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Media Watch 2005

05 January 2005
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Christou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 5 January 2005.
UK government failed in its duties
"OFFICIAL confirmation from 30-year old declassified documents revealing that Britain deliberately turned a blind eye to the Turkish invasion in 1974 indicates that the government in the UK failed in its duty as a guarantor power on the island, the government said yesterday. As one of the island’s three guarantor powers, along with Greece and Turkey, Britain’s role under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee was to uphold the integrity and independence of the Cyprus Republic. It let it be understood by Ankara that it would not only put no obstacles in its way but that it would even assist, by imposing obstacles on Greece..."

Cyprus government spokesman says Britain failed in her role as a guarantor power as documents proving it are released

OFFICIAL confirmation from 30-year old declassified documents revealing that Britain deliberately turned a blind eye to the Turkish invasion in 1974 indicates that the government in the UK failed in its duty as a guarantor power on the island, the government said yesterday.

As one of the island’s three guarantor powers, along with Greece and Turkey, Britain’s role under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee was to uphold the integrity and independence of the Cyprus Republic. It let it be understood by Ankara that it would not only put no obstacles in its way but that it would even assist, by imposing obstacles on Greece.

A set of documents relating to 1974, which were released on January 1, have shown that although Britain considered sending 12,000 troops to Cyprus during the Athens-backed coup in July that year, it later decided against it.

The documents also reveal that Britain told then Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit that it would not stop Turkey invading, and later they show that Britain warned Ankara against trying to engage the UN during the conflict when it came to Nicosia Airport.

The bulk of the information on these issues is already well known on the island and among historians and researchers, but it is the first time official confirmation has surfaced.

“At first sight, what we see about Great Britain does not correspond with her obligations as a guarantor force in 1974,” said government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides yesterday.

Chrysostomides said the government had asked for a full set of copies of the documents, which have been released and will study them in depth. If necessary, further statements will be made on the issue, he added. The spokesman said a set of the documents would be needed for the state archives and for research purposes.

The most damning of the documents so far relates to a working dinner given at Downing Street on the evening of July 17, less than 60 hours before the invasion happened.

In attendance were Ecevit and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. “During the crucial talks… the British side gave an undertaking that in the event of Turkish forces intervening in Cyprus, Britain would not attempt to blockade their action,” the confidential papers say.

They go on to say that Turkey asked whether the British side would allow Turkish forces to pass through the British bases on the island so that, in the words of Ecevit “bloodshed would be avoided”.

The move would also placate the US and Russia if there was an intervention by Ankara, Ecevit said. He warned that if Turkey was left to “go it alone” the results would be soaked in blood.

“While the Foreign Secretary James Callaghan said he would enquire what that would mean from the legal point of view, and finally stated that this would not be possible, the Prime Minister said at one point in the discussion, that he thought he understood the meaning of his counterpart’s remarks. If the situation of the Turkish community on the island deteriorated, Turkey would feel it necessary to intervene. But he did not think that the SBAs could be used for that kind of intervention”.

Ecevit, the document said, replied that he could not insist on the point. The bases were not essential for his purpose… But he hoped that the British government might be able to find other means of helping Turkey. The Foreign Secretary asked what British help would involve. Ecevit then made clear that what he meant was that Turkey hoped that Britain would not put up obstacles and would persuade the USA not to do so.

Callaghan’s reaction at first was that “while he would consider the suggestion he did not think the British government could help”. “He believed that this would constitute a breach of the Treaty”. The British did try to convince Ecevit to begin tripartite discussions before undertaking any unilateral action but did not succeed. They said they supported the return of Archbishop Makarios, as a means of restoring stability.

Ecevit told the British officials that he was glad they did not recognise the coupist government of Nicos Sampson but said that Turkey felt it was impossible not to intervene in Cyprus. “Direct and effective action is needed,” he said.

Wilson intervened to say that: “he understood Mr Ecevit’s remarks as an expression of the Turkish wish that Britain would not blockade an action of the kind contemplated by Turkey but they would blockade the Greeks”.

Ecevit, the papers say, asked if Britain would be ready to do so. “The Foreign Secretary replied that it was not impossible”.

Britain’s initiative included tripartite talks between the guarantor powers and invited Greece to send representation to London. It also asked Athens to remove its military officers from Cyprus. However US Secretary of State Henry Kissenger sent an envoy to Britain and said the US disagreed with the removal of Greek officers from Cyprus, and the reinstatement of Makarios, as the objective was to find a solution without him.

In the end Britain went along with the US and Turkey invaded. Once it had created a bridgehead, Turkey was to accept a ceasefire. However Ankara also made an attempt to take Nicosia Airport, which threatened the strategic interests of both the US and Britain.

The move caused alarm in London and the US mobilised all diplomatic means to warn Ankara against taking the airport or engaging UN troops, who were defending it.

Despite this, Turkey still tried until Ecevit received a call from Kissenger, who also consulted with Wilson in London. Wilson warned Ecevit that if Turkish troops engaged with UN forces by attacking the airport that Britain would not stand idly by."