Volume #22 - 601.|
ORGANISATION DU TRAITÉ DE L'ATLANTIQUE NORD
Note du sous-secrétaire d'État aux Affaires extérieures 64|
pour le secrétaire d'État aux Affaires extérieures
le 22 mars 1956|
POLITICAL CONSULTATION IN NATO-CYPRUS|
1. My memorandum of January 23? contained a critical examination of United Kingdom policy on Cyprus and was prompted by our concern at the prospect of the grave consequences which would attend an indefinite prolonging of the dispute. Sooner than we could possibly have feared at the time, these consequences now seem to be emerging at present realities. The sudden deterioration of the situation was precipitated by the expulsion of Makarios, together with three of his associates, following the breakdown of the negotiations which at an earlier stage had appeared to hold some promise of yielding a satisfactory solution. (A summary of the course of these negotiations is attached as an appendix.?) However well the United Kingdom is able to document its case to prove the complicity of Archbishop Makarios in the terrorist activities of EOKA, it is hard to see how his expulsion can possibly advance the United Kingdom's cause, even in Cyprus itself; within the broader context of the United Kingdom's international relations the move is surely a serious blunder. While one can fully sympathize with the United Kingdom's desire to see order on the Island reestablished as quickly as possible, the sudden removal of Makarios, in addition to provoking a new wave of terrorism, has resulted in a spontaneous general strike throughout Cyprus - which incidentally will render the Island practically impotent as a military base as long as it lasts - and has set off a violent reaction in Greece. You will have seen that our Ambassador in Athens has reported that his British colleagues consider the move to have been ill- advised and ill- timed, an assessment with which one can only whole- heartedly agree.
2. The extent of the strain which this latest turn of events will impose upon Anglo- Greek relations (and also to a lesser extent on Greek- Turkish relations) is incalculable. The Greek Government has been faced with strong pressure from the church advocating a complete rupture of diplomatic relations and have compromised for the time being by recalling the Greek Ambassador in London for consultations in Athens. On the political front the Democratic Union which so very nearly succeeded in unseating Mr. Karamanlis less than a month ago has been provided with a new rallying cry and will not be slow to exploit the situation to the full. However reluctant he may be to give ground before the extremists' demands, Mr. Karamanlis, realizing that his political future is at stake, will have to take a strong line in acting as spokesman for an angry populace. Those elements in Greece which have been attacking their country's "encumbering" alliances and have advocated the adoption of a "neutralist" stand will become still more vocal and find, at least temporarily, broader general support. The Soviet Ambassador in Athens, who recently has been very active in cultivating the neutralist tendencies in Greece, will doubtless find the present situation much to his taste. This will be perhaps one of the most distressing long-term aspects of the Archbishop's expulsion: the opportunity which it gives the Soviet Union for effective propaganda against the West, though it must be added that up to now the USSR has not exploited it, no doubt because of the forthcoming visit of Khrushchev and Bulganin to London.
3. Turkey's support of the United Kingdom move will widen the gap between Turkey and Greece and will make it impossible for the time being for Mr. Karamanlis to fulfil his pre-election promise to the Turkish Ambassador that, if he was successful at the polls, he would forthwith undertake the re-establishment of normal relations between their two countries. The ministerial meeting of the Balkan Alliance is therefore as far off as ever. Indeed the Yugoslav Ambassador told Mr. Ford he considered that the Balkan Alliance had now very little chance of being revived.
4. It seems incredible that the United Kingdom should have been unaware of the storm which their move would raise. At the moment it rather looks as if they were prepared to jeopardize Greece's role in the defence of the Eastern Mediterranean rather than do anything which might alienate Turkish opinion or might be construed as a hesitation on their part in dealing with an inflammatory situation affecting their position in the Near East.
5. If the United Kingdom's deportation of the Archbishop was ill-timed, the message of "sympathetic concern" addressed by the United States to the Greek Government was scarcely less so. It brought into public view what can only be interpreted as disapproval on the part of the United States of the United Kingdom's handling of the situation and supported the supposition that a sharp difference of opinion exists between the two powers over the ultimate importance of Greece to Western defence. The United Kingdom's announcement that it would seek an explanation of the United States intervention did little to remedy the situation. Although the subsequent reply by the United States has eased the tension in this quarter to some extent, the whole incident was deplorable, revealing openly as it did the lack of unanimity between the two NATO leaders on an issue with vital implications for the Western defence system.65 Although domestic politics no doubt played a role in the US action one can only hope that it was primarily prompted by a desire to prevent a revulsion against NATO on the part of the highly emotional Greeks.
6. Greece has asked the Secretary-General of the United Nations for a re-opening of the Cyprus issue at the forthcoming session of the General Assembly. A renewed appeal by Greece to the United Nations will place in a very difficult position those countries which with Canada supported the United Kingdom in opposing inscription of the issue on the agenda of the ninth and tenth sessions. In the circumstances it appears quite probable that the United States might wish to revert to its earlier attitude and support the inscription of the issue. In view of the failure to reach a settlement by negotiation, Canada's previous argument that an Assembly debate on the problem would do more harm than good would no longer carry much conviction.
7. There remains the possibility that something constructive might be accomplished by a full discussion of the problem in the North Atlantic Council. You will have seen that on March 14 the Greek representative broached the issue by reading a prepared statement on Cyprus. The upshot of the ensuing discussion was that Lord Ismay agreed to consult with the interested parties and his other colleagues to determine what action the Council might appropriately take on the matter. Two crucial questions emerged in the discussion following the Greek representative's statement. The first concerned the procedural issue and turned on whether the Council was justified in discussing Cyprus at all. If it was, the second point to be settled concerned the objectives and aims which the Council should set itself in its discussion of the matter.
8. With respect to the first point our position has been up to now that inter- member disputes should only be discussed in the Council with the full consent of the parties involved. Subject to this proviso, I think that there can be little doubt not only of the Council's competence but also of its duty to discuss Cyprus, since the dispute, so long as it continues, will have the most adverse repercussions on the unity, effectiveness and prestige of NATO itself. It is well within the realms of possibility that the new turn for the worse taken by the dispute might result in the complete suspension of Greece's co-operation with its NATO partners, if not the complete and formal severance of its NATO connection. This threat is of immediate and vital importance to all NATO members and presents an overriding argument in favour of a full discussion of the problem by the Council as a whole.
9. If this is admitted, what are the positive objectives and advantages which might be attained from an exhaustive debate of the issue in the Council? One must preclude at the outset the idea that the Council might work out itself a political settlement on the lines which the Greek Government would probably like to see, i.e. the formal incorporation of Cyprus as part of the NATO defence system. If the discussions were approached with such an objective in mind they would founder at once on United Kingdom and Turkish opposition. The United Kingdom conceives the strategic importance of Cyprus as going beyond its value to NATO defence of the Eastern Mediterranean; it regards the assured and unfettered use of bases and facilities in the Island as vital to its own national obligations and interests in the Middle Eastern area. Telegram No. 369? from Mr. Wilgress hints that the UK may be open to persuasion on this. On the other hand, Sir Anthony Eden went so far in the House of Commons as to say that the "welfare and indeed the lives of our own people depend on Cyprus as a protective guard and staging post to take care of these interests, above all, oil."
10. I think the following are the main advantages which might be gained from frank discussions of the issue in the Council:
(1) They might serve to overcome one of the most serious effects of the dispute, viz. the sense of isolation which it has engendered in Greece, the feeling that its NATO partners are indifferent to Greece's interests and aspirations with respect to Cyprus. This feeling of isolation was aggravated after the September riots when virtually the sole recognition which any of Greece's NATO partners took of the situation was extended in the identic message sent by the United States to Greece and Turkey, which seemed to imply that the United States considered both countries to be equally culpable.
(2) NATO discussion of Cyprus would help to remove the impression in the Greek mind that its NATO partners regarded the dispute as involving only Greece, the United Kingdom and Turkey, and were prepared to condone whatever action the United Kingdom undertook in handling the problem.
(3) By bringing to the fore the harmful effects which the Cyprus issue was having on the solidarity of the West at a time when the Soviets are showing considerable adroitness in their efforts to weaken NATO, both Greece and the United Kingdom might be brought to a more conciliatory and constructive attitude in their dealings with one another. By placing the problem in this wider context, which would show Greece (and the United Kingdom) the importance which other NATO members attach to Greece's participation in the Organization, an atmosphere might be created in which bilateral negotiation between the two parties could be resumed with a better understanding on both sides of each other's point of view, and hence with a better chance of success.
(4) The introduction of a general discussion in the Council would present the United Kingdom and the United States with the necessity of resolving, outside the Council, any differences of opinion which may exist between them regarding the handling of the dispute and provide an opportunity for them to co-ordinate their approach.
(5) It might just be possible that the Council's discussion of Cyprus could head off a renewed debate of the issue in the United Nations. Up until now Cyprus has not been dealt with in the United Nations as a "colonial" problem, because the traditionally "anti- colonial" powers have reserved their fire for those issues where African or Asian peoples are involved. Cyprus might finally be taken up as a colonial issue, and certainly the Soviet Union will try to exploit the situation from this point of view in order to further enhance its role as a champion of anti- colonialism. The Belgian representative at the March 14 meeting stressed the desirability of keeping Cyprus out of the United Nations and suggested that the next Ministerial meeting would be a good place for NATO to wash its dirty linen en famille. You may recall that at the time of the September riots, Mr. Spaak expressed himself as strongly in favour of the North Atlantic Council being used as the forum in which to discuss Cyprus. A distinction might usefully be drawn, however, between discussions in the permanent Council, for the exchange of information and views, and discussions in ministerial revisions of the Council, which would seem unlikely to be helpful unless positive proposals were under consideration.
11. To sum up, talks in the NATO Council on Cyprus should, if undertaken, be aimed at strengthening Greece's wavering NATO connection and at creating an atmosphere of mutual understanding which would permit the resumption of negotiations between the parties involved. It would be unwise, however, to regard the discussions, at least in the earlier stages, as a prelude to some sort of NATO settlement to be worked out within the Council itself.
12. These are all, however, rather negative aims; but if the serious weakening of the NATO alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean is to be stopped, something more positive should be contemplated. Mr. Robertson's telegram No. 306 of March 15,? indicates that to his way of thinking the British were precipitate in breaking off the negotiations with Makarios, great though the provocations undoubtedly were. In particular he thinks that the Cypriots were justified in being slightly skeptical of the nature of the constitution promised them. If we assume that the UK cannot indefinitely run against history by holding unto the island by force alone, then I think NATO should try to work out on a general basis a settlement which has proved impossible on a UK-Cypriot- Greek basis.
13. For this purpose Lord Ismay's proposals seem to me an imaginative start. They are:
(a) A commission would be formed of three constitutional experts to be nominated by each of the three parties from among nationals of NATO countries not directly involved (possibly Italy, Netherlands and Denmark).
(b) Acceptance of its responsibilities would be conditional upon the restoration of order in Cyprus and of an undertaking by the Greek Government to desist from inflammatory broadcasts.
(c) When the procedure had been accepted fully by all parties, Makarios would come back to Cyprus, provided that he also accepted the proposed procedure. You will recall that very similar proposals were advanced in the House of Lords by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
14. This in itself is probably not sufficient to lead to a settlement. Sir Christopher Steel has hinted that NATO might eventually assume some kind of "trustee" responsibility for Cyprus, perhaps eventually taking over the defence installations in Cyprus. The internationalizing of the responsibility for the island might provide sufficient balm for Greek pride to permit a gradual return to normal life, and heal the rift between the three countries.
15. A solution of this nature would require, however, careful preliminary soundings outside the Council, before it could be brought formally before the Ministerial meeting. In the meantime, if there are to be further discussions in the permanent Council they should, in my opinion, be aimed at strengthening Greece's wavering NATO connection and at creating an atmosphere of mutual understanding which would permit the resumption of negotiations between the parties involved.