Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Written evidence submitted by Brigadier Francis Henn CBE

  I enclose a Memorandum for the information of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It relates to a fundamental aspect that has long been an obstacle to progress towards a settlement in Cyprus, but which too often has been overlooked. I am not a member of, or associated with, any organisation connected with Cyprus, Greece or Turkey, and the views expressed are entirely my own. Throughout the two years that culminated in Turkey's military intervention in 1974 I was serving in the United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) as its Chief of Staff and Commander of its British Contingent. I have followed the Cyprus story closely ever since and have visited the island several times for lecture or research purposes, most recently in 2002, when the Cyprus government wished to discuss with me aspects of the 1974 events which had a bearing on its impending application to join the European Union.

  During 1980-83 I served as a Special Adviser on Cyprus to your Committee, but its inquiry on Cyprus was conducted in desultory fashion, other more important matters intervening, and was eventually shelved for the reasons given in paragraph five of the Committee's Third Report (Session 1986-87). (I was not appointed to advise the successor Committee, which produced that Report.)

  A book of mine entitled "A Business Of Some Heat" (Othello, 1, 2) is to be published this autumn. With a Foreword by Sir Brian Urquhart, former UN Under-Secretary General for Special Political Affairs, it is a generally factual (and, I believe, impartial) account of events during the period of my service with UNFICYP. Although mainly concerned with the latter's activities, it also explains the complexities of the Cyprus problem and its international dimensions.



  For long the Cyprus problem has been seen by those seeking a settlement as being primarily an intercommunal matter. While the intercommunal dimension is a highly important ingredient, the fundamental factor that lies at the heart of the problem today is no different from that which has been the island's misfortune throughout history, namely its geo-strategic importance, especially for Turkey. In 1974 the Turks intervened militarily ostensibly to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, but there was for them an overriding undeclared national interest— the prevention of enosis and the threat to Turkey's own security that this would have created. Although enosis is no longer an issue, the determination of the Turks, especially the military, to preserve their own security vis-a"-vis Cyprus is no less today.

  The reason is clear: in the west Greece's Aegean Islands press close and instabilities to the north and east (the nature of which may have varied over the years) cause Turkey genuine anxiety. Secure access to its southern ports and airfields, all of which are readily dominated from Cyprus, is thus a vital strategic interest. For decades the Turks have made clear the importance of the island in this context (see Annex). There can be no doubt that it has been a long-standing Turkish objective to ensure that Cyprus does not succumb to any potentially hostile power, especially the traditional enemy Greece (common membership of NATO has never diminished the Turks' concern on this account). Securing physical control of the island's north, citing the protection of the Turkish Cypriot community as justification, has been seen as the surest guarantee to this end. In 1964 and again in 1967 the Turks were thwarted by external pressures from achieving this objective, but in 1974, when the ideal opportunity presented itself, they did not let it slip.

  Most impartial observers agree that the failure of the numerous initiatives and negotiations of the past thirty years to achieve an intercommunal settlement can be attributed in large measure to the intransigence of the Turkish Cypriots led by Rauf Denktashh, and that in this respect the tune has been called by Ankara, ever watchful to ensure that the fruits of its 1974 intervention are not forfeited. Since the Annan Plan posed no such risk (and served, incidentally, to bolster Turkey's prospects for accession to the European Union), it is little surprise that Turkish Cypriots were persuaded to vote for it in the referendum held on 24 April 2004.


  The Greek Cypriots' criticisms, which to the intense frustration of the UN Secretary General led to their rejection of the version of his Plan put to them in that referendum, have been set out in a letter dated 7 June 2004 from President Papadopoulos to Kofi Annan. With respect to defence and security aspects of the Plan, Papadopoulos states that particular Greek Cypriot concern is centred on proposals for The permanent stationing of Turkish military forces in Cyprus, even after Turkey's eventual accession to the European Union, and the expansion of the guarantee powers' rights emanating from the Treaty of Guarantee through the inclusion of an additional protocol. These proposals, the ostensible purpose of which is to provide security for the Turkish Cypriots, coincidentally—and no less importantly from its point of view—also serve Turkey's own strategic interest.

  The Greek Cypriots, on the other hand, see these aspects of the Plan as being inconsistent with the sovereign independence of the Republic of Cyprus (whether or not united as a future federal State) and prejudicial to their own security. But, given the power of the military voice in Ankara, it is not likely that Turkey can easily be induced to give ground on these two important aspects, even if in its desire to join the EU the present Turkish government might be inclined to do so. If progress is to be made on the many other contentious issues, a way needs to be devised to resolve this fundamental conflict of interests to the reasonable satisfaction of both sides. This will necessitate concessions by and compensations for both Turkey and the Greek Cypriots.


  Turkey's long military occupation of the whole of northern Cyprus, achieved by overwhelming force of arms, and its support for the otherwise unrecognised "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" are damaging to its international reputation and adversely affect its ambition to accede to the EU. However, Turkey's own security cannot be said to require military control of such an extensive area—a base on the island that enjoys international recognition and legitimacy should suffice. Various possibilities for such a base might be considered: for example, a long lease might be allowed to the UN, EU or NATO specifically for use by Turkey; alternatively, a lease might be granted to Turkey itself, or, in the last resort, a base might be ceded to Turkey as sovereign territory. (The suggestion is not new—it was an important feature of the Acheson Plan proposed by the US in 1964, but rejected then by Makarios in very different circumstances from those that prevail today, when Turkish forces are already ensconced in strength over the whole of northern Cyprus.)

  Such a proposal could be expected to satisfy Turkey's national interest and provide reassurance for the Turkish Cypriots, but in the absence of substantial compensating measures it would be certain to encounter strong Greek Cypriot opposition. It is here that Britain could make a crucial contribution. Its offer, in the event of the Annan Plan being accepted by both communities, to surrender to the Republic of Cyprus substantial parts of its Sovereign Base Areas is clear demonstration that these are no longer essential for Britain's own defence purposes. They might now be offered to the Greek Cypriots as a quid pro quo for a Turkish base in north Cyprus (centred, perhaps, on the airfield at Lefkoniko with rights of access to the ports of Famagusta and Kyrenia). Agreement for this would allow Turkish troops to be withdrawn from a large area of the island's north, foster closer relations between the two communities, and create a climate more conducive to progress on other issues.


  However, such a proposal is unlikely to be sufficient for it to be accepted by the Greek Cypriots, unless accompanied by parallel action on the question of guarantees—the second concern expressed by Papadopoulos in his letter to Kofi Annan. The 1960 Treaty of Guarantee (which stipulates that "the sole aim" of any action should be to re-establish "the state of affairs created by the current Treaty"), although cited by Turkey in justification for its military intervention in 1974, was in the view of others by then out-dated. (In evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Cyprus (Session 1975-76), Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, Foreign Secretary at the time, said that in practical political terms Britain had no right under the Treaty to intervene "because the [Cyprus] Constitution had not been working since the early 1960s".) The Turks, nonetheless, insist on the continuing validity of the Treaty. Given the manner in which they interpreted its terms in 1974, it is not surprising that in his letter Papadopoulos refers to this as "an issue of paramount gravity for our side", and protests that the Greek Cypriot proposal for adoption of "a triggering-off mechanism for exercise of the right of intervention under the Treaty" had not been addressed by the UN Secretary General or his Special Representative.

  The need for an external guarantee for the independence and territorial integrity of a future united Republic of Cyprus is clear enough, but authority to invoke its provisions should be vested in an international body such as the UN, EU, or NATO in such a way as not to permit any one nation to act unilaterally. While the Turks must be expected to resist any proposal for the repeal of the Treaty of Guarantee (which, as they see it, entitles them to such action), their ambition for membership of the EU offers a lever to this end, for it can be argued that it would be inappropriate for any one member to have a unilateral right of intervention in another. Taken together with surrender of parts of the British SBAs to the Greek side in compensation for the grant to Turkey of a base in northern Cyprus, a new form guarantee of this nature might overcome the current impasse on defence and security aspects of the Annan Plan.


  Few of the contingencies, for which the SBAs were originally required, now exist, but the importance to Britain (and the west) of the strategic airfield at Akrotiri and of monitoring facilities elsewhere remains; Britain should refrain from any action which might prejudice the unfettered continuing operation of these. For long there have been calls by some Greek Cypriots (as earlier by the old Soviet Union) for Britain to surrender its bases and withdraw all its forces from the island. Any policy which tends to favour the Turkish side at the expense of the Greek side, such as recognising the administration in the island's north or continuing to support an un-modified Annan Plan, can be expected to generate more vociferous anti-British agitation among Greek Cypriots and adversely affect British interests on the island generally.

  Given its relationship with the parties, its permanent membership of the Security Council, and its membership of the EU and NATO, Britain is uniquely well-placed to lend influential support for the creation of a bi-zonal and bi-communal united Republic of Cyprus and should continue to do so, taking care not to antagonise any of the parties while encouraging the (frustrated) UN Secretary General not to lessen his effort to achieve a settlement acceptable to all on the basis of a modified Annan Plan.

  The present situation in Cyprus is relatively stable (although less than satisfactory for the Turkish Cypriots who are denied the benefits of accession to the EU) but, so long as the island's complex problems remain unresolved, a potential threat to peace and security in the region will remain. President Papadopoulos has denied that in rejecting the Annan Plan his community has thereby voted against re-unification, declaring, rather, that Greek Cypriots remain determined to strive for achievement of a united federal State. To this end he has offered a number of immediate measures designed to improve the economic lot of the Turkish Cypriots pending a settlement. Although the latter consider the attached conditions to be unacceptable, the measures constitute a constructive first step towards resumption of meaningful intercommunal negotiations on the many other issues. They deserve British support.

August 2004



  Speaking in London in 1955, the then Turkish Prime Minister Zorlu said:

    All these southwestern ports are under the cover of Cyprus. Whoever controls this island is in the position to control these Turkish ports. if the Power that controls this island is also in control of the western [Aegean Islands, it will effectively have surrounded Turkey. 1

  These words were echoed in 1964 by Foreign Minister Erkin, also speaking in London. Stressing the strategic importance of Cyprus, which (he argued) should be seen geographically as a continuation of the Anatolian peninsula, he concluded:

    All these considerations clearly demonstrate that Cyprus has vital importance to Turkey, not merely because of the existence of the Turkish community in Cyprus, but also on account of its geo-strategic bearing. 2

  Ten years later a prominent Turkish academic, commenting on his country's 1974 military action, wrote:

    The geo-political situation of Turkey and the outlook of the countries encircling her in the north are such as to force Turkey to keep secure her southern defences. Consequently Cyprus maintains vital importance . . . as far as Turkey is concerned. 3

  Describing a meeting of the National Security Council in Ankara on 16 July 1974 (the day after the coup d'etat in Cyprus) an exceptionally well-informed Turkish journalist has written:

    Ecevit [Turkish Prime Minister] once more stressed the serious implications of the Sampson coup for the security of Turkey. He reviewed the situation in the Aegean. He pointed out that it would now be a simple matter for the Greeks to proclaim enosis and thus create a Hellenic island base from which, for the first time, central and southeastern Turkey would come within range of the Greek airforce bombers. Finally, he expressed concern that oppression and even massacres of Turkish Cypriots might follow the coup. 4

  (This leaves little doubt as to the priorities governing Turkey's military action in 1974.)

  In 1985 a British journalist reported:

    Mr Rauf Denktashh, the Turkish leader, has told the UN Secretary General, Mr Perez de Cuellar, that he expects to play host indefinitely to several thousand mainland Turkish troops after a peace treaty is signed. He has indicated that he has the support of Ankara for this firm stand. 5

  There have been many Turkish statements in similar vein since. For example, Turkey's Chief of Staff, General Karadayi, was quoted in 1997 as saying:

    The Turkish presence in Cyprus will live forever under the guarantee of the Turkish aimed forces. 6


  1.  Haluk Bayulken: "The Cyprus Question", Dis Politika, Ankara, February 1975.

  2.  Criton G.Tornaritis: "Cyprus and Constitutional and Other Legal Problems", Daily Bulletin, Nicosia, 23 March 1984.

  3.  Professor Suat Bilge: "The Cyprus Conflict and Turkey", Turkey's Foreign Policy in Transition, ed. Kemal H.Karpat, E.J.Brill, Leiden, 1975.

  4.  M.A.Birand: 30 Hot Days, Rustem & Brother, Nicosia.

  5.  John Torode: "Turkish Cypriots to Keep Island Troops"', The Guardian, London, 23 May 1985.

  6.   The Daily Telegraph, London, 14 January 1997.

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