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1974: The second Turkish invasion and the betrayal of Cyprus

14 August marked the passage of 43 years since Turkey launched the second of its two invasions of the Republic of Cyprus.

In contrast to the position when Turkey launched its first invasion on 20 July 1974, five days after an unlawful coup in Nicosia, Turkey had no pretext to justify its second invasion and the forcible transfers, deportations and other acts of ethnic cleansing which followed; both the junta in Athens and its short-lived puppet regime in Nicosia had both fallen by 23 July 1974, three weeks earlier.

Cyy 3cOn 14 August 1974, Turkey was able to launch its second invasion – and proceed to ethnically cleanse 36 per cent of the territory and 57 per cent of the coastline of the Republic of Cyprus – in the absence of any British military action.

In other words, the United Kingdom did not uphold its moral and legal duty, under Article II of the Treaty of Guarantee 1960, to ‘recognise and guarantee the independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Cyprus’.

Indeed, the available evidence suggests that the United Kingdom betrayed the Republic of Cyprus and its people. Some of the evidence lies, for instance, in the declassified Foreign and Commonwealth Office ‘Record’ of an extraordinary telephone conversation conducted at 1.45pm on 14 August 1974 by James Callaghan MP, the then Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary of the United Kingdom, with Dr Henry Kissinger, the then US Secretary of State. To quote from this official British ‘Record’ (which shows that, as the second invasion was unfolding, the United Kingdom was directing the United States, rather than the other way round):

“Foreign Secretary [Callaghan]: Henry, if I can put the position in a nutshell, I think it comes to this: that the Turks have got a good case. In my view this can now only be resolved by the creation of a zone. A zone in which they will have autonomy within a federal republic. This could be got by negotiation but in the temper of today, no one can begin to get anything like this. And so you have a military solution for the time being, in which they will police their own boundary. You’ll have a great exchange of population with the Greeks moving out and we’ll then just let diplomacy take over when we see the opportunity once more, to see if we can get a peaceful solution in the island. Now as regards Greece and Turkey, it is Greece who will need massaging because the Turks are too jingoistic, indeed too close to Hitler for my liking. All right?”

“Dr Kissinger: I completely agree with you, Jim. And the tragedy is that it could have worked out that way through diplomacy…”

“Foreign Secretary [Callaghan]: I believe you. Well, goodbye old man and all the best to you with your pre-occupations…”

Source: PREM 16/20, National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew Gardens, Surrey, as quoted in Klearchos A. Kyriakides, The Search for Security via Answers to Questions on Law, Criminal Justice and Impunity, Agora Dialogue, 17 June 2017, page 5.

All these decades later, Turkey and those states that facilitated Ankara’s invasions, occupation and ethnic cleansing of the northern area of the Republic of Cyprus must be held to account. They should not be accorded impunity for the injustices outlined above. Yet, that is what the so-called ‘peace process’ appears designed to achieve.

Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation that campaigns for a Cyprus free from Turkish occupation and a unitary Cypriot state without segregation along ethnic and religious lines.

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