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‘Democracies Die Behind Closed Doors’:

The chilling parallels between the ‘Munich Conference’ and the ‘Conference on Cyprus’

According to the celebrated American judge, Damon J. Keith, ‘democracies die behind closed doors’.  (Source: Detroit Free Press v Ashcroft, 303 F. 3d 681, Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit, 2002.)

Judge Keith articulated his memorable dictum as a means of justifying the cherished principle of open justice. Nevertheless, his dictum is likewise capable of being applied in other contexts as well.

These include secret ‘conferences’ and any clandestine meetings conducted by politicians or diplomats, particularly in circumstances where the destiny of an existing sovereign state may be at stake.

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Source of image: Website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington D.C., at

With a ‘Conference on Cyprus’ due to ‘reconvene’ in secret at Crans Montana near Geneva on 28 June 2017, this article shines a spotlight on to what appear to be the chilling parallels between that ‘Conference’ and the ‘Munich Conference’ which resulted in the Munich Agreement of 29 September 1938.

The Munich Agreement of 29 September 1938

The ill-fated Munich Agreement and the ‘Munich Conference’ which preceded it both serve as salutary warnings from history.  Indeed, both underline why Judge Keith was absolutely right to articulate his aforementioned dictum.

The Munich Agreement was a shabby deal reached in secret on 29 September 1938 by four states: Germany; the United Kingdom; France; and Italy.  They reached their deal at the close of what was subsequently described by Neville Chamberlain MP, the then British Prime Minister, as a ‘Conference’.  (Source: Hansard, House of Commons Debates, 3 October 1938, Column 47.)

The ‘Munich Conference’, as it has come to be known, was convened by Adolf Hitler.  His objective in doing so was self-evident.  Hitler sought to lay down his terms and to secure an agreement enabling Germany to further its neo-imperial agenda via the exploitation of a minority of ethnic Germans inhabiting the Sudetenland and other parts of Czechoslovakia.  Astonishingly enough, Hitler did not invite Czechoslovakia to participate in the ‘Munich Conference’.  No less astonishingly, this did not prevent the United Kingdom, France or Italy from accepting Hitler’s invitation to attend the ‘Munich Conference’.

As a consequence, the destiny of Czechoslovakia was determined behind closed doors by four foreign powers.  These included one, Germany, with a proven track record of misusing armed force on the continent of Europe.  As illustrated by the German invasion of Belgium on 4 August 1914, this track record predated the various German invasions instigated by Adolf Hitler after his rise to power in 1933.

Is the Munich Agreement of any relevance to the so-called ‘Cyprus problem’?

As indicated above, the Munich Agreement of 29 September 1938 was the chief outcome of the ‘Munich Conference’.  Alarmingly enough, the Munich Agreement embodies certain concepts, words and expressions which have come to form part of the lexicon of the so-called ‘Cyprus problem’.  It suffices to cite just four examples.

Firstly, Clause (5) of the Munich Agreement speaks of ‘the territories in which a plebiscite [i.e. a referendum] is to be held’.  In other words, the Munich Agreement envisaged certain people in certain places lending their retrospective approval to a non-negotiable fait accompli.

For this reason, Clause (5) of the Munich Agreement invites disquieting comparisons with the two ‘separate simultaneous referenda’ held in the territory of the Republic of Cyprus on 24 April 2004.  There, ‘referenda’ were held in dubious circumstances in order to achieve a number of unspoken and, indeed, unethical aims.  These included the securing of two separate forms of popular approval in favour of the de facto territorial and demographic realities manufactured after Turkey’s use of raw violence during two invasions of the Republic of Cyprus on 20 July and 14 August 1974.

To the disappointment of the advocates of the aforementioned aims, including the likes of Tony Blair, the then British Prime Minister, a ‘double yes’ did not arise when the ‘separate simultaneous referenda’ were held on 24 April 2004.  However, pursuant to the ‘Joint Declaration’ of 11 February 2014, fresh ‘separate simultaneous referenda’ are expected to be held in the event of any ‘agreement’ reached at the ‘Conference on Cyprus’ or, for that matter, elsewhere.

Secondly, Clause (6) of the Munich Agreement refers to ‘zones’.  This is interesting, particularly in view of a declassified British document entitled ‘A Memorandum on Possible Schemes of Partition’.  This document, dated 10 November 1956, was composed by the Secretariat of the British Colonial Government of what was then the Crown Colony of Cyprus.  This envisaged the possibility that Cyprus could be subjected to a geographical partition into ‘two zones, Greek and Turkish’.  The ‘Memorandum’ also envisaged ‘some exchange of population if, as seems necessary, each race is to be numerically predominant in its own zone.’  (Source: CO 926/78, National Archives of the UK.)

Together with other sources, the ‘Memorandum’ confirms that it was the British, not the Turks, who were the initial architects of the crude idea that Cyprus should not only be geographically partitioned on a ‘bi-zonal’ basis but also subjected to a segregationist ‘exchange of population’.  In the short term, however, the United Kingdom did not manage to procure any such outcomes; instead, the ‘bi-communal’ Republic of Cyprus was established on 16 August 1960.

In the fullness of time, however, geographical partition, an ‘exchange of population’ and demographic segregation were all achieved on a de facto basis after the two Turkish invasions of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974.  This despite the various prohibitions laid down in international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international law generally.

More to the point – and here is a crucial parallel between the ‘Munich Conference’ of 29 September 1938 and the ‘Conference on Cyprus’ near Geneva on 28 June 2017 – ‘zones’ lie at the core of ‘bi-zonality’, one of the concepts which will permeate the air in Switzerland on 28 June 2017.  Indeed, to use the phrase embedded in the aforementioned British document, dated 10 November 1956, ‘two zones’ are built into the proposed transformation of the Republic of Cyprus into a ‘bi-communal, bi-zonal federation’ i.e. the primary objective of post-1974 ‘peace-making’.

In this context, it goes without saying that a ‘zone’ is inherently subject to restrictions.  As such, a ‘zone’ is the antithesis of a free area.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Adolf Hitler had no qualms about establishing so many ‘zones’ in so many territories which were invaded or occupied by Germany.  These included the ‘zones’ forcibly created upon the de facto partition of German-occupied France and German-occupied Greece.  These also included the segregated urban zones described as ‘ghettos’.  These were designed to segregate Jews from the remainder of the urban population of various occupied cities, such as Warsaw in Poland.  In due course, segregation proved to be the inhumane prelude to something even more appalling – genocide.

Thirdly, in the grim era before landmark legal instruments such as the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950, Clause (7) of the Munich Agreement of 1938 envisaged ‘the transfer of population’.  Less than 40 years later and notwithstanding the aforementioned legal instruments dating back to 1949 and 1950, more than 180,000 citizens of the Republic of Cyprus became the victims of serious human rights violations and what appear to have been forced evictions, forcible transfers and other grave crimes procured by the armed forces and agents of Turkey.

Accordingly, in the aftermath of the two Turkish invasions of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974, such citizens became the unfortunate victims of a variation of both ‘the transfer of population’ mentioned in the Munich Agreement and the ‘exchange of population’ envisaged by the British ‘Memorandum’ dated 10 November 1956.

(See Klearchos A. Kyriakides,’The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and its relevance to the ‘Conference on Cyprus’ in Geneva on 12 January 2017’, Agora Dialogue, 2 January 2017, at

Fourthly, by means an Annex to the Munich Agreement of 29 September 1938, France and the United Kingdom reiterated a pre-existing ‘offer’ which related ‘to an international guarantee of the new boundaries of the Czechoslovak State against unprovoked aggression’.  In the House of Commons on 3 October 1938, British Prime Minister Chamberlain interpreted this Anglo-French ‘offer’ as a ‘joint guarantee’ and as ‘an essential counterpart’ to the Munich Agreement.  (Source: Hansard, House of Commons Debates, 3 October 1938, Column 44.)

As events were to unfold, the ‘joint’ Anglo-French ‘guarantee’ to Czechoslovakia proved to be worthless when it mattered most – when German troops invaded Czechoslovak territory.  To that extent, the ‘joint guarantee’ may be compared to the British ‘guarantee’ embedded in Article II of the Treaty of Guarantee of 1960.  Under Article II, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom ‘…recognise and guarantee the independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Cyprus …’.

Notwithstanding this solemn British guarantee, the United Kingdom took no military action in defence of the Republic of Cyprus when it mattered most – when junta-ruled Greece engineered a coup in Nicosia on 15 July 1974, when Turkey launched its first invasion of the Republic of Cyprus on 20 July 1974 and when, three weeks after the downfall of both the junta in Athens and its short-lived puppet regime in Nicosia, Turkey mounted its second invasion on 14 August 1974.

Worse still, the United Kingdom responded to the two Turkish invasions by lying at the forefront of the post-invasion diplomatic manoeuvres to try to reach a ‘settlement’ regularising the de facto territorial and demographic realities procured by Turkey by force.  In short, some of the actions and the inactions of the British in relation to the Republic of Cyprus have been un-British.

The upshot of the Munich Agreement of 29 September 1938

In the short term, the Munich Agreement resulted in the partition of Czechoslovakia.  (See the map at the top of this article.)  In the long term, however, the Munich Agreement did nothing to stop what occurred on 15 March 1939.  In flagrant breach of the Munich Agreement, Germany invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia.

On the same day as the German invasion, Hitler ‘expressed his determination to take the Czech people under the protection of the German Reich and to guarantee to it an autonomous development of its national life in accordance with its particular characteristics.’  (Hansard, House of Commons Debates, 20 March 1939, Column 888.)  Not for the first time, therefore, Czechoslovakia received a guarantee which was not worth the paper it was written on.

As noted by the International Military Tribunal in its judgment handed down at Nuremberg in 1946, various ‘facts’ confirm that ‘the [German] occupation of Czechoslovakia had been planned in detail long before the Munich Conference.’  Indeed, in the words of the judgment, ‘Hitler never intended to adhere to the Munich Agreement …’.

(Source: Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945 – 1 October 1946, Volume I: Official Documents (International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 1947), pages 196 & 197.)

As events were to transpire, the German invasion of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939 foreshadowed the German invasion of other states.  These included the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, an act of aggression which triggered the Second World War.

On reflection, history has vindicated Clement Attlee, a barrister by profession who, at the time of the Munich Agreement, was serving as the Leader of the Labour Party; Mr Attlee thereafter served as Deputy British Prime Minister from 1940 until 1945 and as British Prime Minister from 1945 until 1951.

On 3 October 1938, four days after the conclusion of the Munich Agreement, Mr Attlee put his finger on what was inherently wrong with the Munich Agreement and with the procedure adopted before it was concluded.  In the process, Mr Attlee identified the dangers associated with entering into any agreement with any party which has tyrannical tendencies and little or no intention of honouring their word:

‘This has not been a victory for reason and humanity. It has been a victory for brute force. At every stage of the proceedings there have been time limits laid down by the owner and ruler of armed force. The terms have not been terms negotiated; they have been terms laid down as ultimata. We have seen to-day a gallant, civilised and democratic people betrayed and handed over to a ruthless despotism. We have seen something more. We have seen the cause of democracy, which is, in our view, the cause of civilisation and humanity, receive a terrible defeat.’

(Source: Hansard, House of Commons Debates, 3 October 1938, Column 51.  For a useful summary of the Munich Agreement and various supporting documents, see Andrea Janes and Daniel Gilfoyle, ‘The Munich Agreement’, website of the National Archives of the United Kingdom, 27 September 2013, at  The texts embodied in the Munich Agreement have been published by the Lillian Goldman Law Library of Yale University at

For the reasons outlined above, the origins, conclusion and consequences of the Munich Agreement should be within the knowledge of every citizen of every small sovereign democratic state.  Indeed, there are some obvious lessons of history to be drawn from the shabbiness of the ‘Munich Conference’, the unfairness of the Munich Agreement and the dismal fate of Czechoslovakia.  In addition to those already highlighted above, at least four other lessons stand out.

Firstly, small European sovereign states are vulnerable whenever secret ‘conferences’ take place behind their backs.  Accordingly, such states should insist on being represented at all ‘conferences’ where their destiny may be affected.

Secondly, small European sovereign states should not trust large neighbouring states which have a proven track record of exploiting the existence of overseas ethnic minorities, invading other countries, failing to honour legal obligations and otherwise breaking the law.

Thirdly, small European sovereign states should be wary of any large neighbouring state which is ruled, or misruled, by a strong political leader who appears to be an egotist, a megalomaniac, a bully, a tyrant or a mixture thereof.

Fourthly, small European sovereign states should treat with extreme caution every offer of a ‘guarantee’ and any attempt by a foreign power to station or deploy forces on their territory.

All of which brings us to the ‘Conference on Cyprus’.

The procedural unfairness of the ‘Conference on Cyprus’

The history of the Munich Agreement is not without relevance to the ‘Conference on Cyprus’.  Some of the reasons have already been pinpointed above.  Even so, there are other reasons too.

To begin with, in common with the secrecy attached to the ‘Munich Conference’ which gave rise to the Munich Agreement, the ‘Conference on Cyprus’ began in secret in Geneva on 12 January 2017.  By the same token, the ‘Conference on Cyprus’ is due to ‘reconvene’ in secret at Crans Montana near Geneva on 28 June 2017.

In addition, in an echo of the ‘Conference’ held in Munich in September 1938, the ‘Conference on Cyprus’ is due to ‘reconvene’ many miles away from the citizens of the sovereign state who will be directly affected by whatever is agreed there.

Furthermore, in common with the ‘Munich Conference’ held on 29 September 1938, the ‘Conference on Cyprus’ is going to take place against a background formed by the use of brute force, an international policy of appeasement in favour of an aggressor and, as symbolised by the international embrace of ‘bi-zonality’, the eclipse of democratic values.

To cap it all, bearing in mind that Czechoslovakia was not represented at the ‘Conference’ held in Munich in September 1938, it does not appear as if the Republic of Cyprus will be officially represented at the ‘Conference on Cyprus’.  This is preposterous and exceptionally dangerous.  Even so, it is the conclusion one reaches if one reads various statements issued by the United Nations (at inter alia and at

These statements suggest that the ‘parties’ to the ‘Conference on Cyprus’ will be five: Greece; Turkey; the United Kingdom; and what the United Nations (and Turkey) refer to as ‘the two sides’ represented by two gentlemen described as ‘the Greek Cypriot leader’ and ‘the Turkish Cypriot leader’.

In this context, it should not go unremarked that the existing Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus neither expressly mentions nor expressly recognises the existence of these two purported offices.  Nor should it go unremarked that the five aforementioned ‘parties’ are the very same ‘parties’ which lay at the heart of the ill-fated Macmillan Plan of 1958 and what the author has described as the ‘Macmillan Doctrine’.

(In relation to the ‘Macmillan Doctrine’, see Klearchos A. Kyriakides, ‘The ‘Intellectual Partition’ of Cyprus, the ‘Macmillan Doctrine’ and the talks held in Geneva in August 1974 and January 2017’, Agora Dialogue, 9 January 2017, at

With the above in mind, the author reaches a sombre conclusion.  It is unconscionable for the destiny of an existing democratic state to be determined by diplomatic horse-trading conducted in secret at a ‘Conference’ held in Switzerland.  It is all the more unconscionable for such a ‘Conference’ to take place without any meaningful transparency and without any official participation by such a state but with the participation of the last two imperial rulers of the Island of Cyprus.  This state of affairs become all the more unconscionable if one recalls that one of these two former rulers, Turkey, has invaded the Island of Cyprus on as many as three occasions – in 1570 and twice in 1974.

Magnifying the ethical deficit, procedural unfairness and unconscionable character of the ‘Conference on Cyprus’ is one other factor.  The ‘Conference’ has not been preceded by any prior consultation exercises to ascertain the views of the citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and of others who may be affected by whatever is on the agenda or whatever is agreed behind closed doors at the ‘Conference’.  This in spite of the undeniable status of the Republic of Cyprus as a democratic Member State of the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the Council of Europe and the European Union.

A call for consultation and transparency

In the submission of the author of this article, President Nicos Anastasiades of the Republic of Cyprus should immediately do what he has hitherto failed to do.  He should instigate free and fair consultation exercises in order to ascertain the views of the citizens and lawful residents of the Republic of Cyprus and, indeed, of the other sovereign states which may be affected by all published or secret documents relating to ‘the Cyprus problem’.

In the absence of any such initiative, the citizens of the Republic of Cyprus – and the European Union of which it forms part – may end up in serious trouble.  Indeed, they may face a variation of the fait accompli which was dumped on the citizens of Czechoslovakia upon the conclusion of the Munich Agreement on 29 September 1938.

Time will tell as to what may unfold in Switzerland on and after 28 June 2017.  In the meantime, the author of this article has already taken steps to try to promote transparency.  The author has done so by composing, submitting and, via this article, publishing the open letter reproduced in the Addendum below.  The author transmitted this open letter by email to President Anastasiades on 21 June 2017, i.e. one week before the scheduled start of the ‘Conference on Cyprus’ at Crans Montana.

The author composed his open letter to President Anastasiades with the primary aim of extracting written replies to several questions of profound importance to the health, safety and security of the Republic of Cyprus, its citizens, its lawful residents and other inhabitants.  These questions are embodied in a recent publication of the author which he has provided to President Anastasiades.  This publication is entitled ‘The Search for Security via Answers to Questions on Law, Criminal Justice and Impunity’.  It was published by Agora Dialogue on 17 June 2017 and it may be viewed at the hyperlink below.

Closing thoughts

On too many occasions since 1923, the fate of the Island of Cyprus has been determined by diplomats and politicians reaching deals behind closed doors in Switzerland and, thus, behind the backs of Cypriots.  A prime example is the Treaty concluded in Lausanne on 24 July 1923 (under which Turkey retrospectively approved the British annexation of Cyprus of 5 November 1914).  Another prime example is the bilateral Agreement reached by Greece and Turkey in Zurich on 11 February 1959 (under which the Republic of Cyprus was established on 16 August 1960).

In common with other examples which might be cited, the two ones mentioned above illustrate an uncomfortable truth.  At crucial moments in history, Cypriots have been treated as if they are nothing other than straws in the wind over which they have absolutely no control.

This article began by referring to the American judicial dictum which warns that ‘democracies die behind closed doors’.  However, this article will end by drawing attention to an American political dictum.  This is the one which was articulated on 27 April 1961 by the late US President John F. Kennedy:

‘The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.’

(Source: President John F. Kennedy, ‘The President and the Press: Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961’, transcript published by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum at

As the future unfolds, the citizens of the Republic of Cyprus should embrace the words of President Kennedy – for their benefit, for the benefit of their sovereign state, for the benefit of the European Union and for the benefit of the democratic world as a whole.



Date: 21 June 2017

Dear President Anastasiades

Re: ‘The Search for Security via Answers to Questions on Law, Criminal Justice and Impunity’

I refer to my letters sent to you by email and dated respectively 5, 10 and 11 January 2017.  I also refer to my subsequent letter, dated 13 January 2017; I sent the last of these letters one day after I returned a telephone call made to me by of one of the members of your staff at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia.

Notwithstanding the passage of more than five months, I have not received the courtesy of any written response from you or from the Presidential Palace in reply to any of my said letters dated 5, 10, 11 and 13 January 2017.  Nor have I received any written response to any of the various questions and requests set out in my said letters.

Note: The author’s said letters dated 5, 10, 11 and 13 January 2017 were composed and transmitted against the background formed by the ‘Conference on Cyprus’ in Geneva on 12 January 2017.  Each letter requested President Anastasiades to provide written replies to various questions.  These questions included those set out in the author’s articles published by Agora Dialogue on 2 January 2017 (with regard to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949) and on 9 January 2017 (with regard to ‘intellectual partition’ and ‘the Macmillan Doctrine’).  These may be found at  

With the fate of the Republic of Cyprus hanging in the balance in view of the forthcoming ‘Conference on Cyprus’ on 28 June 2017, please find at the hyperlink below my latest publication entitled ‘The Search for Security via Answers to Questions on Law, Criminal Justice and Impunity’.  This was published by Agora Dialogue on 17 June 2017.

In view of the profound significance of the questions, warnings and other matters set out in the above publication, I trust, hope and expect that you will provide me with written replies to all of the various questions set out in its main body, together with written replies to the additional questions set out in Appendix 1 (at page 40 onward) and in Appendix 2 (at page 58 onward).

I would particularly appreciate a prompt response to the questions posed at Question 11 (on page 56), Questions 12.1 to 12.6 (on page 57), Questions 13.1 to 13.2 (on page 59), Question 14 (on page 59), Question 18.2 (on page 61), Question 18.3 (on page 61), Questions 31.1 to 31.6 (at pages 65 to 67) and Questions 32.1 to 32.2 (on page 68).

Please be aware that in line with my duties as an academic and as a means of promoting liberal democracy, the rule of law, justice, transparency and the public interest, I intend to publish your replies in my forthcoming publications.  Please also be aware that if I do not receive any written response to this letter by 28 June 2017, I may likewise make that fact known to the public.

Accordingly, I look forward to hearing from you, as a matter of urgency.

In the meantime, I would like to emphasise that the views expressed in my various letters and publications reflect my personal views and not those of any organisation with which I have or have had any association.

Finally, I note that the email account of the Presidential Palace does not appear to have an auto-response mechanism.  Please, therefore, acknowledge receipt of this letter.

Yours sincerely

Klearchos A. Kyriakides

P.S. Since 21 June 2017, the author has sent variations of the above open letter to the Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson MP, Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary of the United Kingdom, as well as Mr Nicos Kotzias, Foreign Minister of Greece.

© Klearchos A. Kyriakides, Larnaca, June 2017. 

Dr Klearchos A. Kyriakides is an Assistant Professor of Law at the Cyprus Campus of the University of Central Lancashire and the Co-ordinator of its programme dedicated to the Rule of Law and the Lessons of History.  That said, all views expressed by the author in his letters, articles and other publications are personal.  

In his private capacity, the author is one of the 119 academics and other persons to have signed an open letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and other prominent personalities, dated 21 June 2017.  A copy of this open letter has been published by Agora Dialogue at    

The author declares an interest as a British citizen with roots in Lysi and Petra, two ethnically-cleansed villages in the Turkish-occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus; on a voluntary unpaid basis, he is also an independent academic consultant of Lobby for Cyprus, a non-party-political NGO based in London which campaigns on behalf of displaced persons from the Turkish-occupied area of the Republic of Cyprus.

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