- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 30 Oct 1958, p. 60-78
- Greaves, Sir John Bewley, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- A description of Cyprus. Cyprus as the scene of one of Britain's most difficult and distressing international problems. Cyprus as a land of enchantment. Changes as the 20th century advanced. A detailed exploration of the long and troubled history of Cyprus, up to the present time. Britain's attempts to bring about a settlement in Cyprus. The background of violence and intimidation. The current situation. Two powerful reasons why Britain cannot simply forsake the island and leave its people to work out their own salvation.
- Date of Original
- 30 Oct 1958
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- Full Text
- "THE CYPRUS QUESTION"
An Address by SIR JOHN BEWLEY GREAVES, C.M.G., O.B.E. Former United Kingdom Senior Trade Commissioner
Thursday, October 30, 1958
CHAIRMAN: The President, Lt.-Col. Bruce Legge.
LT.-COL. LEGGE: Distinguished guests and members of The Empire Club of Canada. Today our speaker is Sir John Bewley Greaves who will share with us his views on Cyprus. Like Sir John, William Shakespeare was interested in Cyprus because it provided the dramatic and exciting history for 'Othello'. That Moorish general was employed by the Duke and Senators of Venice to frustrate the Turkish designs against the Island of Cyprus.
Even during the Crusades, Cyprus was conquered by the dashing English Sovereign, Richard the Lion-hearted, on his way to free Jerusalem from Saladin. For many centuries Cyprus has therefore been the familiar setting for religious conflicts and the rivalries of great powers. Following the Congress of Berlin in 1878 Great Britain assumed possession of Cyprus by signing a separate agreement with Turkey, and Britain has maintained control of the Island ever since.
The Cyprus problem is now such an angry one that the Greeks, the Turks and the British have been unable to devise any way of living in peace. As a result British soldiers have had the thankless and dangerous duty of dealing with terrorists and communal tragedies. Such has been the internal warfare of this Mediterranean island that the very harmony of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been threatened.
The members of The Empire Club of Canada are delighted to have the Cyprus question discussed by Sir John Greaves who served in the overseas trade service of the British Government for thirty-five years. Sir John entered that service immediately after five years as an infantry soldier in the First World War.
Our speaker has held several important posts in Canada and therefore knows his audience. He was also the Commercial Counsellor at the British Embassy in Washington, in the unpredictable post-war years from 1945 to 1947. Finally, he was the Senior United Kingdom Trade Commissioner and Economic Adviser to the High Commissioner in Australia from 1948 to 1954. For his fine service to his Government he was created a Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George.
Sir John Greaves was admirably trained by his vast experience as an overseas official to give us a reasoned British view of one of the most turbulent political situations in the Commonwealth today. Above all, he is able to speak to us as an expert who is not personally involved in the problem, but as one who has studied Cyprus with fascination ever since he first became familiar with it many years ago. Gentlemen, we are now honoured to hear an address by Sir John Greaves on the tortured and bewildering 'Cyprus Question'.
SIR JOHN GREAVES: Cyprus, the scene of one of Britain's most difficult and distressing international problems, is an island in the north-east corner of the Mediterranean, with an area of about 3,600 square miles, which makes it just about one hundredth part the size of Ontario. It is one of the rather numerous countries which boast of having an ideal climate, and I should say that in the case of Cyprus the boast is more justified than in some other instances I could mention. Certainly winter, spring and fall are delightful; the summer admittedly is hot and oppressive in the centre of the island and those who can manage it are wise to get away to the coast or to the mountains of Troodos. The present population of Cyprus is approximately half a million, of whom about four-fifths are Greek and one-fifth Turkish. For historical and ecclesiastical reasons the connexions of Cyprus with Greece have long been close, in spite of the fact that Cyprus is separated from the mainland of Greece by five or six hundred miles of sea. Between Cyprus and Turkey the distance is only 43 miles.
When W. H. Mallock visited Cyprus he came back and wrote a book which he called "In an Enchanted Island". That was in the eighties of the last century, but much of the enchantment which he found there lived. on well into the present century. In the country districts, which formed the greater part and the most typical part of Cyprus, one saw, even in the 1920's, a civilisation. which differed little in some of its aspects from that which must have existed there in Biblical times. Much of the agriculture was still primitive and to a large extent the peasants lived on the produce of their own farms. Oxen drew the plough, and the donkey, the mule and the camel were the typical beasts of burden. Goats roamed the countryside, doing such untold damage to, the trees as almost to break the heart of the Forestry Department. The dress of the men had altered, I suppose, since Biblical times, for robes had given place to the baggy trousers commonly worn by the country people in Greece. Living standards were low by comparison with ours, yet simplicity rather than grinding poverty seemed to be the hallmark of the countryman's manner of life.
Of course, changes came as the 20th century advanced, but at first only slowly and gently. A few motorcars appeared in and around the towns. In the narrow streets of Nicosia you were intrigued by the sight of a car nosing its way gingerly through the throng of men and women on foot, on bicycles, on mules and on donkeys. Blouses and baggy trousers gave way to shirts and. slacks, even to lounge suits and collars and ties. Hotels. and cinemas appeared, and cafés, by acquiring a few musicians, a few square feet of dance floor, and possibly an exotic name, burst boastfully into that ultimate expression of Western sophistication--a night club. But you had to walk only a few hundred yards from the night club and you found yourself in another world, standing before the ancient edifice of Ayia Sophia, once a cathedral but now a Muslim mosque; and nearby the Great Inn or Khan where Turkish travellers stayed, their rooms surrounding a great courtyard in which were tethered the donkeys and camels on which they had come in from their villages and farms. For the visitor it was fascinating to watch antiquity and modernity co-existing side by side; fascinating but rather sad because one felt that, slowly yet relentlessly, antiquity was being elbowed out to make way for newer, but not always better, things.
The war, of course, gave a great fillip to the changes which had been taking place gradually and with little disturbance of the rhythm of Cyprus life. The economy, which was once almost entirely agricultural, is now mixed. People have been drawn increasingly into the towns. New industries have been started, and even agriculture has been largely mechanized, the tractors, combine harvesters and other equipment being generally owned by village cooperatives and made available by them to individual farmers. By means of irrigation schemes considerable progress has been made in overcoming the one great deficiency in Cyprus agriculture--water. The establishment of military and air headquarters in Cyprus and the construction of the necessary installations and air fields have provided employment for many thousands of Cypriots and have helped to establish a permanent wage-earning class. It is perhaps too much to say that the old Cyprus which enchanted Mallock has completely disappeared but it is certainly less obvious. One has to look for it and to go farther afield before one can find it.
In spite of its charm and air of enchantment, Cyprus has had a long and troubled history. Its geographical situation must have made it a tempting bait for all the surrounding nations which in turn rose to power in that corner of the world, If the Low Countries could be described as "the cockpit of Europe", Cyprus might with equal justice be called "the cockpit of the eastern Mediterranean". Centuries before the beginning of the Christian era, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Greeks and the Romans all in turn contended for possession of the island. In A.D. 46 Paul and Barnabas landed on the east coast, journeyed through Cyprus to Paphos, and there, by converting the Roman pro-consul to Christianity, made Cyprus the first country to be governed by a Christian ruler. Later Barnabas returned, to suffer martyrdom at his native town of Salamis, the imposing ruins of which may still be seen a few miles north of Famagusta. After the decline of the Roman Empire, Cyprus suffered frequent Arab invasions and for a short time became English territory when Richard Coeur de Lion put in there on his way to the third crusade, and there married his wife Berengana. Subsequently the island passed successively into the ownership and occupation of the Knights Templars, the dynasty of the Lusignans, Kings of Jerusalem, and the Republic of Venice. It was in Cyprus under this last regime that Shakespeare laid the scene of his tragedy of Othello; and one may still see Othello's Tower at Famagusta, where Desdemona is supposed to have been murdered and Othello to have killed himself.
But Venice neglected her charge, and Cyprus fell an easy prey to the Turkish Sultan Selim II, who was also known, presumably with good reason, as Selim the Sot. They invaded the island in 1570, quickly took Nicosia, and, after a heroic four months resistance by the defenders, captured Famagusta. Thus began a period of Turkish rule which lasted for over 300 years.
The Grand Vizier, whom the Sultan appointed to govern Cyprus, found it convenient to recognize the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus, and to give to the ethnarchy, the governing body of the Church, a certain measure of support and authority. Not of course out of any love for the religion which it preached, but because it was easier to deal with and control the Sultan's Greek-speaking Cypriot subjects through some established and widespread Greek Cypriot agency. A little later the administration of Cyprus was transferred from the Grand Vizier to the Capitan Pasha, whose headquarters was at Rhodes with the curious result that effective authority in Cyprus passed almost completely into the hands of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop and his ecclesiastical colleagues. Even so, Ottoman domination was probably a pretty oppressive affair and it is scarcely surprising that there were occasional surgings of revolt, which, under the influence of the Church, took the form of a demand for Enosis, or union with Greece. This sort of thing was naturally not to the Turkish taste. It was up to the Church to keep the peasants in order, to see that they produced the requisite tribute and gave no trouble; and if the prelates failed in the duties imposed on them, they could not expect any tolerance of their shortcomings. In 1821, fearing that the Cypriots were in league with the people of Greece, who were then in revolt against Turkish rule, the Turks arrested the Archbishop of Cyprus, the Bishops and 200 leading persons in the Orthodox community and executed them. According to Sir Ronald Storrs, the Turkish Capitan Pasha introduced a peculiarly Ottoman piece of brutality into this ceremony. He compelled the eccliastics to go on all fours, fixed saddles on their backs, broke their teeth by forcing metal bits into their mouths, and then prodded them with sharp spurs to their place of execution.
Repressive Turkish rule continued for the next fifty-odd years and such measures of mild reform as were initiated by the Sultan remained largely a dead letter. Most of the public revenue was safely retained in the Imperial Treasury--87 per cent of it in one year. Virtually nothing was done for the benefit of the subject Cypriots who found the money.
Eventually it was an external circumstance--the growing pressure of Russia on Turkish possessions in the Balkans and Asia Minor--which brought an end to Turkish rule in Cyprus. The Turks suffered a severe defeat and had to sue for peace. To safeguard themselves from future attack they sought help from Britain. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878 Disraeli concluded with the Sultan a Convention of Defensive Alliance. This bound Britain to give armed aid to Turkey if further attacks were made by Russia on her territories in Asia; and in order to enable us to make the necessary provision for executing our engagements, Turkey assigned "the island of Cyprus to be occupied and administered by England." It was after this Congress that Disraeli, in response to the cheers of the crowd outside, showed himself at a window of No. 10 Downing Street, and cried: "I bring you peace--Peace with Honour". (Incidentally, Lloyd George, when he was called upon to make a similar appearance after the end of the 1914 war, showed a nice sense of history by enquiring "Which is the Disraeli window?")
It was a curious situation. Cyprus was still under Turkish sovereignty and remained part of the Ottoman dominions, but was in practice governed by Great Britain. The Convention provided, as part of the bargain, that Cyprus should continue to pay its annual tribute to Turkey. The amount of the tribute was to be based on the average excess of income over expenditure in the five years previous to 1878; and by calculating it, as Storrs says, "with the scrupulous exactitude characteristic of faked accounts", the Turkish authorities arrived at the substantial and precise sum of £92,799.11.3. In truth, however, there was little need for faking; for Turkey had always taken care to see that taxation was kept high and expenditure well down. In 1878 no money at all had been spent on roads, harbours, agriculture, forests or education, and there was not a single hospital in the whole island. Justice had been administered at a total cost of £250 a year. The judges, at 14/- a month each, must have been an easy target for bribes. Thus, by providing the minimum of service for the maximum of reward, and then cooking the accounts a bit, the Turkish administration had managed to keep the Sultan pretty well provided with funds from his Cypriot province. After 1878, however, the Sultan ceased to receive the tribute for which he thought he had so ingeniously provided. There was a default on the Ottoman loan (which Britain and France had guaranteed) and the money received from Cyprus was devoted to satisfying the demands of the bondholders. Britain, however, never received the full amount. It was repeatedly reduced or set off by grants in aid, and eventually in 1927 was totally abolished.
Among the early reforms which Britain instituted after .taking over the administration of the island in 1878 was the grant of a constitution which provided for a legislative council containing a majority which provided for a legislative council containing a majority of elected members. In 1914, when we were at war with Turkey, Britain formally annexed the island and in 1925 Cyprus became a Crown colony. The council was enlarged and the title of the head of the government was changed to Governor. These changes, though accepted and even welcomed by the Cypriots, did not diminish the traditional demand of the Greek-speaking Cypriots for Enosis. As we have seen this demand owed its inception and growth principally to' the influence of the highly political Greek Orthodox Church. It had no economic basis. As far as I am aware, no one has ever claimed that, in wealth and living standards, Cyprus would be better off under Greece than under Britain. In fact any one with even the slightest knowledge of the facts of colonial life can scarcely avoid coming to precisely the opposite conclusion. Nevertheless pressure for Enosis continued to become more and more insistent and culminated in 1931 in serious disturbances in Nicosia, the capital, and the burning down of a Government House by an unruly mob. As a result the constitution was suspended, and the central government of the colony was thereafter exercised solely by the Governor and an executive council consisting entirely of officially nominated members.
During the 1939 war the strategic importance of Cyprus was strikingly demonstrated, for the island lay directly in the path of the German thrust to the south-east, which, as you will remember, reached Crete, some 300 miles west of Cyprus, in 1941. The island never became an actual battleground, though an attack on Cyprus would seem to have been a logical next step. Hitler may well have been deterred by the serious losses sustained by his air-borne forces in Crete, as well as by the measures taken to defend Cyprus in case of attack and by energetic action in Syria, Iran and elsewhere. The island, however, played its part as a naval and air base in operations in the eastern Mediterranean and in the supplying of partisans for the fighting in the Balkans and in Greece. A Cypriot regiment fought in Libya and there were Cypriot units in various other theatres, including France, where a pack mule company from Cyprus, which arrived on the scene in 1940, are said to have been the first Empire troops actually engaged in hostilities.
Though constitutional questions had to be left in abeyance during the war, the desirability of reintroducing democratic self-government was not lost sight of. The problem was, however, seriously complicated by two factors. There was first of all the existence in the island of a substantial Turkish minority--about one fifth of the whole population--who were by no means easy at the prospect of living under an overwhelmingly Greek-elected government. Secondly, there was the necessity for Britain to safeguard British bases and installations in the island--bases which are regarded as essential to enable the United Kingdom not only to protect her own interests in the Near and Middle East, but also to carry out her international obligations in those areas. Though it is Britain's wish that Cyprus should enjoy the fullest practicable degree of self-government, these two considerations were, in the United Kingdom view, inconsistent with the immediate grant of complete self-determination, for that might well be followed by union with Greece and our inevitable withdrawal from the island.
In spite of these obstacles and complications, detailed proposals for a liberal constitution were put forward by Britain in 1948. They provided for a legislature of 26 members, all but a few of whom would be popularly elected. When the scheme was submitted to a consultative assembly in Cyprus, it was accepted by the Turkish and by the independent Greek members; the right-wing Greek Cypriots had, however, decided to boycott the assembly and the left-wing Greeks, though they attended., stayed only long enough to register their rejection of the proposals before they walked out. In such circumstances the assembly could clearly do nothing and it was dissolved. The offer remained open for acceptance or discussion but the Greeks continued to take the line that acquiescence in constitutional development without complete self-determination would be a betrayal of Enosis. The next significant occurrence took place in 1951, when Archbishop Makarios, as part of the Church's plans for strengthening Enosis agitation, invited George Grivas, a retired colonel living in Athens, to come to Cyprus in order to organise a youth movement under the auspices of the Orthodox Church. Grivas, a Cypriot by birth, was a disgruntled ex-regular Greek Army officer. He is a right-wing extremist, and during the war he had no truck with the partisans, mostly left-wing, who were fighting the Germans and whom we, of course, supported with funds and arms. Instead Grivas remained in Athens, where he was a leader of a notorious "KHI" organisation, a Fascist strong-arm secret society which clashed with Communists during the Greek civil war. His character may be deduced from his achievements since he arrived in Cyprus. He is personally courageous and a brilliant soldier and guerilla commander; entirely devoted to the cause of Enosis; vain to the point of paranoia; a bitter hater both of the British and of Communism; cruel and completely ruthless, with an utter disregard of human life.
It was not surprising that, under the leadership of such a man, the Pancyprian National Youth Organisation (commonly known as PEON) which he had been invited to set up early became imbued with hatred of the government and all that it stood for, and proved a ready tool of subversive political agitation. It and another somewhat similar organisation (the Orthodox Christian Union of Youth or OHEN) furnished the nucleus for the frankly terrorist EOKA (or National Association of Cypriot Combattants) created and led by Colonel Grivas.
The story of the operations of this organisation is a grim one, and it would be tedious, as well as harrowing, to attempt to tell it in any detail. The battle may be said to have begun in January, 1955, when a Greek caique was captured while unloading explosives on the coast of Cyprus. The resultant legal proceedings were accompanied by riotious disorders, and on April 1st a series of explosions, causing E60,000 worth of damage, heralded the start of a widespread campaign of violence, cruelty and murder under the direction of Grivas.
In this campaign Grivas has had one objective and one only: Enosis, or Union with Greece. For that he lives, and for that he is prepared to die--and to make others die. From this single-mindedness it follows that his enemies are all people--Cypriot, Turkish or British--who do anything to weaken the cause of Enosis or to strengthen the hands of its opponents. He considers that they are "traitors" and deserve to die. Into this capacious net are drawn the British authorities and all Greek Cypriots who cooperate with them--the Cypriot policeman, the Cypriot civil servant, the mukhtar, or village headman, the woman who wears a dress made of British material or who otherwise infringes the boycott of British goods which he has ordered, the Cypriot who gives evidence about a terrorist attack of which he had been a witness; and, of course, all Turkish Cypriots. Other Greek Cypriots, not Britons or Turks, are EOKA's most numerous victims. Of the total fatal casualties which occurred up to the middle of this year--about 320--over half involved Greek Cypriots, one third were British and the remainder Turks. The killings are done largely, but not exclusively, by well organised and well-disciplined murder gangs; not exclusively by them, for a 15 or 16 year old recruit from a youth organisation may find himself presented with a gun and told to go out and shoot a fellow Cypriot or a British soldier--any British soldier. It is an order that he may well fear to disobey. Personal papers of Grivas which have been captured by the British authorities contain numerous references to the need for absolute discipline among the terrorists and threats of execution for those who fail. There is, for instance, the following oath taken by a young initiate before joining EOKA:
"I will obey the orders of my superiors in whatsoever difficult, hard and risky job I am to undertake.
I am ready to sacrifice my life for the sake of the freedom of my country.
Serving in the organisation I have to obey all orders and set aside any obstacles.
The people who do not obey the aforesaid rules will be executed, and also those who divulge the secrets of the organisation or who fail to obey the orders. Any member who feels that he is afraid or a coward should not take the oath."
The demoralisation of Cypriot youth may well prove to be the greatest of all the crimes perpetrated by EOKA and its sponsors. Apart from deeds of outright physical violence, the tactics pursued have caused widespread compulsory strikes of school pupils, attacks on and ridicule of school teachers, destruction of discipline, and such chaos throughout primary and secondary schools that a generation of Cypriot youth have largely lost their education. They have been trained in rebellion and violence. Youths and girls have been taught that it is noble to take part in murder. Children have been urged to betray their own parents and to defy authority to such a degree that on occasion even the Archbishop has been unable to control them. But this does not worry Grivas. In one of his leaflets, addressed to schoolchildren, he has written: "The cause is more sacred than your teacher, your father or your mother."
A word must be said about the relations of Grivas with the left-wing parties in Cyprus. It is a habit of some people to attribute practically all political unrest, wherever it occurs, to the machinations of Communists. This is certainly not true of Cyprus. Admittedly Russia has an interest in fomenting dissension among Western countries, and to that extent Communism may be a complicating and reinforcing factor; but it is definitely not the prime cause of our difficulties. That is simply and solely the demand of Greek Cypriots for union with Greece. Grivas himself is a right-wing extremist and regards Communists as his natural enemies. The Communist party known as AKEL, which stands for Reform Party of the Working People, is the best disciplined and most efficient political party in Cyprus, and the Communist-controlled trade union (the Pancyprian Federation of Labour) is the most effective labour organisation in the island. The members of the party and the trade union may or may not be believers in Enosia. There is no reason why they should not be, for probably very few of them consciously adhere to any Communist philosophy, their attachment to the union being founded on a feeling that Communist methods are the best way of fighting their industrial battle and are more likely to achieve their objects than gentler methods. It would indeed be more accurate and more realistic to speak of these organisations as left-wing, rather than as Communist. The rift between Grivas and members of the extreme left-wing parties is deep-seated. There are frequent clashes between right- and left-wing supporters, in the course of which a number of people on both sides have been killed. It remains true, however, that the great majority of the Greek Cypriots killed or injured or intimidated by EOKA have been condemned, not as leftwingers but as "traitors to Enosis".
An important factor in the developments of recent years in Cyprus has been the open and explicit emergence, first of all of the Greek and later of the Turkish government as active participants in the negotiations. Greece had long toyed with the idea and had always been in the background of Cypriot agitation; but the Greek government had, in the words of the Greek Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in 1952, felt "obliged to show great care so as not to jeopardise the traditional friendship which exists between Greece and Great Britain." These were fair words but it was often difficult to reconcile them with, for instance, the scurrilous abuse of the British which flowed out over the government-controlled Athens radio. It can therefore have been no great surprise to Britain when, in 1953, it was announced that there had been formed in Athens an official Panhellenic Committee for the Union of Greece and Cyprus. Henceforth Enosis became avowedly part of Greek government policy.
It was some years later before Turkey came directly and actively into the picture. Ever since Cyprus had been assigned to Britain in 1878 Turkey had been quite happy with the arrangement. By and large, at any rate in more recent years, Turkish and Greek Cypriots had lived reasonably contentedly together in the island but, in the Turkish view, only because Britain held the balance between the two communities. Moreover, Cyprus, only 43 miles from the coast of Turkey, was in the nature of what we have come to know in another area as an off-shore island. It could be used as a base from which to dominate some of Turkey's main shipping routes and even to launch an attack on the mainland. For all these reasons Turkey became more and more concerned over any threat of union of Cyprus with Greece. Though the two countries are technically friendly nations and are both members of NATO, there is between them, as everyone knows, a long history of enmity and strife, attended frequently by revolting atrocities. Not unnaturally the Turkish government was fearful, or at least unconfident, about the welfare of Turkish Cypriots if Cyprus were' to come under Greek administration. It was therefore scarcely a matter of surprise that in the course of the year 1957 the Turkish government came to take the view that, in the light of EOKA terrorism and the deterioration in the relations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, it would no longer be possible for them to live together peacefully, and that partition in some form or other was therefore essential. This has since been the demand both of the Turkish government and of the political leaders of the Turkish population in Cyprus.
It would be tedious to tell in detail the story of all Britain's efforts made through the years to bring about a settlement in Cyprus. Between 1954 and the middle of 1958 we put forward three sets of proposals which provided for a liberal and mainly self-governing constitution but which, for the reasons I have given, did not include the right of immediate self-determination or union with Greece. All of these were rejected out of hand. We convened a tripartite conference of Foreign Ministers of Greece, Turkey and Britain in London in September, 1955, but it speedily became apparent that no useful result could be achieved and the conference had to be suspended. The Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation offered his good offices in 1957; this was accepted by Britain and Turkey but refused by Greece.
All these things took place against a background of violence and intimidation, disrupting normal life in Cyprus and necessitating in return constant curfews, searches and other security measures on our part. In March, 1956, the Governor of Cyprus, having become convinced beyond all reasonable doubt of the deep implication of Archbishop Makarios in the campaign of violence and terrorism, reluctantly decided that he must be deported. He and three other persons closely involved were taken to the Seychelles, where they remained until they were released and went to Athens in March, 1957. They were not allowed to return to Cyprus, though there is little doubt that if violence had ceased they would have been permitted to go back.
Towards the end of 1957 the arrival of a new Governor, Sir Hugh Foot, to succeed Field Marshal Sir John Harding, as he then was, offered, it was hoped, a new opportunity of improving conditions in Cyprus. The Governor mingled freely with the people and he invited Colonel Grivas to meet him alone and unarmed. This offer was denounced as another Imperialist trick. Various relaxations were made in the security regulations, the object always being "to achieve a balance between the necessity for . . . security of life and property and the desire to abandon extraordinary powers, reluctantly taken and sparingly used." But there was no response; the life of Cyprus continued to be dominated by terrorism and intimidation.
Nevertheless the British government made another major effort to bring about a settlement. The new plan announced by Mr. Macmillan in the House of Commons on 19th June, 1958, provided for a seven year period of partnership of the three governments (Greek, Turkish and British) and the two Cypriot communities, without prejudice to the island's ultimate status. Eventual complete self-determination was neither accepted nor rejected; it would have to be decided at the end of the seven year period. The plan differed also in other important respects from previous proposals; for example, in the association of the Greek and Turkish governments in the administration of the island (each country was to have a representative in Cyprus); in the provision of separate Houses of Representatives for the Greek and Turkish communities; and in offering to share the sovereignty of the island with Britain's Greek and Turkish allies.
The scheme received a tepid reception from the Greek government. However, Mr. Karamanlis, the Greek Prime Minister, went so far as to suggest that "a proposal from the British government for a temporary solution on the basis of democratic self-government under British sovereignty, with postponement of the main issue (Enosis) until a more suitable time" might be considered. This could be a subject of discussion between the British government and the Cypriot people; and Greece would be prepared to play a mediatory role. He thought that a meeting between the two Prime Ministers would be useful in principle; but that a tri-partite meeting (with Turkey) could not have constructive results under present conditions. Turkey, on the other hand, favoured a tri-partite conference at which the new British plan could be used "not as a basis but as a document".
The hint contained in the Greek government's comment was acted upon and Mr. Macmillan flew to Athens and afterwards, to the ill-concealed annoyance of the Greeks, to Ankara. At the same time Sir Hugh Foot came from Cyprus to Athens in order to have talks with Archbishop Makarios. Soon after Mr. Macmillan's return the matter was further considered in the light of the Greek and Turkish views and on 15th August it was announced that the government proposed to proceed with its plan, with certain amendments, particularly in relation to the status and functions of the proposed Greek and Turkish government representatives. The Greek reactions were immediate and angry. Archbishop Makarios issued a long statement denouncing the plan as dishonest and insincere and refusing absolutely to cooperate in its implementation. Terrorist activities, which had been in abeyance in Cyprus, were renewed with added intensity, and security countermeasures had perforce to be employed.
So matters stood until the last week of September. In that week Archbishop Makarios suddenly announced that he was willing to forgo Enosis, at least for the time being. He would be prepared to accept a seven year period of self-government, with foreign policy and defence left in British hands, and with a promise of independence at the end of that period. Independence might be either within the Commonwealth or outside it; but no change would be made in the independent status of Cyprus, by union with Greece, by partition, or in any other way, without the approval of the United Nations. This dramatic renunciation of his demand for immediate Enosis had indubitably been wrung from the Archbishop by the imminent threat of separate Turkish participation in the government of Cyprus. Turkish rule has left bitter memories and the possibility of Turkish administration of even a part of the island is anathema to the Greek Cypriots and to the Greek Orthodox Church. Makarios undertook that full safeguards would be provided for the Turkish population but further than that he would not go.
The Turks, not unnaturally, felt uncertain about the nature and scope of the. promised safeguards and generally viewed the Makarios proposals with suspicion; and the British government, after full consideration of the situation created by Makarios' new move, decided not to abandon its intention of putting its own interim plans into execution, in spite of the refusal of the Greek Cypriots to cooperate. In the hope of preventing a complete impasse M. Spaak, the Secretary General of N.A.T.O., attempted to mediate. A preliminary round table conference of Greeks, Turks and British was under N.A.T.O. auspices. Discussion was protracted and difficult, and 1 see from this morning's paper that the Greeks have now refused to continue the meetings unless they are given guarantees that the negotiations will be "constructive". Failing such guarantees they propose to take the matter, for I believe the fourth time to the United Nations. During the weeks that have elapsed since M. Spaak took action, Cyprus has been the scene of intensified violence (including the murder of a soldier's wife) and widespread intimidation of the Greek Cypriot population. More extensive security measures have had to be employed, including recently an unprecedented round-up of 650 Cypriot suspects. These measures have been taken with reluctance and with the minimum use of force. But it would be unrealistic to pretend that such operations against actual and potential terrorists could possibly be carried out without same injuries and even fatalities among the persons against whom they are directed, many of whom may be expected to be desperate and ruthless in resisting arrest. Of course, the hostile and inspired propaganda which ignores or plays down the inhumanity of the terrorists exults in magnifying any severity to which our own soldiers, even in self-defence, may be compelled to resort.
It is a tragic story, and to all who have known the charm of Cyprus it is rendered all the more poignant by the affection which they feel for that lovely island and which, in spite of distress and scurrilous abuse, many Cypriots still feel for England. But the problem is not hopeless. Britain has made it abundantly clear that her plan is not sacrosanct--that there is room for negotiation and modification and adjustment. I take some comfort from a remark which was once made to me by a very wise British civil servant who was engaged at the time in some rather ticklish negotiations with another member of the Commonwealth. (In case you are anxious, let me say it was not Canada.) We seemed to be up against a blank wall and most of us could see no possibility of progress or agreement--a circumstance which seemed to cause him no concern whatever. When I commented on this he said "One must remember that in negotiations nothing is ever quite as bad, or quite as good, as it appears to be." It proved so in that case; a way was found. So may it be in the case of Cyprus.
One may be tempted sometimes to wonder whether Britain, faced by the agonising and seemingly intractable problem of Cyprus, would not be justified in simply forsaking the island and leaving its people to work out their own salvation. There are, I think, at least two powerful reasons why this cannot be done. There is first of all the strategic importance of Cyprus both to Britain and to NA.T.O. Secondly, there is the strong possibility that, with feelings inflamed as they are now, our departure from the island would quickly be followed by civil war between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, with Greece and Turkey intervening and precipitating perhaps a general war which could scarcely be contained in that small corner of the Mediterranean Sea. These are grave and heavy responsibilities--responsibilities to the free world and to the people of Cyprus, Greeks and Turks alike, with whose welfare we were charged well-nigh a century ago. We cannot lightly shelve the task. We must, and we shall, continue unremittingly to search for, and seek to secure acceptance of, a fair and just solution, hoping and believing that, as someone has said in a much wider context, "there will be light at the end, and the equation will come out at last".
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. J. R. W. Wilby.