Thursday, May 29, 2008

Commentaries: Britain, Henry Kissinger & Turkey’s Aggression in Cyprus

Greek News
by Gene Rossides

Part 1

I have long written about the British and U.S. responsibility for Turkey’s aggression in Cyprus, and the tragedies that have befallen Cyprus since the 1950’s. I have documented Britain’s irresponsibility in bringing Turkey into the picture in the 1950’s when the Cypriots sought self-determination to join with Greece. Turkey had renounced all rights to Cyprus in the Lausanne Treaty of 1923. Britain threatened partition of Cyprus if Archbishop Makarios would not sign the undemocratic London-Zurich agreements of 1959-1960, written by the British, which gave the 18% Turkish Cypriot minority veto rights over all major legislative and executive actions.

I have also documented at length the growing U.S. involvement since the creation of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960 including Presiden Lyndon Johnson’s important letter of June 1964 which deterred Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus at that time, and Cyrus Vance’s successful diplomatic efforts to prevent warfare in 1967 and 1968.

I have particularly documented Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s infamous role in encouraging the military junta in its assassination attempt against President Makarios, which failed, and its coup against the Makarios government, which succeeded; and his support and encouragement of Turkey’s aggression against Cyprus on July 20, 1974, which gained control of 4% of the island, and its subsequent breach of the UN ceasefire and renewed aggression on August 14 - 16, 1974, which grabbed another 34% of Cyprus three weeks after the legitimate government of Cyprus had been restored.

You can imagine, therefore, my gratification to read in my April 24, 2008 issue of the London Review of Books a lengthy article titled “The Divisions of Cyprus” by Perry Anderson, Professor of History at UCLA, in which he details the original British and U.S. responsibility for the Cyprus problem and British and U.S. responsibility for Turkey’s aggression against Cyprus and the 34 years of Turkish occupation of nearly 40% of Cyprus.

Professor Anderson, who is in the history department at UCLA, details British responsibility for the 1950’s and the 1960 undemocratic constitution and the British and U.S. roles thereafter. He places the blame for Turkey’s invasion of 1974 on the British and Henry Kissinger. He stresses Britain’s failure, as a guarantor of power, to prevent the Turkish invasion.

Regarding negotiations he makes a devastating critique of the British inspired Annan Plan, the U.S. support, and Sir David Hannay’s role.

While I take issue with several of Anderson’s comments in this lengthy article and his characterization of certain Greek and Greek Cypriot officials, I concur fully with his main thrust regarding British and U.S. responsibility for Turkey’s aggression against Cyprus and Kissinger’s role.

This article should be required reading for all U.S. diplomats involved in U.S. relations with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey; and think tanks.

Above all it should be read by (1) President Bush, particularly if he is interested in doing something in support of the rule of law and his legacy in the final months of his presidency; and (2) the three remaining presidential candidates of the major parties, Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) for the Democrats and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for the Republicans.

Let’s look at some of what Professor Perry Anderson has to say.

Turkey’s Invasion of Cyprus

Following the Greek junta’s illegal coup against President Makarios’ government, Professor Anderson states: “The coup was undoubtedly a breach of the Treaty of Guarantee and within 48 hours the Turkish Premier, Ecevit, was at the door of Downing Street, flanked by ministers and generals, demanding that Britain join Turkey in taking immediate action to reverse it.” Britain, Greece and Turkey were the Guarantor powers.

Anderson continued: “The meeting that ensued settled the fate of the island. It was a talk between social-democrats: Wilson, Callaghan and Ecevit, fellow members of the Socialists International. Although Britain had not only a core of well-equipped troops, but overwhelming air-power on the island – fighter-bombers capable of shattering forces far more formidable than Sampson and his minders – Wilson and Callaghan refused to lift a finger. The next day, Turkey readied a naval landing. Britain had warships off the coast and could have deterred a unilateral Turkish invasion with equal ease. Again, London did nothing.”

I have detailed elsewhere that the Treaty of Guarantee did not authorize the use of force, and if it had it would have been void as contrary to the UN Charter.

Anderson continued: “The result was the catastrophe that shapes Cyprus to this day. In complete command of the skies, Turkish forces seized a bridgehead at Kyrenia, and dropped paratroops further inland. Within three days, the junta had collapsed in Greece and Sampson had quit. After a few weeks cease fire, during which Turkey made clear it had no interest in the treaty whose violation had been technical grounds for its invasion, but wanted partition forthwith, its generals unleashed an all-out blitz—tanks, jets, artillery and warships — on the now restored legal government of Cyprus. In less than 72 hours, Turkey seized two-fifths of the island, including its most fertile region, up to a predetermined Attila Line running from Morphou Bay to Famagusta. With occupation came ethnic cleansing. Some 180,000 Cypriots—a third of the Greek community— were expelled from their homes, driven across the Attila Line to the south. About 4,000 lost their lives, another 12,000 were wounded: equivalent to over 300,000 dead and a million wounded in Britain. Proportionally as many Turkish Cypriots died too, in reprisals. In due course, some 50,000 made their way in the opposite direction, partly in fear, but principally under pressure from the Turkish regime installed in the north, which needed demographic reinforcements and wanted complete separation of the two communities. Nicosia became a Mediterranean Berlin, divided by barbed wire and barricades for the duration.”

Kissinger’s role

“The brutality of Turkey’s descent on Cyprus, stark enough was no surprise…Political responsibility for the disaster lay with those who allowed or encouraged it. The chief blame is often put on the United States. There by the summer of 1974, Nixon was so paralyzed by Watergate—he was driven from the office between the first and second Turkish assaults—that American policy was determined by Kissinger alone… He wanted Makarios out of the way, and with Sampson in place in Nicosia, blocked any condemnation of the coup in the Security Council. Once Ankara had delivered its ultimatum in London, he then connived at the Turkish invasion, co-ordinating its advance directly with Ankara.”

Britain’s “overwhelming responsibility”

“But though America’s role in the dismemberment of Cyprus is clear-cut, it is Britain that bears the overwhelming responsibility for it. Wilson and Callaghan, typically, would later attempt to shift the blame to Kissinger pleading that the UK could do nothing without the U.S. Then as now, crawling to Washington was certainly an instinctive reflex in Labour… The reality is that Britain had both the means and obligation to stop the Turkish assault on Cyprus. After first ensuring Turkish hostility to the Greek majority, it had imposed a Treaty of Guarantee on the island, depriving it of true independence, for its own selfish ends: the retention of large military enclaves at its soverieign disposal. Now, when called upon to abide by the treaty, it crossed its arms and gave free passage to the modern Attila, claiming that it was helpless—a nuclear power—to do otherwise.”

House of Commons Report

“Two years later, a Commons Select Committee would conclude: ‘Britain had a legal right to intervene, she had a moral obligation to intervene, she had the military capacity to intervene. She did not intervene for reasons which the government refuses to give.’ The refusal has since, even by its critics, been too conveniently laid at the American door. In an immediate subjective sense, the trail there is direct enough: Callaghan in reminiscent mood, would say Kissinger had a ‘charm and warmth I could not resist.’ But much longer, more objective continuities were of greater significance. Labour, which had started the disasters of Cyprus by denying it any decolonization after 1945, had now completed them, abandoning it to trucidation. London was quite prepared to yield Cyprus to Greece in 1915, in exchange for Greek entry into the war on its side…In the modern history of the Empire, the peculiar malignity of the British record in Cyprus stands apart.”

To be continued

*** Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury

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