The Cyprus problem has been the legacy of the British colonial “divide and rule” policy. When the British occupied the island in 1878, ending a 300-year period of Ottoman rule that had begun in 1571, the British preferred to keep the existing structures of education in Cyprus. The Christian Greek Cypriot and the Moslem Turkish Cypriot schools were kept separate from one another. There were two Boards of Education, which ensured that the curriculums of the two communities mirrored those in Greece and Turkey respectively. Thus the nationalism of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots did not originate from the local historical circumstances, but the nationalist ideas were imported to the island through the teachers, books and newspapers that came from Greece and Turkey. This nationalism was encouraged by the British colonial administration and the British tried to disseminate it among the unconscious masses of people in accordance to their traditional policy of ‘divide and rule’.
Following the annexation of Cyprus by the British Empire in 1914, the new Republic of Turkey gave up all of her rights on Cyprus, when the Treaty of Lausanne was signed in 1923. This was confirmed in 1925, when Britain declared Cyprus as a Crown Colony – a status it retained until 1960.
The Communist Party of Cyprus, which was established in 1926, had a political programme of acquiring independence of the island and it was envisaged to become a part of the Socialist Balkan Federation. But after the nationalist rebellion of the Greek Cypriots in 1931, the British banned all the political activities and abolished the Legislative Council, where a Turkish Cypriot member voted together with the Greek Cypriot members some months ago.
During the Second World War, the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots fought and served together, on the side of Great Britain, on various fronts and at home, they organised themselves in the same trade unions against the difficult economic conditions. In 1941, the Progressive Party of the Working People of Cyprus (AKEL) was established and it adopted a policy for the union (enosis) of the island with Greece. This was the biggest obstacle for the cooperation with the Turkish Cypriots, who saw it as a danger to their existence.
In 1955, the Greek Cypriots started a terror campaign against the British colonial administration with the final aim of union of the island with Greece. It was in 1955 that Turkey was made again a party to the Cyprus problem with the London Conference and in 1956 Turkey and the collaborationist Turkish Cypriot leadership adopted the British plans, which aimed at the partition of the island (taksim) as a political solution.
The Turkish Cypriot youth became auxiliary police and commandoes in order to fight against the Greek Cypriot fighters. When the Greek Cypriot underground organization, the EOKA, killed the Turkish Cypriot members of the security forces, the Turkish Cypriot underground organization, the TMT, began to kill the Greek Cypriots in retaliation.
Both organizations were anti-communist oriented and they killed also progressive Cypriots. The TMT killed in 1958 some members of the progressive Turkish Cypriot trade unions and forced the others to resign from the common trade unions, thus destroying the foundations of the common political struggle.
At the end of the conflict, neither the Greek Cypriots’ aim for enosis, nor the Turkish Cypriots’ aim for taksim were materialized, but a limited independence was given to a new partnership Republic of Cyprus, which was established in 1960. The British maintained their sovereignty over the two military bases. Both enosis and taksim policies were banned in the constitution. The guarantors of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the new state were members of the NATO, i.e. Britain, Greece and Turkey and they did not want to see a Cypriot state, free of their influences.
The Turkish Cypriots, having 18% of the island’s population, were given 30% share in the administration of the new Republic of Cyprus. This was not digested by the Greek Cypriots. Archbishop Makarios, the President of the Republic, did not believe in the idea of creating a new Cypriot nation. He told to an Italian newspaper that the London Agreements created a new state, but not a new nation. On the other hand, the Turkish Cypriot leadership did not believe in the new partnership Republic and continued its separatist policies.
Two Turkish Cypriot advocates, Ahmet Gurkan and Ayhan Hikmet, started to publish on the day of independence a weekly newspaper, called “Cumhuriyet” (The Republic), where they waged with other progressive Turkish Cypriots a struggle for the cooperation of the two main communities in Cyprus in the new state. For the first time, the ideas of Cypriotism were being propagated through an oppositional newspaper and later they established a political party. The writers of the “Cumhuriyet” newspaper were supporting the independence of Cyprus, condemning the aim of union of the island with another nation or state and they wanted that Cyprus should belong to its own people, the Cypriots. Unfortunately these staunch supporters of the Republic of Cyprus were killed by the TMT on 23 April 1962, on the pretext that they served the interests of the Greek Cypriots. In 1965, Dervish Ali Kavazoglu, who was a Turkish Cypriot member of the Central Committee of the AKEL, was murdered together with his Greek Cypriot trade-unionist friend. He was against the partitionist policies of the Turkish Cypriot leadership and for the friendship and cooperation of the two communities in Cyprus. These actions of intimidation silenced the democratic opposition within the Turkish Cypriot community.
In the 1960’s, contrary to the processes in Europe, many African and Asian states were formed before the consolidation of a nation. In the case of Cyprus, this fragile partnership lasted only three years. In December 1963, the President of the Republic, Archbishop Makarios tried to change the 13 points of the constitution by abolishing the veto power of the Turkish Cypriot Vice-President Dr. Kuchuk. The inter-communal clashes started and at the beginning of 1964, the Turkish Cypriots withdrew from the state apparatus. This conflict of nationalisms between the pro-union Greek Cypriot leadership and the pro-partition Turkish Cypriot leadership complicated the solution of the ethnic-national question in Cyprus. The unity of action and aim of the Cypriots could not be developed under a common shared aim and this was exploited by the imperialist powers.
On 21 December 1963, inter-communal clashes started and the underground organizations, which had their connections with the foreign powers, became influential again in both communities. The Greek Cypriot leadership was aiming the union of the island with Greece and the Turkish Cypriot leadership was planning to create the conditions for the partition of the island. Now Cyprus problem was once again on the international arena.
We read in a working paper, prepared by Donald A. Wehmeyer, a US legal adviser, on 11 December 1963 that a Treaty of Joint Sovereignty between Greece and Turkey was proposed. Wehmeyer added to his memorandum “Outline of Possible Cyprus Settlement” an important ingredient for a solution, which would be more attractive to Turkey: Cyprus should be divided into provinces. Certain provinces would be administered mainly by Turkish Cypriots and this would create an illusion of partition or federation. (Claude Nicolet, United States Policy Towards Cyprus, 1954-1974: Removing the Greek-Turkish Bone of Contention”, Germany, 2001, p.226 and 229)
Salahi R. Sonyel writes that the British government hit upon an interesting solution, which was the reconstruction of Cyprus as a federal solution:
“Thus on 3 January (1964), Sir Francis Vallat asked H.G.Darwin, a constitutional expert, to produce a paper examining the possibility of dividing Cyprus into a Turkish and a Greek area, which might be formed into a federal state. Even if such a plan was feasible a number of problems were foreseen in its application. Darwin composed a memorandum, in which he suggested a federation of two states, one predominantly of Greek, and the other of Turkish populations. He also suggested an exchange of population in order to realise the Turkish state. The capital of the Turkish state would be Kyrenia.” (Cyprus, The Destruction of a Republic and its Aftermath, British Document 1960-1974, Extended second edition, Ankara 2003, pp.78-78)
In the summer of 1964, Makarios rejected the Acheson Plan, which was discussed in Geneva and which envisaged the union of Cyprus with Greece on the condition that a military base would be given to Turkey in Karpas peninsula. President Makarios was re-elected in 1968 with his new policy of “feasible solution”, instead of enosis.
We read again from Nicolet’s book: “Acheson was fully indulging himself in studying the different proposals that had emerged in Washington throughout spring of 1964. In Brands’ words, “he was ready to devise a plan that would eliminate the Cyprus problem by eliminating Cyprus.” A suggestion he was particularly intrigued with was Don Wehmeyer’s scheme of 24 April, providing enosis with an illusion of partition or federation to the Turks by the establishment of certain provinces to be administered by Turkish Cypriot eparchs, as he cabled to Ball on 8 July. (Nicolet, ibid, p.257)
And this was finally realized with a so-called “controlled intervention” (Nicolet, ibid, p.213) in the summer of 1974, which was decided by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece, Christos Ksantopoulos-Palamas and the Turkish Foreign Minister, Osman Olcay. The two ministers met on 3-4 June 1971 during the NATO ministerial meeting in Lisbon and discussed how to get rid of Makarios and put an end to the independence of the Republic of Cyprus by partitioning the island through “double enosis”.
As the imperialist foreign powers and their tools on the island were against the independent development of the Republic of Cyprus, which followed a non-aligned foreign policy, they were continuously inciting nationalistic and anti-communist feelings among the island’s population. We observe again in this period that a Cypriot consciousness could not be developed to a sufficient degree.
From 1968 until 1974, various rounds of inter-communal negotiations were carried out without signing a final agreement. A de facto situation was created by an aborted coup d’Etat against President Makarios, organized by the fascist Greek junta and its military forces in Cyprus on 15 July 1974. This created an opportunity for Turkey to intervene five days later to the internal affairs of Cyprus. Turkey occupied the 37% of the northern part of the island and on 16 August 1974, on the 16th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Cyprus, the island’s territory was partitioned into two regions, one in the North for the Turkish Cypriots and the other in the South for the Greek Cypriots.
In a declassified Secret Memorandum sent from Helmut Sonnenfeld, Counselor of the US State Department to Secretary Henry Kissinger on 14 August 1974, the directive was the following:
“Assuming the Turks quickly take Famagusta, privately assure Turks, we will get them a solution involving one third of the island, within some kind of federal arrangement.” (Cyprus Weekly, 10 August 2007)
The Greek Cypriots were forced to leave the occupied areas and the Turkish Cypriots living in south of the cease-fire line were transported to the northern part. A bi-regional, ethnically cleansed geographical division was attained de facto. It remained to form a de jure central government for the “federation”, which was the aim of the Turkish government since 1964. The new state of affairs forced the Turkish Cypriots to have closer relationship with Turkey. The Turkish Cypriots became under the direct influence of the mainland Turkish economy, politics and culture.
The Autonomous Turkish Cypriot Administration declared first on 13 February 1975 the “Cyprus Turkish Federated State” and then announced a unilateral declaration of independence on 15 November 1985, under the name “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, on the Turkish occupied territory of the island. This was condemned immediately by a resolution of the Security Council of the UN. Several rounds of inter-communal talks could not bring the two communities together under a bi-communal federal umbrella and the island remains since 1974 partitioned, occupied and colonized. Besides the Turkish Occupation Army of 40,000 troops, there are more than 250,000 Anatolian settlers, living in the northern part of the island and most of them are given the citizenship of the “TRNC”. Northern Cyprus has become a colony of Turkey, where the number of the indigenous Turkish Cypriots are estimated to be around 120,000.
We observed that especially after 1974, two different identities have emerged: One in the north of the divide, possessing the separatist “TRNC” as an expression of Turkish Cypriots’ nationalist identity and another one in the south of the divide, as the sole owner of the Cypriot state, which has distinctively a Greek Cypriot character.
In order to reach at a common goal, there should be common political parties of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, seeking common political aims. The full equality of all the communities living on the island in the fields of politics, economy and culture could only be achieved through common political parties, which will fight for a democratic federal state and against all kinds of separatism and discrimination.
A correct policy for the solution of the problem of nationalities is indispensable and this is the responsibility of the party of the working class, the AKEL. Unless the AKEL review its policy for the Turkish Cypriots and turn to them, no step forwards could be achieved with the existing nationalist policies and this would consolidate the partition of the island.
Another point of view, which should not be overlooked is that the solution of the problem in the concrete conditions of Cyprus depends on one hand on the elimination of the influences of imperialism and neo-colonialism and the military bases and on the other hand to decide how to solve the internal question of nationalities, which I see as the main issue. But the determining factor here is not the difference between the two communities. On the contrary, it has to be stressed that the class struggle in the whole country and in the international arena will be decisive.
It seems that the following fear of the imperialists is still valid, first mentioned in the 1989 International Yearbook of Communist Affairs: “If the north and the south of Cyprus will be united in a future “Federal Cyprus”, the electoral power of the Greek and Turkish communists can win the majority of the votes in any Presidential elections of such an unusual government. But here the crucial problem is not, as the bourgeois circles suggest, “which community will govern the other one”, but “which class will have the power in his hand on the whole of the island.
(Paper read at the Emergency 4th Euro-Mediterranean Workers’ Conference, organized by Balkan Socialist Center “Christian Rakovsky” and the RedMed web network, in Athens-Greece, on 26-28 May 2017)