203. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State0
6819. Department telegram 8280.1 We believe following are principal elements in current UK thinking on Cyprus:
- Since Suez, island has lost importance as base for supporting British national policy in Middle East area.2 It still retains military value for NATO purposes and as stabilizing factor against international communism. HMG remains determined to hold military bases needed for defense against USSR.
- UK financial stringency and resulting compulsion to retrench on world-wide scale, together with international public criticism of British role in Cyprus, are generating growing desire to cut commitments on island or at least have others share in burden of governing Cyprus.
- Sense of responsibility to Western alliance and to Cypriots, coupled with desire to do what is “right,” are strong motivations especially with Macmillan and Governor Foot. Foreign Office probably is more concerned with immediate practical difficulties.
- Cyprus problem is dangerous disruptive influence on NATO.
Thus HMG shrinks from making “choice” between Turkey and Greece. Emotional pull towards Greece, together with feeling that Greek case may be morally stronger, is evident. On other hand, in last [Page 612] analysis we doubt HMG would adopt course which it judged would result in violent Turkish opposition, and preponderance of military opinion generally more sympathetic to Turkey. HMG probably would conclude that Turkish support for Western Middle East policy cannot be jeopardized.
In recent months HMG has studied series of possible solutions to Cyprus problem. We believe constant aim has been to find formula Turkish and Greek Governments and both communities on Cyprus could be brought to accept. HMG has shown considerable flexibility of ways and means, trying alternative ideas when firm opposition developed to any given suggestion. We see no evidence that UK is pursuing a devious, predetermined campaign.
HMG now has concluded that further delay and probing are not warranted by prospects of devising more acceptable solution. Therefore it has decided to proceed with proposals outlined Embassy telegram 6634.3 We believe HMG would welcome and take into account Greek and Turkish suggestions consistent with framework of present proposals and would hope to work out detailed plan in collaboration with those 2 governments and Cypriots.
We sense it has been necessary to attempt to resolve considerable differences of opinion in Cabinet, some of which still linger. Also working levels of Foreign and Colonial Offices are apprehensive over complicated nature of proposals and need for currently nonexistent cooperation between communities on island if they are to work.
Should implementation of proposals prove impossible, we conjecture that HMG, having made one final effort at “right” solution, might move rather rapidly towards relinquishment of responsibilities (except for UK military bases) through solution that could be carried out unilaterally. In this case approach adopted might be Turkish “base” (perhaps of sufficient dimensions to pass for partition), combined with self-determination within short period for remainder of island.
We submit following answers to specific questions in reference telegram which to some extent have been covered by above assessment:
- Base idea abandoned at least temporarily principally because of Turkish opposition. Tridominium concept shelved because of expressed US doubts and impracticability of bringing it about, except as last stage in evolutionary plan.
- UK sees no real prospect that assistance US in fact would be able to render would budge Turks from existing opposition to base idea.4
- Domestic pressures. In general, Conservatives inclined favor maintenance of British sovereignty or solution favorable to Turks, while Labour espouses Greek case. However, Cyprus is not burning issue at present. In our judgment the government should have no trouble with its followers over plan proposed. Labour currently displaying moderation (moderation telegram 6763).5 Public mood seems to be one of impatience with delays and desire that government make up its mind and seek way out of impasse, rather than firm support for any specific plan. We doubt domestic pressures are playing major role in government decisions at present. Such pressures have not led to conclusion that indefinite retention UK sovereignty is essential.
- HMG tendency to accommodate itself more to Turkish than to Greek view explainable, we believe, more in terms of conclusion that Turkish support needed in Middle East than in terms of domestic pressures.
- Reference 3 basic premises set forth in July, 1957,6HMG has not departed from first 2. While intending to try to insure peace and tranquility on island, HMG appears prepared accept temporary period of increased turmoil as transition to more enduring tranquility.
- Risks involved. HMG believes Turks will accept proposals, but has doubts about Greek reaction. Proposals at least avoid risk of opposition from both communities. HMG appears to assess fairly bright its ability at present to cope with EOKA and seems willing to accept show-down with that organization. Once EOKA “neutralized,” HMG anticipates majority of Greek Cypriots would accept proposals.
- We do not believe main purpose of proposals is to set stage for subsequent move. However, as indicated above, if they fail, temptation to withdraw will be strong.
- We have no current information on whether Spaak is being consulted or kept informed.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 747C.00/5–2358. Secret; Limit Distribution; Noforn. Repeated to Ankara, Athens, Nicosia, and Paris for USRO.↩
- Telegram 8280 to London, May 21, requested the Embassy’s assessment of the “influences” at work on the formulation of British policy toward Cyprus. (Ibid., 747C.00/5–1758)↩
- The October 1956 invasion of Egypt by the United Kingdom and France was partially staged from Cyprus. The conflict was triggered by President Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal Company.↩
- Document 202.↩
- In telegram 2889 from Ankara, May 28, Warren commented: “Re London telegram 6819 to Department, we concur in Embassy London estimate (paragraph B) that there no real prospect USG could in present circumstances budge Turks from existing opposition to base idea.” (Department of State, Central Files, 747C.00/5–2858)↩
- Telegram 6763 from London, May 22, reported the views of senior Labour Party leaders on the British Government’s Cyprus policy. (Ibid., 747C.00/3–2258)↩
- See vol. XXIV, p. 483, footnote 2.↩