Volume #20 - 122.|
UNITED NATIONS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
NINTH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 21-DECEMBER 17, 1954
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
August 20th, 1954|
STATUS OF CYPRUS|
áSince April of this year we have been pressed by the Greek Government to use our influence to persuade the United Kingdom Government to agree to hold "friendly talks" with Greece about Cyprus. The Greeks have stated that unless bilateral negotiations took place, they would be obliged to make an appeal to the United Nations - presumably a plea that the Cypriots be permitted to express their views on the future status of the island. The Greeks confidently believe that the majority of Cypriots would in any official plebiscite vote for union with Greece. We have made clear to the Greek representatives our desire not to become involved in the dispute and have deplored the prospect of a debate at the United Nations which can benefit only the communists. (The history of the Cyprus question is attached as Appendix A? and a summary of the Canadian attitude on the domestic jurisdiction clause of the Charter, as Appendix B.?)
2. It is clear from recent informal discussions with United Kingdom officials that we shall shortly be faced with a formal request from the United Kingdom Government for support in their effort to block the inscription of the Cyprus question on the Assembly agenda. If we are agreed that for political and practical reasons we should support the United Kingdom in this attempt, we can no doubt devise a formula to reconcile such a position with our past performance at the United Nations on the question of competence and particularly in its relevance to colonial questions. The reconciliation lies, however, in a practical rather than a legal approach to the problem.
3. The Greek Delegation at New York has now requested that the Cyprus issue be placed on the provisional agenda of the forthcoming Assembly. We have also been informed by the United Kingdom that they will strenuously oppose the inscription of the item on the agenda. The United Kingdom Government has informed the Department that, if the United Kingdom failed to block the placing of the item on the agenda, its representatives would absent themselves from the debate on the subject. It seems that in such event the United Kingdom Government would also reconsider its policy of cooperation with the United Nations on colonial matters. The United Kingdom authorities take a very serious view of the jurisdictional question, implicit in the Cyprus issue, and believe that if the Assembly is permitted to debate this issue, there can be no limit to its investigation of colonial and other domestic matters. Other United Kingdom officials have said that the Cyprus issue at the United Nations will be regarded as a test friendship. The United Kingdom would like the full support of its NATO and Commonwealth partners. A recent report stated that the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands had agreed to support each other in an effort to keep all colonial issues off the Assembly agenda. While this pooling of resources would not seem particularly helpful to the United Kingdom case, it does help us to assess the probable voting at the Assembly.
4. The United States has exerted strong pressure on the Greek Government to persuade it to withhold action at the Assembly. The Papagos regime, although professing reluctance to stir up this potential hornets' nest of embarrassment for the Western democracies, is unwilling for reasons of domestic politics to be restrained. It seems likely, moreover, that the Greek authorities strongly resent the curt rebuff by the United Kingdom of their suggestion about bilateral negotiations. Because of public opinion in Greece about Cyprus, the Greek Government may require a face-saving device. The Greeks appear confident that they can win wide support at the United Nations.
5. Much will depend on the attitude of the United States and Turkey. The United Kingdom authorities believe that the United States will give them support at the United Nations but there has been no United States commitment to vote against the inclusion of the Cyprus question on the agenda. Although United States officials are sympathetic to the United Kingdom position, domestic opposition to colonialism and irritation about the United Kingdom policy on other matters might oblige the United States Government to withhold full support. However, there has been a hint of a horse-trade between the United Kingdom and the United States involving the admission of Communist China. The United States will no doubt be influenced too by the attitude of Turkey. There seems little doubt that the United States will, in any event, do its utmost to moderate the debate. For their part, the Greeks appear to be counting heavily on United States support.
6. The attitude of Turkey is now clear. The Turkish Delegation will vote against the inscription of the Cyprus item on the agenda and, if it is inscribed, will continue to oppose discussion at the Assembly. Turkish officials have in the past expressed strongly their opposition to any change in the status quo. They apparently do not relish the prospect of Greece acquiring sovereignty in Cyprus. Apart from their own aspirations, the Turks are concerned about the Turkish minority which forms about 18 percent of the population of Cyprus. The Turks have not aired these views too openly, because of their close relations with Greece and particularly because of recent developments toward a Balkan alliance.
7. The United Kingdom stand-fast policy is based primarily on an appraisal of the strategic value of Cyprus. For the foreseeable future the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff consider that the island must remain under United Kingdom sovereignty. The United Kingdom officials recognize that this argument would attract little support. Their first line of defence will be the domestic jurisdiction clause (article 2(7) of the Charter), on which a strong legal argument can be made. As further arguments against debating the question at the United Nations, United Kingdom may urge practical reasons such as the futility of a sterile debate, the need for stability in the area, the material advantages to the Cypriots of United Kingdom occupation, the recent decision to establish limited self-government. However, because of the emotional appeal of the Cypriot demand for self-determination, because of the inflexibility of the United Kingdom stand-fast policy and because of the past trend at the United Nations in favour of a full discussion of colonial issues, the United Kingdom arguments may well not succeed in preventing inclusion of the item on the agenda.
8. United Kingdom officials are apparently aware that our past liberal attitude on the domestic jurisdiction clause might create difficulties for us. They obviously hope we can find some formula for giving them full support. We have given them our reasons for believing that the majority in the Assembly will decide in favour of a debate on Cyprus. We have expressed our grave concern about their proposal not to participate in the debate - which action, we believe, will only aggravate the embarrassment which the debate will cause the Western democracies. They seem aware of these possibilities but not unduly worried about them.
9. The United Kingdom Government is no doubt under heavy pressure to maintain its position in Cyprus. It has to bear in mind not only the roused public opinion in the United Kingdom but the attitude of loyal Cypriots. United Kingdom officials believe that any suggestion of bilateral negotiations with Greece would be interpreted in Cyprus as a sign of weakness and the beginning of a withdrawal from the island. Thus the administration would be undermined. Nevertheless, although this exercise of power politics may be unavoidable, the achievement of its principal aim - a stable location for key military establishments in the chain of command and communications - seems unlikely because of the methods being employed. The recent announcement that anti-sedition laws would be rigidly enforced to prevent the campaign for union with Greece is perhaps the forerunner of increasingly stringent measures to maintain order on the island. The recent decision to establish a constitution patterned on but not as liberal as the one rejected in 1948 seems unrealistic. Many sections of the United Kingdom press have begun to deplore these tactics, though sympathizing with the Government's desire to maintain sovereignty.
10. Whatever the merits of the case we shall have to do what we can to minimize the damage at the United Nations. The Soviet Union and its sympathizers will no doubt seize the opportunity to embarrass the United Kingdom and its NATO allies, to woo the opponents of colonialism in Asia and Africa, and to exploit the rifts in NATO solidarity which the debate will open. The United Kingdom, whose record at the United Nations is reasonably clean, may also be assailed by anti-colonial operators from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Perhaps the heaviest loser, however, will be the United Nations which will have one more burden which might more appropriately be borne by the parties concerned.
11. The courses open to us are as follows:
(a) We can work with the United Kingdom to prevent the Cyprus item from being inscribed on the agenda. Since Canada is not likely to be represented on the General Committee, we shall not be required to take a stand on the procedural question, until it is raised in plenary session. In this event we could vote against inscription and explain our vote in practical rather than legal terms. We could argue, for example, that the proposed discussion was untimely and unlikely to yield beneficial results. 3 In consultation with the United Kingdom, which would have to be made aware that our view was based more on the "untimeliness" than on the "impropriety" of the Greek appeal, we might also use our influence to canvass support for the movement to block the item. If these efforts failed and if the United Kingdom appeared to welcome our doing so, we might work to moderate the debate and head off troublesome resolutions. The foregoing course of action would please the United Kingdom but not the Greeks, who might nonetheless understand our position in the matter.
(b) We could vote for the inscription of the item on the agenda and work for a moderate resolution, 4 calling upon the parties concerned (perhaps to include Turkey) to enter into negotiations or perhaps merely taking note of the situation. This action would be most unpopular with the United Kingdom (which has not often requested that we lend support on colonial matters) and, in view of the latter's inflexible attitude, would be unlikely to yield beneficial results for the United Nations or for the Cypriots. It would certainly encourage extreme Greek nationalists to intensify their campaign for Pan-Hellenism which has wider implications than Cyprus.
(c) Like the Turks, we could vote against the inscription of the item on the agenda and, if the effort to block it failed, continue to oppose the discussion of the question. This approach appears to be what the United Kingdom would like us to do but in view of our attitude on earlier colonial questions like Tunisia and Morocco, might be hard to justify, in spite of genuine distinctions which can be made. Moreover, we would then be precluded from taking action to moderate the debate and the resolutions and from advocating the United Kingdom's case.
(d) We could hold aloof from the debate and abstain in all voting. While this action might be consistent with a neutral attitude on colonial questions, it would not be consistent with our general desire to be helpful at the United Nations and might be misunderstood in many quarters.
(e) We could take no part in the procedural debate and abstain on the vote whether the item should be inscribed on the agenda. We could explain our abstention as being a balancing of our past attitude on domestic jurisdiction with our belief that no practical benefits would result from the debate. If a debate were proceeded with (which we believe is all too probable) we could work to moderate the discussion and any resolutions which might come out of it. We might counter communist propaganda by pointing to the benefits which the Cypriots have derived from United Kingdom administration. We would oppose immoderate resolutions and might also try to persuade the United Kingdom not to stage a "walk-out".
11. There seems to be no need at the moment to take a decision on these courses of action. Indeed, it may be desirable to hold off until the policy and tactics of the United States and other friendly governments become more fully known. Shortly, however, we shall have to tell the United Kingdom, and presumably the Greeks, what position we propose to adopt at the Assembly.
12. I see few advantages and some difficulties in courses (c) and (d). If you agree, we might discard them now and continue to study the implications of the other three, in consultation with friendly governments. 5 Your views on this approach would be appreciated.