By Chris Green
Episode 1 of The Cyprus Question: The history explained (1) marked the beginning of a mini-series of articles that deal in some detail with the troubled history of Cyprus. This, the second episode, takes events forward from 1931 onwards and into the 1950’s.
In 1931 the Greek Cypriots, encouraged by the Greek Orthodox Church and despite the relative leniancy of the British Governor, nevertheless resorted to violence and revolted against the British Government in the cause of Enosis. This rebellion was swiftly crushed by the British but unfortunately, the emergency measures that followed the Greek Cypriot rebellion were of general application and resulted in the suppression of the Turkish Cypriot community rights as well. The economic development of the Turkish community was thus adversely affected and the development of the Turkish community in terms of its aspirations in the fields of commerce, language and culture were curtailed. After the Second World War ended in 1945, the Greek Cypriot campaign for Enosis became intensified once again. The Greek Orthodox Church attempted to misuse the principle of self-determination that was universally accepted in the context of the United Nations, claiming that only the Greek Cypriot community had the right for self-determination and that the destiny of Cyprus therefore, should be left in the hands of the Greek community.
As there was no single Cyprus nation but two entirely different ethnic communities living in the island, the principle of self-determination, from a proper implementation of the international law point of view could not be applied to only the Greek Cypriot community. Indeed, international law, in the presence of two distinct and entirely different ethnic communities in the island could only be applied to and be exercised by each of these two communities individually and separately. Failure to do so would have meant the denial of the right of self-determination to the Turkish Cypriot community and would hence constitute a violation of international law. In this context, the Turkish Cypriot community attempted to defend their legitimate right of survival by opposing the Greek Cypriot efforts for Enosis. This resulted in wholesale Greek Cypriot attacks on the Turkish Cypriot population.
As the Turkish community, which was a numeric minority compared to the Greek Cypriot community, lived in a widely dispersed manner over the island, the extent of the Greek Cypriot pressure on the Turkish Cypriots was very great. Under such intimidation the Turkish Cypriots were unable to continue to live among the Greek Cypriots and they were being compelled to abandon mixed villages, taking refuge in nearby Turkish Cypriot villages while consequently being deprived of their lands and homes by force. This Turkish Cypriot exodus resulted in the general impoverishment of the Turkish Cypriot community.
In 1950 the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus staged something of an attempt to ascertain the wishes of an imaginary “people of Cyprus” claiming that it was holding a “plebiscite” or referendum. Naturally the Turkish Cypriot community refused to recognise this masquerade of a so-called ‘plebiscite’ which was so obviously devoid of any legal basis whatsoever. In accordance with the precepts of both constitutional and international law the Turkish Cypriots continued to request that the right of self-determination should be exercised not only by the Greek Cypriots but by the Turkish Cypriots as well, as two distinct ethnic communities existed in the island and the rule of law required separate and equal treatment of both.
In 1950 Makarios III became the Archbishop of Cyprus whereupon he took an oath in church that he would achieve Enosis before his death. In 1953 Makarios managed to secure the support of the Greek government and created a terrorist movement (later to be known as EOKA) and in 1954 a Greek officer named Grivas arrived in Cyprus to become the leader of the EOKA terrorist movement. The EOKA sowed terror all over the island with the intent of uniting Cyprus with Greece and on 1st April 1955 EOKA proclaimed this as being their prime objective.
In the meantime, between 1954 and 1958, Greece made several attempts in the United Nations to achieve Enosis under the guise of self-determination which Greece claimed to be an exclusive right for only the Greek-Cypriots, whilst in the island itself, EOKA terror continued not only against the British government but also, and perhaps, much more violently, against the Turkish community whom the EOKA considered as the greatest obstacle on their path to Enosis. During this period the Turkish-Cypriot community was driven away from thirty-three mixed villages and the Turkish homes in these villages were immediately burnt down by the Greek Cypriots. In the face of violent terrorism by EOKA and determined Turkish Cypriot resistance to Enosis, a Turco-Greek war was feared. The British ultimately agreed to relinquish sovereignty over the island and indicated that any agreement to be reached between the parties to the Cyprus problem, namely the Turkish and the Greek communities and their respective motherlands, would not be rejected.
As Greece had eventually realized that a pro Enosis, unilateral self-determination resolution may not be obtained from the United Nations, whilst the Turkish Cypriots, with the backing of the Republic of Turkey, would be resistant to any efforts for forceful Enosis, the climate was propitious for international talks. In this context the Turkish and Greek Foreign Ministers met in Zurich and with the assistance of the leadership of the two communities decided that neither unilateral nor double Enosis would be acceptable.
Finally a compromise solution was reached and with the Zurich agreement concluded on 11 February 1959 and in the London Agreement that followed it was agreed that there would be bi-national independence, based on the political equality and administrative partnership of the two communities, who would have full autonomy in their strictly communal affairs and that the settlement thus established would be guaranteed by Turkey, Greece and Britain ensuring the permanence of this functional federative system in the Cyprus Republic, eliminating discrimination and thus removing all causes of bi-communal friction.
On the basis of the compromise settlement reached through the Zurich and London Agreements, a Treaty of Establishment was drawn up and guaranteed by Turkey, Greece and Britain by a Treaty of Guarantee in 1960. In accordance with this settlement a Treaty of Alliance was entered into between Turkey, Greece and the new Republic of Cyprus. The Treaty of Alliance provided for stationing in Cyprus of Turkish and Greek military contingents.
The two communities from then on worked together as equal partners and prepared the Constitution of the bi-communal Republic of Cyprus. Thus on 16th August 1960 the Republic of Cyprus came into existence. After much suffering and loss of life since the EOKA violence erupted in Cyprus, the two peoples, in exercise of their separate right to self-determination, had accepted a compromise and worked out a Constitution after long deliberations which had lasted eighteen months, forming a “Partnership Republic” based on the existence of two different national peoples and on their inalienable rights and partnership status.
With their new Constitution, these two peoples came into agreement within the bi-national state of Cyprus and agreed to co-operate in partnership, sharing the legislative, executive, judicial and other functions of their state. Matters which the two peoples had managed on a communal basis over the centuries, such as education, religion, family law etc. were left to the autonomy of the communal administration which had legislative, executive and judicial authority over such matters.
In fact, a functional federative system was established by the two co-founding peoples of the Republic with a Greek Cypriot President, a Turkish Cypriot Vice President, each elected by their respective communities; a Cabinet with seven Greek, three Turkish Ministers; a Parliament of sixty Greek and forty Turkish deputies After independence the United Kingdom had transferred sovereignty to both Cypriot peoples jointly.
Moreover, independence was guaranteed to be observed as a consequence of the conclusion of a number of international treaties and agreements between five parties, namely, Turkey, Greece, the United Kingdom and the Turkish Cypriot people as well as the Greek Cypriot people. Independence was so stipulated that neither national community could claim exclusive sovereignty in respect of the island as a whole. The transfer of sovereignty jointly to the two Cypriot peoples was endorsed by Turkey and Greece and the United Kingdom, Turkey and Greece have guaranteed the sovereignty jointly and individually under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee.
Episode 3 will see the story moving onwards to look at how, in 1963 that independence was usurped by Archbishop Makarios and the process which led to Cyprus being plunged into the ‘Dark Era’ from December of that year and which would continue largely unabated until the Turkish intervention of July 20th 1974.
This article is the second in a mini-series of four which sets out the Cyprus History from the early 19th Century to nearer to the present day and is a compilation by Chris Green, a long-standing columnist for the Star Media Group and who also publishes through his own Beşparmak Media Services company.
This series was first published in Cyprus Star during 2012.