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29 April 2005
British policy towards Cyprus: a pre-election assesment
British released documents for 1974 The 1974 British Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence documents released on the 1 January... expose beyond any doubt the partitionist British policy followed before, during and most importantly right after the Turkish invasion, a policy that inevitably led with mathematical accuracy to the Annan plan today... they eagerly promised to help Ecevit proceed with the invasion when they agreed to prevent Greece from rushing troops in aid of Cyprus.

British released documents for 1974

The 1974 British Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence documents released on 1 January reveal quite a handful this year. And expose beyond any doubt the partitionist British policy followed before, during and most importantly right after the Turkish invasion, a policy that inevitably led with mathematical accuracy to the Annan plan today.

First of all I should summarise that the Turkish policy from January 1974 and right up to the invasion in July and thereafter was also consistent as all the previous years. Demanded Federation, geographical federation and blatantly referred to bizonal bicommunal federation as the ultimate goal.

On the 11th of February the idea of Federation was officially demanded by the Turks. On the 13th the Turkish Foreign Minister told the British Ambassador in Ankara that the federal system was their objective in order to put the Turkish minority on an equal footing with the Greeks.  On the 27th of February the Turkish constitutionalist working  in Cyprus explained to the British High Commissioner that the bicommunal state remained the Turkish goal but they did not have faith in the 1960 Treaties and that Federation would not work without geographical separation and so on.

On the 12 July the Cyprus High Commission in London delivered to the Foreign Office a memorandum about the impracticability of a federal solution which was a clearly Turkish solution and Turkish demand which Archbishop Makarios rejected as it would lead to partition.

On the 17th of July Makarios who had been rescued by the British and transported via Malta to London met with  Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Foreign Secretary James Callaghan and agreed with  Prime Minister when the latter tried to put words in his mouth that the actions of Greece amounted to an invasion.

The same day Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit also met with Harold Wilson and James Callaghan and asked permission to invade Cyprus through the British Bases. Although they refused to join Turkey in such an operation, purely on legal grounds (they knew they would be in deep trouble had they conceded) they eagerly promised  to help Ecevit to proceed with the invasion when they agreed to prevent Greece from rushing troops in aid of Cyprus.

Therevealing factor in this case is of course two fold. A) The original intention of Turkey was to invade and  occupy the whole of the island if one takes into consideration that the bases are located on the other side of Cyprus and B) The British Government gave its tacit clearance to Turkey to proceed with the invasion and promised to do everything to blockade Greece from helping Cyprus (which in fact tallies perfectly with the British 1964 preparation plan for a Turkish invasion).

Kissinger factor

On the 18 of July a very detailed document brings to light a totally different picture from the one we had taken for granted for 30 years. American Foreign Secretary Henry Kissinger was stressing in no uncertain terms to Callaghan that he wanted Britain to work with the Greeks and Turks together in London for a constitutional solution on the basis of the 1960 Treaties calling a tripartite meeting for the 20th of July.  He did not want Makarios or Sampson and favoured Glafkos Clerides which was the British chosen one too, but a solution formula to be found based on the 1960 Treaties. 10 Downing street advisers however disagreed with Kissinger on this and were pushing forcefully for a radical constitutional change undermining the 1960 Treaties in accordance with the wishes of the Turks.

The documents for the whole of the 1974 bring to light that the real driving force behind the events and policies was indeed the British Government and not the Americans. Dr. Kissinger in many ways followed the Foreign Office advice, guidance and wishes and clearly disagreed fundamentally with the idea of bizonal federation between August and the end of the year. Kissinger preferred  cantonal federation to bizonal federation and by the end of the year the documents show that he was fed up with Clerides and slightly sided with Makarios which annoyed greatly James Callaghan and the Foreign Office. Hence the Turkish Foreign Minister Gunes’ plan for six cantons in Geneva was primarily based on Kissinger’s preference whereas R. Dentash’s one for bizonal bicommunal federation was reflecting Ankara’s  and London’s preference. Callaghan also rejected Kissinger’s suggestion for an emergency meeting of NATO on the 14th of August because that would have clearly stopped Turkey from executing its second prearranged invasion for which Callaghan was fully informed in advance.

Glafkos Clerides – the man to build on

The other crucial factor  is the confirmation that Glafkos Clerides was the No. 1 man for the dirty work of the British Government and the Turks. And the man who had undertaken to impose the bizonal bicommunal federation on Makarios and the Greek Government.

Wilson and Callaghan had invested heavily on the Athens meeting between Makarios and the newly elected Karamanlis Government  which took place end of November and beginning of December and went out of their way in order to pressurise Makarios and Constantinos Karamanlis in accepting the Turkish solution.

As early as the 16 of August the Foreign Office had noted: “It is important that we should avoid any suggestion that in favouring the geographical separation of the two communities as the most viable solution of the Cyprus problem, we are working for the partition of the island.  We should use the term ‘biregional federation…”.

During the August negotiations in Geneva James Callaghan tried strenuously to get Clerides and George Mavros (Greek Foreign Minister) to accept the bizonal solution. He had already prepared an agreement for them to sign accepting a bizonal bicommunal constitutional change. But it was too soon and Clerides could not do it as yet fearing the reaction in Cyprus and Greece and that of Makarios.  But after the second invasion Clerides was wholeheartedly working for the imposition of the bizonal bicommunal federation in full cooperation with the British Government and with no reservations whatsoever whilst the British were doing everything possible to assist him.

And it is in this context of Callaghan/Clerides cooperation that one must explain Glafkos Clerides’ speech on the 6 November 1974 at the ‘Argo’ gallery in Nicosia in favour of a geographical federation. For which James Callaghan rushed to convey an oral message of praise to Clerides  through the High Commissioner in Cyprus promising to do all he could in order to help him in his task.

On the 26 of November Clerides in conversation with the British High Commissioner confirmed  that a bizonal federation was the Turkish aim. He proposed to work in the Athens meeting for a protocol for a bi-regional federation as the first negotiating gambit, but it was agreed to revert to a bizonal solution if that got him nowhere and explained to the British High Commissioner that he intended even to threaten with resignation if Makarios refused to sign a protocol towards this end. In other words to blackmail Makarios.

Makarios did not accept the bizonal federation but conceded to a multi-federal system as a way out. Immediately the British Government and Gl. Clerides took advantage of that concession and in order to commit  the Cyprus Government to that first essential step in promoting their partitionist policies,  Glafcos Clerides , as President of the House of representatives and Greek Cypriot negotiator at the intercommmunal talks, in his capacity as head of the Cyprus delegation at the United Nations Security Council Session, held in February 1975, disclosed in his statement the proposals he had already handed to the Turkish Cypriot side (R. Dentash) on 10 February 1975; setting out the views of the Cyprus Government for a settlement and for a bicommunal multi-regional federal state constitution. Which  in fact, with slight variations, was a carbon copy of Callaghan’s draft for a bizonal solution presented on  the 13 of August in Geneva.

We all know what followed those proposals, the 1977 and 1979 Makarios and Kyprianou agreements with Denktash.

Finally the documents reveal that the British disliked the possibility of Tassos Papadopoulos becoming President of the island as early as the Autumn of 1974, when they described such an eventually as disastrous.

Fanoulla Argyrou
Researcher/journalist
3 March 2005