464. Transcript of a Background Press and Radio News Briefing1

Mr. Greenfield: Good morning. The attribution on this one will be US sources. And I think it might help if the Under Secretary opens with just a short general review of the situation as we saw it and see it now, saw it last week and see it now.

Under Secretary Ball: Gentlemen, I might start with the situation on the Island, as I found it.

As I am sure you know, the original constitution, which went into effect in 1960, has broken down, largely as a result of the fact that the Archbishop, who is the President, decided in December that it was unworkable and proposed amendments which were not accepted by the Turks, and today the Government of Cyprus really represents only the Greek Cypriot community. The Turkish Cypriot community is not [Page 988]effectively functioning as a part of the government, and the decisions are being made by the Greeks. And even the authority of the government does not extend fully to the Greek Cypriot community, because there are independent bands of Chinese warlords, who have their own private armies that are not taking their direction from the state.

As a consequence, while there is authority in the government of Cyprus with respect to the Greek Cypriot community, it certainly is not fully effective authority, and there is a problem as to how well the government can control the Greek elements in incidents such as have recently occurred, the latest of which was at Limassol.

On the Turkish side, I think there is also a breaking down of the authority of the Turkish Cypriot leadership over the Turkish community. But the Turkish community, as you know, is only about twenty per cent of the population; the Greek is eighty per cent. The incidents have continued, and while they are not spectacular ones within the last two or three days, there are killings every day, and the bloodshed goes on.

This created a situation where it was felt that some kind of a large international force, a larger force, had to be injected between the two communities if there were to be peace. The British were brought in by invitation of the Cypriot Government in December,2 and they have done their very best, and I think have done extremely well under very trying circumstances. But the forces which they have are only in the neighborhood of perhaps 3,000 men at the moment that are doing this job. They are working under very great handicaps, because they are operating as a peacekeeping force and not as an occupation force—which means that if any of the problems result from the actions of the Greek-Cypriot police, why the force cannot, is powerless to do anything about it. And they have proceeded so far on the basis of not shooting, which makes it very hard indeed to maintain order.

A proposal was made, as you know, for an international force. This proposal was accepted in some detail by all of the parties concerned, the three guarantor powers, Britain, Greece, Turkey, the Turkish-Cypriot community in Cyprus, and the only remaining interested party that had not acceded to these plans was the Government of Cyprus itself, under Archbishop Makarios.

After we had arranged to have a common agreement of the other parties, I spent three days in Nicosia with Archbishop Makarios,3 and I got the impression—which I don’t want attributed to me, but which you can attribute, if you like, to US sources—that the Government of Cyprus was basically interested in other things than the creation of an international force.

[Page 989]

It was interested, first of all, in a plan which it had worked out, the effect of which, as it saw it, would be to nullify the rights which the Turkish Government had as a guarantor power to intervene under the Treaty of Guarantee.

Under the Treaty of Guarantee, which was an integral part of the organic constitutional arrangements that were made in 1960, there was a provision that any one of the three guarantor powers, Greece, the United Kingdom, or Turkey, could intervene to restore conditions under the constitution. And the Turks have been seriously considering the need to intervene in order to provide protection to the Turkish Cypriot population, and the Greeks have been considering intervention, certainly in the event that the Turks intervene.

Now, under these circumstances, we have a potentially dangerous situation, which obviously could become very much larger than the problems in Cyprus itself. Because it could involve a conflict between two NATO partners, and indeed those partners which represent the right wing of the NATO defense. So this is a matter which perforce the United States has felt it necessary to interest itself in.

The refusal of Archbishop Makarios to go forward at the present moment with an international force meant that the matter had to be transferred to a different arena. The Archbishop’s position was that after some debate he accepted the idea of an international force. And this was, I think, progress. And there was even some talk about the composition of the force, and an indication of certain countries, particularly the Commonwealth countries, from which he would be willing to see such a force drawn.

But he was determined to try, first of all, to secure the neutralization of the Turkish Cypriot community by some kind of action in the United Nations, which would bring about, as he saw it, an effective nullification of the intervention rights of the Turks, under the Guarantee Treaty. For this reason, he wanted to postpone any serious discussion of the international force until after he had succeeded with this ploy.

So that when it became apparent that he was determined to go ahead in the Security Council and try to work out a resolution, to obtain a resolution which he had been advised, I think quite mistakenly, would have the effect of nullifying the unilateral intervention rights, it was necessary for Britain also to make a move to the Security Council, in order to mobilize world opinion in favor of a unilateral force, I mean, an international force, and to try to bring about the restoration of conditions of peace and order.

I may say that the American position, which was urged strongly at Nicosia, was that we had to get on with first things first, that the prime cause of all the difficulty was the fact that law and order had broken [Page 990]down, that the government appeared either unwilling or unable to maintain order, that some larger outside force, objective, neutral force—neutral in the sense that it was neither for one unit or another—was necessary if order were to be restored, and that once this were done, and order was restored, then the possibilities of the need for the utilization of the intervention rights would disappear. But that we could not permit this, the world would not permit this killing to go on on an extended basis, and that this was the point at which the problem must be tackled.

The Archbishop did not see it this way. He felt that it was much more interesting from their point of view to try to neutralize the Turkish community than it was to create an international force to restore law and order. And to some extent this may reflect the lack of control by the government over the situation, and the interests of some of the armed forces, which are not directly under government control, in trying to work toward a policy of dominating the Turkish community, dominating and perhaps even liquidating it.

What we are seeking in the Security Council, and what I think the Security Council will come up with, is in effect a mobilization of world opinion behind a scheme which is essentially the one that was agreed upon by all of the parties except the Archbishop. So that in a very real sense this is simply the transference of the same effort into a somewhat different form.

All of the discussions which are going on in New York concern the creation of a force, the composition of which would be agreed to by the interested parties. This is not the pattern of the force that was employed in the Congo, where the Security Council itself created a force and where it was financed through the UN.

Let me say that no one who is interested in the creation of such a force is talking about it being financed through the UN, and all of the plans which are floating around in New York at the moment contemplate that the force would be one in which the parties would agree as to its composition. So that I think we may say that the force would clearly exclude any Bloc elements, and would be composed of forces from such areas as the older members of the Commonwealth, and perhaps some of the neutral countries in Western Europe, and perhaps some of the NATO members; and certainly the British would remain in it.

Well, this is the situation as of today. The Security Council is going to be meeting this afternoon and I hope the debate will not be protracted, but one cannot be sure. There are some procedural problems which will have to be disposed of, such as the seating of delegates from the Turkish-Cypriot community, or representatives of that community at least, to provide information to the Security Council; the disposition of an effort of the Government of Cyprus to obtain a resolution against aggression, which to its mind, based on the advice it has received, [Page 991]would have the effect of nullifying the intervention rights of the Turkish Government, and so on.

But I did want to make the point quite emphatically that this is simply a further phase in the same effort, which is an effort to obtain an effective international force which would be composed of elements provided by the countries prepared to pay for them, would be composed of elements on which the parties agreed, and which could bring about a restoration of law and order in Cyprus, and create the conditions which would make it possible for the parties to get together and try to work out a political solution.

So far as the formal shape of the political solution is concerned, from the point of view of the United States Government, this is a matter which the parties themselves will have to agree upon. We haven’t attempted to impose a solution or even to suggest one. I think this is something which will have to be left up to the parties, although one of the elements of the scheme calls for the appointment of a mediator, and we are hopeful that there can be a mediator designated who can serve as a kind of catalyst in bringing about a meeting of the minds of the parties concerned.

[Here follows a question and answer exchange with the press on the Cyprus situation.]

  1. Source: Department of State, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Subject Files, Reel 87, Frames 1138–1347. No classification marking.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XVI, Documents 306 309.
  3. See ibid., 1964–1968, vol. XVI, Documents 11 and 13.