Birth of a Partnership State
The Republic of Cyprus was founded in 1960 as a partnership state between the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots. By constitutional design, its legislature and executive offices were proportionally divided between the two ethnic communities. To protect this balance and preserve this partnership, the two communities and the three states with legacy interests on the island, Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, concluded treaties of Establishment, Guarantee and Alliance. The goal was clear: neither party had the right to impose its political will upon the other. The new state was quickly recognized worldwide and given a seat at the U.N. Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots were correctly regarded as bearing the status as co-founders and equal partners.
The Unrelenting Drive for Enosis
Unfortunately, the Greek Cypriot leadership had never abandoned their goal of uniting the island with Greece (a process called Enosis) and so they perceived the founding of the Republic of Cyprus as a setback. On July 28, 1960 the Greek Cypriot leader and first president of the Republic of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, said, “The agreements do not form the goal - they are the present and not the future. The Greek Cypriot people will continue their national cause and shape their future in accordance with their will”. Ominously, in a speech in his native village of Panayia on September 4, 1962, Makarios warned, “Unless this small Turkish community forming a part of the Turkish race which has been the terrible enemy of Hellenism is expelled, the duties of the heroes of EOKA can never be considered as terminated.” EOKA was a Greek Cypriot guerrilla organization that had fought against British rule in the 1950s.
The Destruction of the Partnership State by the Greek Cypriots
The partnership state fractured after only three years. The Greek Cypriot members of government unilaterally abolished 13 of the Basic Articles of the Cyprus Constitution in November 1963. When the Turkish Cypriots objected, they were expelled from the government. In complete disregard of the state’s founding agreements, the state machinery was forcibly usurped by the Greek Cypriot community.
The Turkish Cypriots Under Siege For More Than a Decade
The next month, December 1963, the Greek Cypriot side unleashed an armed onslaught against Turkish Cypriots in a renewed push toward Enosis. To quell the violence and provide a buffer between the two communities, the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) arrived to the island in 1964 and drew the first Green Line through the Cypriot capital, Nicosia. By this time, international media reports had surfaced describing the ongoing clashes initiated by the Greek Cypriot administration as a determined effort to destroy the Turkish Cypriots. On February 17, 1964, the Washington Post expressed that “Greek Cypriot fanatics appear bent on a policy of genocide.” Just two days later, this description was echoed by the Christian Science Monitor, which characterized the ongoing violence as “a genocidal policy [directed] against the Turkish Cypriots.” That same month, United States Undersecretary of State, George W. Ball, visited Cyprus and declared that President Makarios was turning the island into his “private abattoir”, concluding that the Greek Cypriots “just want to be left alone to kill Turkish Cypriots.”
Despite the presence of UN troops, the Turkish Cypriots lived in constant fear of attacks. Most fled their homes and crowded into enclaves that comprised only three percent of the island. This deplorable situation endured for more than a decade. In 1971, General George Grivas formed EOKA-B which, like its predecessor EOKA, was committed to transforming Cyprus into a wholly Greek island and annexing it to Greece. EOKA-B increasingly came under the direct control and influence of the military junta in Athens. On July 15, 1974, EOKA-B launched a bloody coup overthrowing President Makarios and installing the even more hard-line Nikos Sampson, a former member of EOKA, in his stead. The Greek junta/ EOKA-B coup against Makarios posed a grave and unacceptable threat to the Turkish Cypriot community who had suffered physical attacks at the hands of the Greek Cypriot side since 1963.
The Turkish Intervention Restores the Constitutional Order and Saves the Turkish Cypriots from Annihilation
The Turkish Cypriots appealed to the Guarantor powers for help, but only Turkey was willing to restore peace to the island. In conformity with its rights and obligations deriving from the Treaty of Guarantee, Turkish forces were dispatched to the island on July 20, 1974. The landing of Turkish troops blocked the annexation of Cyprus by Greece. The Turkish Army created a safe haven for Turkish Cypriots on the northern third of the island. In 1975 the UN brokered population exchanges whereby Greek Cypriots moved south and Turkish Cypriots north.
The intervention was justified. The Greek newspaper Eleftherotipia published an interview with Nikos Sampson on February 26, 1981 in which he declared, “Had Turkey not intervened I would not only have proclaimed Enosis, I would have annihilated the Turks in Cyprus.” The leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Rauf Denktash, commented that Sampson’s leadership of Cyprus was “as unacceptable as Adolf Hitler would be as president of Israel.” The Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe concluded that Turkey “exercised its right of intervention in accordance with Article 4 of the Guarantee Treaty of 1960” (Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution No. 573, 29 July 1974). To portray the Turkish intervention as an “invasion” and “occupation” as is common these days constitutes a grave injustice and distortion of the facts.
Putting the Pieces Back Together
By 1975, the Turkish Cypriot portion of the island was self-governing and renamed itself the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus. Adopting a new constitution, it declared itself in 1983 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Despite the fact that the TRNC openly and continually sought to re-establish the defunct partnership state in the form of a federation that could provide security guarantees to the Turkish Cypriots, the Greek Cypriot side, however, continued to pursue their goal of extending Greek sovereignty over the entire island.
Over the years, numerous UN proposals envisaging a federal settlement were rejected by the Greek Cypriot leadership. This includes the 1985-86 Draft Framework Agreement, the UN-sponsored Set of Ideas of 1992 as well as the package of Confidence Building Measures of 1994. It was not the Turkish Cypriot side; but rather, the Greek Cypriot side that displayed a lack of interest and commitment to a negotiated settlement.
The UN Secretary General’s Reunification Plan is Rejected by the Greek Cypriots
A unique opportunity to break the stalemate emerged with the UN Comprehensive Settlement Plan of March 31, 2004. The so-called “Annan Plan”, based on a bi-zonal partnership and political equality, foresaw the establishment of a federal government and two Constituent States, namely “the Greek Cypriot State” and “the Turkish Cypriot State”. The 1960 Treaty of Guarantee would remain without any change and the number of Greek and Turkish troops on the Island would gradually be reduced to a very small number.
When the Annan Plan was submitted to the two sides in simultaneous referenda, it was approved by 65% of the Turkish Cypriots, but rejected by an overwhelming 76% of Greek Cypriots. This rejection, once again made clear that neither the Greek Cypriot people nor their leaders were ready to share power with the Turkish Cypriots on the basis of equality. The Turkish Cypriot side, on the other hand, had signaled its continuing desire to resolve the problem. Nevertheless, the Greek Cypriots were rewarded days later with admission to the European Union while the Turkish Cypriots were punished with a continued economic blockade. This situation was aptly summarized by Ben Chapman, Member of Parliament of the UK House of Commons: “Turkish Cypriots, who had voted for the Plan were punished with isolation and the Greek Cypriots, who voted negatively were rewarded with EU membership. The situation has reached upside down proportions” (Ben Chapman, Labour MP in the UK House of Commons, British Parliamentary Debates on Cyprus, January 10, 2007).
As former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has rightly stated, the referenda results had undone whatever rationale may have existed for pressuring and isolating the Turkish Cypriots. Accordingly, he called upon the international community to cooperate both bilaterally and in international bodies to “eliminate unnecessary restrictions and barriers that have the effect of isolating the Turkish Cypriots and impeding their development” (United Nations Security Council. Report of the Secretary-General on his Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus (S/2004/437) 28 May 2004). This stance was echoed by the Council of Europe which clearly stated that “the Turkish Cypriots’ international isolation must cease” (Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Draft Resolution, Doc 10161, April 27, 2004). The European Union set forth a similar policy having expressed that it is “determined to put an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community.”(EU General Affairs Council, 2576th Council Meeting, Council Conclusion on Cyprus, April 26, 2004).
Despite these appraisals and the promises made the unjust isolation of the Turkish Cypriot remains.
Renewed Negotiations Since 2008
Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and former Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat launched a new round of negotiations in 2008. Six working groups and seven technical committees are addressing every aspect of the Cyprus problem and how to create a working solution for all of the islands residents. Just three days after assuming office on April 18, 2010, the current Turkish Cypriot President, Dervis Eroglu, sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expressing that that the current framework of the negotiation process enjoys the full support of the Turkish Cypriot people. Till this day, the Turkish Cypriots have remained steadfast in their commitment to settle the Cyprus problem.
The basic UN parameters of bi-communality, bi-zonality and political equality continue to provide the essential elements for reaching a solution to the problem. The readiness of the Greek Cypriot side to accept these UN principles and engage constructively in the ongoing negotiations will greatly determine whether the present talks produce an acceptable and lasting settlement in Cyprus or whether they drag on inconclusively.