Relations with Greece

Cyprus Table of Contents

After the troubles of 1963-64 and the effective separation of the two communities, the Greek Cypriots controlling the republic's institutions did not, ironically, orient their foreign policy more toward Greece. Instead, the growing authority and confidence of President Makarios and divergent trends in Greek and Greek Cypriot politics led to the republic's foreign policy becoming more independent. Greek Cypriots were disappointed that Greece had placed the interests of the Western alliance above those of the island in the preindependence London and Zurich talks. Greek Cypriots also viewed as inadequate the Greek response to the 1963- 64 troubles, with Greece again deferring to NATO interests.

Relations deteriorated further when the military seized power in Athens in 1967. Makarios was anathema to the staunchly anticommunist regime in Greece. His flirtation with Eastern Europe and Third World nations, his refusal to stem criticism of the dictatorship, and his charismatic appeal to Greeks everywhere were major concerns of the new Greek leadership. The infiltration of Greek soldiers from the mainland, in excess of levels approved in the Treaty of Alliance, became a threat almost equal to that from the Turkish mainland. By the early 1970s the rift between the Athens junta and the Makarios government had become open. Athens allegedly financed operations of anti-Makarios organizations and newspapers and was widely thought responsible for attempts on Makarios's life. Pressures mounted, and in July 1974, after Makarios openly challenged the junta's interference, the Cypriot National Guard, led by Greek officers, staged a coup that ultimately resulted in Turkish intervention and the junta's demise.

With the 1974 restoration of civilian government in Athens and the environment of crisis in the Greek-controlled part of the island after the Turkish intervention, relations between the republic and the government in Greece were restored to normal, and closer coordination of foreign policy began, particularly focused on winning support for resolutions in international organizations and from Greeks abroad. Greece gave full public support to policies adopted by the republic and pledged not to interfere in domestic Cypriot politics. The two governments agreed that Greek Cypriot participation in settlement efforts was essential and tried to uncouple the Cyprus issue from other Greek-Turkish disputes, such as those about territorial rights in the Aegean Sea.

Differences remained over the two governments' priorities. Greek prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis was said to favor a more moderate and conciliatory stand on Cyprus than either Makarios or Kyprianou, both of whom advocated a "long struggle" in the face of what they perceived as Turkish intransigence. The Greek government was also eager to return to NATO, which it did in 1981, and to reduce tensions with Turkey. In addition, the tripartite American-British-Canadian plan (the ABC plan) of 1978 won Greece's approval, although it was rejected by Greek Cypriots as a framework for negotiations.

When Greeks elected the socialist government of Andreas Papandreou to office in 1981, the foreign policy of Greece shifted. Less inclined to demonstrate Greece's loyalty to NATO and other Western institutions, Papandreou sought to "internationalize" the Cyprus settlement effort, and took a more confrontational approach to bilateral differences with Turkey. This led to a new, and sometimes uneasy, division of labor between Greece and the republic, with the latter engaged in intercommunal talks and the former raising the Turkish troop issue in NATO and other international forums. Cyprus was relinked to bilateral GreekTurkish problems, insofar as Papandreou insisted that relations between the two NATO allies could not improve until the Cyprus problem was solved and Turkish troops withdrawn. This policy was temporarily suspended in early 1988, when Papandreou and Turkish prime minister Özal conducted talks known as the Davos process, aimed at improving ties through Aegean confidence-building measures. The process was stalled in late 1988 by political and health problems of the Greek premier. For most of 1989 and early 1990, Greece was ruled by interim governments that took no new foreign policy initiatives, although the 1988 election of the activist George Vassiliou in Cyprus gave some new vigor and interest to the frequent consultations in Athens between the two governments.

In April 1990 Greeks returned to power the centrist New Democracy Party, and the new prime minister, veteran politician Constantinos Mitsotakis, pledged to renew Greece's efforts to solve the Cyprus problem. The two governments formed a joint committee, administered by their foreign ministries, to share information and coordinate policies, and thus avoid the strains that had arisen from divergent approaches to the Cyprus problem.

More about the Government and Politics of Cyprus.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress