Cyprus: Just an occupation? (1)by Mehmet Hasgüler*
Turkish Cypriot demonstrators wave flags of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Turkey as they hold banners during a peace rally in Nicosia on Feb. 27, 2003. Some 70,000 Turkish Cypriots, almost a third of the island’s Turkish population, marched in Nicosia, demanding that their leaders accept a UN-backed plan that would see Cyprus reunited before it enters the EU and further criminalizes insults or defamatory statements aimed at “harkis” (PHOTO AP, Esra Aygin)
A speech was made in Parliament recently by Mersin independent deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü wherein he stated that that there was a Turkish “occupation” in Cyprus and now Turkey does not know how to “get out.”
The speech is extremely important because it was delivered in Parliament by a deputy. Undoubtedly, it is possible to define the events on the island in this way. It should also be noted that Cyprus has been in a state of anomaly for a long time, and this cannot be attributed to the military operation on July 20, 1974, alone. This state of anomaly began with grave incidents in December 1963 that are referred to as intercommunal conflict but could also be called internal war. It is obvious that during this period the Cypriot Turks were removed from all state institutions that were previously comprised of Greeks and Turks through coercion and violence. Neither the Greek nor the Turkish elites of the time had faith in the bi-communal sui generis constitutional state. In the outbreak of the grave incidents, the mutual distrust between, and actions of, the elites played a significant role. The political discourses of the leaders placed strong emphasis on enosis and partition of the island. This served as one of the major factors for the outbreak of the events in December 1963. And of course we cannot ignore the role of the Western powers at this stage.
A Cypriot Greek intellectual, Cambazis, explains that four top Greek administrators provided arms for special units and gave them special permission and identity cards. In other words, we now know that the December 1963 incidents that could almost be called genocide were plotted by Makarios and the leaders of the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA). It is commonly known that the members of this gang apprehended Turks who were heading to their jobs and killed them. This means that the state at the time not only failed to protect its citizens but also organized the massacre of Turks as well. It is also known that this group murdered some Greeks who did not share their views. Of course it is also evident that some Cypriot Turks who organized in response committed violent acts themselves. The leaders of the Republic of Cyprus, including the president, vice president, members of the House of Representatives, Committee of Ministers, interior minister and the security forces did not take any measures to address the violence; to be exact, their actions escalated violence and tension. As might be known, almost half of these acts of violence were in the patrol zone of the Cypriot Turks.
In response the Cypriot Turkish elites withdrew from these institutions or they were forced to do so. In the aftermath, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on March 4, 1964, (Resolution 186) to deploy a peacekeeping mission to the island in an attempt to prevent intercommunal conflict. Adoption of this resolution required a motion by the legitimate government and its prior approval. In this way the Cypriot state became a legitimate structure that was recognized by the UN, the state where Turks had withdrawn from all institutions in the aftermath of the intercommunal conflicts. But could Cyprus be legitimate in that setting? The people of a state created by internationally founded treaties and a constitution, as well as their elected executives, had disappeared. Despite this, that state has remained recognized and legitimate. The UN secretary-general, aware of the unusual status of Cyprus, initiated intercommunal talks in 1968 and, as you may know, these talks are still being held.
A coup against Makarios
Now let me get to July 1974. Since 1967, Greece had been suffering from a steady stream of juntas. The junta staged a coup against Makarios on the island on July 15, 1974; this was an external intervention into the internal affairs of the island. The intervention can also be interpreted as a warning to Makarios for rapprochement with the former USSR and the Non-Aligned Movement. The coup effectively prevented the Soviet Union from getting to the East Mediterranean. These allowed for Cyprus to reach the state it was in without allowing a conflict to break out between two NATO countries. In response, Turkey became one of the Guarantor States referred to in the international treaties I mentioned above. In this process, Turkey informed Britain, another guarantor state under the relevant treaties, of the situation on the island and asked for their help in preventing bloodshed. It became evident over the next five days that Britain would not fulfill its roles and duties as a guarantor state, so Turkey unilaterally initiated a policing operation on July 20, 1974.
To go back to the operation, the conflicts between the left-wing and right-wing Greek groups, as well as the supporters of Makarios and the junta, became quite serious. The internal conflicts between the Cypriot Greeks and the Greeks were not over, so they waited before committing violence against the Turks. Under these circumstances, Turkey staged the first operation on July 20, 1974, and the second on August 14, 1974. These operations were self-justified given the conditions both nationally and abroad. The developments currently being discussed in Parliament can be summarized this way. What happened in the aftermath includes the following:
1- 1975 Population Regrouping Agreement between Kleridis and Denktaş
2- 1977 Makarios-Denktaş Summit (Bi-communal, bi-zonal Federal Cyprus project)
3- 1979 Kipriyanou-Denktaş Summit (Confirmation of the Makarios-Denktaş agreement by the Greeks upon the death of Makarios)
These three steps were the beginnings to a solution on the island. However, the region and the world were about to experience serious developments in the domestic and international political landscape. These summits failed to offer a lasting solution and there have been changes in the domestic structures and priorities in the countries that have a stake in Cyprus. Greece ousted the junta after Turkey’s 1974 operation in Cyprus and Greece rediscovered democracy. Subsequently, Greece reestablished its relations with the European Economic Community (EEC), where it became full member in 1981. On the other hand, Turkey had to struggle with internal terror and, as unstable coalition governments failed to properly manage crises, the Sept. 12 junta succeeded in the end. These two contradicting situations in Greece and Turkey contained some hints of what could not be achieved in Cyprus.
*Associate Professor Mehmet Hasgüler is an instructor at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University.