Britain in Cyprus


By William Mallinson, ex-British Diplomat, Professor of Political Ideas and Institutions at Universita Guglielmo Marconi
As the latest neurotic and frenetic round of negotiations about illegally occupied Cyprus continue, it worth going backwards, in order to see the real factors which will determine events. The speed of technology and manic globalisation have worked against the knowledge necessary for journalists, politicians, international relations academics, and even the negotiators themselves, to properly grasp the fundamentals.

First, let us bear in mind that human characteristics and behaviour are what create relations between states. As Guicciardini said, things have always been the same, the past sheds light on the future, and the same things return with different colours.

Perhaps the following points, all of which are based on released government documents – some obtained following pressure on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office by the Information Commissioner and myself – will focus minds on the fundamental issues, and put the public relations mainstream media claptrap – with its tactical omissions and exaggeration – into its proper context.

First, in 1955, Britain decided to involve Turkey in Cyprus, illegally, since Article Sixteen of the Treaty of Lausanne forbade Turkey from involvement in former Ottoman possessions. Britain’s aim was to cause Greek-Turkish friction, so as to maintain her sovereignty.

It would only be a question of time until Turkey invaded.

Second, Britain colluded secretly with Turkey.

Third, when the US took over the Middle East from Britain, it pressured Britain into negotiations, in order to keep at least the British bases in a NATO-friendly solution.

Fourth, the whole ‘solution’ was predicated on keeping the Soviet Union out of the strategic game, rather than on the interests of the people of Cyprus.

Fifth, the whole package of treaties that set up the pseudo-independent republic was predicated on the British bases. The Foreign Office even recognised the illegality of the Treaty of Guarantee, in that it breached Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter, and was overridden by virtue of Article 103 of the Charter.

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Sixth, as early as 1964, the Foreign Office was writing that in the long term, Britain’s sovereign rights would be considered increasingly irksome by the Greek Cypriots and would be regarded as increasingly anachronistic by world public opinion.

Seventh, by 1976, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was writing that British policy should be one of complete withdrawal of a military presence from Cyprus, and that this would have to take into account the need to transfer sovereignty to the government of Cyprus.

Eighth, the US then offered to pay for the bases, and negotiations on this began.

Ninth, Kissinger had already written to the Foreign Minister, Callaghan, that Britain should retain its bases, citing the Soviet Union. The FCO also referred to Kissinger’s description of Cyprus as an important piece of the world chessboard, and important in the Arab/Israel dispute.

Tenth, by 1980, with a Thatcher government, in an about-turn, the FCO wrote that ‘the benefits which we derive from the SBAs are of major significance and virtually irreplaceable. They are an essential contribution to the Anglo-American relationship. The Department have regularly considered with those concerned which circumstances in Cyprus are most conducive to our retaining unfettered use of our SBA facilities. On balance, the conclusion is that an early ‘solution’ might not help (since pressures against the SBAs might then build up), just as breakdown and return to strife would not, and that our interests are best served by continuing movement towards a solution – without the early prospect of arrival.’

Eleventh, Callaghan and his FCO minders did not tell the truth to a parliamentary committee, denying that they had foreknowledge of the initial Turkish invasion, and of the big breakout. The documents show that they knew. Why did Callaghan and his Foreign Office lie? Essentially, to avoid telling the public that Britain had succumbed to Kissinger and lost its independence in foreign and defence policy. And he needed to keep his image as clean as possible within his own Labour Party, for the internal elections as leader of that party and therefore Prime Minister. In fact, he was Prime Minister less than two months later, following Wilson’s resignation.

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Quick Conclusion

Britain has long recognised that as regards Cyprus, it has responsibility without power. But being part of US foreign policy makes this bearable. The US will not countenance a genuinely independent Cyprus, free of foreign troops, since this is what Russia would like. Any ‘solution’ will always be predicated on the partly illegal treaties of 1960 and on the British bases, whatever the semantic gyrations, as with the so-called ‘Annan Plan’, the main precepts of which were introduced by Kissinger in 1976, in his ‘Five Point Initiative’. The rest is public relations for the original people of Cyprus, who are little more than the collateral fodder of 19th Century power-politics. A putative solution contains so many derogations from EU law as to reduce Cyprus to the level of a third-class part-member of the EU, if indeed it could survive an Anglo-American ‘agreement’. The only potential cat among the pigeons is the Trump factor.

All the assertions above are based on documents from British National Archives that I have located, read, analysed and evaluated. Should there be any doubt whatsoever about the veracity of anything that I have written, I recommend the following books of mine, from which they have been taken:

Cyprus: A Modern History, I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 2005, updated in 2009, 2010 and 2012 as a paperback. Also published in Greek in 2005 by Papazissis, Athens.

Partition through Foreign Aggression, University of Minnesota, 2010.

Cyprus, Diplomatic History and the Clash of Theory in International Relations, I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 2010. Also published in Greek by Estia, 2010.

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Britain and Cyprus: Key Themes and Documents since World War Two, I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 2011.

Kissinger and the Invasion of Cyprus: Diplomacy in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2016.

The Threat of Geopolitics to International Relations: Obsession with the Heartland, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2016.

The following articles of mine, in refereed journals, are also germane:

‘US Interests, British Acquiescence and the Invasion of Cyprus’, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol.9, no. 3, August 2007.

‘Britain, Cyprus, Turkey, the USA and Greece in 1977: Critical Submission or Submissive Criticism?’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 44, no. 4, October 2009.

‘Spies, Jolly Hockeysticks and Imperialism in Cyprus’, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, vol. 13, issue 2, June 2011.

‘Foreign Policy Issues of a Part-Occupied EU State’, The Cyprus Review, vol.23,

no.1, Spring 2011.

‘Reviewing the Continuing Cyprus Conundrum’, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, vol.14, issue 4, December 2012.

‘Greece and Cyprus in Foreign Office Eyes: Then is Now’, ΕΠΕΤΗΡΙΔΑ, XXXVI, 2011-2012, Journal of the Centre of Scientific Research, Nicosia, 2013.

‘Greece and Cyprus as Geopolitical Fodder’, Etudes Helleniques/Hellenic Studies, vol. 22, no. 2, Autumn 2014.

‘The Same Things Return with Different Colours’ (review article), Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, vol. 17, no. 2, June 2015.

‘Greece, Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean: Russia’s and the Anglo-Saxons’ Piggies-in-the Middle: Then is Now’, ΕΠΕΤΙΡΙΔΑ, XXXVII, Journal of the Centre for Scientific Research, Nicosia, 2015.

‘Kissinger’s Outlook: Fifty Shades of Diplomacy’, ΕΠΕΤΙΡΙΔΑ, XXXVIII, Journal of the Centre for Scientific Research, Nicosia, 2016.