Firsta published at 24 April 2008
By Perry Anderson
Enlargement, widely regarded as the greatest single achievement of the European Union since the end of the Cold War, and occasion for more or less unqualified self-congratulation, has left one inconspicuous thorn in the palm of Brussels. The furthest east of all the EU’s new acquisitions, even if the most prosperous and democratic, has been a tribulation to its establishment, one that neither fits the uplifting narrative of the deliverance of captive nations from Communism, nor furthers the strategic aims of Union diplomacy, indeed impedes them.
Cyprus is, in truth, an anomaly in the new Europe. Not, however, for reasons Brussels cares to dwell on. This is an EU member-state a large part of which is under long-standing occupation by a foreign army. Behind tanks and artillery, a population of settlers has been planted that is relatively more numerous than the settlers on the West Bank, without a flicker of protest from the Council or Commission. From its territory are further subtracted – not leased, but held in eminent domain – military enclaves three times the size of Guantánamo, under the control of a fellow member of the EU, the United Kingdom.
The origins of this situation date back over a century, to the era of high Victorian imperialism. In 1878 the island was acquired by Britain from the Ottoman Empire as a side-payment for the Turkish recovery of three Armenian provinces ceded to Russia, and restored thanks to Disraeli at the Conference of Berlin. Coveted as a naval platform for British power in the Middle East, the new colony had from antiquity been Greek in population and culture, with a Turkish minority introduced after Ottoman conquest in the 16th century. But in the 19th century, distant four hundred miles from Greece, it remained unaffected by the national awakening that produced, first Greek independence itself, then successive risings against Ottoman rule in Crete and its union with Greece before the First World War. In Cyprus, popular unrest did not materialise for another half-century. Eventually, in 1931, desire for an equivalent Enosis boiled over in a spontaneous island-wide rebellion against British rule that left Government House in flames and required the descent of bombers, cruisers and marines to quell. Thereafter, Britain’s response to this outbreak of feeling was unique in the annals of the empire: a colonial regime that ruled by decree until the day the flag would be formally hauled down in Nicosia.
It was not until the postwar period, however, that a national movement really crystallised as an organised force on the island, in a strange mixture of times: post-dated in emergence, pre-dated in form. Pan-hellenism was in many ways, as Tom Nairn pointed out long ago, ‘the original European model of successful nationalist mobilisation’, producing in the Greek Wars of independence the first victorious movement of national liberation after the Congress of Vienna. Yet, he went on, ‘the very priority of Greek nationalism imposed a certain characteristic penalty on it,’ conferring on Panhellenic ideology increasingly ‘anachronistic and outdated’ features by the 20th century. But it was still quite powerful enough to capture the expression of popular revolt on the island after the Second World War. Once they awoke politically, the mass of the population ‘found the fully fledged, hypnotic dream of Greek nationalism already there, beckoning them. It was inevitable that they should answer that call to the heirs of Byzantium, rather than attempt to cultivate a patriotism of their own.’ Union, not independence, was the natural goal of this self-determination.
Such Hellenism was not, however, an archaic import, out of season in a society that had moved beyond its conditions of origin. Its appeal was irresistible also because it found so powerful a sounding-board in an indigenous institution that was much older than romantic 19th-century nationalism. The Orthodox Church in Cyprus was without equivalent on any other Greek island. Autocephalous since the fifth century, its archbishop was equal in rank to the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria or Antioch, and under the Ottomans had always been the acknowledged head of the Greek community. Since the British had made no attempt to offer education on the island – to the end, they ensured it had no university – the school system remained under the control of the Church. Clerical leadership of the national movement, with its inevitable freight of religious conservatism in moral and political life, was thus all but guaranteed in advance.
Not that the hegemony of the Church was complete, since from the 1920s onwards a strong local Communist movement developed, which was regarded by London as much more dangerous. Mindful of overwhelming majority aspirations, AKEL – as the Cypriot CP was now called – also campaigned for union with Greece when the war came to an end. In 1945, it had every reason to do so, since the Communist resistance in Greece had been by far the leading force in the struggle against the Nazi occupation, in a strong position to take power once the country was cleared of it. To avert this danger, military intervention by Britain – on a scale exceeding later Soviet actions in Hungary – installed a conservative regime, complete with the discredited Greek monarchy. The result was a civil war, in which the left was crushed only after Britain and America, playing the role of Italy and Germany in Spain, weighed into the conflict to ensure the victory of the right.
So long as the outcome in Greece was in the balance, AKEL could continue to support Enosis without undue strain, at least outwardly. Indeed, in November 1949 – a month after the final defeat of the Democratic Army on the mainland – it fired what turned out to be the starting-pistol of national liberation in Cyprus, by calling on the United Nations to organise a referendum on ‘the right of self-determination, which means union of Cyprus with Greece’. But this was to be its last moment in the van of the movement. In January 1950, moving swiftly to pre-empt this initiative, the ethnarchy organised its own plebiscite, held in churches across the island, to which AKEL rallied. The result left little doubt about popular sentiment: 96 per cent of Greek Cypriots – that is, 80 per cent of the population of the island – voted for Enosis.
The Labour government in London, naturally, ignored this expression of the democratic will, its local functionaries dismissing it as ‘meaningless’. But in the shepherd of the referendum, Michael Mouskos, it had met with more than it reckoned. Five months later, he was elected head of the church, at the age of 37, as Archbishop Makarios III. Son of a goatherd, he had gone from a seminary in Cyprus to university in Athens and postgraduate studies in Boston, when he was suddenly recalled to the see of Kitium, and put in charge of the political hub of the ethnarchy, where he rapidly showed his rhetorical and tactical gifts. The referendum had demonstrated a general will. Over the next four years, Makarios set about organising it. Conservative peasant associations, right-wing trade unions and a popular youth group were built into a powerful mass base for the national struggle, directly under the aegis of the Church. Mobilisation at home was accompanied by pressure abroad, in the first place on Athens to take up the issue of self-determination in Cyprus at the UN, but also – departing from the traditions of the Church – rallying support from Arab countries in the region.
None of this made any impression on London. For Britain, Cyprus was a Mediterranean stronghold it had not the slightest intention of relinquishing. Indeed, upgrading its strategic role as soon as British garrisons in the Canal Zone were judged insufficiently secure, the High Command in the Middle East was transferred to the island in 1954. A year later, the colonial secretary – now Conservative – told the Commons that possessions like Cyprus could never expect self-determination. Nor, since London refused to allow any legislative assembly in which the four-fifths of the population in favour of Enosis would enjoy a majority, was there any question even of self-government. The outlook at Whitehall remained: we hold what we have. If public justification was needed, Eden would provide one that was crude enough: ‘No Cyprus, no certain facilities to protect our supply of oil. No oil, unemployment and hunger in Britain. It is as simple as that.’ Title to the island could dispense with normal sophistries: it was not arguable, a straightforward matter of force majeure.
Faced with an open assertion of indefinite colonial rule, pruned even of constitutional fig-leaves, the national cause in Cyprus was inevitably driven to arms. These could only be secured from one source, the mainland. In Athens, a regime of the authoritarian right was now in power, presiding over a system of vindictive discrimination and persecution that would last another thirty years: when the Church turned for support in Greece, what it found there could only be of one political complexion. After four years of trying in vain to arouse international opinion to bring pressure to bear on Britain, in early 1954 Makarios met secretly with a retired colonel of the Greek army, George Grivas, to plan a guerrilla campaign to liberate the island.
Even by the standards of the Greek right, not fastidious in its choice of men or means, Grivas was a nervi on the extreme wing of counter-revolution. A veteran of the disastrous Greek thrust into Anatolia after the First World War, he had sat out the German occupation during the Second World War, and then, with assistance from the departing Wehrmacht, organised death squads against the left before the British landed. But though it was decades since he had been on the island, he came from Cyprus and was committed to Panhellenism in its most blinkered versions. Informally, he was in touch with the Greek General Staff. The Papagos government, newly admitted to Nato, was careful to keep him at arm’s length, but looked the other way as he acquired weapons and logistics for a landing on Cyprus, where he arrived late in 1954.
On 1 April 1955, Grivas set off his first explosives on the island. Over the next four years, his National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters – EOKA – waged a guerrilla war of lethal efficacy, which London never succeeded in stamping out. By the end, Grivas had pinned down some 28,000 British troops with a force of not much more than two hundred men: a feat made possible – his own gifts as a commander were quite limited – only by the breadth of support the national cause enjoyed among the population. As a purely military performance, the EOKA campaign was perhaps the most successful of all anti-colonial resistances in the postwar period.
Politically, its impact was much more ambiguous. Grivas’s virulent anti-Communism left no room for AKEL in the armed struggle, in which EOKA repeatedly shot down its militants, even as the British proscribed the party and put its leaders into detention camps. Driven underground, AKEL was forced to the margins of the anti-colonial struggle, finding some political shelter only in extending support to Makarios, who ignored it. The main force of the Cypriot left, which in normal circumstances would have been a central component of the national liberation movement, was thus effectively deleted from it. More was at stake in this than just the immediate fate of Cypriot Communism. AKEL was the only mass organisation in the country with roots in both Greek and Turkish communities, integrating activists across ethnic lines.
With its exclusion went any chance of inter-communal solidarity against Government House. Cyprus had given birth to a singularly powerful revolt against Britain, combining guerrillas in the mountains and demonstrations in the streets. Led by a pistoleer and a prelate, there was in its mélange of clericalism and militarism a certain resemblance to Irish nationalism, the only other case where the Empire held a European, rather than Asian or African, people in its grip. In pedigree, Hellenism was older than Fenianism, and its goal differed: union, not separation. But this was another epoch, and in substance the constellation of forces in Cyprus was more modern. Makarios, the uncontested political leader of the struggle for self-determination, belonged to the era of Bandung, where he mingled with Nehru, U Thant, Ho Chi Minh, rather than that of De Valera or the Concordat. Reversing the relations between fighters and preachers in Ireland, his church was the less, not the more, regressive factor in the coalition against Britain – a difference that as time went on would widen. For its part, however ruthlessly effective it was as a clandestine organisation, EOKA could not compete with AKEL above ground. The existence of a mass left that was undislodgeable also set Cyprus apart from Irish experience.
To bring the island to heel, London dispatched no less a figure than the chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Sir John Harding. Within a month of his arrival in 1955, he told the cabinet with brutal candour that if self-determination was ruled out, ‘a regime of military government must be established and the country run indefinitely as a police state.’ He was as good as his word. The standard repertoire of repression was applied. Makarios was deported. Demonstrations were banned, schools closed, trade-unions outlawed. Communists were locked up, EOKA suspects hanged. Curfews, raids, beatings, executions were the background against which, a year later, Cyprus supplied the air-deck for the Suez expedition. As one kind of national resistance was being hunted in cellars and hills, another was attacked round the clock from bases a few miles away, British and French aircraft taking off and landing at the rate of one a minute, dropping bombs and paratroops on Egypt. Failure to repossess the canal had no immediate impact on London’s determination to hold onto Cyprus. But with Eden’s departure, British policies began to assume more definitive shape.
From the beginning, colonial rule had used the Turkish minority as a mild counterweight to the Greek majority, without giving it any particular advantages or paying overmuch attention to it. But once demands for Enosis could no longer be ignored, London began to fix its attention on the uses to which the community could be put. It was not large, less than a fifth of the population, but nor was it negligible. Poorer and less educated than the Greek majority, it was also less active. But forty miles across the water lay Turkey itself, not only much larger than Greece, but more unimpeachably conservative, without even a defeated left in prison or exile. No sooner was the referendum of 1950 on Enosis underway – at the very outset of the troubles in Cyprus – than the British ambassador in Ankara advised the Labour regime in London: ‘The Turkish card is a tricky one, but useful in the pass to which we have come.’ It would be played, with steadily less scruple or limit, to the end.
Initially, Ankara was slow to respond to British solicitations that it make itself felt on the future of Cyprus. ‘Even when Britain did start to press the Cyprus button with the Turks, the effect was not at first to trigger the instantaneous reactions that were hoped for: “curiously vacillating” and “curiously equivocal” were remarks typical of the puzzlement felt on this score in London,’ records the leading scholar of the subject, Robert Holland: ‘It remains … a notable fact that it was the British who, in the first instance, had to screw the Turks up to a pitch of excitement about Cyprus, not the other way round.’1 When the requisite excitement eventually came, London did not flinch from the forms it took. Within a month of EOKA’s appearance in Cyprus, Eden was already minuting that any offer made to tamp down local unrest must have the prior approval of Turkey, which – as the Colonial Office would put it – had to be given ‘a fair crack of the whip’.
When the whip was cracked, it came steel-tipped. ‘A few riots in Ankara would do us nicely,’ an official in the Foreign Office had noted. In September 1955, as Cyprus was being discussed at a three-power conference in London, the Turkish secret police planted a bomb at the house where Kemal Ataturk was born in Salonica. At the signal of this ‘Greek provocation’, mobs swarmed through Istanbul looting Greek businesses, burning Orthodox churches, and attacking Greek residents. Although no one in official circles in London doubted that the pogrom was unleashed by the Turkish government, Macmillan – in charge of the talks – pointedly did not complain.
Internal developments lent a hand to this external lever. Ready enough to kill Communists, Grivas had given EOKA strict instructions not to attack Turks, whom he had no wish to antagonise, but to target Greek collaborators with the British, above all in the police. Under EOKA pressure, their number rapidly dwindled. To replace them, Harding recruited Turks, and added a Police Mobile Reserve, dipping for the purpose into the lumpen element in the Turkish community, let loose for savagery when the occasion required. In due course, as Holland notes, the whole security machine came to depend on Turkish auxiliaries. The result was to create a gulf between the two communities that had never existed before. It widened still further when Ankara, now fully engaged in remote control of the minority, riposted to EOKA by setting up its own armed organisation on the island, the TNT – soon killing leftists on its own side, to which the British turned a blind eye.
After Suez, London started to edge towards another way of playing its chosen card, in a larger game. Hints began to be dropped that some kind of partition of Cyprus might be a solution. Menderes, the Turkish premier, who had already been promised that Turkey could station troops on the island if Britain were ever forced to concede self-determination, snapped up the suggestion, telling Alan Lennox-Boyd, the colonial secretary, in December 1956 that ‘we have done this sort of thing before – you will see it is not as bad as all that’: words to make any Greek with a memory of 1922-23 tremble. Harding disliked the idea, regarding it as underhand, and even within the Foreign Office a fear was eventually expressed that this might arouse ‘unhappy memories of the Sudetenland’. Nor were US officials at all pleased when the scheme was intimated to Washington, where it was condemned as a ‘forcible vivisection’ of the island. If the objective in London was to keep control of Cyprus by splitting it in two under British suzerainty, the American fear was that this would arouse such anger in Greece that it risked toppling a loyal regime, handing power to the subversive forces still lurking in the country. In Britain, such concerns counted for less. Our man in Ankara, urging the need to ‘cut the Gordian knot and reach a decision now for partition’, had greater weight.
In the event, it was Turkey that took the first practical steps. In June 1958, repeating the operation in Salonica, its intelligence agents set off an explosion in the Turkish Information Office in Nicosia. Once again, a fabricated outrage – no one was actually hurt – was the signal for orchestrated mob violence against Greeks. Security forces stood by as houses were set on fire and people killed, in the first major communal clashes since the Emergency was declared. The upshot, clearly planned in advance, was the eviction of Greeks from Turkish areas in Nicosia and other cities, and the seizure of municipal facilities, to create self-contained Turkish enclaves: piecemeal partition, on the ground. Its organisers could be sure of British complaisance. The day before the rampage – Harding was now out of it – the new governor, Labour’s future Lord Caradon, had assured its leaders that the Turkish community would enjoy ‘a specially favoured and specially protected state’ under future British arrangements. A few months later, the colonial secretary was publicly referring to Cyprus as ‘an offshore Turkish island’.
Seeing which way the wind was blowing, and fearing that Greece would buckle under British pressure, Makarios – still in exile – confronted the Greek premier, Constantine Karamanlis, in Athens. Implementation of the Anglo-Turkish plan for Cyprus, he pointed out, could be blocked simply by a Greek threat to withdraw from Nato if it went ahead. Karamanlis, whose historical raison d’être was sentry duty in the Cold War – Costa-Gavras’s film Z gives a good idea of the atmosphere under his regime – refused out of hand even to consider the idea.2 Hellenism was essentially for public consumption, to keep domestic opinion quiet: for the regime, it was anti-Communism that counted, and if there was a conflict between them, Enosis would be ditched without compunction. Makarios drew the necessary conclusion. Three days later, without giving any warning to the Greek regime, which was caught flat-footed, he came out publicly for the independence of Cyprus.
For the British, this had always been the worst of all conceivable scenarios. Grivas could be respected as a staunchly right-wing foe who one day might even make – so Julian Amery thought – a good dictator of Greece. But Makarios, the origin of all their troubles, was anathema to London. Handing the island over to him would be the ultimate defeat. For the Americans, on the other hand, still worried at the possible impact of a too blatant division of Cyprus on a Greek political scene where popular feelings on the issue ran high, independence had for some time been viewed as one way out of a potentially dangerous conflict between allies. But it would have to be tightly controlled. When the UN met to debate Cyprus three months later, the US ensured that a Greek resolution calling for self-determination of the island was once again scuppered – this time thanks to a resolution moved at its behest by the dictatorship in Iran – and that instead, direct talks would be held between Turkey and Greece, to hammer out a deal between them. In short order, Karamanlis and Menderes reached one at a hotel in Zurich.
The outcome was entirely predictable. Turkey was not just the bigger military power, and on the closest terms with the colonial proprietor of the island. More fundamentally, whatever might be said of the Turkish state – no small subject, certainly – it was the completely independent creation of Kemalism, a nationalist movement that owed nothing to any outside power. The postwar Greek state, by contrast, started out as a British protectorate and continued as an American dependency, culturally and politically incapable of crossing the will of its progenitors. Greek Cypriots were often to charge its political class with betrayal, but the spinelessness of so many of its ministers and diplomats was structural: there was no inner core of autonomy to betray. Menderes had no difficulty imposing terms on an interlocutor who retreated to his bedroom as details of the agreement were fastened down.
To avoid Enosis, Cyprus would be given a neutered independence, with a constitution stationing troops from Ankara and Athens on its soil, a foreign head of the supreme court, a Turkish vice-president with powers to veto all legislation, separate voting blocs for Greeks and Turks in a house of representatives and in municipal administrations, 30 per cent of the civil service and 40 per cent of any armed force composed of Turks, plus a requirement that all taxes be approved by a vote of Turks as well as Greeks. Rounding off this package was a secret annexe, in the form of a gentleman’s agreement – here American supervisors, hovering nearby, made themselves felt – committing the future Republic of Cyprus to join Nato and to ban AKEL. Last and most important of all, a Treaty of Guarantee between Britain, Turkey and Greece would allow any of these powers to intervene in the island, if it held there had been a breach of the settlement under it – in effect, a variant of the Platt Amendment that authorised the United States to intervene in Cuba when it so decided after 1901.
It only remained for the British, who had kept out of Zurich, to name their price for putting the seal of the proprietor on a transaction so satisfactory to them. What London required were sovereign military enclaves on Cyprus – little ‘Gibraltars’, as Macmillan put it. There was less euphemism on the ground. ‘We should open our mouths wide,’ wrote the key British official in Nicosia. The area gulped down was forty times the size of Gibraltar, and when the final treaties establishing the new state and its constitution were signed, more pages were devoted to British bases in Cyprus than to all its other provisions combined – a juridical unicum.
Makarios, presented with a diktat which Karamanlis told him was unnegotiable, had to submit, taking office in 1960 as president of the new republic. Independence had been granted, but as Holland writes: ‘In Cyprus “freedom” as most people understood it had not been won; self-determination, however partisanly defined, was not applied.’ Far from ending the griefs of Cyprus under colonial rule, what the treaty guaranteed was worse suffering to come. The constitution of Zurich, designed to serve diplomatic imperatives rather than practical needs, let alone principles of equity, rapidly proved unworkable. Separate municipal administrations raised explosive issues of how to demarcate them, which even the British had not wanted to touch. Lack of progress in drawing their boundaries prompted a Turkish veto of the budget, threatening more general paralysis. No agreement could be reached on forming an inter-communal army, leaving the field to the formation of irregulars on both sides.
By the end of 1963 the authors of Zurich were removed from the scene. Two years earlier, Menderes had been hanged, among other things for instigating the pogrom of 1955. In the summer of 1963, Karamanlis fell amid uproar over the murder of the left MP Gregoris Lambrakis by his police. Makarios, who had accepted their arrangements under duress, never regarding these as permanent, now moved to revise them, in late November sending a set of proposals to his Turkish vice-president, Kutchuk, intended to create a more conventional democracy in Cyprus, with a unified administration and majority rule. Three weeks later, amid high tension, communal fighting broke out in Nicosia. This time it was not planned by either side, but after initial random incidents, Greeks inflicted more casualties than Turks, before a ceasefire was effected. All Turkish representatives in the state withdrew from their posts, and Turkish inhabitants increasingly regrouped in consolidated enclaves with strong lines of defence. British troops policed a truce in Nicosia, but clashes persisted through February, the balance of attacks lying on the Greek side. By March a UN force had arrived to secure each community from further violence.
Makarios left no memoirs, and it is unlikely that archives will shed much light on his thinking in this or later phases of his career. What is clear is that he had two courses open to him after the diktat of Zurich. He could escape from it either by continuing to pursue the goal for which he and the overwhelming majority of his compatriots had struggled, union with Greece; or by building a truly independent state in Cyprus, neither beholden to the guarantor powers nor crippled by the impediments they had bequeathed. Once Makarios became president, he left both open. Cyprus did not join Nato, as stipulated in the gentleman’s agreement, nor was AKEL banned – provisions which would have followed automatically had Cyprus been united with Greece, but which he was able to block on taking office. As head of state, his first trip abroad was to Nasser in Egypt, followed by attendance at the Non-Aligned Conference hosted by Tito, and a visit to Nehru in India. In this role he had the profile of a Third World leader, at the antipodes of the pickled Cold War politics of Restoration Greece.
At the same time, he appointed a cabinet dominated by stalwarts of EOKA, and made it clear to his electors – he had won a two-thirds majority of votes in the Greek community – that Cyprus remained entitled to self-determination, a free choice of union with the motherland that had been so flagrantly denied it. Enosis might be deferred, but it was not renounced. Makarios was a charismatic leader, of great dignity and subtlety, and often spellbinding eloquence. But he could not ignore the sentiments of those from whom he drew his authority, who knew they had been cheated of their wishes and saw no reason why they should give them up on foreign instructions. In moving to revise the mock constitution, he was acting as they wanted him to. But in doing so, he miscalculated Turkish reactions in a way common to the Greek community. Knowing only too well that it was Britain that had manipulated Turkish fears and solicited Ankara’s intervention in the first place, Greeks found it difficult to see that, however artificial the origin, the outcome was the intractable reality of a community that felt itself entitled as of right to a disproportionate share of power on the island, yet continually lived on its nerves as if under imminent siege.
It would have been prudent of Makarios to go out of his way to win over Turkish opinion after independence, by generous economic and cultural measures. Yet it must be doubted if even these would have been of much avail. The cold fact was that Zurich had inflated the Turkish position in the state far beyond what a minority of its size could in normal circumstances have claimed. No matter what sweeteners Makarios might have offered, any constitutional alterations were, virtually by definition, bound to reduce this, and so long as the Turkish community had Ankara at its back, there was no chance of their being accepted. Tension over such changes was in any case overdetermined by two further features of the situation for which Makarios bore his share of responsibility.
So long as Enosis was a goal to which the Greek population was attached, and to which he himself remained half or more committed, there was little incentive for the Turks to regard the independence of Cyprus as any basis for positive loyalty to a common state, as opposed to a mere shield against what would be worse. At the same time, the failure to agree on a small Cypriot army, as technically envisaged at Zurich (the Turks insisted that it be ethnically separated, the Greeks that it be integrated), put Makarios, as head of state, at the mercy of guns he could not control. Grivas had been obliged to return to Greece, under the terms of settlement of 1960. But EOKA, which had driven the British out, could hardly be denied positions in the government, and Grivas’s lieutenants now commanded ministries, from which they could cover or direct irregulars formed in its image. Having no wish to multiply his adversaries in an independence struggle, Grivas himself had forbidden attacks on Turks. But as the British came to depend more and more, Black and Tan style, on Turkish auxiliaries for repression, these inevitably came into the line of fire. After the British had gone, the same calculus of restraint no longer applied for EOKA. The obstacles were now irregulars on the other side, the Turkish militias fostered from Ankara. Out of this combustible material came the clashes of December 1963, Greek aggression predominating, which Makarios failed to prevent, and failed to punish.
On the surface, Makarios could seem to have emerged from the breakdown of the Zurich arrangements in a stronger position. The UN force had brought a precarious peace. Turkey’s threats to invade Cyprus were quashed by a brusque missive from President Johnson. American schemes for ‘double enosis’, dividing the island into portions to be allocated to Greece and Turkey, got nowhere. In late 1965, the UN General Assembly formally called on all states to ‘respect the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus’ – the high point of Makarios’s efforts to secure the international position of the republic, free from interference by outside powers. Embarrassed to vote openly against the resolution, as too brazen an indication of their intentions, Britain and America made their displeasure clear by abstaining, along with their numerous clientele. Taken at face value – formally, the resolution obtains to this day – it was a diplomatic triumph for Makarios.
Other developments were less propitious. As ethnic clashes were subsiding in early 1964, the British further concentrated the Turkish population in fortified enclaves by sabotaging the reintegration of refugees into mixed villages. Relaying them, Americans were henceforward deeply engaged in imperial meddling on the island. The US had secured from Britain a series of intelligence facilities in Cyprus – tracking stations and the like – for Middle Eastern surveillance that went unmentioned in the Treaty of Guarantee. By the early 1960s, a Labour regime was back in power in London, and the British bases and listening-posts were for most practical purposes at the disposal of the overlord, as they remain today. The strategic value of Cyprus, less as an ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’, in an earlier phrase, than as an all-purpose U-2, shot up after Washington placed Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Moscow retaliated by dispatching R-12s to Cuba, bringing on the Missile Crisis.
In this setting, it was vital to have a reliable locum in Cyprus. Visiting Washington in 1962, Makarios was told by Kennedy that he should form his own party, on the right, to check the alarming popularity of AKEL, and should desist from unnecessarily correct relations with the USSR. After the archbishop politely declined, saying he did not want to divide his flock, he became a marked man. Politically, in fact, he had little choice. At home he needed tacit Communist support to counterbalance the zealots of Pan-Hellenism; abroad he needed the diplomatic support of the Soviet bloc in the UN to veto Anglo-American attempts to reimpose schemes for partition, cleared with Turkey. In 1964 Johnson blocked a Turkish invasion, but Makarios was under no illusion that this was out of any mercy for Cyprus: Washington’s concern was still about the political impact of a landing on Greece, wanting no hostilities between two Nato allies. So far as Makarios himself was concerned, in American eyes he was little better than ‘Castro in a cassock’. In due course, George Ball, the proconsul dispatched to sort out the situation, would remark: ‘That son of a bitch will have to be killed before anything happens in Cyprus.’
In the summer of 1964, the State Department told Athens in no uncertain terms that it must deal with Makarios. There, the premier was now George Papandreou, patriarch of the other dynasty with which Greece continues to be afflicted to this day, who had set British troops on his countrymen in 1944. Hastening to agree that Cyprus must be brought under Nato control if it was not to be ‘transformed into another Cuba’, he sent Grivas back to Cyprus, with the placet of Washington and London, as the man best able to replace Makarios. There, Grivas took charge of the National Guard that had been created in the spring, expanding it with forces brought from the mainland, and openly announcing: ‘There is only one army in Cyprus – the Greek army.’ Quite willing to accept double enosis, so long as the portion acceding to Turkey was small, his immediate aim was to undermine Makarios’s authority by building a force loyal to himself, capable of dominating the larger part that would accede to Greece.
In April 1967, the weak government that had succeeded Papandreou was overthrown by a military junta, installing a full-blown dictatorship of the right in Greece. AKEL, fearing what might be coming, readied plans to go underground. Grivas, predictably emboldened, launched an all-out assault on two strategically placed Turkish villages. At this, Turkey mobilised to invade Cyprus, where ten thousand Greek troops were now stationed. With war seemingly imminent between two Nato allies, the US persuaded the junta to back down and agree to the withdrawal of all Greek forces from the island. Once they were gone, and Grivas with them, communal tensions dropped, and Makarios could reassert his authority. Re-elected president with a landslide majority, he lifted roadblocks around Turkish enclaves, and started talks with a view to a domestic settlement. A modest economic boom took off.
In this new situation, the ambiguity of Makarios’s political identity – champion of union or symbol of independence – was of necessity resolved. Merging Cyprus into Greece under the junta was unthinkable. Enosis was tacitly dropped, and Cypriot linkage with Third and Second World countries strengthened. But popularity at home and prestige abroad could not offset the increasing difficulty of his underlying position. Had it been possible to abjure Enosis when colonial rule ended, and propose genuine independence as an unconditional goal to both communities, Turkish opinion might have been affected. By now, animosities had hardened: the Turkish community was entrenched in defensive enclaves and more tightly policed by Ankara than ever. But if such independence was too late on the Turkish side, it was too early for a still powerful minority on the Greek side, which denounced Makarios for betraying Enosis, and now had formidable backing in Athens. For the colonels, Makarios was not only a traitor to Hellenism, but a stalking-horse for Communism. Turkey had always viewed him with cold hostility. Once the colonels were in power, it was Greece that became a deadlier threat.3
In March 1970, as the presidential helicopter took off from the Archbishopric, bearing Makarios to service in a monastery in the mountains, it came under fire from automatics on a roof of the nearby Pancyprian Gymnasium, where he had once gone to school. The machine was riddled with bullets, missing Makarios but hitting the pilot, who miraculously brought it down without a crash-landing. The failure of this first attempt on his life was followed by a broader range of operations against him. The next year, Grivas returned secretly to Cyprus. Soon, all three metropolitan bishops were calling on Makarios to resign. By 1973, EOKA-B – Grivas’s new organisation – was setting off bombs across the island, attacking police stations, and preparing snipers to pick off Makarios. In the autumn, another attempt was made to kill him, by mining his route. Hellenism, historically thwarted of a more natural outcome, was starting to destroy itself.
This was Grivas’s last campaign. In January 1974 he died while still underground, and control of actions against Makarios passed back directly to the junta in Athens, now under still more violent leadership. The paroxysm came quickly. In early July, Makarios addressed a public letter to the junta’s nominal president, detailing its successive plots against him. In it he denounced the regime in Athens as a dictatorship that was fomenting civil war in Cyprus, and demanded the withdrawal of its officers from the National Guard as a threat to the elected government. Two weeks later, tanks of the National Guard attacked the Presidential Palace, where – the scene could not have been more suggestive of the gulf between the forces in play – Makarios was receiving some Greek schoolchildren from Cairo. The bombardment began as a little girl was reciting a speech to him. Guards held off the assault long enough for Makarios to escape down a gully at the back of the building, before it went up in flames. On reaching a UN contingent in Paphos, he was airlifted to the British base in Akrotiri and out of the country to Malta.
Resistance to the coup was crushed within a few days. So completely controlled was it from Athens that the junta had not even prepared a local collaborator to front it, fetching about vainly among different candidates after the event, before eventually resorting to Nikos Sampson, a swaggering gunslinger from EOKA-B with a reputation for reckless brutality dating back to the colonial period. Hastily put together, his regime concentrated on rounding up leftists and loyalists to Makarios in the Greek community, leaving the Turks, who had every reason to fear him, strictly alone. But 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.
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 Socialist 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.
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’ ceasefire, during which Turkey made clear it had no interest in the treaty whose violation had been the 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 4000 lost their lives, another 12,000 were wounded: equivalent to over 300,000 dead and a million wounded in Britain. Proportionately 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.
The brutality of Turkey’s descent on Cyprus, stark enough, was no surprise. On previous occasions, as well as this one, Ankara had repeatedly given advance warning of its intentions. 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 paralysed by Watergate – he was driven from office between the first and second Turkish assaults – that American policy was determined by Kissinger alone. Much ink has been spilled over the question of whether the CIA colluded with the junta’s impending coup in Nicosia, and if so whether its advance knowledge of the putsch was shared with the State Department. What is not in doubt is Kissinger’s view of Makarios, who had paid a lengthy state visit to Moscow in 1971, had imported Czech arms for use against EOKA-B, and under whom Cyprus was one of only four non-Communist countries trading with North Vietnam. 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.
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 US. Then as now, crawling to Washington was certainly an instinctive reflex in Labour – had Heath survived as prime minister, such an excuse would have been unlikely. The reality is that Britain had both the means and the 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 sovereign disposal. Now, when called on 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.
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 decolonisation 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. Had it done so, all subsequent suffering might have been avoided. It is enough to compare the fate of Rhodes, still closer to Turkey and with a comparable Turkish minority, which in 1945 peacefully reverted to Greece, because it was an Italian not a British colony. In the modern history of the Empire, the peculiar malignity of the British record in Cyprus stands apart.
As for Greece, the performance of its rulers, from the hotel in Zurich to the rubble in Nicosia, was irredeemable. Nor was it finished with the fall of the junta. The generals who brought the junta’s rule to an end turned, predictably, to Karamanlis to restore the order to which they were jointly attached. On resuming power, his first act was to scuttle Cyprus once again, refusing it any assistance as the Turkish Army launched its blitzkrieg. As in 1959, so in 1974, the only effective weapon would have been a threat to expel American bases and pull out of Nato if the US did not make the call to Ankara that Johnson had shown it could do, with immediate results. Naturally, concerned with his patrons rather than the people of Cyprus, Karamanlis did nothing of the kind. Nor did the second Papandreou, who succeeded him in the 1980s, prove capable of better, other than bluster.
In what was now the Greek remnant of Cyprus, Sampson had handed over to Glafkos Clerides, head of the House of Representatives and next in line to Makarios, a figure of the right who sought to retain power in his own hands by moving in the direction Kissinger and Karamanlis wanted: manoeuvring to keep Makarios from returning to Cyprus, and abandoning the principle of a unitary republic in pursuit of a deal based on a geographical federation with his tougher Turkish opposite number, Rauf Denktash. But the best efforts of Washington and Athens could not sustain him against the passionate loyalty of ordinary Greek Cypriots to Makarios, who returned at the end of the year to an overwhelming popular reception. When elections were held, Clerides – his party embraced diehards from EOKA-B – was routed by an alliance of the left and loyalists to Makarios.
But though his presidency was as intact as ever, his room for initiative was limited. Tired and dispirited, under unrelenting external pressure, in 1977 Makarios accepted the idea of a bicommunal federal republic, albeit with a strong central government enjoying majority consent, in the hope that the Carter administration might induce Turkey to yield some of its gains. Within a few months he was dead. Carter, far from trying to extract concessions from Turkey, laboured might and main to lift the Congressional embargo on arms to it, passed out of public anger – there was no equivalent in Britain – at the invasion of Cyprus. Proud of his success in this aim, Carter would list it as one of the major foreign policy achievements of a presidency devoted to the service of human rights.
So matters rested, with the passing of the only European leader at Bandung, a last, anomalous survivor of the age of Sukarno and Zhou Enlai. Thirty years later, what has changed? Cyprus remains cut in two, still sliced along the Attila Line. In that sense, nothing. In other respects, much has altered. In the territory left them – 58 per cent of the island – Greek Cypriots built, with the courage and energy that can come from disaster, a flourishing advanced economy. What was still an overwhelmingly agricultural society in the 1960s was transformed into one in which modern services comprise more than 70 per cent of GDP, as high a proportion as anywhere in Europe. Per capita income in this Cyprus – the republic whose international recognition at the UN was won by Makarios – is equal to that of Greece, and well above that of Portugal, without the benefit of handouts from the EU. Long-term unemployment is lower than anywhere else in Europe save Sweden. Tertiary education is more widespread than in Germany, corruption less than in Spain or Italy. Unionisation of the labour force is higher than in Finland or Denmark, inequality lower than in Ireland. Governments alternate, parties are represented fairly, elections are free of taint. By OECD standards, prosperous, egalitarian and democratic, this republic has been a remarkable success.
The remaining 37 per cent of the island remains under occupation by the Turkish army. There, Ankara set up a Turkish Republic of North Cyprus in 1983, ostensibly an independent state, in practice a regime that is an offshoot of the mainland. Local parties and politicians compete for office, and their interests and identities do not always coincide with those dominant at any given time in Turkey. But such autonomy is severely limited, since the local state, which provides the bulk of employment, depends entirely on subsidies from Ankara to cover its costs, and the police are under the direct control of the Turkish army. Development has come mostly from construction, the supply of cheap degrees from over-the-counter colleges, and tourism, catering principally to mainlanders. Average incomes are less than half those on the Greek side of the island. Poverty and crime remain widespread.
Not all of this is indigenous. Having taken two-fifths of the island, inhabited – after invasion and regroupment – by less than a fifth of the population, Turkey had a huge stock of empty houses and farms on its hands, from which their owners had been expelled. To fill them, it shipped in settlers from the mainland. What proportion of the population these now represent is a matter of dispute, in part because they have since been supplemented by temporary workers, often seasonal, and students from the mainland. Official Turkish figures suggest that no more than 25-30 per cent out of a total of some 260,000 persons come from the mainland; Greek estimates put the number – there were just under 120,000 Turks on the island in 1974 – at more than 50 per cent, given that there has also been substantial emigration. Only scrutiny of birth certificates can resolve the issue. What is not in doubt, however, is that the Turkish army maintains 35,000 soldiers in the zone it has occupied since 1974, a much higher ratio of troops to territory than Israel has ever deployed to protect its settlers in the West Bank.
If the military division of the island has remained static for thirty years, its diplomatic setting has been transformed. In 1990 Cyprus applied for membership of the EU. Although its application was accepted three years later in principle, in practice no action was taken on it. In Brussels, the prize was enlargement to Eastern Europe, on which all energies were focused. Cyprus was viewed as at best a distraction, at worst a troubling liability. For Turkey, which had applied to join in 1987, and whose suit had been stalled, was bound to be angered at the prospect of Cyprus achieving membership before itself. For Council and Commission alike, Cyprus was the least welcome of candidates for admission to the Union. Good relations with Ankara were of much greater moment.
There matters stood until Greece, at last helping rather than harming its compatriots, in late 1994 blocked the customs union Brussels was offering Turkey, to keep it sweet while its application to join the EU remained on hold. By this time, the second Papandreou was nominally back in office, but in advanced stages of personal and political decay. In the all too brief interval between his quietus and a dreary reversion to dynastic government in Athens – where today indistinguishably conformist offspring of the two ruling families alternate once again – there was momentarily room for some exercise of independence in European councils. The foreign minister at the time, Theodore Pangalos, greatly disliked in Brussels for his refusals to truckle, made it clear that the Greek veto would not be lifted until Cyprus was given a date for the start of negotiations for its accession. In March 1995, a reluctant France, presiding over an EU summit at Cannes, brokered the necessary deal: Cyprus was assured an accession process by 1998, and Turkey granted its customs union.
Amid the fanfare over expansion into Eastern Europe, the central narrative of the period, these events were not conspicuous. But their potential for inconvenience did not escape notice in one capital. No sooner had Britain’s ambassador to the UN retired at the end of the year, than he was asked by the Foreign Office to become the United Kingdom’s special representative on Cyprus. Sir David – now Lord – Hannay, who began his career in Iran and Afghanistan, was Britain’s foremost European diplomat, with some thirty years of involvement in EU affairs behind him. His summons came from Jeremy Greenstock, soon to become famous for his services to Blair as ambassador to the UN and special representative in Iraq. The appointment made clear the importance of the mission. ‘The enlargement of the European Union,’ Hannay writes in his memoir, Cyprus: The Search for a Solution(2005), explaining his brief, ‘was a major objective of British foreign policy and must in no way be delayed or damaged by developments over Cyprus,’ not least since Britain was ‘the European country most favourable to Turkey’s European aspirations’.
Still more favourable was the United States. From the early 1990s onwards, the EU was looking over its shoulder at Washington, which made it clear that, once Eastern Europe was in the bag, the strategic priority was Turkey. As the deadline for negotiations on Cypriot accession came closer, the Clinton administration sprang into action, with pressure on European governments to admit Turkey that even Hannay found ‘heavy-handed’. But manners aside, Britain and the US were at one on the need to ensure that there be no entry of Cyprus into the EU without a settlement of the island palatable to Turkey beforehand, to forestall any complications in Ankara’s own bid for membership. The simplest solution would have been to block Cypriot membership until Turkey received satisfaction, but that was ruled out by a Greek threat to veto the enlargement to the East as a whole if Cyprus was not included. This left only one course open: to fix Cyprus itself. In the summer of 1999, the UK and US got a resolution through the G8 pointedly ignoring the legal government of the Republic of Cyprus, and calling on the UN to superintend talks between Greeks and Turks on the island with a view to a settlement.
This was then rubber-stamped by the Security Council, formally putting Kofi Annan in charge of the process. Naturally – he owed his appointment to Washington – Annan was, as Hannay puts it, ‘aware of the need for the UN to co-operate as closely as possible with the US and the UK in the forthcoming negotiations’. In practice, of course, this meant his normal role as a dummy for Anglo-American ventriloquists. Recording the moment, Hannay does not bother to explain by what right the UK and US arrogated to themselves the position of arbiters of the fate of Cyprus; it went without saying. A UN special representative, in the shape of a dim Peruvian functionary, was chosen to front the operation, but it was Hannay and Tom Weston, ‘special co-ordinator’ of the State Department on Cyprus, who called the shots. So closely did the trio work together that Hannay would boast that a cigarette paper could not have been slipped between their positions. In command was, inevitably, Hannay himself, by a long way the most senior, self-confident and experienced of the three. Successive Annan Plans for Cyprus which materialised over the next four years were essentially his work, the details supplied by an obscure scrivener from the crannies of Swiss diplomacy, Didier Pfirter.
The first of these plans was produced punctually a few days before the EU summit in Copenhagen in December 2002, at which the Council was due to consider the upshot of negotiations with Cyprus. The pious fiction of the secretary-general was maintained, but he had little reason to stir from New York. For its author – after Annan had ‘set out the prize to be achieved … in terms almost identical to my CNN Turk interview’ – was on the spot, conferring with Blair as the various heads of state gathered in the Danish capital. The Anglo-American campaign to secure Turkish membership had acquired new urgency with the victory of the AKP at the polls in November, bringing to power the first government in Ankara for some time with which Washington and London felt completely at home, and whose leaders, Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gul, arrived in Copenhagen to press their suit. The UN Plan – Annan I – was adjusted at the last minute to give them further satisfaction, and – as Annan II – presented to Clerides, now president of Cyprus. It was vital, in the eyes of its architects, to get the plan agreed by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots before the Council took any decision on Cypriot entry into the EU. Clerides indicated, with a nod and a wink, that he was ready to sign. But to Hannay’s consternation, Denktash – controlling the Turkish Cypriot delegation from afar – refused to have anything to do with it. Amid the ensuing disarray, the EU leaders had to make the best of a bad job. Cyprus was accepted into the Union, effective from spring 2004, and Turkey – provided it met EU norms for human rights – was promised negotiations on its candidature, effective from winter 2004.
The AKP proclaimed this pledge a historic achievement for Turkey, with some reason. Its success in securing a date for starting negotiations towards accession, in good part due to heavy pressure from the Bush administration, strengthened its hand at home. But it was still new to power, and in failing to bring Denktash to heel in time, had been unable to forestall the prospect of Cypriot membership of the EU without arrangements on the island agreeable to it signed and sealed in advance. Worse still, once Cyprus was inside the EU, it would have a power of veto over Turkey’s own entry.
Yet Turkey was, after all, suing for acceptance of its candidacy at Copenhagen, after a long period in which it had been rebuffed. Questions of political experience aside, Erdogan was not in that strong a position at Copenhagen. The more pertinent question is why the European powers, having rallied to the American case for Turkish entry, permitted such a risky inversion of the schedule for Cyprus, giving membership a green light before a settlement was reached that was supposed to be a condition of it. The answer is that the EU leaders believed, correctly, that once a Turkish government applied itself, it would have little difficulty in getting Turkish Cypriots to accept what it had decided on. Once that was achieved, they assumed that the concurrence of the Greeks – already available at Copenhagen – could be counted on. There were still fifteen months to go before Cyprus entered, and time enough to tie down the settlement that had been missed on that occasion.
This calculation, however, assumed that they would still have the same interlocutor. Western establishments had become used to the comfortable presence of Clerides, who had been president of Cyprus for a decade, a fixture of the right with no thought of upsetting the geopolitical apple-cart of the Atlantic Alliance. Unfortunately, within two months of his gracious performance at Copenhagen, elections were due in Cyprus. In February 2003, standing for yet another term at the age of 83, he was trounced by Tassos Papadopoulos, Makarios’s youngest minister at independence and closest colleague in his final years, who enjoyed the support of AKEL and the Cypriot left. His presidency was unlikely to be so pliable.
Undeterred, Hannay and his collaborators piled on the pressure. After a meeting between Annan, Weston, De Soto and himself in New York, at which ‘not surprisingly, since we had all been working together closely for over three years, there was effectively a consensus over our analysis of the situation and our prescriptions for action,’ Annan was dispatched to Nicosia in person, with a third version of the plan to be put to a referendum in the two parts of the island, and a summons for Papadopoulos and Denktash to agree to it a week later in the Hague. But this was now March 2003. The AKP government was not only embroiled by the impending war in Iraq – on 1 March the Turkish parliament defied Erdogan and Gul by rejecting US demands for passage of American troops for the invasion – but in the throes of getting Erdogan, hitherto technically debarred from becoming a deputy, into parliament and making him premier. Amid these distractions, Ankara failed a second time to curb Denktash, who blocked the plan once again. In frustration, Hannay threw up his hands and quit. The UN shut down its office in Cyprus.
But once the AKP regime had consolidated its hold in Ankara and come to an understanding with the army – in October it secured a vote for Turkish troops to help out the American occupation – it was in a position to enforce its will in northern Cyprus, where Denktash’s autocratic rule had by now anyway made many restless. Signals of Ankara’s displeasure were enough to swing local elections against him in December 2003, letting the main opposition party into government. The AKP had made Turkish entry into the EU its top priority, and having sorted this out, wasted no time. In January, a common position on Cyprus was hammered out with the Turkish military on the National Security Council, and the next day Erdogan travelled to Davos to brief Annan, flying on to meet Bush in Washington. The effect of their conversation was immediate. Annan was summoned to the White House, and 24 hours later had issued an invitation to the two sides in Cyprus plus the Guarantor Powers to join him for talks in New York.
There, he explained that, to cut through previous difficulties, if there were once again no agreement, the UN plan should be put directly to the voters of each community, regardless of the views of the authorities on either side. This time, Annan’s script had been written in America, and US diplomats brought full pressure to bear on Papadopoulos and Denktash to force them to accept the prospect of such a diktat. The following month, talks entered their final phase at another Swiss resort, Bürgenstock in Interlaken, where the Greek delegation was headed by the younger Karamanlis, nephew of the statesman of Zurich, who had just become premier in Athens. Once again, American emissaries hovered discreetly in the background, this time as members of the British delegation (the US was not a Guarantor Power), while the foreground was dominated by the Turkish premier. A fourth edition of the UN plan was adjusted to meet Turkish demands, and a final, non-negotiable version – Annan V – was announced on the last day of March. A jubilant Erdogan told his people that it was the greatest victory of Turkish diplomacy since the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, sealing Kemal’s military triumph over Greece.
Time was now short. The fateful day when Cyprus was due to become a member of the EU was just a month away. The referendum extorted in New York was called for 24 April, a week beforehand, and copies of Annan V – a tombstone of more than nine thousand pages – were hastily prepared, the final touches made only in the 48 hours before the vote. The approval of Turkish Cypriots was a foregone conclusion: they were not going to turn down a second Lausanne. But on 7 April, in a sombre address on television, Papadopoulos advised Greek Cypriots against the plan. Since Clerides’s party had declared for it, the critical judgment appeared to be AKEL’s. The combined weight of Washington, London and Brussels was brought to bear on the party, and the Greek electorate at large, to accept the plan. From the State Department, Powell himself telephoned the leader of AKEL, Dimitris Christofias, to secure a favourable opinion. In New York, two days before the referendum, the US and UK moved a resolution in the Security Council endorsing the plan, to impress on voters that they should not trifle with the will of the international community. To much astonishment (indeed outrage – Hannay found it ‘disgraceful’), Russia used its veto for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Twenty-four hours later, AKEL came out against the plan. When votes were counted, the results said everything: 65 per cent of Turkish Cypriots accepted it, 76 per cent of Greek Cypriots rejected it. What political scientist, without needing to know anything about the plan, could for an instant doubt whom it favoured?
Hannay was not wrong in remarking – he was in a position to do so – that, for all the jungle of technical modifications that developed across its five versions, the essence of the ‘Annan’ plan remained unaltered throughout. It contained three fundamental elements. The first prescribed the state that would come into being. The Republic of Cyprus, as internationally recognised for forty years – repeatedly so by the UN itself – would be abolished, along with its flag, anthem and name. In its stead, a wholly new entity would be created, under another name, composed of two constituent states, one Greek and the other Turkish, each vested with all powers in its territory, save those – principally concerned with external affairs and common finance – reserved for a federal level. There a senate would be divided 50:50 between Greeks and Turks, a lower chamber elected on a proportionate basis, with a guaranteed 25 per cent for Turks. There would be no president, but an executive council, composed of four Greeks and two Turks, elected by a ‘special majority’ requiring two-fifths of each half of the senate to approve the list. In case of deadlock, a supreme court composed of three Greeks, three Turks and three foreigners would assume executive and legislative functions. The central bank would likewise have an equal number of Greek and Turkish directors, with a casting vote by a foreigner.
The second element of the plan covered territory, property and residence. The Greek state would comprise just over 70 per cent, the Turkish state just under 30 per cent, of the land surface of Cyprus; the Greek state just under 50 per cent, the Turkish state just over 50 per cent, of its coast-line. Restitution of property seized would be limited to a maximum of a third of its area or value, whichever was lower, the rest to be compensated by long-term bonds issued by the federal government at tax-payers’ cost, and would carry no right of return. Of those expelled from their homes, the maximum number allowed to recover residence, over a period of some twenty years, would be held below a fifth of the population of each zone, while just under 100,000 Turkish settlers and incomers would become permanent residents and citizens in the north.
The third element of the plan covered force and international law. The Treaty of Guarantee, giving three outside powers rights of intervention in Cyprus, would continue to operate – ‘open-ended and undiluted’, as Hannay records with satisfaction – after the abolition of the state it was supposed to guarantee. The new state would have no armed forces, but Turkey would maintain 6000 troops on the island for another eight years, and after a further interval, the military contingent accorded it at Zurich, permanently. Britain’s bases, somewhat reduced in size, would remain intact, as sovereign possessions of the UK. The future Cypriot state would drop all claims in the European Court of Human Rights, and last but not least, bind itself in advance to vote for Turkish entry into the EU.
The enormity of these arrangements to ‘solve the Cyprus problem, once and for all’, as Annan hailed them, speak for themselves. At their core lies a ratification of ethnic cleansing, of a scale and thoroughness that has been the envy of settler politics in Israel, where Avigdor Lieberman – leader of the far right Yisrael Beiteinu, now the fifth largest party in the Knesset – publicly calls for a ‘Cypriot solution’ on the West Bank, a demand regarded as so extreme that it is disavowed by all his coalition partners. Not only does the plan absolve Turkey from any reparations for decades of occupation and plunder, imposing their cost instead on those who suffered them. It is further in breach of the Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power to introduce settlers into conquered territory. Far from compelling their withdrawal, the plan entrenched their presence: no one ‘will be forced to leave’, in Pfirter’s words. So little did legal norms matter in the conception of the plan, that care was taken to remove its provisions from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and Court of Justice in advance.
No less contemptuous of the principles of any existent democracy, the plan accorded a minority of between 18 and 25 per cent of the population 50 per cent of the decision-making power in the state. To see how grotesque such a proposal was, it is enough to ask how Turkey would react if it were told that its Kurdish minority – also around 18 per cent – must be granted half of all seats in its Senate, sweeping rights to block action in its executive, not to speak of some 30 per cent of its land area under its exclusive jurisdiction. What UN or EU emissary, or apologist for the Annan Plan among the multitude in the Western media, would dare travel to Ankara with such a scheme in his briefcase? Ethnic minorities need protection – Turkish Kurds, by any measure, considerably more than Turkish Cypriots – but to make of this a flagrant political disproportion is to invite hostility, rather than restrain it.
Nor were the official ratios of ethnic power to be all. Planted among the tundra of the plan’s many other inequities, foreigners were imposed at strategic points – supreme court, central bank, property board – in what was supposed to be an independent country. Topping everything off, armed force was to be reserved to external powers: Turkish military remaining on site, British bases trampolines for Iraq. No other member of the European Union bears any resemblance to what would have been this cracked, shrunken husk of an independent state. Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected it, not because they were misinformed by Papadopoulos, or obeyed directives from Christofias – opinion polls showed their massive opposition to the plan before either spoke against it. They did so because they had so little to gain – a sliver of territory, and crumbs of a doubtful restitution of property – and so much to lose from it: a reasonably well-integrated, well-regarded state, without deep divisions or deadlocks, in which they could take an understandable pride. Why give this up for a constitutional mare’s nest, whose function was essentially to rehouse the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, condemned as illegal by the UN itself, as an equal partner in a structure jerry-built to accommodate it? Cut to foreign specifications, the constitution of Zurich had proved unworkable enough, leading only to communal strife and breakdown. The constitution of Bürgenstock, far more complicated and still more inequitable, was a recipe for yet greater rancour and paralysis.
There was, however, a logic to this. The rationale for the entire scheme, like that of its predecessor in 1960, lay outside Cyprus itself, the interests of whose communities were never more than ancillary in its calculus. The fundamental drive behind the plan, in all its versions, was the fear that if Cyprus, as constituted, were admitted to the EU without being taken apart and retrofitted beforehand, it could veto the entry of Turkey into the Union until Turkey relinquished its grip – soldiers and settlers – on the island. The bottom line of Hannay’s calculations was thus always what would be acceptable to Ankara, helping it to seek membership of the EU without provoking public opinion or the ‘deep state’ in Turkey. The AKP government, viewed not inaccurately as the ideal partner for the West, could point to domestic resistance, threatening the grand common goal of its entrance into Europe, every time it wanted to secure a concession in the Cypriot sideshow, and its interlocutors would fall over themselves to oblige it.
As in 1960 and in 1974, it is pointless to blame Turkey for the process that led to 2004, which was anyway less of a success so far as it was concerned. On each occasion, it acted according to classical precepts of raison d’état, without undue sanctimony, after being invited to do so. The authors of the latest attempt on Cyprus lie elsewhere. Behind the bland official prose, Hannay’s memoir has the involuntary merit of making it plain that Britain was at the end of the story, as it had been at the beginning, the prime mover in efforts to fix a cape of lead over the island. In that sense, Hannay was a lineal successor to Harding, Caradon and Callaghan, in the record of callous disregard for the fate of Cyprus as a society. Britain, of course, did not act alone. Historically, in all three crises when the future of the island was at stake, the US abetted the UK, without ever quite playing the leading role, until the last moment.
In the final episode, however, a new actor stepped on stage: the European Union. If the British set the ball rolling towards another Zurich in 1996, and the Americans followed in 1997, it was not until the end of 2002, with the arrival of the AKP in power, that the EU establishment in general rallied to the Anglo-American determination that Turkey must – for economic, ideological and strategic reasons alike – be admitted in short order to the Union. Though scattered misgivings persisted, by 2003 Brussels, in the persons of Romano Prodi as president of the Commission and Gunther Verheugen, commissioner for enlargement, was fully behind London and Washington. Hannay, whose knowledge of the workings of the Commission was unrivalled, had taken care to square Verheugen well before this, securing his assurance that the EU’s acquis communautaire – the body of rules with which candidate countries must comply, including freedoms of residence and investment certain to be a sticking point north of the Attila Line – would not stand in the way of a settlement that annulled them in Cyprus.
Verheugen made no difficulty. On all subsequent occasions – in Ankara with Erdogan on the eve of his flight to Annan and Bush in early 2004; at the endgame in Bürgenstock two months later – he was at pains to explain that the normal acquiswould not apply. This despite the fact that, as Hannay notes appreciatively, ‘he was precluded from clearing his lines in advance with member states’: i.e. he ignored his mandate without consulting them. Ponderous and self-important, a German Widmerpool (now a figure of fun in his own country, since he was snapped cavorting in the nude with his secretary on a Lithuanian shore), Verheugen attempted to intervene directly in the Cypriot referendum with a lengthy interview on behalf of the plan. Incensed when no television station would touch it, he was little short of apoplectic when the plan was rejected. Such was, indeed, the general reaction in Brussels to the refusal of Greek voters to fall in with its will: an incredulous fury also expressed by virtually the entire European public sphere, FT and Economist in the lead, that has scarcely died down since. Were another lesson needed in what the Union’s dedication to international law and human rights is worth, its conduct over Cyprus supplies one of the most graphic to date.
Nor, of course, is it over. Having escaped from the trap set in Switzerland, Cyprus entered the EU politically intact a week after the referendum, on 1 May 2004. In the four years since, the scene on the island has altered significantly for the better. Physical partition has diminished since the opening of checkpoints by Denktash in 2003, allowing travel across the Green Line between north and south. The immediate effect was a huge wave of visits – more than two million in a couple of years – by Greeks to the north, often to look at their former homes, and an inflow of Turkish workers to the south, where they now make up a tenth of the labour force in the building industry. The more lasting result has been the granting of a large number of official Cypriot documents to Turks with legitimate rights on the island (by spring 2005, some 63,000 birth certificates, 57,000 identity cards and 32,000 passports), reflecting the magnet of EU membership, and economic growth well above the Union average. In 2008, Cyprus became only the second member state since enlargement, after Slovenia, to enter the Eurozone.
Politically, the landscape shifted when AKEL withdrew from the government in 2007, after deciding that for the first time in the history of the republic it would run its own candidate for the presidency. AKEL had always been far the strongest party in Cyprus, indeed for a long time the only real party, yet could never aspire to lead the state, given Pan-Hellenism and the Cold War. But the solidity of its anchorage in the trade-union and co-operative movements, and the prudence of its direction after the collapse of the Soviet bloc – it drew its conclusions from the débandade of Italian Communism – have given it a striking capacity to ride out adverse currents. In exchange for backing Papadopoulos in 2003, it acquired key ministries for the first time, and by 2008 was ready to try for the presidency itself. In the first round of the vote in February, Christofias was the runner-up, knocking out Papadopoulos; in the second, with the support of Papadopoulos and his party, he knocked out Clerides’s candidate, becoming the first Communist head of state in the EU.
A burly, avuncular figure, Christofias, who comes from a village near Kyrenia in the north, joined AKEL’s youth league in his teens. In his twenties he studied in Moscow, where he got a doctorate in 1974, returning to Cyprus after the Turkish invasion. By 1988, at the relatively young age of 42, he had become leader of the party. Speaking with tranquil fluency, he stresses AKEL’s long-standing criticism of both Greek and Turkish chauvinism, and commitment to good relations between the two communities, without attempting either to minimise or to equate the suffering of each, of which his family has personal experience: going north after 2003, ‘my sisters were literally sick when they saw what had happened to our village.’ The UN plan, he argues, contained too many obvious concessions to Ankara to be acceptable, so for all his ‘many, many meetings with Hannay and my good friend Tom Weston’, he could not recommend the package to his party, and there can be no return to it now. But AKEL maintained links with the Turkish Republican Party, now the governing party in the north, throughout the years when Denktash forbade any contact between the two communities, holding several secret meetings with it abroad. Since the referendum the two parties, with their trade-union and youth organisations, have had regular sessions together, fostering AKEL’s aim of ‘a popular movement for rapprochement’.
As president, Christofias’s first move has been to meet his opposite number in the north, Mehmet Talat, and arrange for what was once the main shopping street in Nicosia to be opened across the Green Line. The arrival of the two men at the head of their respective communities represents a strange convergence in the history of the island. For in origin the CTP was, as Christofias likes to describe it, a ‘sister party’ of AKEL – each a branch of the same Communism when it was still an international movement. In the case of the CTP, it was fired in the 1980s by the kind of radical Marxist students who provided the militants of the insurgent Turkish left of the time, and who on the mainland ended by the tens of thousands in the jails of the generals who staged the invasion of Cyprus. In the 1990s, the party made its peace with the occupying army and today is more like the ex-Communist parties of Eastern Europe that have become bywords for all-purpose opportunism – Talat being closer to a Gyurcsany or Kwasniecki than to his interlocutor, who is well aware of the difference.
Still, that there is some common history linking the two sides is new in any talks across the ethnic boundary in Cyprus. How far Talat is capable of a measure of independence from Ankara remains to be seen. The Turkish Cypriot political class is attached to its local privileges, which it would lose were Turkey to absorb the north, and would like to enjoy the advantages of being truly within the EU, rather than in a condition of semi-limbo. The local population does not get on particularly well with the wretched seasonal migrants – mostly from the area around Iskanderun, the nearest port on the mainland – who perform most of the manual labour it shuns for more profitable employment by the state.
The economy remains dependent on huge subsidies from Ankara, bloating public employment at wages much higher than in Turkey itself: retired policemen get pensions larger than the salaries of associate professors on the mainland; while private enterprise is represented by no less than six ‘supermarket’ universities doling out degrees to dud students from the mainland, or nearby regions of the Middle East or Central Asia. Against the potential advantages of integration into the EU stands the artificial character of the economy that would be exposed to the potential impact of the acquis. It is possible that the adjustment will be as painful as in East Germany.
Reunification would thus require not just institutional protections, but economic buffers for the Turkish minority, something an AKEL president would understand better than any other. A real settlement on the island can only come from within it, rather than being externally imposed, as invariably to date. The demilitarisation of the island that AKEL has long demanded, with the exit of all foreign troops and bases – the withdrawal not just of the Turkish army, but the shutting down of the anachronism of British enclaves – is a condition of any true resolution. A constitution with meticulous safeguards against any form of discrimination, and genuinely equitable compensation for losses on all sides, is a far better guarantee of the welfare of a minority than provocative over-representation in elected bodies, or preordained gridlock in the state, neither durably sustainable. To devise a political system that meets these goals is hardly beyond the bounds of contemporary constitutional thought.
In the past, there was no possibility even of raising such principles, given the Turkish military grip on the island. Today, however, what the whole UN process was designed to avert has come to pass. Cyprus possesses a veto over Turkish entry into the EU, and is in a position to force it to pull out its troops, on pain of exclusion. This enormous potential change has been the hidden stake of all the frantic diplomacy of the past years. It is true that a French refusal to admit Turkey to the EU, or a Turkish nationalist decathexis from the EU, might deprive Cyprus of the lever now resting in its hands. But the Western interests vested in Turkish entry, and the Turkish interests – not least those of capital – vested in Western status, are so great that the balance of probability is against either. That does not mean Cyprus will ever use the power it now has. It is a small society, and immense pressures will be brought to bear to ensure that it does not – for the EU, notoriously, referendums are mere paper for reversal. Sometimes small countries defy great powers, but it has become increasingly rare. The more likely outcome remains, in one version or another, the sentence pronounced on another Greek island: ‘The strong do what they can, the weak do what they must.’