The Emergency

Cyprus Table of Contents

On April 1, 1955, EOKA opened a campaign of violence against British rule in a well-coordinated series of attacks on police, military, and other government installations in Nicosia, Famagusta, Larnaca, and Limassol. In Nicosia the radio station was blown up. Grivas circulated his first proclamation as leader of EOKA under his code name Dighenis (a hero of Cypriot mythology), and the fouryear revolutionary struggle was launched. According to captured EOKA documents, Cypriot communists were not to be accepted for membership and were enjoined to stand clear of the struggle if they were sincerely interested in enosis. The Turkish Cypriots were described as compatriots in the effort against an alien ruler; they too were simply asked to stand clear, to refrain from opposition, and to avoid any alliance with the British.

During a difficult summer of attacks and counterattacks, the Tripartite Conference of 1955 was convened in London in August at British invitation; representatives of the Greek and Turkish governments met with British authorities to discuss Cyprus--a radical departure from traditional British policy. Heretofore the British had considered colonial domestic matters internal affairs not to be discussed with foreigners. Greece accepted the invitation with some hesitation, because no Cypriots had been invited, but reluctantly decided to attend. The Turks also accepted. The meeting broke up in September, having accomplished nothing. The Greeks were dissatisfied because Cypriot self-determination (a code word for enosis) was not offered; the Turks because it was not forbidden.

A bombing incident at the Turkish consulate in Salonika, Greece, a day before the meeting ended led to serious rioting in Istanbul and zmir. It was later learned that the bombing had been carried out by a Turk, and that the riots had been prearranged by the government of Turkey to bring pressure on the Greeks and to show the world that Turks were keenly interested in Cyprus. The Turkish riots got so out of hand and destroyed so much Greek property in Turkey that Premier Adnan Menderes called out the army and declared martial law. Greece reacted by withdrawing its representatives from the NATO headquarters in Turkey, and relations between the two NATO partners became quite strained.

Shortly after the abortive tripartite meeting, Field Marshal John Harding, chief of the British imperial general staff, was named governor of Cyprus and arrived on the island to assume his post in October 1955. Harding immediately began talks with Makarios, describing a multimillion pound development plan that would be adopted contingent on acceptance of limited selfgovernment and postponement of self-determination. Harding wanted to leave no doubt that he was there to restore law and order, and Grivas wanted the new governor to realize that a get-tough policy was not going to have any great effect on EOKA. In November Harding declared a state of emergency, banning public assemblies, introducing the death penalty for carrying a weapon, and making strikes illegal. British troops were put on a wartime footing, and about 300 British policemen were brought to the island to replace EOKA sympathizers purged from the local force.

Further talks between Harding and Makarios in January 1956 began favorably but degenerated into a stalemate and broke up in March, with each side accusing the other of bad faith and intransigence. A few days later, Makarios was seized, charged with complicity in violence, and, along with the bishop of Kyrenia and two other priests, exiled to the Seychelles. This step removed the archbishop's influence on EOKA, leaving less moderate forces in control. The level of violence on Cyprus increased, a general strike was called, and Grivas had political leadership thrust on him by the archbishop's absence.

In July the British government appointed Lord Radcliffe, a jurist, to the post of commissioner for constitutional reform. Radcliffe's proposals, submitted in December, contained provisions for a balanced legislature, as in former schemes. But the proposals also included an option of self-determination at some indefinite time in the future and safeguards for the Turkish Cypriot minority. Turkey accepted the plan, Greece rejected it outright, and Makarios refused to consider it while in exile.

Makarios was allowed to leave the Seychelles in April, but could not return to Cyprus. In Athens he received a tremendous welcome. During the rest of the year, Grivas kept the situation boiling through various raids and attacks, Makarios went once again to New York to argue his case before the UN, and Harding retired to be replaced by Hugh Foot.

In early 1958, intercommunal strife became severe for the first time, and tension mounted between the governments of Greece and Turkey. Grivas tried to enforce an island-wide boycott of British goods and increased the level of sabotage attacks. In June 1958, British prime minister Harold Macmillan proposed a seven-year partnership scheme of separate communal legislative bodies and separate municipalities, which became known as the Macmillan Plan. Greece and Greek Cypriots rejected it, calling it tantamount to partition.

The Macmillan Plan, although not accepted, led to discussions of the Cyprus problem between representatives of Greece and Turkey, beginning in December 1958. Participants for the first time discussed the concept of an independent Cyprus, i.e., neither enosis nor partition. This new approach was stimulated by the understanding that Makarios was willing to discuss independence in exchange for abandonment of the Macmillan Plan. Subsequent talks between the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey, in Zurich in February 1959, yielded a compromise agreement supporting independence. Thus were laid the foundations of the Republic of Cyprus. The scene then shifted to London, where the Greek and Turkish representatives were joined by representatives of the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots, and the British. In London Makarios raised certain objections to the agreements, but, failing to get Greek backing, he accepted the position papers. The Zurich-London agreements which were ratified by the official participants of the London Conference and became the basis for the Cyprus constitution of 1960 were: the Treaty of Establishment, the Treaty of Guarantee, and the Treaty of Alliance.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress