73. Intelligence Report Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

OCI No. 1456/73



The conflict between the Greek and Turkish communities on Cyprus has had repercussions far beyond the island. Greece and Turkey have twice threatened war to protect the interests of their communities on the island. The US and UK have been caught up in the island’s problems, the Soviets have occasionally tried to take advantage of the situation, and a UN peacekeeping force has been on the island for almost a decade, keeping the lid on deep-seated intercommunal antagonism.

Cypriot intercommunal problems continue to elude a satisfactory solution. Animosity between the two communities is deeply rooted in the island’s history, and independence in 1960 did not help. Major hostilities erupted in 1963 and again in 1967, and passions continue to smolder. Though talks between the communities have helped to keep the level of violence down, they have made little progress toward basic solutions—despite the addition of “advisers” from Greece and Turkey, as well as a UN observer. The talks remain deadlocked; the Greek Cypriots will accept nothing less than majority rule, and the Turkish Cypriots demand greater participation in the administration of the island than their 20-percent minority would seem to justify.

Total political supremacy on the island is a basic goal of President Archbishop Makarios. A shrewd political maneuverer, his tactics have at times created misunderstanding and mistrust in both communities. Makarios clings to the conviction that he was hoodwinked into accepting the original terms for independence, which included a protective veto for the Turks; he is dedicated to expanding the already dominant Greek Cypriot position on the island.

Cyprus has been relatively quiet since 1968, but trouble has been brewing since late last year. This time the threat lies within the Greek Cypriot community. George Grivas, a leader of the fight for independence, secretly returned to the island late in August 1971. The aging guerrilla leader has always been a fierce champion of enosis—union of Cyprus with Greece—and he is now a bitter foe of Makarios, who favors enosis in theory but not in practice. Grivas has carried out a [Page 254] series of terrorist acts against the Makarios government, and there is a danger that violence could eventually spill over into the Turkish Cypriot community.

This working paper defines the major issues, identifies the principal players, and provides some historical background of a complex problem that promises to be with us for a long time.

The Problem

Part of Cyprus’ problems grew out of the London–Zurich Agreements, which gave the island its independence from Britain in 1960. The agreements sought to bring about cooperation between the two communities by limiting the power of the Greek majority and providing guarantees for the Turkish minority. The agreements, not surprisingly, failed to overcome the hostility and mistrust. By 1963 the machinery of government had ground to a halt, largely because there was (and is) no sense of Cypriot nationalism among the islanders; cultural and ethnic chauvinism divides Greek Cypriots from Turkish Cypriots, and their separate political administrations prevent the development of any sense of nationhood.

The limited sovereignty granted to Cyprus by the London–Zurich accords also contributed to the intensification of communal disputes. Although the agreement made Cyprus an independent nation, it gave the UK, Greece, and Turkey—the “guarantor” powers—the right to intervene in concert or unilaterally if any one of them believed the status quo on Cyprus were being threatened. This provision virtually ensured outside interference in Cypriot problems. The trouble became international when Greece and Turkey became protective of their island communities, as they did twice in the sixties.

The upheaval in 1967 exemplified how a relatively minor incident in Cyprus can spiral into an international problem. General Grivas, then commander of the Cypriot National Guard, sent armed patrols into two Turkish Cypriot villages from which the guard had withdrawn three months earlier. Makarios probably did not favor this move, and Grivas was motivated in part by a need to do something about his sagging reputation. Fighting continued for several days, and the Turks threatened to invade the island. Only an agreement by Athens, after US mediation, to withdraw Grivas and its illegal troops from the island ended the confrontation. Troops from both Greece and Turkey were introduced into Cyprus prior to the 1967 clash in numbers beyond the terms of the London–Zurich agreements. After the 1967 clash most of these illegal troops were removed. The mainland contingents on Cyprus are generally now kept within the treaty limits: 950 for Greece and 650 for Turkey. Greece and Turkey seem more reluctant to intervene militarily today because of the international disapprobation provoked by the 1967 episode. Both communities are still armed camps, however, and [Page 255] weapons are easily smuggled onto the island. A single spark, perhaps struck by the enosists, could lead at any time to renewed violence, which would again tempt mainland guarantors to intervene.

The main division on the island is between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, but there are also serious divisions within the two communities themselves. The continued jockeying of these forces creates instability within each community and minimizes the possibilities for compromise.

The Divided Majority

Archbishop Makarios would reject any arrangement that detracted from the concept of a unitary state run by the Greek Cypriots. He regrets signing the London–Zurich Agreements because they granted a separate status to the Turkish Cypriots. His desire to achieve a unitary state in Cyprus is evident in the intercommunal talks, where he has been willing to cooperate on minor issues, but not on the concept of majority rule. The Archbishop also wants Cyprus to be a totally independent state, free from outside interference. Although he is a devoted believer in Hellenism—the cultural identity of Greeks—he opposes enosis in the belief that political union between Cyprus and Greece would greatly diminish his power. His public position is, “enosis is fine, but not now.”

Other Greek Cypriots do not share Makarios’ view on enosis. Some want it now; others would accept temporary independence with union to come later. Makarios plays these factions against each other with notable success, but occasionally radical elements within the Greek Cypriot community push the enosis issue.

The most persistent of these is George Grivas, whose terrorist campaign against the British was a significant factor in London’s decision to give up its former colony. Grivas believes Makarios sold out the island’s interests by signing the London–Zurich Agreement, and he has never given up his self-appointed mission to make Cyprus a province of Greece. In his latest effort, Grivas pulled together about 500 men who were willing to fight openly for enosis. Grivas and the Archbishop have been waging an increasingly hazardous battle for the support of the community since 1972, when Grivas turned his guerrillas loose in a terrorist campaign to discredit Makarios. The increase in violence in their dispute is a reminder that civil war could again visit the island.

As the months of 1973 wore on Grivas’ forces were demoralizing the police and embarrassing the government with well-coordinated raids and bombings of police stations and other public buildings. Makarios countered by purging the police of many Grivas adherents and by creating a tactical reserve unit. This police unit, composed of 500 trusted officers and men, arrested many of Grivas’ supporters and confiscated large amounts of arms. Grivas struck back by kidnapping Makarios’ minister of justice and continuing the bombings.

[Page 256]

Makarios would like to be rid of the General, but is constrained by certain factors. Grivas is a hero of the struggle for independence, and to arrest him would risk alienating the enosists among the Greek Cypriots. Moreover, Makarios must be concerned over Athens’ reaction. As a result, the Archbishop has been limiting his actions to rounding up Grivasites and to denigrating his group as “bandits.”

Grivas is an avid anti-Communist and has vowed to destroy the party on Cyprus. The Communist Party supports Makarios and his drive for an independent Cyprus. Another leftist faction, led by Vassos Lyssarides, who is close to Makarios, is determined to block Grivas by any means. It has about the same strength as the Grivas force. Up to now, Makarios has held Lyssarides back and prevented a blood bath involving these two radical extremes within the Greek Cypriot community. Should the Grivas forces make any really determined and forceful push to fulfill the general’s lifelong goal of enosis, there is a good possibility that Makarios would allow Lyssarides to use all his resources against Grivas.

Makarios always has blamed Athens for part of his problems. He believes—with some reason—that the Greeks want to weaken his control of Cyprus and that this was why they allowed the exiled Grivas to return to the island. Inasmuch as Athens cannot openly oust the Archbishop, supporting Grivas has been the logical decision.

Makarios also blames Athens for the attempt by the Cypriot bishops to defrock him in the midst of Grivas’ terror campaign. Grivas openly supported the action of the rebel bishops, but it was they—rather than the Archbishop—who were subsequently defrocked.

The Greek Government had avoided publicly coming between the two rivals, but by late summer newly designated President Papadopoulos clearly and openly castigated Grivas. Papadopoulos urged that an end to his terrorist campaign would be the highest service the general could render to Cyprus and the “national center,” meaning Greece. Papadopoulos may have feared that the intracommunal struggle was risking more direct Greek involvement at a time when he had his hands full giving his own administration—the “Hellenic Republic”—a changed look. British and Canadian démarches also had urged Athens to curb the general’s activities.

Whatever Papadopoulos’ motives, Grivas responded by branding the Greek leader’s intervention a betrayal of the cause of Hellenism. A verbal battle continues on the island, but violence has tailed off and Makarios appeared to be winning the latest round. Whether the general is ready to give up the battle, however, is still questionable.

The Turkish Cypriots see all this instability within the Greek Cypriot community as a threat to their own security, fearing that the fighting could spill over into their enclaves and lead to another intercommunal [Page 257] clash. Troop maneuvers and alerts within the Turkish enclaves are held to prepare for this eventuality. The Turkish representative to the intercommunal talks cites the recurrent violence to justify demands for greater autonomy.

The Turkish Cypriot position has become more inflexible since February 1973, when Rauf Denktash took office as the Turkish Cypriot vice president of the island. Denktash has little of the dynamism of Makarios, but he is a strong leader, has the support of the Turkish community, and has done a good job at the intercommunal talks. He favors direct intervention by Turkey to force compromises from the Greek side.

Some of Denktash’s goals have created tensions between the Turkish Cypriots and Ankara. The relationship between the Turkish military on the island and the Turkish Cypriot administration has always been touchy. Denktash insists that the vice president must have autonomous control of both the military and political affairs of the Turkish community. His position challenges not only Makarios’ authority as president, but also Ankara’s insistence that its commander of the Turkish mainland force on Cyprus control military matters within the Turkish community and review political decisions. Strains between Ankara and Denktash surfaced recently when Turkish troops on the island went on maneuvers in direct violation of an agreement between the two communities not to hold exercises or parades that might increase intercommunal tensions.

These differences are likely to continue. The Greek side might cite the Turkish maneuver as an example of overly aggressive Turkish behavior, but the Turks would justify their position by pointing to the instability on the Greek Cypriot side. This sort of argumentation serves only to continue the polarization of the communities.

The Outsiders

A dozen or more nations have an active interest in the Cyprus question. Aside from simple bilateral interests, many countries believe that the balance of power in the Mediterranean could be upset if Cyprus were to slip over the edge.

Greece and Turkey

Greece and Turkey have had an uphill struggle since 1968 to prevent tensions on the island from harming their bilateral relations. Greek President Papadopoulos has made it clear that Greek-Turkish hostilities over the island would not serve Greek interests. To prevent any misunderstanding over Cyprus, there is now a “hotline” between Athens and Ankara and foreign ministers of the two countries meet periodically. Efforts are being made to separate problems Greece has with its Turkish minority and Turkey with its Greeks from the Cypriot [Page 258] communal problem. Both nations have urged their respective communities on the island to resolve their differences and return to some degree of harmony.

Despite these efforts, another Greek-Turkish confrontation is always possible. For Turkey, the fact that more than 100,000 Turkish Cypriots live under the Greek Cypriots is an emotional issue that cannot be easily dismissed. Turkish military leaders add fuel to the issue by contending that Cyprus in unfriendly hands would be a threat to Turkey’s security. They maintain a force in southern Turkey to remind Greece and the Greek Cypriots that they are ever ready to defend the Turkish Cypriots. Turkey trains and arms the 10,000-man defense forces of the Turkish Cypriots and provides Turkish officers to command them. Without Turkey’s moral, military, and increasing monetary support—now about $30 million a year—the Turkish Cypriots would probably be forced to knuckle under to the Greek majority or to leave the island.

Similarly, most mainland Greeks still have strong emotional ties to the substantial number of Greeks outside Greece. Greece’s influence over the Greek Cypriots has diminished in recent years, partly because almost 8,000 Greek troops were withdrawn in 1968, and partly because Athens has been trying to improve relations with Turkey. Another factor that has reduced the role of Greece in Cyprus is the enmity between Makarios and junta leader Papadopoulos. The Greek President apparently regards Makarios as the main obstacle to peace on the island and improved relations with Turkey. Makarios worries about Greek-Turkish rapprochement on the Cyprus problem that might lead the two nations to collaborate to oust him.

Other NATO states

NATO wants to preserve a strong southeastern flank against the growing Soviet presence in the eastern Mediterranean. NATO’s strength in the area depends largely on the US Sixth Fleet and the military support of Greece and Turkey. Another Greek-Turkish confrontation over Cyprus could seriously impair that effectiveness. NATO members are also concerned that a weak government in either country might use the Cyprus issue to divert attention from problems at home and cause another confrontation, with all the headaches that would entail.

[2 paragraphs (15½ lines) not declassified]

The US

The US shares the same basic concerns as the UK and other NATO allies regarding Cyprus. The US has made two unsuccessful attempts since the London–Zurich Agreements to mediate a settlement to the intercommunal dispute. In a major initiative in 1964, Dean Acheson [Page 259] proposed partitioning the island along ethnic lines, but this would have meant shifting population and Makarios turned down the proposal. A stern warning from President Johnson to Ankara in 1964 may have cooled the Turkish fervor for an invasion of Cyprus, but it also weakened US relations with the Turks. As as a result of Cyprus Vance’s hectic mission of November 1967, Athens, under Ankara’s pressure, recalled Grivas and most of the “illegal” Greek and Turkish troops were withdrawn. US political and financial support of the UN has helped preserve a peace-keeping force on Cyprus, but diplomatic pressure by the US and others has, through constant use, lost much of its effectiveness.


The Soviets have drawn the most benefits from the festering Cyprus issue. They like Makarios’ efforts to preserve Cyprus’ independence and to stimulate antipathy between the Greek and Turkish mainlanders. The Soviets want to keep the island from becoming a NATO base and thus weaken NATO’s southeastern flank—goals which are served by either continuing friction or independence. The Soviet position is aided by a strong, well-organized Communist Party that encourages good relations between the USSR and the island. Although the Russians themselves have sent no arms to Makarios since an agreement in 1964, they have not prevented other Communist nations, particularly the Czechs, from delivering arms. A shipment of Czech arms contributed greatly to the 1967 outburst, and a shipment last year helped produce current uncertainties. Moscow is careful to ensure that the Cyprus issue does not disturb its relations with Greece or Turkey, but applauds Makarios for the discomfort he causes NATO. The Soviets have consistently supported Makarios at the UN, but have refused to contribute to the maintenance of the UN force on Cyprus.

The UN Force

The principal peace-keeping, peace-making task has fallen to the UN. A peace-keeping force, now composed of 3,000 troops and police from Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the UK, has been on the island since 1964. Because of its small size, the force has been unable to prevent outbreaks of violence on the island like that of 1967, but has successfully mediated a number of minor intercommunal squabbles. Ironically, because of these successes, as well as financial reasons, the contingent has been cut back over the years, despite the constant underlying threat of violence. Financial backers of the UN force would like to reduce the numbers even further. Suggestions about changes in the force always raise questions about whether it is really needed. Its mandate is renewed every six months; the next review will be in December.

[Page 260]

The Road Ahead

While others are using diplomatic persuasion to influence Cyprus’ future, the islanders themselves have been discussing ways to resolve their problems. Since 1968, representatives from both communities have been talking intermittently on constitutional issues. The representatives have made no progress on major issues, but the talks do provide a channel of formal communication; indeed, they may offer the only hope for settlement of the basic issues.

In 1971, arguments over the degree of autonomy to be granted to the Turkish Cypriots led to a breakdown in the talks for several months; it took strenuous pressure from the UN Secretary General to get them started again. Local autonomy was discussed again last fall, and another deadlock set in. A UN observer and constitutional experts from Greece and Turkey are pressing hard for compromise on this issue. The UN observer has had some success in inducing the two sides to discuss issues previously considered not negotiable. Still, in the fall of 1973 settlement of these issues seemed remote.

The turmoil in the Greek community now diverts the attention of the participants and helps them to put off the painful compromises required. The Turkish Cypriots continue to prepare for new violence. Ankara provides Turkish Cypriot forces with new weapons; considerable quantities of arms have been smuggled in over the years, most often by ship. A few Turkish Cypriots would welcome new intercommunal violence; they believe that disruption on the island and a subsequent military action from the mainland are the only way to attain the rightful status for their community.

Thus, in the short term, political conditions will not change very much from their present deplorable state. Makarios is extremely popular and is not likely to relax his hold. He has demonstrated a capacity to outwit and outmaneuver his opponents. Grivas and other Greek Cypriot opponents will continue to work against him and at times will use violence to press their case. The Turkish Cypriots will insist upon full recognition of their rights. Greece and Turkey will find their dealings with the island more a liability than an asset, and neither will wish to project itself more actively into the Cypriot maelstrom. The international community, wishing above all to prevent a major power showdown in the eastern Mediterranean, will seek to maintain the status quo. Cyprus, in short, will not change much, and this means that a violent eruption is possible at any time.

[Omitted here are chronological and “Armed Forces Breakdown” appendices.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Current Intelligence, Job 79–T00861A, Box 22, Folder 14. Secret; No Foreign Dissem.