The MacMillan Plan, 1957
At the root of the conflict in 1950s was how and when Britain would devolve its colonial power in Cyprus. After the failure of earlier ideas, Harold MacMillan constructed a plan that brought together several ideas for increasing self-governance. The plan failed, but it had profound repercussions for the fate of the island, as British historian Robert Stephens explains below in his respected work, Cyprus: A Place of Arms.
The release of Archbishop Makarios was one of the first major decisions of the new British prime minister, Harold Macmillan, who had replaced Sir Anthony Eden at the head of the Conservative government after the Suez war. It was a move away from the tough policy of the past year which had led Britain to disaster in the Middle East. Its first fruit was more trouble for the Conservative Party. Lord Salisbury, lord president of the Council and leader of the House of Lords, resigned from the government on March 29, 1957, in protest. But it also produced a lull of six months in the violence in Cyprus though during this time no basis could be found for resuming negotiations. The constant British aim was to have tripartite talks which would keep Turkey in and the Greek Cypriots out when the status of the island was being discussed. The Greeks, on the other band, were trying to keep the Turks out and get the Greek Cypriots in.
Tension began to rise again in the autumn of 1957 as the UN Assembly meeting came round again and Turkey prepared for new elections. The Menderes government was in economic difficulties and under attack at home for its increasingly dictatorial attitude towards the opposition parties and the press. It had begun to disappoint those who had seen Menderes and the Democrat Party as the pioneers of a new Turkish liberalism. After a stormy election campaign, the Democrats, with the help of a new electoral law, won 70 per cent of the seats in the National Assembly while receiving only 48 per cent of the total vote. The Menderes government retained power but its standing in the country was weakened and more sensitive to foreign troubles. It noted with angry disapproval the replacement in Cyprus of Sir John Harding, the soldier, by Sir Hugh Foot, colonial civil servant with a liberal reputation. Ankara's apprehension that Britain might no longer be counted on to hold Cyprus was increased by the resolution of the Labour Party Conference which called for self-determination for the island after an interim period of self-government.
There is some evidence that a settlement based on independence for Cyprus was even then being discussed privately by the governments concerned. In his memoirs, Grivas refers to a letter written to him on July 25,1957, by the Greek consul-general in Cyprus, Vlachos, suggesting that he should persuade Makarios to accept independence for Cyprus on the understanding that enosis would not be finally excluded. A month later, Averoff wrote to Grivas: 'Most of the allies now believe that a solution must be found on the basis of an independent Cyprus, without a guarantee of independence for all time. The British seem agreeable on the understanding that they keep their air bases in the island and that Turkey consents.' This reference suggests that the British government may by then have already taken the important decision that it no longer needed complete sovereignty over Cyprus for its strategic purposes.
The Turks felt that it was time for them to put on the pressure. The Ankara government began to campaign more intensively for partition and the Turkish Cypriots adopted a more aggressive attitude. Throughout the following year, until the beginning of the Greco-Turkish talks at the end of 1958 which led to the Zurich and London agreements, it was Turkey who dictated the course of diplomacy over Cyprus while the British and the Greek Cypriots continued to claw at each other in the island. The purpose of the Turks was to block any deal between Britain and the Greek Cypriots which would open the door to enosis. For this purpose they had two weapons. The first was diplomatic pressure on Britain. The other was violent action in Cyprus to show that the Turkish Cypriots could not be ignored and to prove that coexistence in the island between Greeks and Turks was impossible without partition. Fighting between Greek and Turkish Cypriots resulted from demonstrations which accompanied the opening of the United Nations debate on Cyprus in December 1957. The debate led to a resolution which was a partial political victory for the Greeks. It expressed the hope for further negotiations 'with a view to having the right of self-determination applied in the case of the people of Cyprus'. But it was passed without the two thirds majority needed to give it force as a recommendation.
Sir Hugh Foot, the new governor, arrived in Cyprus on December 3, 1957, and began to prepare the ground for renewed negotiation. In an attempt to improve the atmosphere he released a hundred detainees and toured the island on horseback and on foot, talking to people everywhere he went and listening to their views. At the end of the year he went back to London to talk to Harold Macmillan. A new British plan was being hatched. It was based on the idea of self-government for an interim period of five or seven years before any final decision about the island was taken. It included three other points suggested by Foot as essential: an end to the state of emergency and the return of Makarios to the island; negotiations in the island with the leaders of the two communities to work out a system of self-government; and an assurance that at the end of the interim period no final decision would be taken which was not accepted by both Greeks and Turks. But first the new ideas had to be tried out on the Turkish and Greek governments.
On January 26, 1958, Foot accompanied the foreign secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, to Ankara where a Baghdad Pact conference was being held. During the four days of the conference, they had talks with Menderes and Zorlu. They found the Turkish ministers in an uncompromising mood and insistent on nothing less than partition. In his book, A Start in Freedom, Sir Hugh describes their treatment by the ruthless ZorluC>the rudest man I ever met. Once in Ankara when we had sat up most of the night drafting a statement of the British position and when we had gone back to the final conference with our Foreign Minister, Selwyn Lloyd, and our Ambassador in Turkey,' Sir James Bowker, Zorlu flicked through the pages of the document and threw it contemptuously on one side without even reading it.= Foot pays tribute to Zorlu's patriotism and his courage in bringing about the Zurich and London settlements. But he adds: >We in Cyprus had no reason to love Zorlu. He had, I have no doubt, known of and perhaps himself given the order for the Turkish riots and the attempt to burn Nicosia.= While the Ankara talks were in progress, Turkish Cypriots had staged demonstrations and riots in favour of partition.
On February 11, 1958, Foot and Selwyn Lloyd went to Athens for discussions with the Greek government, and Foot had a private talk with Makarios. But the initiative planned by Foot had been wrecked by Turkish opposition. The British government bad to think again and it was not until June that a new British plan was announced to the House of Commons by the prime minister.
In the meantime, communal tension was increasing in Cyprus and EOKA had begun an intensive campaign of sabotage. During the first ten days of April, there were more than fifty bomb explosions. The governor sent a secret message to Grivas appealing to him to stop the campaign and offering to meet him personally, unarmed and alone. Grivas did not take up the offer of a meeting but he called off the sabotage campaign.
The Macmillan plan, announced on June 19, was based on an idea put forward by Foot that, in default of negotiations with Greece and Turkey or the Cypriots, the British should work out a constitution themselves and begin to apply it, with or without the agreement of the other parties. It embodied the main ideas of the first Foot plan and proposed a >partnership= between the Greek and Turkish communities in the island and between the British, Greek and Turkish governments. For seven years the international status of Cyprus would be unchanged. Each community would run its own communal affairs through its own House of Representatives. The administration of the island to a whole would be directed by a Council composed of the governor, representatives of the Greek and Turkish governments, and six Cypriot ministers, four elected from the Greek House of Representatives and two from the Turkish. The governor, in consultation with the representatives of the Greek and Turkish governments, would have reserved power to deal with external affairs, defence and internal security. The representatives of the Greek and Turkish governments would be able to require any legislation they considered discriminatory to be submitted to an impartial tribunal. The British government said it would welcome any arrangement which would give Cypriots Greek or Turkish nationality while enabling them to retain British nationality.
The plan was quickly rejected by the Greek and Turkish governments and by Makarios. The archbishop described the idea of 'partnership' as the imposition of a 'triple condominium'. The Labour opposition in Britain criticised the plan as more likely to divide the Cypriot community than bring them together. In Cyprus, the reaction was an increase in violence. Twelve days before the Macmillan plan was announced, Turkish Cypriote had started fires in Nicosia and begun two months of bitter Greek-Turkish strife in which fifty-six Greeks and fifty-three Turks were killed. More British troops and police were sent to Cyprus, bringing the total there to twenty thousand men.
In August, Macmillan visited Athens, Ankara and Cyprus and announced some modifications to his plan. The most important was that the representatives of the Greek and Turkish governments would not be members of the governing council of the island but would have direct access to the governor. The revised plan was still unacceptable to Archbishop Makarios and to Greece. But a few weeks later the Turkish government announced that it would co-operate with the British in implementing the plan. On October 1, 1958, the date fixed by Britain, Turkey appointed a representative for this purpose in the island.
The Macmillan-Foot plan had several attractions for the Turks which initially also made it appear the worst of all the British plans from the Greek Cypriot point of view. It offered Turkey a voice as of right not only in international negotiations about Cyprus but also in the actual government of the island. The plan not only postponed a decision on self-determination for seven years but virtually ensured for Turkey a veto on enosis at the end of that time. It provided no central legislature which could be controlled by a Greek majority. On the contrary, its provision of separate communal assemblies and the later addition of separate municipalities provided useful stepping-stones to partition should it need to be pursued in the future. Understandably, the plan increased Greek suspicions that the British and the Turks were working together against them. On August 21, 1958, EOKA called for a total boycott of the British administration and of Commonwealth goods, as part of resistance to 'Anglo-Turkish collusion'. A truce, which had lasted from the beginning of August in response to appeals from the Greek and Turkish prime ministers, came to an end. It was followed by months of violence which created not only a threat of-civil war between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots but also a deepening gulf of bitterness between the Greek Cypriots and the British. The boycott and noncooperation with the British were ruthlessly enforced by EOKA. In reprisal for the alleged ill-treatment of Greek suspects by British troops, EOKA began to attack British civilians as well as soldiers. The murder in Famagusta of Mrs Cutliffe, the wife of a British soldier (for which EOKA denied responsibility), led to reprisals by British troops. Scores of Greek Cypriot men in the town were beaten while being rounded up for questioning. One man was killed and many others injured. Throughout the island at that time at least two thousand Cypriots were under detention and many thousands more subject to total house curfew, forbidden to leave their houses by night or day.
Meanwhile, the British government went on with its programme of implementing the Macmillan plan. It authorised the setting up of separate Greek and Turkish Cypriot municipal councilsCthereby increasing Greek fears of a de facto partition. These fears also began to prompt a reconsideration of Greek Cypriot policy. On September 7, 1958, Makarios told the Greek government privately that he was now ready to accept independence for Cyprus under United Nations auspices after a period of self-government. He repeated this proposal in a published interview with Barbara Castle, then chairman of the British Labour Party. In a letter to Grivas on September 28, Makarios gave as his reasons for this new line the state of British public opinion, especially the cooling attitude of the Labour Party, and the American support for British policy in Cyprus. He said that the only hope for success at the United Nations lay in asking for independence. Otherwise the Greek Cypriots might be faced with a fait accompli. The imposition of the Macmillan plan would either lead to partition or would give the Turks rights which it would be impossible later to remove. The answer of Grivas was that Makarios should stick to the original demand for self-determination.
Makarios new proposal for an independent Cyprus was rejected by the British Conservative government, which refused to commit itself to any final solution, but was supported by the Labour opposition. By the end of November, when the Cyprus question again came before the General Assembly's Political Committee, the outlook in the island was blacker than ever before. Nevertheless, by Christmas Eve, only a month later, terrorism in Cyprus had ceased. Within another seven weeks, a political settlement establishing an independent Cyprus Republic had been signed in London by Britain, Greece, Turkey and the Cypriots. . .
From Cyprus: A Place of Arms (London: Praeger, 1966), pp. 150-156.