In July and August 1974, 33 years ago, Turkey committed aggression, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and executed an apartheid policy in Cyprus, with the full complicity of then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. As is well known, Kissinger rejected the advice of Tom Boyatt, his Cyprus Desk Officer, to inform the Greek junta to stop any action against the democratically elected Cypriot Government of President Makarios.
As I have written previously and often, the public record is clear regarding Kissinger’s role in encouraging the Greek junta’s attempted coup against Makarios on July 15, 1974 and the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey on July 20, 1974. After the coup, Kissinger’s actions proved his complicity in the coup and invasion. First, he refused to denounce the coup while all others, Great Britain and the world’s democracies, denounced it. If Kissinger had denounced the coup, the Greek junta would have fallen and the crisis ended. But Kissinger wanted to oust Makarios. Second, Kissinger directed the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to postpone the Monday night, July 15, 1974 emergency U.N. Security Council session on Cyprus, to Friday, July 19, 1974. This gave Turkey time to prepare to invade Cyprus. Third, he actually leaked to the New York Times on Wednesday July 17, 1974 that the State Department was leaning towards Sampson, whom the coup leaders installed as President of Cyprus, over Makarios. This gave the Turks an excuse to invade, as they opposed Sampson.
The invasion and aggression by Turkey against Cyprus was a two-phase operation. The first phase was the initial invasion of July 20, 1974 which occupied 4 percent of Cyprus’ territory. Kissinger refused to denounce the Turkish invasion and declare Turkey in violation of U.S. laws by the illegal use of U.S. arms for aggression. Britain and most other nations denounced the invasion. Again, if Kissinger had denounced the invasion and stopped arms to Turkey immediately, as the law required, the matter would have been resolved in short order, and the second wave of the invasion would not have occurred.
The Greek junta fell on July 23, 1974 and former Prime Minister Constantine Karamanlis was sworn in with a unity government. Democracy was restored in Greece, and elections were held in November 1974, in which Karamanlis won election as prime minister. The coup government of Nicos Sampson in Cyprus also fell on July 23, 1974 and the President of the Cypriot House of Representatives, Glafkos Clerides, was sworn in as Acting President under the constitution. Thus, the legitimate government of Cyprus had been restored eight days after the coup. Britain, Greece and Turkey, the guarantor powers, entered into negotiations in Geneva- following the first U.N. ceasefire on July 22, 1974. Kissinger was kept advised about the negotiations. On August 13, 1974 Turkey issued a 36-hour ultimatum to Greece and Britain to accept Turkey’s proposal, which was tantamount to partition, for six separate Turkish Cypriot “cantons” consisting of 34 percent of the island nation for the 18-percent minority community. That same day, the State Department spokesman, Ambassador Robert Anderson, issued the following statement, cleared by Secretary Kissinger, saying that the Turkish Cypriots needed more security (although there was no evidence of any danger to the Turkish Cypriot community): “The United States position is as follows: We recognize the position of the Turkish community in Cyprus requires considerable improvement and protection. We have supported a greater degree of autonomy for them. The parties are negotiating on one or more Turkish autonomous areas. The avenues of diplomacy have not been exhausted, and therefore the United States would consider a resort to military action unjustified. We have made this clear to all parties.”
That statement was blatant support of Turkey’s outrageous ultimatum and an invitation to use further force. Ambassador Anderson also stated that “the United States has been playing an active role in the negotiations,” and that Kissinger “has been in frequent contact with Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit, including four times by telephone within the past 24 hours.” On August 14, 1974 Turkey unilaterally broke off the negotiations and violated the ceasefire; launched a second more massive aggression without a pretext; occupied more than 37 percent of Cyprus, up from less than five percent occupied as a result of the first attack of July 20, 1974; and forcibly expelled more than 170,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes and properties. Kissinger refused to denounce Turkey’s massive second wave of invasion and aggression. The government of Cyprus filed three applications to the European Commission on Human Rights. The Commission issued its report on the charges made in the first two applications on July 10, 1976. In it, the Commission found Turkey guilty of violating the following articles of the European Convention on Human Rights:
1. Article 2 – by the killing of innocent civilians committed on a substantial scale.
2. Article 3 – by the rape of women of all ages from 12 to 71.
3. Article 3 – by inhuman treatment of prisoners and persons detained.
4. Article 5 – by deprivation of liberty with regard to detainees and missing persons, a continuing violation.
5. Article 8 – by displacement of persons, creating more than 170,000 Greek Cypriot refugees, and by refusing to allow the refugees to return to their homes, a continuing violation.
6. Article 1 of the First Protocol to the Convention – by deprivation of possessions, looting and robbery on an extensive scale.
January 23, 1977 the London Sunday Times published excerpts of the
report and stated, “It amounts to a massive indictment of the Ankara
government for murder, rape and looting by its army in Cyprus during
and after the Turkish invasion of summer 1974.” In the second phase
of its invasion, three weeks after the legitimate government of Cyprus
had been restored, Turkey committed war crimes, ethnic cleansing and
applied an apartheid policy to Cyprus. Members of Turkey’s political
and military leadership at that time should have been tried as war
criminals. But since Turkey was a U.S. ally and a member of NATO, the
U.S. applied a double standard to Turkey and did nothing. In effect,
through Kissinger’s actions and deliberate inactions, the U.S. became
an accomplice to Turkey’s actions and policies, which severely damaged
Robert J. McCloskey, a career Foreign Service officer with the State Department from 1955 to 1981, is best known as press spokesman for the department from 1964 to 1973. In 1973 he was named and confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus. The October 1973 Middle East War shortened his time in Cyprus because the new Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, asked him to return to be on his immediate staff as media and policy adviser. In a tribute to Ambassador McCloskey in the Mediterranean Quarterly (Winter 1997), Nikolaos A. Stavrou and Raymond C. Ewing wrote the following: “In a 1989 oral history interview (Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training, Arlington Hall, Arlington, Virginia), McCloskey recalled two incidents from the summer of 1974, when he offered advice to Secretary Kissinger which, in both cases, was not accepted. First, McCloskey said he urged a tougher U.S. public response to the July Greek junta coup against Cyprus President Archbishop Makarios. Second, he recommended an immediate suspension of deliveries of military equipment to Turkey after Turkey’s second enlarged action in Cyprus in August. That suspension was eventually taken by Congress rather than the Executive Branch. McCloskey felt that these two failures to take quick and decisive action reflected an incoherence in U.S. policy toward Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean, and the effects continued for many years thereafter.”
Kissinger bears the primary responsibility for the Cyprus tragedy of 1974, including all the deaths, rapes, destruction and looting involved. The U.S. has a moral responsibility to redress the situation. The U.S. should also redress the situation because a unified Cyprus with a constitution based on majority rule, the rule of law and protection of minority rights, as called for by President George W. H. Bush in 1988, is in the strategic interests of the U.S.
Gene Rossides is President & Founder of the American Hellenic Institute and a former Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury.