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Media Watch 2005

07 January 2005
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Fanoulla Argyrou
Comment: The following article appeared in Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 7 January 2005.
Britain considered invasion in 1974
"Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, arrived in London for urgent consultations and met the Prime Minister. After he left, Wilson instructed the Ministry of Defence assessment staff to draw up contingency plans for a British invasion," said the military briefing paper..."

BRITAIN considered sending thousands of troops to Cyprus in 1974 to reinstate Archbishop Makarios as president after he was deposed by a coup, British government files reveal.

British Defence officials looked at the possibility of sending up to 15,000 soldiers to Cyprus in July 1974 to restore Archbishop Makarios to power.

The move was contemplated days before Turkey initiated plans to invade the island on July 20, 1974 with what appears to be London’s tacit approval (see related story).

However, the military warned that such a move risked seeing thousands of British troops mired in a situation "similar to Northern Ireland", where soldiers spent decades caught in the middle of sectarian conflict.

Britain considered stepping in before Turkey invaded on July 20, 1974, according to the formerly confidential government papers, released by the National Archives.

Makarios, who fled when the Presidential Palace was attacked five days earlier, was evacuated to London where he met then Prime Minister Harold Wilson on July 17.

"Shortly afterwards, the Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, arrived in London for urgent consultations and met the Prime Minister. After he left, Wilson instructed the Ministry of Defence assessment staff to draw up contingency plans for a British invasion," said the military briefing paper.

Risks
There were real risks to this, the paper, entitled 'Re-instatement of President Makarios in Cyprus by means of British military support,' warned.

"This paper considers the general forces level necessary to achieve this," the paper begins. "It does not address itself to the possibility [of intervention] by Greece, Turkey or another nation...However, the attempted intervention by air or sea of Greek forces could be deterred by our own forces given about 10 days notice.

"Whilst we believe that there will be sections of the Cyprus population which will welcome the return of Makarios, and may even actively assist us, it would be unrealistic not to accept that there will be sizeable elements who will actively oppose us by resorting to guerrilla warfare," it said.

The paper said the threat to British forces would come from anti-Makarios EOKA B guerrillas, the National Guard and the Greek national contingent that were still under the control of the military junta then ruling Greece.

"Bitter experience has shown us that even a small number of dedicated men with support from the local population can pin down an inordinately large force for an indefinite period, and we might well end up by facing an open-ended and expensive situation similar to Northern Ireland."

There were up to 13,000 dependants of British service personnel in Cyprus at the time, and the document also raises concerns about exposing them to possible danger.

MH"