By Lambros George Kaoullas
24th April marked twelve years since Cypriot Greeks rejected in a referendum, by an overwhelming 76% margin, the UN-sponsored “Annan Plan”. By contrast, 65% of Cypriot Turks with Turkish settlers in the occupied north accepted the plan in a separate referendum.
This rejection by Cypriot Greeks must be startlingly puzzling to a foreign observer. I can even picture an annoyed reaction in my mind: Wait a minute! You Cypriot Greeks complain that 37% of your land has been militarily occupied since 1974. You shout that 200,000 members of your population are still refugees. Hundreds of murdered citizens and soldiers are still unaccounted for because the Turkish army will not allow excavations of mass graves, and of those who have been identified, many were found with a bullet on their head – executed prisoners of war. Scores of women have been raped, left psychologically tormented forever. Homes and businesses have been pillaged. You complain there’s an influx of Turkish settlers, part of a grand project of demographic engineering to topple the population balances on the island. You grumble there’s an ongoing ethnocide on the island. Millennia-old Hellenic and Christian heritage in the occupied north has been reduced to smithereens and thrown down the memory hole. Greek towns and villages have been forcefully rebranded Ottoman and Turkish. Ancient Greek ruins are left in disrepute. Medieval churches are turned into hotels, restaurants, bars, toilets and stables, or simply lay desecrated. Even cemeteries are not spared, having been dug up, with the bones of the deceased scattered in plain sight. Orthodox icons and frescoes are sold by smugglers in the bazaars, auctions and black markets of the world. The few Cypriot Greeks who remained in the Karpasia peninsula are perishing, forgotten, in oppressive conditions worse than serfdom. And on top of that, you fly in our faces the UN Security Council resolutions, such as 353/1974, 541/1983, and 550/1984, where Turkey has been condemned, along with a million other documents from many other international organisations.
Then why did you, Cypriot Greeks, reject a peace plan en masse, and continue to do so in repeated polls and surveys?
The answer is simple: because all “peace” plans to this day are based on the philosophy of the “Bizonal Bicommunal Federation” (BBF). Even the one negotiated at this very moment. The BBF provides that the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus (RoC) and the non-recognised, illegal, secessionist “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” will be evened out and become the two constituent states in a loose confederation. Each statelet in this setting will be Greek and Turkish and the population majorities in each one will be unchangeable – by constitution. In other words, a form of post-modern apartheid, draped with the soft and innocuous terminology of “conflict resolution” seminars to cover its monstrous deficiencies.
The BBF “peace” plans remedy none of the maladies described above. Turkish settlers will be renamed “Turkish Cypriot” citizens of the Turkish “constituent state”. The staggering majority of Cypriot Greek refugees will not be allowed to return to their ancestral homes in the north, forced out on gunpoint in 1974. The names of villages will not be changed back to Greek. Turkey will be absolved of all the war crimes committed. No reparations will be paid for either the savagery of the “Attila 1” and “2” “peacekeeping operation” (sic) or the material ransacking and historical desecration. While a fraction of the Turkish army might leave, a force will endure on the island, and Turkey will remain a “guarantor power” with a unilateral right of military intervention. There will be two separate societies and economies with no prospect of actual social and economic unification in the future. Racial and religious background will dictate every minute detail of life – again, by constitution.
But still, one might ask, why not accept it anyway? It must be better to consent to this solution as the lesser evil, rather than sustain an open problem, right?
Well, there is a crucial detail here. The “solution” preceded the problem itself. In fact, the “solution” is the problem!
In 1955 Cyprus was still a British colony, having been an Ottoman before that. After years of unsuccessful peaceful political and diplomatic attempts, the Cypriot Greeks undertook an armed anti-colonial, national-liberation revolution against the British Empire for self-determination in the form of Énosis, Union of Cyprus with Greece. The revolution was led by EOKA, the “National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters”. In order to short-circuit a Greek-British problem, Britain introduced Turkey into the Cyprus Question, effectively making it a Greek-Turkish problem with Britain now as mediator.
In November and December 1956, jurist Nihat Erim authored three reports for Turkish prime minister Adnan Menderes. In these seminal reports, Erim summarised Turkish strategy over Cyprus. If the British were to abandon the island, then it must return to Turkey, as the successor-state to the Ottoman Empire, and if this was not immediately possible, to be partitioned. The report repeatedly mentioned that the Greek population majority, and thus cultural character of the island, is temporary and through immigration from mainland Turkey the demographic balance would be altered.
At the time Cypriot Greeks and Cypriot Turks, around 80% and 20% of the population respectively, lived in mixed villages, as was the case for centuries, their social and economic lives intertwined. The idea of partition was entertained by Britain as well. A declassified document from file CO 926/278, available at The National Archives, is revealing. In November 1956 a Top Secret “Memorandum on Possible Schemes for the Partition of Cyprus” sent from Nicosia to London entertained five different partition plans. But the accompanying analysis was dauntingly frank. At one point it said: “any settlement would probably lead to the voluntary or involuntary transfer between zones of at least 100,000 persons. The distribution of population, natural resources and industry makes Cyprus viable only as a geographical whole. The achievement of this economic integration under partition would be difficult if not impossible…” At another: “the geographic co-mingling of Greek Orthodox and Turkish Moslem inhabitants works against the cultivation of a vast sociological gulf between the two religious groups.”
In 1957, Ivone Kirkpatrick proposed a vertical partition of the island where 192,000 people would be resettled and 40% of the land retained for Cypriot Turks. In the same year Dr Fazıl Küçük, leader of the “Cyprus is Turkish” Party, published the book The Cyprus Question: A Permanent Solution in which he argued in favour of a partition of the island along the line of the 35th parallel.
By 1958, the Turkish Resistance Organisation (TMT), which was created in late 1957 as a counterweight to EOKA, became a fully-fledged paramilitary formation in the hands of serving officers of the Turkish army. Turkey clandestinely equipped it with heavy arms and ammunition and trained thousands of Cypriot Turks in order to use it for proxy warfare on the island. Hundreds of TMT members joined colonial forces as policemen, often serving as brutal torturers of Cypriot Greek political prisoners. TMT fomented intercommunal strife between the two peoples through provocations and incendiary hateful rhetoric in the press. The organisation was created in the context of the Turkish army’s 1958 “Kıbrıs İstirdat Planı” (“Plan for the Reconquest of Cyprus”). The plan envisaged partition or takeover of Cyprus through a Cypriot Turkish upheaval.
Towards the end of 1958, rhetoric on Énosis and Taksim (partition) was deescalated, as the projects were ostensibly abandoned in favour of compromise. Negotiations for independence begun. After a transitional period in 1959, in 1960 the RoC was created. It was a precarious and fragile independence. Stanley Alexander de Smith in his book The New Commonwealth and its Constitutions (1964) wondered if it “had been conceived by a constitutionalist and a mathematician in nightmarish dialogue”. According to documents retrieved in 1963 out of the safes of Cypriot Turkish ministers, Turkey planned to overstate the expected post-conflict, post-colonial problems to argue the case for partition, and impose it through violence if necessary. For this, it retained TMT sleeper cells which were continuously reinforced.
Eventually, violence broke out around Christmas 1963, followed by premediated Cypriot Turkish disturbances, which in turn triggered a chaotic Cypriot Greek reaction. The Turkish population created ghetto-like enclaves under the tight control of Turkish officers, as a form of proto-partition.
The proof of what the whole operation was about was confirmed in January 1964. At the London Conference, Rauf Denktaş, on behalf of the Cypriot Turks, proposed “a voluntary exchange of population resulting in the concentration of the Turkish population in one area”, exchange of lands, separate police forces, and a form of federation. The Cypriot Greek leadership rejected the proposal. Turkish proposals of April 1964 are chillingly similar to ideas discussed forty and fifty years later. They were BBF by another name. That year, Turkey threatened to intervene several times.
From 1964 to 1974 negotiations took place with no results. Finally, in 1974 the golden opportunity appeared. After intra-Greek squabbles, a coup d’état by the Greek military dictatorship against Makarios became the coup de grâce for Cyprus, as it precipitated the long-awaited Turkish military invasion. While the coup was not directed against Cypriot Turks in any way, Turkey used it as a pretext to invade, invoking the right of intervention bestowed upon her with the 1960 agreements. It never left ever since, and partition was enforced on the ground.
Since 1974, Turkey and the Cypriot Turkish leadership have demanded a solution on BBF, which bears all the characteristics of all the aforementioned pre-1974 plans. The RoC remains on the negotiating table, but BBF remains highly unpopular amongst Cypriot Greeks. This trend was confirmed yet again in the recent parliamentary elections of 22th of May 2016. A wide spectrum of anti-BBF parties, including centrists, socialists, nationalists, greens and conservatives, made significant gains against the communists and the neoliberals, the latter two favouring an amicable BBF compromise.
Short soundbites and newspapers titles in the media speaking of “ongoing negotiations” for a “peace plan” in Cyprus by ill-informed journalists do not tell the whole story. Cypriot Greeks do not reject “peace” plans because they are against “peace”. This is far from the truth. The RoC has secured for the Cypriot Turks, even to this day, all their rights. They move freely in the EU with Cypriot passports, enjoy free medical care and education, even without paying taxes and while residing in the occupied areas. So it is not a matter of hate or animosity against the Cypriot Turks, which have been completely safe to move, live, work and socialise in the free areas with Cypriot Greeks, with the blessings of the Cypriot state.
The purpose of the BBF “solutions” should be clear by now. “Peace”, in this case, is Orwellian doublespeak for capitulation to Turkey’s exaggerated demands, animated by its hypersensitive, expansionist agenda. That is the crux of the argument. It serves to squarely fulfil the Turkish strategic objectives set out as early as 1956 and to legitimise the illegal actions of Turkey over Cyprus, ironically with the full consent of its victims, through referendum. And on top of that, it will create new security challenges. Cypriot Greeks, after all they’ve been through, are asked to rely on the good faith of Ankara for implementing this new deal. Considering that those original plans envisaged an artificial Turkish demographic population override and a potential takeover of the island, the BBF could spell new problems.
What will happen in this fragile new federation, with extremely weak security mechanisms, if troubles begin, with or without a provocations and false-flag operations, like those which took place in the fifties and sixties? One need only study the modus operandi of how Alexandretta was taken over from French-controlled Syria between 1918 and 1938 to understand.
Considering Turkey’s general geopolitical behaviour and its dangerous flirtation with terrorism, its sustained denial of its crimes and wrongdoings, including genocides, and, sadly, the tolerance it enjoys from Western governments, what would you do if you were a Cypriot Greek?