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Cyprus Twenty-Five Years Later: An American Diplomat Looks Back Charles W. McCaskill Introduction While it presumably passed unnoticed except in Cyprus, 21 December 1988 was the 25th anniversary of a shootout between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia which sparked events that threatened to enflame not only Cyprus but the entire Eastern Mediterranean. Greece and Turkey were quickly drawn in, the situation deteriorated rapidly, and only major diplomatic efforts prevented war in the area. Cyprus has, of course, remained unsettled ever since. The passage of a full quarter century may be a good time to review this persistent problem and, after so long a time, place it in proper perspective . A solution would never have been easy, but in the early days those hoping to help complicated their job by their failure to understand the complexities of the problem—what Christopher Woodhouse refers to as "the incomprehension of successive British and American governments" (Woodhouse 1982: 61). Unfortunately, many of the earlier policy failures have become institutionalized over the years, making a satisfactory settlement impossible. Western diplomats, including British and American, have simply been unable or unwilling to grasp the basic elements of the problem, and too often personal prejudices have been overriding. From the time the London-Zurich Agreements were signed in February 1959, the U.K., the U.S. and presumably all NATO countries tended to consider the question "settled." The animosity between the majority Greek Cypriots and minority Turkish Cypriots, fanned by brutal intercommunal fighting in the late 1950s and the inequities of the Agreements, was underestimated or disregarded by all but the Cypriots themselves in the rush to put Cyprus aside and turn to other problems. U.S. policy goals after independence included strengthening Cyprus against the strong local communist party and the Soviets, protection of U.S. communications facilities on the island, and mainJournal of Modem Greek Studies, Volume 9, 1991. 23 24 Charles W. McCaskiU tenance of the British sovereign bases (Laipson 1986: 58). President Kennedy became personally interested in the new republic and in August 1961 called for a more active U.S. role in Cyprus as part of the effort to avert trouble in the Eastern Mediterranean (Schlesinger 1965: 425). U.S. relations with Cyprus were relatively varied in those early years and included a Washington visit by Archbishop Makarios and a visit to Cyprus by Vice President Johnson. But support for the London-Zurich Agreements continued to be the cornerstone of U.S. policy in the hope that the new republic, jerry-built though it was, would survive. The Government of Cyprus functioned, more or less, just over three years but the constitution had become a basis of "constant friction between the two ethnic communities" (Kyriakides 1968: 72). Mistrust between them was such that by 1963 both sides were training and arming paramilitary groups (Clerides 1989: 149) and intelligence sources were predicting trouble before the end of the year. Tension increased dramatically when Makarios introduced his Thirteen Points for constitutional amendment in late November, but according to some diplomats there at the time, "the Archbishop and some of the ministers were genuinely taken aback by the excesses committed" in late 1963 and early 1964 as pent-up hatred of the Turkish Cypriots exploded (Crawshaw 1978: 367). As the trouble spread, the Turkish Cypriots withdrew into enclaves in the major towns and elsewhere throughout the island, effectively removing themselves from the political and economic life of the island. Whether they absented themselves or were prevented from participating has become moot over the years but, whatever the reason, the continued separation of the communities complicated the efforts to find a solution as the Turkish Cypriots became increasingly inflexible in the security of first, their enclaves, and later, "Northern Cyprus." Stanley Kyriakides has observed that "physical separation had psychological repercussions": the Turkish Cypriots felt that they could not live with the Greek Cypriots unless they were physically separated, while the Greek Cypriots correctly concluded that the Turks and Turkish Cypriots were promoting partition (Kyriakides 1968: 112). Turkish invasion seemed imminent at least three times within a six-month period—in late December, on 13 March, and in early June— though George S. Harris indicates...


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