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  • Cyprus at War: Diplomacy and Conflict during the 1974 Crisis
  • William Mallinson (bio)
Jan Asmussen: Cyprus at War: Diplomacy and Conflict during the 1974 Crisis. London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2008. 364 pages. ISBN: 978-1-84511-742. $100.

There have been many postmortem studies of the Cyprus invasion and occupation of 1974. Some are outright polemical, others highly scholarly, and certainly many of them [End Page 126] self-serving. The authors of many of those in the latter category had a hand in the events leading to the tragedy and are eager to rationalize and/or cover their tracks in the dust they had raised. Cyprus at War seems to add a new category: it criticizes the omission of some "primary" sources in what has been published. The author appears unaware of some crucial documentary evidence in his study of events.

According to the inside cover, this book "unpicks for the first time the truth behind" what it calls "this controversial conflict." This is perhaps a rather bold claim, since various papers, based like much of the author's research on primary sources, have been published recently that actually contradict some of his crucial claims. This seems to be because the author relied rather heavily on the memoirs of the then British foreign secretary, James Callaghan, and those of US secretary of state Henry Kissinger. He faithfully cites Callaghan's claim that he had no communication with Kissinger on 20 July, the day of the Turkish invasion (which the author calls "operation," in line with official Turkish government policy). Yet the documents prove the precise opposite. On 22 July, the secretary of the cabinet, John Hunt, wrote: "Between 0445 and 0700 [on 20 July] the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs spoke twice to Dr Kissinger and summoned the Turkish, Greek and Soviet representatives to London."1 Kissinger also sent a written message to Callaghan that day, replying to one from the latter. It began, "As I promised you by phone, here is the message you and I discussed. I was about to send it to you when our Ottoman friends cut loose."2 This evidence severely undermines the impression given by the author that Kissinger was not focused on the crisis at crucial moments. In this connection, Kissinger and Callaghan had a telephone conversation on 14 August, the day that Turkey suddenly began to complete its invasion, in which Kissinger agreed with the by-then compliant Callaghan, who said, "Well, I was just thinking, I think in military terms, obviously the Turks will carry on until they have got this line they have figured out on the map, and cynically, let's hope they get it quickly…. You're not going to act, we're not going to act unilaterally and the UN is going to get out of the way." Kissinger's predictable stalling response was: "Why don't we let things sit then for a day and see how it looks tomorrow morning?"3

Another crucial point in which the author appears contradictory, if not mistaken, is his seeming dismissal of the assertion that Britain had warning of the Turkish invasion, an assertion that he should have refuted. Again, the primary sources contradict the assertion; on 19 July, the day before the invasion, the Joint Intelligence Committee informed Callaghan's private secretary of a likely Turkish invasion.4 Oddly enough, the author does refer to this document, but not to Callaghan's private secretary having [End Page 127] received it. Yet he goes on to say that Callaghan knew what the outcome would be if Britain failed to contain the Turkish advance.

As regards the big Turkish breakout on 14 August, the author appears unaware that Callaghan had at least four days' warning. The documents tell us that on 10 August, the assistant chief of defense staff (operations) informed Callaghan that the Turkish army was looking for an excuse to continue operations and of the plans to take over the north of the island.5 The vice chief of the defense staff in turn informed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that Callaghan was "most concerned about the hard-line...


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pp. 126-131
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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Archived 2019
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