The United Nations and the Divided Island: 1964
The violence of 1963-64 brought the United Nations into
Cyprus to keep the violence from growing, and to provide a basis for
negotiation. The U.N. also became the primary locus of international debate
about the political status of the island. Its role has long been disputed by
both camps. Turkish Cypriots have maintained in particular that the
constitutional crisis of 1963-64, in which President Makarios all but declared
the constitution dead, should have been recognized by the United Nations as such
- - that is, that there were then two distinct political entities in Cyprus, and
that Makarios and the Greek Cypriots could not thereby claim to lead the sole
legitimate government. Turkish Cypriots recall this episode angrily, for the
ensuing, bitter years of their enclaves went unrecognized by the world in the
wake of Makarios= superior
statesmanship. Below is a somewhat polemical but informative rendering of
this episode by Michael Moran, a former professor of philosophy in England who
lives in the north of Cyprus and gradually became an advocate of the Turkish
1964 was one of the most eventful, indeed fateful, years in the history of modern Cyprus. It was a year of unprecedented and accelerating military strife between the two Cypriot communities and of intense diplomatic activity, at the UN Security Council and elsewhere, with a view to bringing that strife to an end. For the first time UN peace-keeping forces were stationed in Cyprus, and for the first time the two communities were, in effect, separated: the Turks being forced to seek refuge in barricaded enclaves, usually encircled by UN troops, in turn encircled by Greek Cypriot military or paramilitary units.
Today, with its own protected state in the north of the island, the Turkish Cypriot community is incomparably better off than it was in 1964. Then the Turks in Cyprus were in the gravest danger of total extermination by their numerically much larger Greek compatriots, clandestinely reinforced by over 20,000 officers and men from the army in mainland Greece. Many of these so-called 'government' forces, together with smaller, uncontrolled private armies of fanatical gunmen, were thoroughly indoctrinated in Hellenic ideology, according to the more extreme versions of which the Turks in Cyprus were an inferior, infidel, even barbaric, element, latecomers and intruders in a Greek island, who must at no cost be allowed to stand in the way of Cyprus' supposedly historic destiny of being united with Greece. These were the people, many of them trigger-happy thugs and hysterical zealots, the quite small groups of Turkish Cypriot defence fighters had to face.
Because the Turks are now so well-established in their own part of the island, it is easy to forget these terrifying realities of the not very distant past. Turkish Cypriots no longer have to contend on an immediate, daily basis with these inhumane consequences of the self-aggrandising fantasies and fixations of the Greek 'majority.' In the wider political arena, of course, the Turkish Cypriots are still effectively in a state of war with the Greeks. They suffer from the comprehensive economic embargo the Greeks have succeeded in imposing upon them. More importantly, they are constantly subject to the undiminished flow of Greek propaganda, issuing from numerous sources - and most effectively from the three million or so Americans of Greek origin - the principal aim of which is to cajole the international community into believing that the "Cyprus problem' began in 1974 when Turkey, apparently for no good reason, 'invaded' a small, defenceless, happy, and innocent Greek island forty miles from its southern shores - a political perspective created specifically to render the very existence, as well as the constitutional rights, of the Turkish Cypriots invisible. Above all, the Greek Cypriot political elite managed, as long ago as March, 1964, to successfully present themselves to the world as the legitimate administration of the Cyprus Republic, a title they have had no difficulty in retaining ever since.
So, although, to be sure, nothing can be quite the same as it was three decades ago, I think it would be a mistake to think that Denktash's indictment of the way the Greek Cypriots were treating his community in 1964, and the underlying mythological rationale that was used at that time to justify those atrocities, are now simply matters of historical interest, irrelevant to the newly modernising, entrepreneurial, and pragmatic elites who are said to predominate in the busy life of Greek Cyprus today. This is what many well-meaning Western diplomats who are involved in the current Cyprus negotiations would have us believe about contemporary Greek Cypriots. Unfortunately one cannot share this optimism with complete confidence. I will mention just one example of a phenomenon still characteristic of life in Greek Cyprus that must make one cautious about dismissing Denktash' s speeches as passe curiosities, relics of a bygone age which has long given way, especially in the Greek south of the island, to a new and much more enlightened mentality.
In October, 1994, the Greek Cypriot authorities brought a famous icon from Mt. Athos in Greece to Cyprus where it was met by the Greek Cypriot President, Glafcos Clerides, at Larnaca airport. I say >met= because this human artifact was given a welcome very similar to that which would be afforded to a foreign dignitary on a state visit, and it was treated like this explicitly in the hope that the icon itself (or the Greeks' show of reverence towards it; it is hard to know which) would help them to achieve the solution they desire to the Cyprus problem. Perhaps I am being unduly mundane in my assumptions about the nature of politics, but it seems to me that any sober observer of this event could only pause to marvel at the undiminished power of otherworldly (indeed of magical) belief as we enter the age of the >information society.=
However that may be, the current political impasse in Cyprus is certainly the result of fundamentally the same seemingly irreconcilable forces that first came fully into play thirty-three years ago, in 1964. The speech he addressed to the UN Security Council on the afternoon of 28 February of that year was the first one Denktash had delivered in an international forum, and it is arguably the most important speech he has ever made.
A passionate revelation of the quite horrific victimisation and other trials and tribulations the Turkish Cypriots had been exposed to since December, 1963, together with a cogent defence of his community's rights under the Cyprus constitution, Denktash's intervention was calculated to sway the Security Council away from any naive and one-sided acceptance of the official Greek Cypriot version of what was at stake in Cyprus. As the then second in command of the Turkish Cypriot community (the Cyprus Vice-President, Dr Fazil Kuchuk, being at that time the community's leader), Denktash was fully and painfully aware of the historic significance of his mission at the Security Council.
When he arrived in New York a week before the Council's debate on Cyprus (which took place intermittently between 18 February and 4 March), it was far from clear that he would be allowed to speak in the debate at all. Probably for this reason, on 24 February Denktash wrote a letter in his hotel room addressed to the President of the Security Council which was designed to alert the Council to some of the more nefarious strategies that were already being adopted by the Greek Cypriots in the course of the debate. This letter, which was forwarded to the President of the Council by the representative of Turkey to 'be brought to the attention of the members of the Security Council', is worth quoting here since it touches briefly on some of the main points Denktash was able to elaborate in the two-hour speech he was eventually allowed to make before the Council. Like the speech itself, the letter also conveys something of the sense of urgency - almost of utter desperation - felt by the Turkish community in Cyprus at that time.
(Signed) Rauf Denktash
As things turned out, the Greek side did not quite succeed in abrogating the Treaty of Guarantee at the Security Council (a large majority of members taking the correct view that this was not something coming within the Council's competence); though they did succeed, to some extent, in side-stepping the Treaty by managing to relegate mention of the Cyprus 1960 Accords to the preamble of the 4 March resolution, rather than having them referred to substantially in the resolution's operative part. We will look at how they managed to achieve this in a moment.
By the fatal step of recognising the by then wholly Greek Cypriot administration in Cyprus as the legitimate government of the Republic, the Security Council contrived, through its rather casual reference to 'the government of Cyprus' in the 4 March resolution, to Obscure a fact of considerable significance. This was that 1964 saw the final breakdown of the Cyprus Republic.
As is well-known, this was originally a partnership Republic, established less than four years earlier, after prolonged and meticulous negotiations between the former colonial power, Great Britain, together with the two Cypriot communities and their 'mother' countries, Greece and Turkey. And one of the things Denktash1 's speech was designed to do was to convince the international community that, for all the Greek cries about a threat to peace in the Eastern Mediterranean caused, they alleged, by bellicose threats and acts against Cyprus by Turkey, it was manifestly the Greek Cypriots themselves, aided and abetted by Greece, who were the real troublemakers.
For it was the Greek Cypriots, in the person of their charismatic political leader and 'Ethnarch', Archbishop Makarios, who were doing their very best to destroy the Cyprus constitution and the other Accords they had solemnly put their signatures to in 1960, with the deliberate intention of turning the bi-communal Cyprus Republic into a Greek state. The intention was blatantly illegal and uncompromisingly overbearing: to create in Cyprus a solely Hellenic republic which would soon seek enosis with Greece; Athens being, of course, according to the Greek historical libretto (the celebrated megali idea) the 'national centre' of the greater Hellas that Greeks everywhere hoped (and indeed expected) one day to regain.
A Greek Cypriot writer once had the courage to summarise the basic elements of this Pan-hellenic ideology, with refreshing touches of irony, as follows:
These elements of Greek nationalism and patriotism were fully assimilated by the Greeks of Cyprus. After 1878 the British administrators, not unlike the Ottomans before them, adopted the policy of leaving matters pertaining to Greek Cypriot religion and education entirely in the hands of the Greek community's leaders. This must have seemed a sensible, even a humane, decision on the part of a colonial government that contained a number of philhellenes. But it meant, in effect, leaving the intellectual development of the Greek Cypriots largely in the hands of the Orthodox Church, and thus permitted Pan-nationalist sentiments, based directly on Greek mainland models, to grow unchecked. So, despite the gradual impact of modernisation at the economic and commercial levels, at the level of ideas and ratiocination these doctrines were allowed to flourish, indeed to luxuriate, in the insulated ethnic domain of church and school. Rather like certain comparable doctrines held by other emerging European nations - nations who also coped with a sense of inferiority or of powerlessness by inventing compensatory fictions of past grandeur and future glory, so as to be able to hold up their heads in a world now dominated by Western industrialised powers - the Greeks clung to their national mythology with increasing tenacity. What is more, in Cyprus these ideas were taught in the very same atmosphere of unquestioning certitude as were the doctrines of Orthodox Christianity itself, an atmosphere of simple-minded inculcation with little emphasis on discussion, or tolerance of dissension. It hardly needs saying that the mentality of the Greek Orthodox Church had been little disturbed by such formative currents of modern European thought and feeling as the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century, or by the secular and humanitarian ideals of the eighteenth century Enlightenment. The decisive shifts in outlook caused by these cultural forces in Western Europe had had far less impact in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. To put a complex point all too briefly, this had the important consequence that the essentially political dogmas of Panhellenism remained untouched by rational criticism.
Superficially the British influence in Cyprus had been considerable. This was obviously so, for example, in the areas of administration, trading practices, law, engineering, even dress, and it could be seen in some everyday habits that are still noticeable. Acquisition of the English language, and increasing access to British universities on the part of the educated elite, gave a small minority of Cypriots (Turks as well as Greeks) an opportunity to internalise Western secular values, if they so wished. But neither Cypriot community had actually evolved in the West, and such assimilation of Western values in any depth was hardly to be expected. Nor was it perceived as particularly desirable, given the relatively closed circle of family ties and the practice, until quite recently, of arranged marriages. By and large, the effect of the Western perspectives I alluded to in the last paragraph remained, at best, little more than a surface phenomenon in Cyprus. For the vast majority of Greeks, in particular, their decidedly non-secular and non-Western sense of identity, of what constituted a "true Greek', remained firmly intact just beneath any Anglo-Saxon veneer they may have cultivated. It was a tribal identity all too ready to respond to a collective call, including a call to arms.
In this way, as late as the 1960s, belief in the wish-fulfilling fiction of the megali idea, of which the supposed inevitability of enosis was an essential part, had become a deeply-ingrained and emotionally-laden article of faith held by even most educated Greek Cypriots. In this scheme of things there was, of course, no viable place for the Turks in Cyprus.
And I would venture to suggest that it is here we can find at least a partial explanation for the way the Greek Cypriots were able to sustain such a remarkable posture of self-righteousness during the debates at the Security Council from 1964 onwards, despite all the bloodshed they were causing in Cyprus.
The Greek Cypriot community can hardly be supposed to be intrinsically worse or better than the rest of humanity. Yet, by the early 1960s, it was their ill-fortune to have been long subjected to a specific conditioning calculated to develop neither their capacity for open-mindedness nor their potential for fraternal feelings towards their Turkish compatriots. To Makarios and most of his associates the luminously self-evident veracity of the coming Hellenic 'redemption' provided a compelling rationale for action, a focal point for their deepest aspirations - something hardly distinguishable from an article of religious faith. So much of their own sense of significance was invested in this belief that it could all too easily permit them to be unconsciously less than scrupulous in considering the basic human rights of others.
Such forms of self-deception are widespread and by no means a Greek invention. This was not the first or the last time in the twentieth-century that a Leader had resolutely come to imagine himself as moving in step with history, on a 'prescribed' path which may, regrettably but inexorably, have to be strewn with the corpses of those presumptuous or foolhardy enough to attempt to hinder the fulfillment of a sacred ideal. It is a recurrent form of political insanity, to be sure. And unfortunately the Greeks had created and nurtured their own homespun version of it. Did Makarios really feel the need for any greater justification of his actions than this sense of certainty that his mission was divinely sanctioned? As far as I can tell, he did not.
It was, then, I am suggesting, because they were under a kind of ideological spell, a collective mental condition similar to what Marxists used to call 'false-consciousness', that the Greeks in Cyprus could embark on their particular course of action in December, 1963, with all the zeal and confidence they did. Brainwashed through at least a hundred years of purblind school-teaching and sermonising into a set of beliefs pathologically at odds with any plausible account of historical and political realities; lacking contact with a counterbalancing tradition of rational criticism; for the most part incapable of ironic scepticism towards theological obfuscation, and oblivious to the dangers always lurking in self-serving metaphysical chicanery - the Greek Cypriot leaders were effectively de-sensitised to the equally important rights of the Turkish Cypriots. In this way they were able to treat their Turkish compatriots with such consistent and irrational abuse, hardly noticing that this was what they were in fact doing. I believe that today some of those same Greek leaders would admit there is at least something in this diagnosis.
But let us now return to the circumstances of the 1964 UN Security Council debate.
Was the Security Council going to be taken in by Greek lies about Turkey threatening the sovereignty of Cyprus when what in fact was happening was that Turkey, as one of the guarantor powers who had signed the 1960 Accords, was merely indicating its intention to intervene, as was its right and duty under the Treaty of Guarantee, if Makarios continued to slaughter Turkish Cypriots and to flout the basic tenets of the Cyprus constitution? This was Denktag' s rhetorical question. Yet clear, dramatic, and moving though it was, his speech, like his preliminary letter, seemed to fall very largely on deaf ears.
On the face of it, at any rate, the resolution eventually adopted on 4 March 1964, was so favourable to the Greek Cypriots that one might feel that Denkta1 need not have spoken at all. Things were not actually quite so bad as that, though Denkta1 and the Turkish delegation may well have felt they were at the time.
It is important to note at once that this particular resolution has played a crucial, and largely debilitating, role in all the subsequent UN negotiations on Cyprus. Its negative aspects were certainly clear enough. It gave international recognition to the wholly Greek Cypriot administration of Archbishop Makarios, in flagrant contradiction to the letter as well as the spirit of the 1960 Cyprus constitution; it gave that same Greek Cypriot administration the immediate responsibility of 'restoring law and order' in Cyprus, thus in effect permitting the Greeks in Cyprus to continue their ruthless policy of exterminating - and when not actually exterminating, at least marginalising through a variety of inhumane means - their Turkish compatriots; and it was the wording of that resolution which attempted, at any rate, in accordance with Greek Cypriot wishes, to sideline the Treaty of Guarantee, and hence Turkey's right to defend the Turks in Cyprus against these Greek atrocities. Despite all this, the resolution did not get the Greek Cypriots all that they had wanted, as they were soon to realise. Paragraph 7 of the resolution recommended that the UN Secretary-General should appoint a mediator 'in agreement with the Governments of Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom' and that this mediator should 'use his best endeavours with the representatives of the [two Cypriot] communities and also the aforesaid four Governments for the purpose of promoting a peaceful solution and an agreed settlement of the problem confronting Cyprus...' (Italics added) . What this meant was that there could be no solution to 'the problem confronting Cyprus' to which the Turkish Cypriot community and Turkey did not give their agreement. As Glafcos Clerides, the man Makarios had most relied on to guide the Greek Cypriot side through the UN debates in 1964, remarked with hindsight many years later [in My Deposition, v 3, p 79]:
This is certainly true and it is doubtless one reason why the Cyprus problem has never been solved. For nothing could be clearer than that the positions of the two sides are incompatible in certain crucial respects.
On the 4 March 1964, however, the Turkish Cypriots were in need of something more than a long-term glimmer of hope. At the time it seemed to them that the resolution had put the Greeks officially and ominously in charge in Cyprus and, for much of the international community, it seemed to have cast the Turkish community in the preposterous role of a 'rebellious minority=, an image that the Greek Cypriot delegates had repeatedly presented to the Security Council.
This situation still prevails today, at least in the minds of those still susceptible to Greek propaganda. But there are some crucial differences. The 'rebellious minority' is no longer confined to numerous poverty-stricken ghettos throughout the island with little communication with each other, as they were, for the most part, from 1964 until at least 1968. And as we noted, they now have their own unified state in the north with the full protection of the Turkish army. True, the UN has still not recognised the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and consequently the Cypriot Turks are strongly dependent on Turkey; while Cypriot Greek diplomats are accepted everywhere as the sole recognised representatives of 'Cyprus'. With all the advantages that spring from this international recognition, the Greek Cypriot economy thrives, while the Turkish Cypriot economy suffers from the numerous embargoes imposed on it by the Greeks, and more recently by the European Union. Still, the Turkish Cypriots have survived and are now full citizens in their own country. In early 1964, however, Denktash had no means of being sure that his people would survive.
When resolution 186 was finally framed, voted on, and accepted by the Security Council the Greek and Greek Cypriot delegations were jubilant. Spiros Kyprianou, the then Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister of Cyprus, thanked the Assembly warmly for what he called their understanding and desire to solve the Cyprus problem. Both Makarios in Nicosia, and the Greek Foreign Minister in Athens hastened to let their satisfaction be known. The Turkish delegation was, to say the least, downcast. Denktash (as he told me with feeling in a conversation in 1994, over thirty years later) walked out of the Security Council chamber in tears.
Why was Denktash' s speech, as well as those of the delegates from Turkey, of so little avail? The answer is not difficult to find once we understand the wider context of that particular session of the Security Council devoted to Cyprus, and appreciate the considerable lengths to which the Greek Cypriots had gone to obtain the kind of resolution they wanted.
The first thing to note is that already, early in 1964 and before the Security Council's first meeting on 18 February, the Greek Cypriots had managed to take complete de facto control of the Cyprus government by declaring that the 1960 Constitution was no longer valid. The government no longer contained any Turkish Cypriot ministers or MPs. But the Turkish Cypriots did not bow to Makarios's writ and united around the Vice-President in administering themselves. The Vice-President used his title in sending letters and other more urgent communications to the President of the Security Council and to the UN Secretary-General, but Makarios totally ignored him in Cyprus itself. 'Cyprus', therefore, was represented at the Security Council by Makarios's own delegate, Zenon Rossides, and for some sessions by Makarios's Foreign Minister, Kyprianou. The delegate from Turkey, Turgut Menemencioglu, was allowed to speak at the Security Council because his country was, like Greece, one of the interested parties in the Cyprus dispute. But since they were not members of the Security Council, neither Greece nor Turkey could vote on Security Council resolutions. All their representatives could do was to deliver speeches when called by the Council's President, answer questions, and lobby among the actual members of the Council in the hope of finding political sympathisers.
It is most important to realise, too, that the Turkish Cypriots were never officially represented in the debating sessions. Denktash was allowed to speak - despite strong opposition from the Greek
Cypriots, Greece, and the Soviet Union, who did not wish him to address the Council in any capacity - because the American delegation, headed by Adiai Stevenson, insisted that he should be. But Denktash1 was admitted to the Assembly only under rule 39, that is, not as a representative of his community in Cyprus but as a private individual.
Thus the quite extraordinary and calamitous exclusion by the international community of the Turkish Cypriots from their rightful place among the official representatives of the Cyprus Republic in international fora also originates at this time. Even just before the 4 March resolution gave official sanction to the >legitimacy= of Makarios's government (which was already lacking its Turkish Vice-President and three ministers), the Turkish Cypriots were prevented from having their own voice heard, officially at least. As the opening sentences of Denktash=s speech show, however, he himself regarded his intervention as far from that of a private individual. In his first sentence he thanked the President for letting him speak. And his second sentence read: 'My community, which has suffered more than 800 dead or wounded in a matter of two months, will be most grateful.' At the end of his speech he pointed out, quite explicitly, that Kyprianou could hardly 'claim in justice and fairness and humanity that he can represent the Turkish [i.e., the Turkish Cypriot] voice... in this Council.' Plainly that voice was Denktash=s. It was not to the Council's credit, however, that by admitting Denktash only as a private individual it set a precedent that has severely hampered the Turkish Cypriot case being heard, let alone understood, to this day.
In trying to understand how the 4 March resolution came to be accepted we need to bear in mind two things in particular. The first was stated admirably by D.S. Bitsios, the Greek Ambassador to the at the time. An experienced diplomat (and later Greek Foreign Minister), Bitsios played a crucial role in assisting the relatively raw - though undoubtedly able' - Greek Cypriot delegation to get something close to the resolution they wanted. And, as Bitsios quite accurately observes:
In a book he published some ten years later, Bitsios gave a striking account of the 'backstage' processes of argument, bargaining and manoeuvring that occurred at the UN and elsewhere in February and March, 1964, and which led to the resolution's adoption, from which account it is clear that obtaining a resolution so favourable to the Greek Cypriots was by no means a foregone conclusion. The Greek side had to work hard to get it.
As we shall see, not only the Turkish side, but more especially the British and the Americans had tried, at first, to put before the Council a very different resolution, one that would, among other things, have thrown considerable doubt upon the legitimacy of Makarios' all-Greek-Cypriot government. The point is that all this was done, like most of the really intricate and important business of the Security Council, outside the debating chamber. In the end, it would seem, these delegates, the British, American, and Turkish ones - whom we can fairly see as forming a kind of NATO bloc - did not push hard enough. Arguably they were in part out-manoeuvred by Makarios and in part simply prepared to settle for less than they had originally hoped for.
Why the permanent Security Council members, Britain and United States of America, let things drift in this direction is not, however, immediately clear. Certainly they were strongly opposed by the Soviet Union, whose Ambassador consistently backed Makarios in the debate, and whose mission at the UN went so far as to distribute a translated editorial article from Pravda (21 February 1964) which roundly accused the Americans and British of trying to gain 'NATO military control over Cyprus'. Needless to say, the Greek Cypriots were also adamantly opposed to any Anglo-American and Turkish proposal that cast doubt on the legitimacy of their assumption of power in Cyprus. The most likely explanation for the Western powers' lack of perseverance is that they came to realise they could, in any case, get most of what they themselves wanted by supporting the resolution that was eventually proposed. In a moment we will have to look in more detail at these 'backstage' activities.
The second thing we must glance at is the more general role of the so-called Great Powers in the Cyprus issue, in the course of which we can note the sense in which what are sometimes called 'the international dimensions of the Cyprus problem' are not just an interesting feature of that problem but constitute, in fact, its very essence. [footnote: A good summary account of the International Aspects of the Cyprus Problem' has been given recently by Shakir Alerndar in C. H. Dodd (ed.), The Political, Social and Economic Development of Northern Cyprus (The Eothen Press, Huntingdon, 1993), pp. 75-101. For a recent Greek view with which Alerndar's account may be interestingly compared see J.S. Joseph, >International Dimensions of the Cyprus Problem', The Cyprus Review, v. 2, No. 2 (Fall 1990). My own point is that any plausible answer to the question 'What is the Cyprus Problem?' cannot be confined to an account of the intercommunal conflict in Cyprus, with the external powers - the original 'guarantors', the UN, the EU, America, Russia - being seen merely as onlookers trying to help. This is important. For if the Cyprus Problem is ever to be solved through discussion and compromise, as the UN and every sensible party interested in the dispute assumes it must be, then there has to be an agreement about what the problem is. And since, so far, the Greeks and Turks in Cyprus have taken very different (indeed irreconcilable) views about what the problem is, and on the international stage perceptions about, and interest in, Cyprus are inevitably subject to fluctuation, it is hardly surprising that 'the Problem' has not been solved. Can one even say that it has been properly located? The Security Council was at any rate on the right track when it deemed in resolution 186 that the hoped-for agreement would have to be an international one, and not just one between the two communities.] It may be more illuminating to look at these matters first.
In his intervention, Denktash speaks very much as a leader eloquently defending his people from attempted genocide on the part of the other main group of inhabitants of the island, the Greek Cypriots. This was entirely appropriate. The situation the Turkish Cypriots found themselves in at the time was desperate indeed. Yet it would, of course, be a mistake to imagine that the members of the Security Council were likely en masse to be moved by such a passionate outcry in the name of justice, however truthful. As individuals, some members may have been moved; but they were not attending the Security Council as individuals. They all had their 'instructions'. Most of them knew what they had to do - what they, as their countries' representatives, must say, how they should vote - before the debate began. And there is an even more sobering point to be made.
The Turkish Cypriots' cause would have received only a small fraction of the (still insufficient) international attention it did receive in 1964 had it not been for the considerable vested interests the Great Powers had in Cyprus, interests that could be served in a number of possible ways, and not solely by an adherence of the two communities, or the guarantor powers, to the 1960 Accords. I emphasise this point because it helps to explain the still remarkable fact that the UN has persistently chosen to ignore, as it did in 1964, the constitutional right of the Turkish Cypriots to be considered as part of the government of Cyprus; or, putting it the other way, the above italicised observation helps us to understand why, since 1964, the UN has been prepared to accept in lieu of a properly constituted Cyprus government a sequence of administrations made up solely of Greek Cypriots. One reason this was tolerated was that having Cyprus officially run by Greeks did not much disturb Western interests'
The ability to pick and choose which parts of international law one will take very seriously, and which parts one can conveniently ignore, is undoubtedly one of the unwritten prerogatives of being a Great Power. Moreover, we only have to think of the present plight of the Chechens, to which for the most part the 'international community'' is inclined to turn a blind eye, on the grounds that this is an 'internal' problem for Russia itself to deal with, to realise that, in 1964, no one outside Turkey would have been particularly anxious about the fate of a mere 150,000 Turkish Cypriots had Cyprus not been regarded as strategically pivotal in the Cold War conflict, and because a war between Greece and Turkey would drastically have weakened NATO's eastern flank. Even then being, as diplomats say, fully seized of the situation, the UN managed to connive in the relegation of the Turks in Cyprus to a de facto status far below that of co-partners with their Greek compatriots. But this hardly seemed to matter. Mistakenly, it was believed that the 4th March resolution would bring the all-important 'stability.'
It is hardly disputable that throughout the modern - and probably the whole - history of Cyprus, the more devastating internal events have invariably been connected with external events, with the prevailing purposes and machinations of larger powers, regional or supranational. In 1964 the connection was of course with events in, and relations between, Greece and Turkey; with British - and increasingly American and hence NATO - interests; with Makarios's newly-found role as a much respected figure in the Non-aligned Movement; and, not least, with Russian concerns that Cyprus should become truly independent of its NATO guarantors, one of whom already had military bases on the island and the capacity to spy, electronically, on the Soviet Union.
Our later glance at the 'backstage' activities at the UN in early 1964 will serve to show the extent to which the 'Cyprus problem', as it has regularly erupted since the Second World War at any rate, has always involved more than a power-struggle between the two Cypriot communities. If the expression The Cyprus problem' had referred merely to an inter-communal conflict in Cyprus itself, would anyone, outside the Eastern Mediterranean region, have ever heard of it? Denktash's speech had little effect because, through no fault of his own, he was not addressing the issues which really concerned the major players in the Security Council.
The truth is that Cyprus had become, and still is, not simply an independent state suffering from an extraordinarily intractable 'ethnic' discord; at best, it was a properly constituted sovereign state for only three years, between 1960 and 1963. There was never a 'nation' of Cypriots, only two communities living side by side, each clinging to its own language, religion and traditions; with almost no intermarriage, and each with strong ties with one of the two, traditionally hostile, 'motherlands'.
When Britain pulled out of Cyprus in 1960 a rather strange thing happened. 'Independence' was a formal reality but the shackles of the past, of the colonial and regional dependencies, were only superficially removed. In a way, they simply took on new and more insidious forms. The Cypriots - Turks and Greeks - were provided with the trappings and regalia of independence by other states from which they were never truly separated. Apart from the intimate association with Turkey, Greece, and Great Britain enshrined in the 1960 Accords, Cyprus was surely intended by the British and Americans to continue serving Western interests in certain quite specific ways. To that extent there was more than a grain of truth in the Soviet accusations at the Security Council. What the Soviets naturally chose to ignore, of course, was that not all of these Western interests were sinister, in the sense of being incompatible with the Greek and Turkish Cypriots' own interests - if only those latter interests could have been properly understood and rationally pursued. Unfortunately neither of the two communities had much experience of governing themselves, let alone each other, and, as we saw, the Greeks suffered from the further disability of having substituted, in their own minds and hearts, a cultural mythology for a genuine understanding of the modern world and of their own decidedly modest place in it.
In fact, this was an unwanted 'independence". The Greek Cypriots saw it as a death-bed for enosis and they decided to destroy it in the name of enosis. And, for the most part, the Turkish Cypriots would have preferred the British to stay. Thus the conflict that seemed simply to erupt in December 1963, had in fact been very carefully planned by the Greek Cypriots. But the Western Alliance had assigned to Cyprus an important role which serious intercommunal strife was calculated to upset. It hardly needs saying that it was essentially this - the way the intercommunal conflict would endanger the effectiveness of NATO, if there was a war between Greece and Turkey - rather than the actual breakdown of the Cyprus constitution (which the UN hardly noticed) or the intercommunal atrocities themselves (which UNFICYP could, once it arrived, do little to allay) that led the Security Council to devote so much time to Cyprus in 1963/4. As Bitsios reminds us: 'with the exception of problems directly menacing humanity with a major catastrophe, like the Suez or Cuba crises, no other issue stirred so much interest [at the UN] as that of Cyprus.' He could have added that this interest was not generated primarily because of an overwhelming international concern about the fate of the two Cypriot communities.
As we know, when Cyprus became formally independent in 1960 its new status was the result of an elaborate series of arrangements between, not so much the two communities themselves, as the guarantor powers. The Cyprus constitution and the three Treaties of 1959/60 already had a, perhaps unique, international dimension to them. Quite undisguisedly, they embodied, and sought to perpetuate, a number of international compromises: not only between the two communities but, first and foremost, between Greece, Turkey and Great Britain.
Britain retained its Bases. Turkey obtained a constitution for Cyprus which gave the Turkish Cypriots partner status with the much larger Greek Cypriot community, and not simply the status of a protected minority. This was important for Turkey because Turkey did not relish the thought of a full-blown Hellenic Republic (whether politically joined with Greece or not) only forty miles from its southern coastline, and thus capable of causing trouble in an area containing some of Turkey's most important ports, naval bases, and airfields.
It is indeed arguable - and this was something the Greek delegates did not hesitate to complain about during the UN debates we are considering - that the Greeks and Greek Cypriots did less well out of the London and Zurich agreements than the British and the Turks. Like the other regional guarantor power, Greece retained a supervisory right to keep a small force on the island and to intervene (unilaterally if necessary) should the 1960 Accords be set aside by any of the other parties. Partition of Cyprus - something that had always had a certain appeal for the Turks (as, indeed, it came to have for the Americans) - was expressly forbidden. This pleased the Greeks. But then so was enosis forbidden, the eventual achievement of which had become a 'sacred" and almost unextinguishable desire on the part of many Greeks, on the mainland as well as in Cyprus itself, and hence something they - and Archbishop Makarios especially - could only pretend to set aside.