Cyprus Hidden History – Did the Greeks offer to partition Cyprus?
Cyprus Hidden History.
Did the Greeks offer to partition Cyprus?
By Ismail Veli
Enosis, Partition, divide and rule, occupation, destruction, refugees, genocide are all words that are spoken by most Turkish Cypriots (TC’s) and Greek Cypriots (GC’s) almost all their lives. The TC’s point out that partition was the consequences of the campaign by the GC’s for Enosis (Union with Greece). The GC’s argue that the numerical size of their population meant that self determination should be their choice. In addition The Greek side of the argument points out that the Turkish aim after 1957/8 was Partition. The Turkish side does not dispute this, but point out that had the GCs not campaigned for Enosis then destroyed the 1960 constitution the question of division would never have arisen. The GC’s on the other hand point out that the 1960 constitution was unjust and needed to be overhauled. They point out pressure from the UK and Turkey in what they perceived to have been a forced marriage. All these arguments would have meant little if both sides decided to make the best of what was feasible rather than the dreams of joining “motherland’s Greece or Turkey” respectively.
So while the never ending saga goes on and on, it seems both GC’s & TC’s instead of taking some responsibility for the fiasco of the last 60 years, they much prefer to blame everyone but themselves. In fact the history of plebiscites in support of Enosis was not even new to the Cypriots, neither did it start with the 1950 Enosis Plebiscite in which the Greeks voted by 95.71% for Enosis, it eventually culminated in the Coup and subsequent Turkish intervention in 1974 which has effectively partitioned the Island since with no end in sight to a re-unification of the Island. The first plebiscite was carried out 25 March 1921 on the 100th anniversary of the Greek independence struggle against Ottoman occupation. Another took place on 25 March 1930 (one page copy with the signatures of the leaders of the GC community in the village of Lurucina is attached to this article). The biggest hypocrisy of Cypriot political thinking is that everyone is to blame for the division but the Cypriots. So who voted in these plebiscites? It certainly was not the Americans, British or any aliens, but the GCs themselves, which if successful would have meant that Cyprus would never become an independent country.
What about Greece & Turkey however. A reasonable guess would be that both rue the day they got themselves in a dispute that has almost dominated every part of political and diplomatic activity since the mid 1950’s. Much talk has been made of the GC desire for Enosis, but what of Greece itself. Did they originally welcome the GC armed uprising? Were they really happy to push for a Union that may, and did result in catastrophic consequences in 1974? As for Turkey much talk has arisen from the efforts of the TCs to bring them into the equation as a balance to TC survival in Cyprus. Anyone denying that is obviously pulling the wool over their own eyes. It’s a well known fact that the GC’s pushed for Enosis and the Turkish countered with Partition. Each side had limited power so dragging in their respective “motherlands” was essential to achieve either goal.
It seems that Greece was initially slow to support Enosis as the potential problems with Great Britain and the weight of Turkey’s military superiority would lead to disaster. The public support and clamour to support the GCs however ensured that any ruling Greek government had to publicly support such a move or risk being branded as Bro-odez (traitors). Turkey on the other hand felt that the status quo with the continuation of British rule was preferable to that of Enosis.
Both Turkey and Greece had signed a friendship pact in the 1930’s and in the aftermath of WW2 Turkey was quite happy to allow sovereignty of the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean sea to be passed from Italy (which had occupied these Islands since the end of WW1) to Greece on the sole condition that they remain demilitarized so as not to ever threaten Turkey. Subsequently both Greece and Turkey signed the NATO treaty in London on 22 October 1951. They both officially became members on the 18 February 1952. In addition they both fought together in Korea. Greece was the fifth largest troop contributor to U.N. Forces in Korea losing 183 men and 600 wounded. Turkey’s contribution was even larger and their losses of 721 dead, 168 missing and 2111 wounded was immense. The sacrifices of these 2 countries fighting together meant that their relationship until the start of the Enosis campaign on 1st April 1955 was cordial. In addition Greece had suffered immensely under Nazi occupation in WW2 and the subsequent civil war between 1945-49 cost the Greek people over 150.000 lives. Surely the last thing Greece and Turkey wanted at the time was a potential conflict.
Greece and Turkey were trying hard to extricate themselves from the potential disaster ahead of them. Did they make mistakes?? YES THEY DID. In fact the biggest accusation of the GCs (while excusing Enosis) against Turkey was that it planned to partition the Island. Did they? An official British letter dated 22nd October 1956 completely contradicts this well rehearsed propaganda.
With reference to your minute of 17/10, I now re-circulate with the draft paper on partition which Mr. Smith has prepared. The S.of S. asked for this before he went away-Mr. Moreton’s minute at (13)
2. Meanwhile (i) the Governor has given further views about partition in his reply to you (scribble) at (21), and (ii) there has been the series of telegrams at (15)-(20) from Ankara, with the interesting and unexpected information that the Greek Foreign Minister threw out a suggestion about partition to the Turkish Ambassador-para. 5 of (15).
(W. A. Morris)
22nd October, 1956
In another letter the Greek proposal is again repeated and in addition has the following.
4. Meantime, the telegrams at (15) – (19) from Ankara give a quite new and unexpected twist to this . The Greek Foreign Minister tentatively suggested partition to the Turkish Ambassador (para. 5 of (15) ; and M. Birgi in Ankara gave the Counsellor a personal Turkish reaction (para. 2 of (17). You will see from ( 19 ) that Mr. Stewart concludes that this is the first evidence that the Turkish Government might consider the Cyprus question on any other basis than that of maintenance of the status quo. Also that Mr. Stewart now believes that we have practically no hope of securing their acquiescence.
The real important sentence is the following. “first evidence that the Turkish Government might consider the Cyprus question on any other basis than that of maintenance of the status quo”. It’s clear that up to the 22nd October 1956 Turkey’s policy was the continuation of British rule and that Greece’s offer to Turkey completely changed the destiny of Cyprus. So why did Greece keep a public silence and let Turkey and Great Britain carry the proposal into the public domain? The implications were clear. Greece could not possibly make such an offer public. The Greek people and GC reaction would have been such that no Greek government could survive such a proposal. 7 years after the end of the Greek civil war the potential to re-ignite the internal conflict was immense and a coup by the Greek army could not be discounted.
It was basically left up to Great Britain to pursue this matter and ultimately the Turkish side was left to hold the can. The 60 years of Greek propaganda on this issue has been designed to completely revise history. The Turkish side on the other hand has completely failed to understand the importance of International PR and prefers the policy of “who cares, we know the truth and so does the World”. The fact is the world did not know the facts behind the scenes and after 60 years care even less. In short the Turkish side has failed abysmally in the media war, while the Greek side has taken full advantage of every possible avenue to shift blame away from itself. The Embargoes on the TCs, the use of their position as sole representatives of Cyprus on the international stage have all played a part in cementing the partition they profess to hate.
So while today both Greek and Turkish Cypriots blame everything on Turkey and Greece, which no doubt played their own part in the Cyprus tragedy. it would be well to remember that the GC rejections of 14/15 plans out of 16 have played an even bigger part in the continuation of the status quo, while TC mistrust of Greek intentions still dictate political and historical mistrust of “Greek deviousness” to the point that every proposal regardless of whether its good or bad must somehow have an ulterior motive. After everything is said and done however one thing we Cypriots (Greek & Turkish) have in abundance is that we are head and shoulders above every country in the quality of our obstinacy, self pity and above all denial of our part in the destruction of our Island.
Amen to that.
I would like to thank Mr Ersu Ekrem for kindly sharing the archive documents related to this article as seen below. These can be found at the National Archives at Kew Gardens, London and we also include a PDF copy which can be seen by clicking here.