11. Telegram From the Embassy in Cyprus to the Department of State 1

732. Dept pass White House and Defense. For President, Secretaries of State and Defense and Ambassador Stevenson from Under Secretary.

In the last few days, we have succeeded in clearing our Cyprus proposals with the British, Greek and Turkish Governments. This has required a substantial output of persuasion.
I spent the day today largely with Archbishop Makarios and his colleagues. I had two long meetings—one this morning and one this afternoon.2
While we were meeting, fighting was going on at various points in the island yielding a number of dead and wounded, both Greek and Turk. This is a daily occurrence. Cyprus is a battlefield. We travel about Nicosia with police escorts, followed by RAF units with sub-machine guns. There is a pervasive atmosphere of imminent crisis.
Our morning meeting consisted largely of my own long and hard-boiled presentation. Makarios seemed willing to consider our proposal. This afternoon the psychotic element in the Cyprus drama fully emerged and the atmosphere chilled.
At the conclusion of lengthy technical discussions, Makarios indicated that in spite of my most vigorous arguments he was going ahead with his foolish plan of sending an expedition to ask the Security Council to try to undermine the Treaties of Guarantee by seeking a resolution reaffirming the territorial integrity and political independence of Cyprus. He indicated quite casually that he would deal with the creation of an international force at some later date.
In view of the fact that the murder rate is rising steadily and that the tempo of fighting is increasing, such conduct by Makarios is criminally foolhardy.
In view of this, the British High Commissioner and I told off Makarios and his extremist ministers in a manner unfamiliar to diplomatic discourse. In an exchange which lasted 45 minutes or more, we painted a lurid picture of the consequences that would entail from the folly he has proposed.
When the discussion got past the boiling point, I proposed that we adjourn until Thursday morning, to which the Archbishop agreed.
I think we shook the Archbishop. Even his beard seemed pale. But the big question is whether he is really in command of the situation. The two ministers who led the discussion on the Cypriot side—Clerides and Papadopoulos—are fanatical and over the edge. They reflect the death wish that seems endemic in this wretched island. Both also have some Communist coloration in their backgrounds.
The question we face tonight is who is in charge? If the Archbishop is as scared as I think he is, we may be able to salvage something tomorrow morning. I plan to see him alone before the meeting. But if he is a prisoner of his own folly—which seems likely—he will commit Cyprus in the morning to a disaster course.
The issue that must be faced is the only simple question in this complex situation. Is the Cypriot Government prepared to work with us and other countries in organizing an international force immediately? Or does it want to throw the issues into the United Nations in the hope of attracting enough Soviet bloc and Afro-Asian support to embarrass the Turks while the island continues to fall apart?
As of tonight, Cyprus is very near civil disintegration. I talked with the Commander of the British Forces, General Young, this noon and he felt despondent and frustrated: A battle occurred today in a town that has heretofore been quiet; something on the order of 5,000 Turks are encircled. There have been casualties on both sides. The pace is accelerating and a general bloodbath just over the horizon.
Against this background, I told Makarios that if he did not proceed immediately to organize an international peace force, he would condemn his country to total anarchy. But I have little confidence that he is enough of a free man to act rationally—even if he had the will to do so.
I have sent him word through covert channels that if he would agree to the organization of an international force immediately, we and the British would help him achieve one. We would call on the Commonwealth countries and on some of the Western European neutrals. If he would postpone throwing his problems into the Security Council until after such a force had been agreed, order might be restored and the situation salvaged. In that event, we would talk to the Turks and try to hold up their hand while efforts were made to develop a formula for a general settlement. Such a force cld not involve US troops.
I hope we can agree on something but I am not too sanguine.
The position of Turkey in this affair is a critical one. From my talks in Ankara, I am persuaded that if Makarios is enough of a fool to go to the Security Council and try for a resolution designed to hamstring the Turks in exercising their rights of intervention, without first dealing with the internal situation through the organization of an international force, he is likely to trigger an incisive Turkish reaction. The Turks may move, and the Greeks will respond.
Our only hope, it seems to me, is to scare Makarios sufficiently to compel him to concentrate on the creation of an international force that will stop carnage. If he does not do so—and I will know tomorrow—we have some hard decisions to make. I have promised the Turks and Greeks to report on our meetings here.
One possibility of preventing a Greco-Turkish war is to persuade both governments to exercise the rights of unilateral intervention granted them under the 1960 Treaties of Guarantee and move into Cyprus peacefully and together in order to stop the destruction of the Greek and Turkish communities. This obviously would not be feasible until after the Greek elections which take place on Sunday.
For the moment, we have considerable influence with Inonu, who has made clear to me his gratitude for the US manifestations of interest in the Cyprus situation. Hopefully we may be able to establish a relation of confidence with whatever new government emerges from the Greek elections.
I have the impression that Britain, as the third guarantor power, would be willing to associate itself with a peaceful joint intervention by Greece and Turkey and would simultaneously increase present British troop strength in Cyprus.
To arrange a common action by Greece and Turkey would require considerable diplomatic skill and the maximum use of our leverage. Yet I am inclined tonight to think this may be about the only remaining hope of preventing a major collision of two of our NATO allies—if, as I fear he will, Makarios turns out to be a prisoner or a fool or both.
I am sending you this cable tonight not with the thought of immediate instructions, since it is hard to make a definite plan until we know the full results of tomorrow’s meeting with Makarios. I must emphasize, however, that the atmosphere at this end of the Mediterranean is supercharged and that an explosion may be imminent. I shall try tomorrow to send you more considered recommendations as to the options open to us and the immediate actions we should take.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files POL 23–8 CYP. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to USUN. Passed to the White House, JCS, OSD, CIA, CINCEUR, and CINCSTRIKE.
  2. Detailed reports of the morning discussions were transmitted in telegrams 726 and 727 from Nicosia, February 12. (Ibid.) Ball presented Makarios with an “adjusted proposal.” The text of this proposal was transmitted in circular telegram 1482, February 12. (Ibid.) The Embassy provided a detailed report on the afternoon discussions in telegrams 728 and 731 from Nicosia, February 12. (Ibid.) Makarios presented Ball with the text of the Cypriot proposal “preconditioning” acceptance of an international peacekeeping force. This document was transmitted in telegram 742 from Nicosia, February 13. (Ibid.) Ball also met with Vice President Kuchuk in the interval between his two sessions with Makarios. The Embassy reported on this meeting in telegram 729 from Nicosia, February 12. (Ibid.)