Post-Independence (1960-1974)

Cyprus was declared an independent state on August 16, 1960. The constitution of the new state, which was defined by the Zürich and London Agreements, was drawn up in terms that explicitly defined the two main ethnic communities in Cyprus, the numerically larger Greek Cypriot community at approximately 80% of the total Cypriot population and the numerically smaller Turkish Cypriot community at approximately 18% of the total Cypriot population. These agreements were atypical in that they granted the numerically smaller Turkish Cypriot community political rights within the new republic greater than those of just an ethnic minority community. They were also atypical in that they placed certain limits within the constitution on the absolute independence of the new republic, with certain articles deemed unalterable as well as granting rights and responsibilities to the external guarantor states of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The complexity and limits on the new Republic’s independence of these agreements was a reflection of the complex situation in Cyprus pre-independence, where there was little or no cohesive pan Cypriot national identity, with each of the two main ethnic communities seeking to pursue purely ethnic based visions for Cyprus' future. Pre-independence the Greek Cypriot community, on the whole considering themselves Greeks that happened to live in Cyprus rather than Cypriots with a Greek ethnic background, sought a Cypriot future based on Enosis, the ceding of Cyprus to Greece, as a natural stage during the Greek War of Independence, the fulfillment of the Greek Megali Idea. Enosis for Cyprus was silenced during the Greek War of Independence but was later renewed as a future natural stage after the end of British rule. For the Turkish Cypriot community who also on the whole tended to see themselves as Turks that happened to live in Cyprus rather than Cypriots with a Turkish ethnic background, the idea of Cyprus being handed over to Greece after the end of British rule and of them becoming Greek citizens in a Hellenic republic, was an anathema. Largely in response to calls from the Greek Cypriots community for enosis the Turkish Cypriot community developed the concept of Taksim, the partition of Cyprus into a Greek Cypriot controlled part, which would be free to pursue enosis as it saw fit and a Turkish Cypriot controlled part, despite the fact that the two ethnic communities were geographically intermingled throughout Cyprus and taksim by its very nature would have required mass population movements.It is against this background that the Zürich and London Agreements were drawn up after lengthy negotiation principally by Greece-Turkey and the United Kingdom and why they ended up being both complex and atypical granting the Turkish Cypriot community political rights disproportionate to their numerical numbers and containing permanent restrictions on the pursuit of both enosis and taksim alike. It is a common Greek Cypriot position that these agreements were imposed on them against their will by external powers and that despite Archbishop Makarios, as the recognized leader of the Greek Cypriot community putting his signature on them he did so only because he was forced to. There is no real doubt that great pressure was placed on Archbishop Makarios by both the United Kingdom and by Greece to sign the agreements.

In the period from independence in 1960 to 1963 a series of disputes arose between the two communities over the implementation and interpretation of the agreements and constitution. These disputes centered on 70:30 percent ratio of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in the public service mandated by the constitution but never achieved in practice, the establishment of separate municipalities as required by the constitution also not achieved, the use by the Turkish Cypriot leadership of its veto on tax legislation as a means of gaining leverage over the other areas of dispute and the status of the Turkish Cypriot vice president who constitutionally had a veto on foreign policy but complained of frequently not being informed of foreign policy initiatives by the Greek Cypriot foreign minister. Relations between the two communities became increasingly strained in this period and distrust on both sides grew with both sides preparing for physical confrontation with the establishment of armed irregulars as well as military officers from the two communities respective 'motherlands'.The abuse of safeguards by the Turkish Cypriot leadership, led to total unworkability of the Constitution, which necessitated the submission of constitutional amendments.

In November 1963 Archbishop Makarios, by then the first President of the Republic of Cyprus, proposed thirteen amendments to the constitution. It was claimed then as now that the intent of these amendments was simply to try and make the cumbersome 60's agreements and constitution more workable and remove causes of friction. Whilst it is true that the amendments did address these issues they also removed nearly all of the political protections the Turkish Cypriot community had gained in the 1960 agreements and essentially represented a fundamental altering of the entire basis of the 1960 agreements. The proposed amendments were immediately rejected first by Turkey and then later by the Turkish Cypriot Vice-President Dr. Kutchuk. Turkey instigated the Turkish Cypriot leadership's decision to resort to insurrection against the state, thus resulting in the Turkish Cypriot members of the executive, legislature, judiciary and the civil service withdrawing from their posts, and created military enclaves in Nicosia and other parts of the island.

On 21 December 1963 a street brawl in a Turkish quarter in Nicosia between a Turkish Cypriot crowd and Yorgadjis, the Greek Cypriot interior minister, plainclothes special constables was followed immediately by a major Greek Cypriot attack by the various para-military forces against the Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia and in Larnaca.Against this background of a breakdown of internal security in Cyprus and inter-communal violence that threaten to bring into direct conflict the two NATO members of Greece and Turkey during the height of the cold war, the United Kingdom and the USA first tried to implement a neutral NATO force to be stationed within Cyprus to prevent further inter-communal conflict. The Makarios government blocked this move and the United Kingdom then raised the matter with the UN security council in a letter of 15 February 1964. The Makarios government also raised issues of alleged preparation by Turkey for an obvious, imminent invasion of Cyprus in a letter to the Security Council also on the 15 February 1964.

As a result of the above, and the intercommunal violence that ensued, the Security Council of the United Nations was seized of the situation, and by resolution 186 of 4 March 1964 a Peace Keeping Force (UNFICYP) was sent to Cyprus and a Mediator was appointed. In his Report (S/6253, A/6017, 26 March 1965), the Mediator, Dr Gala Plaza, criticized the 1960 legal framework, and proposed necessary amendements which were again forthwith rejected by Turkey, a fact which resulted in serious deterioration of the situation with constant threats by Turkey against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus, necessitating a series of UN Resolutions calling, inter alia, for respect of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus. The Security Council debated the unfolding crisis in Cyprus at its 1094th to 1103rd meetings from the 17 February to 4 March 1964, the result of which was UN Security Council resolution 186 of the 4th March 1964, which established a UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus that remains to this day.

 

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