Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

No. 383
The British Ambassador (Makins) to President Eisenhower

Dear Mr. President: With reference to the message to you from the Prime Minister about Cyprus which I sent to you on September 18,1 I enclose the factual note referred to in that message.

Yours sincerely,

Roger Makins
[Page 711]


British Factual Note


The strategic importance of our continued sovereignty in Cyprus in relation to the stability and defence of the Middle East is described in the paper prepared by the Chiefs of Staff which has already been handed by the Ambassador to General Bedell Smith.2 The paper makes it quite clear why the suggestion of a leased base does not provide the answer on the strategic point. Confidence in the United Kingdom’s willingness and ability to fulfill its treaty obligations in the Middle East is an essential element in the building up of any effective defence in the area. The free world cannot afford a power vacuum on N.A.T.O.’s southern flank.

The international airing of this question has already done enough harm to Anglo-Greek and Greek-Turkish relations. During the recent N.A.T.O. exercise, “Keystone”, Greek and Turkish officers could scarcely be brought to talk to each other. A decision on Cyprus at the United Nations might well put a strain on Greek-Turkish relations which they could not bear.
The only people who can profit by this controversy are the Communists.
This is not a question of self-government in a colony but one of transferring one, indeed two, ethnic groups from one sovereignty to another. To allow the United Nations to discuss Cyprus on the pretext of self-determination would open the flood gates for the pursuit of territorial claims everywhere. If, for instance, some Communist power proposed United Nations intervention in favour of self-determination for the so-called free Thais in Siam, would the United States abstain? There are dozens of other areas all round the world about which there could be endless squabbles. China, for example, could claim large bits of Northern Burma and India on grounds of history and racial affinity.
It is not at all certain what the Cypriots themselves want. Unilateral clamour is no evidence of a people’s will and in this connexion it is legitimate to recall that by the time that Hitler had shouted long enough, a very large number of people thought that ninety per cent of Austrians wanted to be submerged in the Third Reich. [Page 712] Nor can the church-run plebiscite of 1950, backed as it was by threats of the withdrawal of Baptism and other church rites, be regarded as an indication that Cypriots really want Enosis. Plebiscites anyhow are of the political armoury of dictatorships. Democracies have other means of determining a people’s will.
Our attitude is not entirely negative. We are determined to develop normal democratic constitutional processes in Cyprus, and when the Cypriots have had experience of running their own affairs, Her Majesty’s Government have little doubt about the judgment they will form in regard to where their true interests lie. Cyprus has the highest standard of living in the Middle East and the second lowest death rate in the world. We have the impression that the long-standing boycott of any constitution by Cypriot extremists both of left and right is largely due to their fear that a constitution would provide a platform for moderate opinion which at present finds no expression, except, e.g. when British troops, recently arrived in Cyprus from Egypt, were warmly welcomed by the people.
It is therefore very much to be hoped that even if the United States Government do not share our interpretation of Article II (7) of the United Nations Charter,3 and cannot accept our view that the United Nations have no jurisdiction, nevertheless they would oppose inscription on the practical merits of the case and having regard to the interests of the free world.
There is no doubt at all that active United States support for us would clinch matters in our favour. Even as things are our enquiries all round the world show that the votes at the United Nations are likely to be pretty evenly divided. If the United States were to vote against inscription, the matter would not be inscribed.
  1. Supra.
  2. Not printed. (747C.00/9–2054)
  3. Quoted in footnote 3, Document 380.