the fact that there were more Greek Cypriots than Turkish Cypriots.
UN Secretary-General Annan acknowledged in his plan for a Cyprus settlement that “the relationship between the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots is not one of majority and minority but of political equality where neither side may claim authority or jurisdiction over the other.”
The Turkish Cypriot people, knowing that they could not enforce the agreement themselves, would never have agreed to join the 1960 Republic if the Greek Cypriots had not also accepted a Treaty of Guarantee which gave Turkey a legal right to intervene, with troops if necessary. The parties to the Treaty were the United Kingdom, Turkey, Greece, and the Republic of Cyprus itself. The Turkish Cypriots had seen what happened to the Turkish people of Crete under Greek hegemony, and knew that there would be no future for them in Cyprus without a Turkish military guarantee.
GREEK CYPRIOTS HAD NO INTENTION OF ABIDING BY THE CONSTITUTION
At the conclusion of the negotiations the Greek Cypriot leader, Archbishop Makarios, said “Sending cordial good wishes to all the Greeks and Turks of Cyprus, I greet with joy the Agreement reached and proclaim with confidence that this day will be the beginning of a new period of progress and prosperity for our country”. However, it soon became clear that the Greek Cypriots did not intend to abide by the Constitution, and that their entry into that solemn legal obligation with the Turkish Cypriots in 1960 had been a deception. On 28 July 1960 President Makarios said “the agreements do not form the goal—they are the present and not the future. The Greek Cypriot people will continue their national cause and shape their future in accordance with THEIR will.
In a speech on 4 September 1962, at Panayia, Makarios said “Until this Turkish community forming part of the Turkish race which has been the terrible enemy of Hellenism is expelled, the duty of the heroes of EOKA can never be considered as terminated.” It would be difficult to imagine a more vindictive, racist, policy than this. It is also a Greek expansionist policy—the very charge which the Greek Cypriots laid against Turkey when Turkey intervened twelve years later to put an end to it.
George Ball quotes Adlai Stevenson as saying that Makarios, was “a wicked, unreliable conniver, who concealed his venality under the sanctimonious vestments of a religious leader” and comments that “In the years I had known Adlai I had never heard him speak of anyone with such vitriol.”
Article 173 of the Cyprus Constitution provided for separate municipalities for Turkish Cypriots in the five main towns. The Greek Cypriots refused to obey this mandatory provision and in order to encourage them to do so the Turkish Cypriots said they would not vote for some of the Government’s taxation proposals. The Greek Cypriots remained intransigent, so the Turkish Cypriots took the matter to the Supreme Constitutional Court of Cyprus. The court comprised one Greek Cypriot judge, one Turkish Cypriot judge, and a neutral President.
In February 1963 Archbishop Makarios declared on behalf of the Greek Cypriots that if the Court ruled against them they would ignore it On 25 April 1963 the Court did rule against them and they did ignore it. The President of the Court (a German citizen) resigned and the rule of law in Cyprus collapsed.
In November 1963 the Greek Cypriots went further, and demanded the abolition of eight of the basic articles which had been included in the 1960 Agreement for the protection of the Turkish Cypriots. The aim was to reduce the Turkish Cypriot people to the status of a mere minority, wholly subject to the control of the Greek Cypriots, pending their ultimate expulsion from the island. The Greek Cypriots had prepared a written plan for this purpose, called the Akritas Plan.
Glafcos Clerides, later the Greek Cypriot President, wrote his memoirs, entitled “Cyprus—My Deposition” in four volumes, published by Alithia publishing company, Nicosia, 1989-91. In these memoirs he admits that there was no need for constitutional amendments. According to him, “Makarios, at the head of the bi-communal state of Cyprus, had decided to proceed, stage by stage, to the unilateral abrogation of the rights granted to the Turkish community by the Zurich and London Agreements and to reduce its political status to a minority, using prematurely, the excuse of the unworkability of certain provisions of the constitution.”
He goes on to say that “An honest evaluation of the situation during the period 1960-63, divorced from propaganda would lead to the conclusion that there was no need to press for constitutional amendments”. Nevertheless according to Clerides, Makarios “refused to accept practical solutions failing short of constitutional amendments”
Clerides admits that “the delicate period of 1960-63, when both communities were questioning the sincerity of the other over their real commitment to independence, was not the proper time to request constitutional amendments on the grounds that the constitution was unworkable, when in fact unworkability could not be established”.
Greek Cypriots claim that constitutional amendments were inevitable because the Turkish Cypriots abused their veto power, but according to Clerides: “The veto powers were not used either by the President or the Vice President on any law or decision of the House of Representatives . . .
Furthermore, he says “there was no difficulty in promulgating the decisions of the Council of Ministers and the laws of the House of Representatives.” Clerides continued: “If the Turkish Cypriots resist “unilateral amendments of the Constitution” where their rights would be abrogated, the forces of the Minister of Interior will use force to “put down the uprising”. Lt General George Karayiannis (the mainland Greek Army Officer then in command of the Cyprus Army) told Ethnikos Kiryx, an Athens Daily, on 13 June 1965 that “President Makarios decided (a) to proceed to organise the Greek Cypriots for battle and arm them, and (b) to proceed with the revision of the Constitution, including the cancellation of the [Turkish Cypriot] Vice-President’s Veto.”
“When the Turkish Cypriots objected to the amendment of the constitution Makarios put his plan into effect, and the Greek Cypriot attack began in December 1963″—(Lt Gen Karayiannis) The General is referring to the “Akritas” plan, which was the blueprint for the annihilation of the Turkish Cypriots and the annexation of the island to Greece.
To be continued…
Bridge, O. (2020, December 27). İngiliz hukukçunun tarafsız gözüyle: Kıbrıs sorunu. Retrieved December 29, 2020, from https://aydinlik.com.tr/ingiliz-hukukcunun-tarafsiz-gozuyle-kibris-sorunu-227192
Stephen, M. (2004, September 30). Written evidence submitted by Michael Stephen: WHY IS CYPRUS DIVIDED? Retrieved December 29, 2020, from https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmfaff/113/113we45.htm#note107
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