The Turkish Intervention, July-August 1974
There is a Turkish interpretation of the events of the summer of 1974 that is, as one would expect, quite different from the dominant Greek and Greek Cypriot view. In this seminal work, Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand -- widely considered to be one of the best and fairest reporters in Turkey -- recounts the events of that July and August, leading up to the second and more decisive military intervention of August 14. This account is particularly useful for its reporting on Ankara=s decision making. It is excerpted from his 1985 book, 30 Hot Days.
July 15, 1974
. . . The Soviet ambassador to Ankara had recently told GüneĠ that the USSR had conveyed to the Greek Government its anxiety over rumours of plots in Cyprus and had warned them against rash action. Nevertheless, Makarios's letter was not taken really seriously, though it had increased suspicions. The general attitude was, 'How pleasant! The Greeks are ready to cut each other's throats." Even Ecevit, though he felt that Makarios had signed his own death warrant, hoped that the open protest might act as a deterrent.
Turkey had clearly been unable to make a correct assessment of the situation. So much so that Foreign Minister GüneĠ had been sent on a visit to Peking, Turkish ambassador to Athens, Kamuran Gürün, was on a yachting cruise in the Mediterranean, while the Chief of the General Staff was in Istanbul. Yet, at a meeting of the Cyprus Co-ordination Committee on July 1st, Barutçu had stated his conviction that important developments were taking place in Cyprus, that an Eoka coup would mean 'secret enosis' and that Turkey would have no alternative but to intervene immediately.
On the way to Afyon, Ecevit came to the conclusion that the coup was tantamount to enosis and was greatly disturbed. He told me later, in unambiguous terms: I had decided that the coup was enosis in disguise. I believed that our intervention was imperative . .. '
Barutçu was called to a meeting in the Prime Minister's office during Ecevit=s absence. He favoured immediate intervention and became exasperated when some ministers disagreed with him and expressed diametrically opposite views. I wish to stress that, at that moment, Barutçu played an historic role; had he wavered, the decision to intervene might never have been made. Finance Minister Deniz Baykal and Minister of State Birler, realising the seriousness of the situation, supported Barutçu. Others maintained that intervention would run counter to the peace policy as laid down by Atatürk and Inönü and argued that energetic diplomacy was called for. Moreover, they were uneasy about what the world would say and doubted whether our armed forces could cope with the situation.
Following the reports of the coup, the whole world turned its eyes towards Ankara. Telegrams and telephone calls poured into the Foreign Ministry and ambassadors called to deliver messages from their governments. UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, Nato Secretary-General Luns, Britain, France and the rest of the allies joined in the usual refrain: 'Please exercise restraint.' World Press and Radio had no hesitation in recognising the coup as the work of the Greek Junta and Athens was severely criticised. Official reactions pointed in the same direction, the Soviet Union being the first to declare: 'The Junta has laid its hands on Cyprus, too." The United States refrained from comment beyond stating that Dr. Kissinger had been awakened and informed of events. From Greece there was not a single comment. Both Athens Radio and the News Agencies were silent regarding the coup.
In Cyprus, the situation began to clarify. Reports that Makarios was still alive and had appealed to his people over the radio were confirmed. Nicos Sampson, the very last man the Junta could have wanted to bring to power, had taken the Presidential Oath and assumed office. This man -- a known enosis fanatic who openly boasted of killing Turks and Britons --- held his first press conference at which he declared: This operation is not directed against the Turks. It is aimed at the murderer Makarios. The Turks need have no fears for their security; we shall continue negotiations with them and elections will be held in a year's time. This is an internal issue for Cyprus.'
Ecevit returned to Ankara at 16.15 hrs only to find his colleagues still undecided. He proceeded to the General Staff H.Q. to give them his assessment: This coup has been engineered by the Greek Junta and is clearly intended as a step towards enosis. The situation is extremely grave and, if it is taken lightly, serious setbacks to Turkey will result. There is no alternative to energetic action. I have faith in the capability of the Turkish armed forces. We must make the necessary preparations and put them into effect without loss of time.' The military leaders did not hesitate. They had three main plans: intervention in 24 hours, or an extended two-stage operation.
Tuesday, July 16th 1974 The reason for intervention: Greece must not be allowed to dominate this area of the Mediterranean. At a midnight meeting of the National Security Council, presided over by President Korutürk, Ecevit once more stressed the serious implications of the Sampson coup for the security of Turkey. He reviewed the situation in the Aegean. He pointed out that it would now be a simple matter for the Greeks to proclaim enosis and thus create a Hellenic island base from which, for the first time. Central and South-eastern Turkey would come within range of the Greek Air Force bombers. Finally, he expressed concern that oppression and even massacres of Turkish Cypriots might follow the coup.
All members of the Council agreed that Sampson was committed to enosis and had murdered many Turks. They also agreed that the coup was the work of the Greek Junta and had created a dangerous situation for Turkey, but were uncertain how to cope with it. For the past 50 years, the Turkish army had not had to wage war, so that any hint of failure might have serious repercussions at home. These doubts concerning the armed forces drew an impatient rejoinder from the Chief of the General Staff, General Sancar: 'We are ready, but we are wondering if you are, also.' Whilst Naval Commander-in-Chief, Kayacan declared: 'Gentlemen, I am prepared to land in a caique, but that is beside the point. What we want to know is, will you politicians be able to convince the world of the absolute necessity of this operation and win support for our action?' By way of reply, Ecevit asked the commanders this vital question: In how many days can you complete your preparations?' The answer was immediate and precise: 'We can land on Saturday morning.'
The outcome of this debate was the recommendation to the Government that it should 'make all preparations and take all steps necessary for the safeguarding of Turkey's paramount interests and security. President Korutürk approved the resolution.
There followed a lengthy discussion in the Cabinet, from which Ecevit emerged with a reinforced belief that intervention was essential and 'full authority' to make diplomatic contacts with Britain and other states; but he doubted whether Britain would agree to the Turkish proposals.
At 3.30 hrs when everyone else was asleep, Ecevit made his way to the Gen- eral Staff H. Q. where he issued a written order to the army which contained the instruction: '. .. the Turkish armed forces, acting with firmness and self- restraint, will land on the island and secure a bridgehead . ..'.
Reluctantly the R.A.F. flew Archbishop Makarios to Malta. On his arrival, he declared his determination to return to Cyrpus as soon as circumstances would permit. For this he would be largely dependent on the support of the Church and of the rich Greeks in the United States. At a Press conference, he roundly condemned Greece as being solely responsible for events in Cyprus. Meanwhile, the Greek silence was broken by an official communique which stated that the ruthless dictator, Makarios, had been overthrown by the Cyprus National Guard and that the developments were an internal issue for Cypriots.
Delivering a note to President Korutürk, which clearly set out the Soviet views, Ambassador Grubyakov stated: 'This uprising was organised by outside agencies. The Soviet Union is on the side of those combatting the rebels.' This prompt announcement was unexpected. That same day, both Bulgaria and Yugoslavia began to mass troops on their borders with Greece. The Turkish General Staff watched these moves with interest, for it meant that, in the event of war, Greece would have to divide its armed forces.
While all countries were agreed that 'Greece was responsible for the coup in Cyprus', the United States had not committed itself further. Unlike political leaders in other countries, Kissinger was minded to 'wait and see', giving Sampson's regime time to settle down. Ecevit viewed this with concern, believing that, if action was delayed, the United States would recognise the Sampson administration. In fact, when he first heard of the coup, it had crossed his mind that the CIA might be involved. The overthrow of Allende by the CIA and the general behaviour of the U.S. Government towards countries which interfered with American interests was arousing distrust in the minds of members of the Republican People's Party. Following its reactions to Turkey's decision to reintroduce the cultivation of the opium poppy, Ecevit had called for reports on CIA activities. Was Kissinger's hand in this? It seemed unlikely that the Greek Junta could have planned the coup without the knowledge of the CIA.
At a further meeting of the Cabinet, it was decided that a direct appeal should be made to Britain. A note was handed to the British Embassy urging the need for talks on the implementation of the Treaty of Guarantee and asking for a reply within 24 hours.
Ecevit confers with party leaders
Early in the morning of July 16th, Ecevit convened a meeting of all political party leaders to inform them of developments and obtain their views on the situation. Democratic Party leader, Ferruh Bozbeyli, did not mince words: This affair is NOT, as some circles argue, an internal issue amongst Greek Cypriots. Greece has openly interfered; the London and Zurich agreements have been flagrantly violated, and I believe the situation is critical.' Suleyman Demirel, leader of the Justice Party, expressed anxiety on several points. In particular, he was concerned that Greece might go to war with Turkey and wanted to know if there were any plans to counteract such a move. Ecevit felt that Demirel's real object in raising all these queries was to elude responsibility if, as he seemed to expect, Ecevit should be unable to withstand American pressure and have to settle for diplomatic protests and United Nations resolutions.
Nihat Erim, a former Premier who had helped draft the 1960 Cyprus Constitution, was more specific. He advised: The United States may turn out to be behind this coup. Though the situation is obscure, I have a feeling that Sampson enjoys Washington's sympathy. The Government must, therefore, examine more carefully the attitudes of both the United States and the Soviet Union.' The leader of the Republican Reliance Party, Turhan Feyziolu, appeared to attach more importance to diplomatic representations than to military intervention. He favoured a diplomatic offensive within NATO to explain Turkey's viewpoint to the other countries.
At a later date, a spokesman for the armed forces was to sum up the lengthy deliberations at the General Staff H.Q. as follows: All Ecevit wanted of us was the securing of a bridgehead which would give the Turkish Cypriots an outlet to the sea and establish a balance of power. He impressed upon us that, once this was achieved, further action would be in accordance with developments. It was, therefore, a two-stage plan based on the Ôahin and Atilla lines. He went on to explain that the Cyprus operation was not a major undertaking, for we had complete supremacy in the Mediterranean and knew that Greece could put up no effective opposition in this area. But in the Aegean the Greeks had the advantage and from there could launch an attack upon us. Hence it was necessary to leave more than 70% of our armed forces and equipment on the Aegean front and only a small portion of our naval forces could be diverted to Cyprus. He ended by saying that the original intention had been to land at Boaz, 36 km north of Famagusta, but intelligence reports indicated that the Greeks had obtained information about Turkish plans and had fortified that area.
Wednesday, July 17th 1974
ECEVIT'S UNINVITED VISIT
In Turkey, the land forces were being mobilised, naval units were converging on Mersin, jet fuel stocks were being checked. The world looked on with no sign of concern. At an extraordinary meeting of NATO, the Greek delegate was having a hard time. Cornered by the Belgian delegate, who told him: 1 have read Sampson's life story in the Times and my hair stood on end.' He made the cynical retort: 'Every hero is first branded as a bandit. What do you expect us to do, land forces in Cyprus and re-instate Makarios? I deplore the council's action in supporting Makarios. Let us not forget that every revolution creates its own legality.' These sophistries were rejected by Council, which demanded the withdrawal of all Greek officers from Cyprus and the restoration of the Makarios regime.
U.S. Ambassador Macomber had interrupted his vacation to return to Ankara bringing Ecevit this message from Kissinger: 'The independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus must be maintained. We are watching events closely and doing all we can to effect a settlement.' Meanwhile, London was urging Athens to recall the officers who had staged the coup, apparently under the impression that the mere removal of the culprits would be sufficient to satisfy Turkey. This was its habitual policy of appeasement to which it had resorted in 1967. In reply to Turkey's note, the U.K. Government agreed to hold talks but put forward no proposals, not even a date. In line with this attitude. Foreign Minister Callaghan had told the House of Commons the previous day that Britain had no authority to take any action beyond urging Athens and Ankara to meet and discuss their differences. This clearly meant that he was washing his hands of the Cyprus affair; and so confirmed Ecevit=s hunch, mentioned earlier, that nothing could be expected from Britain.
The circumstances attending his visit to London were later summarised by Ecevit as follows: '. . . By her action in promoting the coup, Greece had, in our opinion, forfeited her status as a guarantor power in Cyprus. We attached great importance to consultations with Britain regarding concerted action under the Treaty of Guarantee, and recognised the necessity for carrying out all our legal and procedural obligations before resorting to military action. Both the National Security Council and the Council of Ministers were agreed on this, but decided also to press on with preparations for intervention. By the early hours of July 16th, all the requisite decisions had been made and I issued the necessary instructions before leaving for London.'
On the plane, Ecevit and his delegation had no respite. Various directives had still to be issued, including one to Osman Olcay, the Turkish permanent representative with the United Nations, instructing him to support the Greek Cypriot representative, Rossides, who had been dismissed by Sampson. This Olcay did, arguing that by the terms of the Cyprus Constitution of 1960, if Rossides were dismissed in present circumstances, only the Turkish Cypriot Administration could legally appoint a successor. Through an intermediary, Makarios thanked Olcay for this action by the Turkish Government. I suppose this should be given a place of honour among the ironies of diplomacy.
On landing at Heathrow, Ecevit noted that journalists and the BBC's TV cameramen were being held back by a police cordon. He therefore beckoned them to come forward and explained to them, frankly, the purpose of his visit as the Prime Minister of a guarantor state. In view of the informal nature of the visit, Prime Minister Wilson and Callaghan met the Turkish delegation not at Heathrow but at 10, Downing Street.
The following sidelight on the dinner at 10, Downing Street was provided by a member of the Turkish mission. During the conversation, Callaghan suddenly left the room saying, I'm going to the loo and will be back in a minute.' Wilson followed him, making the same excuse, and the two men were absent for about 15 minutes. It was later disclosed that the loo episode was a pretext to enable them to communicate with Kissinger.
Ecevit had been hoping for serious talks with the British leaders but, throughout the dinner, though Wilson talked at length on various other matters, the Cyprus crisis was scarcely mentioned. Not until after coffee and dessert did Wilson take up the point, saying: 'Well, Mr. Ecevit, what is it you wish to discuss? I can now listen to you." Ecevit was somewhat uneasy. In his view, the Cyprus problem could not be satisfactorily discussed over coffee and brandy. Nevertheless, he put Turkey's case clearly before the British leaders, emphasising that Turkey could not remain passive in its attitude to the coup. In the course of his remarks, he said; 'If you want to avoid bloodshed and irreparable harm to NATO, let us undertake joint action, permitting the Turkish armed forces to operate from the British Bases. I call upon you to fulfil your obligations under the Treaty of Guarantee.' Replying, Wilson assured him that Britain was well aware of the sort of man Sampson was and shared Turkey's anxieties. 'But', he said, 'it is not yet too late to restore the old regime', Ecevit answered, 'With every hour that passes, the situation becomes more difficult. It is imperative that Sampson should be quickly forced to step down and a new order established. The balance has been completely upset and we are determined to safeguard the Turkish Cypriot community.' Wilson: 'Let us invite Greece to London for a tripartite conference; Kissinger is continuing his efforts and the United Nations is in session, so there is no call for military action.'
Ecevit: 'Greece is responsible for the coup and, therefore, cannot be considered as a party to any talks. Nor will the situation be improved by academic speeches and resolutions.' Meanwhile, Callaghan had once more 'gone to the loo' and, on his return, announced that Sisco, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East affairs, was on his way to London. He added: If you don't wish to talk to the Greeks, let us at least discuss the matter with Sisco, and we will then get in touch with Athens ourselves.' Ecevit insisted; 'We must concentrate on the human aspect of the situation. The Sampson regime must go. If no help is forthcoming, Turkey will act alone and a lot of blood will be shed.' At this point, Callaghan cut in abruptly: 'Athens cannot watch with folded arms. If Turkey takes military action, there will be war with Greece and NATO will be badly shaken.' By now, Ecevit had realised that his hopes of joint action were not going to materialise; the atmosphere was extremely tense.
Sisco's arrival on the scene was an unexpected development for the Turkish delegation. They were urged to put off their return to Ankara for 24 hours to permit further talks in which Sisco could take part, but Ecevit objected on the grounds that the U.S. was not a guarantor power. However, he was prepared to confer with Sisco, as the representative of a friendly state, at the Turkish Embassy. Wilson tried to insist on Greek participation but this was firmly rejected by Ecevit. Finally, Wilson asked: 'Mr. Ecevit, have you pondered over the probable reaction of the Soviet Union and the consequences that might follow?' When this veiled attempt to intimidate Ecevit failed, he declared: 'We do not share the view that the Treaty of Guarantee confers on Britain any right to intervene militarily.' To which Ecevit replied: 'That is a pity, for there will be all the more bloodshed.'
Wilson: 'Are you going to intervene?'
Ecevit: 'We are prepared to try everything in the effort to restore equilibrium in Cyprus. The security of Turkey and of the Turkish-Cypriot community shall be preserved.' The last words of the Turkish Prime Minister were: I hope that your conscience will not trouble you when you are faced with the consequences of your refusal to accept our proposals and carry out your obligations as a guarantor power.'
It was now 01.30, and Ecevit returned to the Turkish Embassy where he reported to Ankara that there would be no change in the plans. This message would be correctly interpreted by the General Staff H.Q. He also suggested that the meeting of the Grand National Assembly, scheduled for Thursday, should be put off until Saturday. This move was designed to give the impression that Turkey would take no action until empowered to do so by a National Assembly vote on Saturday.
Ecevit was right; England was pulling out and the U.S. was moving in. Turkey stood alone.
Thursday, July 18th 1974
The BBC news bulletin at 08.00 hrs contained a detailed account of Ecevit=s confidential talks with the British leaders and included the statement that 'the Turks are determined to land troops in Cyprus.' Precisely the same story was carried by the morning papers and must have emanated from either the Foreign Office or the Prime Minister's Office. In the opinion of the Turkish delegates, this was a deliberate leakage with a two-fold aim; to increase international pressure on Turkey, and to alarm both the Greeks and the Greek Cypriots.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister GüneĠ was hastening back from Peking, repeatedly demanding; 'Why did they go to London? Have they gone mad? Once again, they have turned a national crisis into diplomatic wire-pulling!'
In Ankara, Deputy Prime Minister Erbakan and Finance Minister Baykal were holding a morning conference with the party leaders. From notes made by one of the participants, it is learnt that Baykal opened the meeting with this brief position-report. 'The Greek National Guard is consolidating its position on the island, while Greece continues to maintain that the coup is a purely Cypriot internal affair. Ecevit, now in London, is pressing for joint action by Britain and Turkey. A meeting with Makarios is a possibility. Nothing further has emerged from the U.S. Embassy but the Soviet Union, whilst pinning the responsibility on Greece, is urging the exploration of peaceful methods.'
Replying to Democratic Party leader Bozbeyli, who demanded more details, Baykal enlarged upon Government policy and disclosed that steps were being taken towards intervention. He continued; 'We do not view this latest develop- ment as a simple coup, and the General Staff has made comprehensive plans for dealing with any possible acts of massacre on the island . . . If Britain rejects our proposal for joint action, we are fully determined to discharge our obligations without her help.'
Erbakan, too, stressed that intervention was essential; but Nihat Erim, a former Prime Minister, stated that he, personally, could not agree to an outbreak of hostilities, adding that he preferred recourse to diplomatic methods and full consultation with the United States. He asked: 'How can we intervene singlehanded? Either the U.S. or the Soviet Union could stop us. We must get one of them on our side. When Britain invaded the Suez Canal, America said, "Withdraw!" and they did. This event cost Anthony Eden his political career.'
Suleyman Demirel, leader of the Justice Party, who was Premier at the time of the Greco-Turkish confrontation in 1967, was strongly opposed to intervention which, he considered, could only lead to war with Greece. During a session of the National Assembly, held in camera, he had already accused the Government of pursuing an adventurous policy over the continental-shelf dispute. Choosing his words with the deliberation of a man of wide knowledge and experience, he said: 'The "Let's intervene" spirit cannot be accepted as a sound guide. Currently, world opinion supports Makarios; it does not favour Turkey. We cannot go to war merely in order to restore Makarios. We are not guarantors of Makarios, are we? And what difference is there between the regime of Makarios and that of the coup promoters? Can we say, "Makarios was good; these men are bad"? If pressure of world opinion manages to restore Makarios, the situation will be the same as it was before the coup, and our hands will be tied. The London and Zurich agreements exist only on paper, they have never been implemented. The rights we have so far managed to secure for the Turkish Cypriot community are therefore all the more important. When the United States asks "What do you want?" we must be ready with the answer and our case must be incontestable.' Continuing, he claimed that the full implications of the coup, so far as Turkey was concerned, had not yet been fully grasped. The threat to the strategic interests of Turkey was greater than that to the security of the Turkish-Cypriot community. For Turkey to contribute to the establishing of a new Greek base in the Mediterranean, when she is already sur- rounded in the Aegean, would be a historic blunder.
Baykal repeated the main objective; '. . . By adopting a firm and dignified policy, we must build up a position of strength. If we fail now, our interests will suffer a severe blow. Turkey can no longer turn a blind eye to external developments. Intervention is essential if we are to turn the Cyprus affair to our advantage. Two points demand attention, (a) the strength of our armed forces and the correct evaluation of the lessons of the past, and (b) the need to avoid antagonizing the United States.'
Demirel was still dissatisfied. 'What then is to be our immediate aim? Would you say, "Let us take the whole of Cyprus"?' Here, Bozbeyli interrupted: 'First let us bring about a situation which puts us in a strong position at the conference table. Then is the time to fix our ultimate goal. This nation is fed up with being at the tailend of events.'
Demirel: 'A really strong Turkey can assert its strength without intervention. It would be a wild gamble to say "Let us land, and then we can think again". I want to know how you will justify such a move.'
Bozbeyli: 'Suleyman Bey, our justification is Greece's invasion of the island.' Demirel could restrain himself no longer; he exclaimed, 'Rest assured, such action is tantamount to a Greco-Turkish war. Can you risk such a venture?'
By the end of the meeting, it was clear to the party leaders that the question of Turkish intervention was already settled. Ironically enough, on the day following Demirel's dire warnings, his party's parliamentary group was the first to support the Government policy.
Sisco arrived at the Turkish Embassy in London in the afternoon and, for the first time, Turkey found herself speaking to the representative of one of the major powers on a basis of equality. It was at this meeting that the United States came to appreciate the strength of Turkey's determination. In the strongest terms, Sisco urged Turkey to abandon her decision. He had brought an equally strongly worded message from Dr. Kissinger; 'The United States is opposed to intervention using the coup as vindication. We believe that such action may lead to war between two NATO allies.' In reply, Ecevit emphasised that Turkey had no intention of provoking war with Greece. 'But', he added, 'it is impossible for us to overlook any more f aits accomplis in Cyprus.' Sisco expressed the opinion that war between Greece and Turkey would be a disaster for the whole area and that it would impair relations between Turkey and the U.S. Ecevit agreed on the importance of Turkey's relations with the States but pointed out that American attempts to hinder Turkey might be just as damaging. In the past, the United States has repeatedly obstructed Turkey's efforts and this has had a hardening effect on Turkish public opinion. If the U.S. attempts once more to stand in the way, the reaction in Turkey might get out of hand.'
Thursday, July 18th 1974 (cont)
Realising by now that Turkish talk of intervention was to be taken seriously, Sisco had a further conversation with Ecevit which had some points of interest.
Sisco: I am going on to Athens, Mr. Ecevit. If you will set out your terms in writing, I will submit them to the Greek Government and come back with their reply.
Ecevit: Our requirements are quite straightforward. Sampson must be replaced at once and the Greek officers withdrawn. The security of the Turkish Cypriot community demands the presence of Turkish troops on the island and this must be accepted. There must be equality of rights for the two communities, the Turkish Cypriots must be allowed an outlet to the sea, and there must be strict control of immigration and emigration. In short, the Turkish-Cypriots must be accorded the same facilities as those presently enjoyed by the Greek community.
Sisco: Please take no action until I return from Greece.
Ecevit: When do you expect to be back?
Sisco: On Saturday morning.
Ecevit: Saturday is too late. With every hour that passes.Greece is massing troops in Cyprus. We have no time to waste. Try to be in Ankara early on Friday. On Saturday, the Grand National Assembly is convening and your presence in Turkey on that day might be taken, in some circles, as evidence of American pressure.
More to the point was the fact that Ecevit did not want Sisco in Ankara during the intervention.
Sisco left the Turkish Embassy looking extremely anxious. He was clearly set against intervention but had refrained from threatening language, nor had the 6th Fleet been mentioned this time. This is how an American diplomat assessed the situation at the time: 'Ecevit had forcefully -- even threateningly emphasised that American attempts to obstruct Turkey in this matter would adversely affect her interests in Turkey. In fact, all we wanted was to gain time for exploring a peaceful approach to a solution of the dispute between the two countries. We felt that Turkey would content itself with a series of bombardments rather than the landing of troops."
A last attempt by Callaghan
Soon after Sisco's departure for Athens, another meeting was held at the
British Foreign Office.
Callaghan: Can anything persuade you to abandon intervention, Mr. Ecevit? Supposing Makarios or Clerides took over . ..
Ecevit: We consider our physical presence on the island to be a pre-requisite.
Callaghan: How can we ask the Greeks to withdraw to enable you to move in? To whom is a settlement in Cyprus more important; to the local people or to Ankara?
Ecevit: The Greeks are landing troops on the island without hindrance, while we have no such facilities.
Callaghan: Would you be satisfied with the removal of all Greek troops and arms?
Ecevit: No! It is essential for us to have access to the Turkish Cypriot community both by sea and air.
Callaghan: Well, let us invite the Greeks here. Agreement on some of your points is feasible, but I don't know about the presence of Turkish troops on the island.
It was clear that Callaghan was seeking a negotiated settlement which would provide for the replacement of Sampson by derides and, as in 1967, the withdrawal of Greek officers from Cyprus.
Ecevit: Please take care not to put Turkey and Greece in the same category.
Callaghan looked up quickly as though, for the first time, appreciating the true seriousness of the situation. He asked: 'How much more time have you?'
Ecevit: That depends on the course of events. I am sorry we have not reached an agreement; we could so easily have taken some sort of joint action.
Callaghan: I can only confirm that the use of British bases is out of the question.
The Turkish delegation had done all it could, but Britain was unwilling to help in any way. There was, therefore, no reason to hold up the war machine. The United States had been adequately forewarned and, though pressure was intense, it was not accompanied by threats. It was noteworthy that there had been no such churlish reaction as the notorious 'Johnson letter.' Awaiting Sisco's return was merely a matter of courtesy; it was inconceivable that Greece should accept the Turkish proposals. Accordingly, Ecevit phoned Ankara to tell them that his discussions with the British leaders had been abortive; a message which gave the armed forces the green light to go ahead with intervention as planned. At 23.00 hrs, General Staff H.Q. alerted the Landing Units Command in Mersin with this message: 'Unless orders to the contrary are received, operations will commence at 08.30 hrs on the 19th.'
Held up at traffic lights on his way to Heathrow, Ecevit was politely asked by an Englishman in a luxurious car; 'Mr. Prime Minister, will it be safe for me to go to Istanbul on Monday?' This question, to which all journalists were fren- ziedly seeking an answer, could not have been asked in a more understanding manner and Ecevit smiled as he replied; 'Don't worry. You will be perfectly safe in Istanbul.'
By 20.30, the Turkish delegation was on its way back to Turkey in a DC-9. Most of them had fallen asleep but the noise of typing could be heard from the front seats. It stopped, and Ecevit made his way to Orhan Eralp whom he wakened, saying: 'Sorry to waken you, but is this how you would put it in English?' Eralp, his drowsiness shaken off, looked at the paper in Ecevit's hand. It read: 'We are coming to restore peace, not to wage war. We are com- ing to rescue both the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities.' Leaflets bear- ing this message were to be dropped by the Turkish planes over Cyprus before the bombardment began.
In a special interview later, the Prime Minister told me: >I searched my conscience right from the beginning. When making such a drastic decision, I told myself, "I am a peace-loving man, but I must also be a realist". To act with too much restraint or hesitation could lead to more bloody events and a worse situation. Greece might go beserk and attack Turkey. We could halt such an attack but, even at its best, war is still war.'
At 15.30 that same day, Makarios addressed the U.N. Security Council, saying: The Greeks from the mainland have invaded Cyprus, and bloody clashes are taking place in the island. They are more barbarous than the Turks! Tanks are roaring through the streets, casualties are being continually rushed to hospitals and the Greek flag is hoisted on all important buildings. This act of occupation has completely destroyed the independence and territorial integrity of the island. The Turkish Cypriot community too is, today, in danger . .. ' With what can only be described as a contribution to the irony of History, the Greek delegate Panayotakis retorted: 'The Archbishop has ushered in a reign of terror in the island. He has put his opponents in prison. But a new era is now beginning for Cypriots. The island wishes to determine its own fate and Greece has not intervened in its internal affairs...'
The Council remained in session, though the U.S. had vetoed a Soviet resolution calling on the Security Council to condemn Greece.
At the NATO Council meeting, the Greek delegate, Horafas, refused to commit himself. Asked by the British delegate to obtain an official statement from the Greek Foreign Minister, Kyprios, to the effect that the Greek officers in Cyprus were being recalled, not merely rotated, and that both Greece and the Greek Cypriots would adhere to their international agreements, he replied; The Greek officers are on the island at the request of the Cyprus Government.' The other delegates smiled wryly at this contention and the Turkish delegate, Tülümen, could not resist asking: 'How can this be possible? Apparently the honourable Ambassador has forgotten that Makarios has held several Press conferences at which he has demanded the withdrawal of the 650 Greek officers.'
Friday, July 19th 1974
THE EVE OF INTERVENTION
Foreign Minister GüneĠ managed to get back from Peking one day earlier than planned and was met in the VIP lounge by Eçmel Barutçu whom he greeted with the words; 'Eçmel, I have been cursing the lot of you. Was there no other place you could go to but London?' He was really angry, being under the impression that Turkey was once more resorting to the old tactics of 'embarking and disembarking troops' before finally settling for diplomatic bargaining. He went straight to the National Assembly where he was further incensed to learn that the Assembly was adjourned; he even tried to talk his colleagues into reversing the adjournment decision.
Ecevit=s plane from London arrived at 03.00 and he proceeded to the General Staff H.Q. where he confirmed that Turkey would have to go it alone and was given a progress report on the military preparations. At this meeting, which was pervaded by an atmosphere of intense excitement, the Prime Minister recapitulated the purpose of the planned operation. He told them: >I call this a Peace Operation. I am strongly opposed to the killing of innocent people and they are already fighting amongst themselves. Moreover, this is the tourist season and there are many tourists in the area where you will land. Heavy and unnecessary bombardment must, therefore, be avoided; let us not open fire unless fired on by the other side.' The original plans called for the wiping out of certain targets, including the Greek National Guard camps scattered in various parts of the island, by naval and air bombardment before troops were landed. But, right from the start, Ecevit had contended that such a heavy attack would immediately damn our action in the eyes of the world. The restrictions advocated by Ecevit are still condemned by some people who argue that they were responsible for the containment suffered by the Turkish forces during the first few days.
The Naval Forces Commander, Kayacari said: 'Mr. Prime Minister, it will take us 20 hours to reach the island. If the plans are to be implemented on time, I must order the navy to set out at 08.30 today . . . We wish. Sir, to stress the fact that if, as in the past, we draw back at the last minute, neither we as commanders, nor you as the Prime Minister, can survive . .. ' Ecevit was unshaken. He told the commanders: 'Don't worry. This is no time for vacillation.'
At the meeting of the Council of Ministers there were signs of bewilderment. Some ministers were embracing each other with joy, others were thinking deeply and still others were watching with dull eyes, not knowing what to say. Some thought the burden was too heavy to shoulder and the many doubts in all minds were revealed by the thousands of queries.
The well-kept secret. At the 6th Army Corps centre in Adana, Land Forces Commander General EĠref Akinci, 2nd Army Commander General Suat Aktulga and the commanders of the Landing Units were all waiting . . . All were apprehensive lest the Government change its mind at the eleventh hour. They were concerned too over the lack of up-to-date information regarding the strength of the opposing side and uncertainty's to how Greece would react. These worries did not stem from any thought of possible failure; they had complete confidence in the arm--but there were many unanswered questions.
At 08.30 the fleet sailed. This operation involved 5 destroyers, 31 landing craft and about 3,000 troops, and was so planned that the first landing craft would be in position ready for landing at 06.30 next morning. During the night, there was an unexpected encounter; a foreign ship was cruising off the Kyrenia coast. One of the Turkish destroyers approached it and reported to Ankara that it was a minesweeper flying the Russian flag. The reply was brief: 'If it is not in your way, leave it alone." This Soviet ship watched both the first and the second operation from outside the prohibited area. It was obviously acting as 'the eyes and ears' of the Soviet Union.
In Athens, Sisco had had a heated discussion with Greece's strong man, Ioannides, the Chief of Police, who was convinced that Turkey could not intervene in Cyprus. When Sisco referred to the Turkish demands, Ioannides's agitation became almost uncontrollable. He is quoted as saying: 'They might just as well have asked for the surrender of Athens at the same time. If they have so much confidence in themselves let them land on the island.' He added that, if this happened, Greece would definitely go to war with Turkey, and urged Sisco to stop the Turks if the U.S. wished to avert the collapse of NATO. Davos, in command of Greece's strong Southern Forces, was among those who opposed Ioannides.
When David Tonge, BBC correspondent in Athens, rang up the Greek Ministry of Information and told them that the Turkish navy had put to sea, the man at the other end told him, confidently: 'There is nothing to worry about. The Turks have formed a habit of going out to sea every year or two just to breathe Mediterranean air and then return home.' Athens was clearly in the hands of venturesome and irresponsible people. Sisco explained the situation to Kissinger, whilst the U.S. Ambassador to Athens urged him to instruct the 6th Fleet to prevent Turkish intervention. Kissinger's reply was short and clear: 'No! Don't get hysterical.'
Meanwhile, a small Turkish defence force accompanied by six civilian cargo ships arrived off Famagusta and stayed off-shore until the actual landing took place somewhere near Kyrenia. Apart from this feint, intended to mislead the Greeks, nothing of moment took place on Friday the 19th. In Ankara, the doors of the Foreign Ministry and of the Prime Minister's office were closed at 17.00 hrs. This was a clear indication that things were moving. GüneĠ had sent this message to Turkish embassies. 'Please keep all your radio channels open and your operators on duty.' In another room, Barutçu was drafting a message for the Turkish Cypriot Administration; 'Turkish armed forces will land in Cyprus at dawn. Keep the Turkish community informed of developments over Radio Bayrak and maintain a listening watch on Turkish Radio and Television, TRT . ..'
At 18.00 the military restrictions were tightened further. No meteorological reports were to be broadcast, the Erdemli-Anamur area was closed to tourists and a blackout was imposed in the Mersin-Silifke area where military units were watching the setting sun in eerie silence. This was the lull before the storm.
By 22.45, when Sisco was on his way to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the plans of the General Staff had been finalised as follows:- Paratroops were to be dropped in the Kyrenia Bogaz area. Helicopters would drop a Commando brigade in the same area and also near the Headquarters of the Turkish contingent in the Turkish sector of Nicosia. Troops of the 6th Marine Regiment and of the 50th Infantry Regiment were to occupy Kyrenia town and seize control of the Kyrenia-Nicosia road. Meanwhile, with the help of the Turkish Cypriot Fighters, Serdarli, where 10,000 Turkish Cypriots had herded together, was to be liberated. The first bombardment should start at 05.00 and landings from sea and air at 06.30.
Sir Horace Philips, the British Ambassador to Ankara, who had had to cut short a long vacation in Monte Carlo, called on GüneĠ to tell him that the British Intelligence Service had learned that the Turkish Naval and Army transports had sailed from Mersin, and added: >I hope this does not mean intervention in Cyprus.' He kept reiterating that his Government was firmly opposed to intervention, but he did not suggest -- as Callaghan was to do later in Geneva before the second phase -- that the troops at the British bases, or the U.N. forces in the island, would prevent the operation. In other words, he made no threats.
Saturday, July 20th 1974
SISCO'S EFFORTS PROVE ABORTIVE; OPERATIONS BEGIN
At 01.45 the U.S. envoy, Sisco, and his experts once again met Ecevit and his ministers in the Prime Minister's office. Sisco, addressing them in a business- like manner, said; 1 have discussed the situation with the Greek authorities and there have been important changes in their attitude. In particular, they are willing to replace the officers involved in the coup. Furthermore, after a transition period, Sampson could be replaced by a more moderate leader, and they promise that elections will be held. They insist that the present situation contains no threat to the security of the Turkish Cypriot community . . . ' To Ecevit, this was clearly a complete rejection of the Turkish proposals by Greece, who seemed to be offering only verbal assurances.
Ecevit: 'How can we accept the replacement of the Greek officers? Doesn't this mean that they will merely take away the dead and bring in the living?'
Sisco knew quite well that what he had brought back from Athens was not good enough. Nevertheless he went on to give Turkey stern warnings, saying: 'Greece is ready to embark on war with you and you must fully realise what that would mean. We cannot countenance such a serious disruption in the area and the consequent collapse of NATO'.
Ecevit: 'We had no intention of going to war with Greece: but if we are attacked we shall hit back'.
Sisco: 'You seem to forget the Soviet threat in the area and how passionately the U.S. wishes to avert the consequences of a Turco-Greek war.=
Ecevit: 'You should have put this to the Greeks rather than to us.=
Sisco then tried a new approach, on the theme that, if Turkey provoked disturbances in the area, she would be ostracised. He added that he had already warned the Greek authorities that, if they went to war, American aid to Greece would be suspended. At this point, GüneĠ interrupted with, 'Either knowingly or unknowingly, you are giving us outdated information; for Greece announced six months ago that she did not need American aid anymore'.
Sisco: 'But what would happen to NATO, an organisation which confers security on Turkey as well?'
Ecevit: 'NATO will be shaken only if Greece chooses to go to war with Turkey'.
The Turkish delegation tried once more to explain how, in their view, the Sampson regime posed a threat to the strategic security of Turkey.
Sisco: 'What safeguards against enosis would satisfy you?'
Ecevit: 'We have lost all faith in promises and no form of declaration can satisfy us'.
Sisco returned to the U.S. embassy to report to Kissinger. Turkey was no longer hopeful of the outcome of these talks and, at about 03.00 hrs, Barutçu informed Turkey's embassies; 'Following the destruction of the Constitutional order in Cyprus as a result of the coup, Turkey invoked the consultative machinery of the Treaty of Guarantee. Having failed to obtain any positive
result, she is effecting a single-handed intervention at dawn this morning. Stop= Unaware that these radio messages had gone out, Sisco called for yet another meeting with the Turkish leaders. He wanted to have another go. Alternating between admonitory and histrionic efforts to stop the intervention, he harped on the probability that it would inflict severe losses on both Turkey and the Western world.
Ecevit: It is too late, Mr. Sisco'.
Sisco got exasperated: he felt that he was talking to a brick wall and not to Ecevit. He was, in fact, too tired for words. He knew that his mission had failed but hoped to gain a little more time.
Sisco: 'Mr. Ecevit, you stand to lose nothing by exercising a little more patience -- and you may save many lives'.
Ecevit: 'What you brought from Athens holds no promise of a solution, even if we do wait a little longer'.
U.S. Ambassador Macomber: 'I cannot believe Mr. Ecevit, that a humane and cultured person like you could embark on such a project as this'.
Ecevit: >This is in no sense a contradiction of the humanitarian side of my character. If we fail to take action now, there will be worse clashes in the future and even more blood will be shed'.
Macomber: 'But, Mr. Prime Minister, many people will perish . ..'
Ecevit: >I know, and it is most deplorable; but this is the only way to avert greater tragedies in the future'.
Sisco now produced his last and most persuasive card. He said; 'Mr. Ecevit, give me 48 hours and I will bring you an American plan'. There was utter silence. This sounded attractive -- but could one trust the Greeks? Was it worth while suspending all action on the strength of a verbal promise? Could one trust the U. S. ? Would the circumstances ever be so favourable again? Even if the present situation could be straightened out, would not the same thing happen again? Ecevit's response was decisive; 'No! Mr. Sisco, it is now too late. A similar meeting to this was held in this very room ten years ago. On that occasion both Turkey and the U.S. made mistakes. You erred by standing in our way, we erred in listening to you. History may repeat itself, but we are not obliged to repeat the blunders of the past. No! we will not listen to you this time; we will not repeat the mistake we made ten years ago and I hope that neither will you. Because of that error, Turkish-American relations have been embittered for the last decade . . .' As Ecevit looked at his watch, Sisco burst out, 'Do you mean that I am talking here to no purpose?'
Sisco: 'Has the operation been launched already?'
Ecevit: >It is about to begin. The planes are just about to take off.
Only then did Sisco recognise the delicacy of his position. He said; 'Well then, I must hurry to my plane'. To which Ecevit replied: 'That is a good idea as the airport will soon be closed. We did not want you to leave in such a hurry, but it is better that you should not be here at the beginning of the operations'.
Shortly after Sisco's departure, Ecevit went to the Council of Ministers and told them that the landing would take place as planned. At 04.49, he arrived at the General Staff H.Q. where the Commanders told him, with satisfaction; 'Our planes are on the way to their first targets.' Ecevit wished the Commanders 'Good luck' as they all sprang to attention before him, full of exhilaration. Their responsibilities were great and they were pale with excitement which they were unable to conceal. At the same time, the green light was given to other planes at various bases and to the paratroops. The wheels of the war machine began to turn at 05.05 on Saturday morning, July 20th, with the take-off of the first jet.
Though suffering from fatigue, Ecevit went on the air at 06.10 to announce to the world, in a voice that frequently choked, that the operation had been launched. He said; 'The Turkish armed forces have begun to land troops in Cyprus both from the air and from the sea. May this operation prove beneficial to our nation, to all the Cypriot peoples and to mankind. We are acting in this way in the belief that we are rendering a service to peace and to the world. We are, in truth, going to Cyprus not to wage war but to bring peace, not only to the Turks but also to the Greeks on the island, and it is my hope that our forces will not be fired on, so that a bloody conflict may be avoided. We have undertaken this operation only after exhausting all political and diplomatic alternatives. I deem it my duty to thank all friendly countries, and particularly our friends and allies, the U.S. and Britain, with whom we have had sincere and frank talks in an effort to resolve the dispute without recourse to arms. That these efforts have not yielded fruit is certainly not the fault of the countries which have displayed such good will.
I again express the hope that this operation will prove a blessing to our nation, to all Cypriots and to the rest of the world. May God protect our nation and all mankind against calamity.'