Başlangıç > Cyprus Kıbrıs, International Relations > CYPRUS DISPUTE IN TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY: THREE CRISIS


Until 60’s the Cyprus discussions among Turkish politicians, foreign policy makers and public opinion was very rare. After that time the issue triggered a wide range of events which eventually led to considerable changes in Turkish foreign policy and Turkish-Great powers relations.

Following the independence and the Republic of Cyprus was established by recognizing the 1960 Constitution which performs an egalitarian approach the two communities in Cyprus, the Greeks and Turks, indicated that the settlement was temporary, since the Greek Cypriots did never abandoned their ultimate desire, Enosis, unification of Cyprus and Greece. While Turkish Cypriots insisted on the full implementation of the constitution, Greek Cypriots wanted to amend the constitution in favor of Greeks. Unfortunately, inter communal violence started in December 1963. In order to cease the fire Turkey alarmed the guarantor states, Greece and Britain. In this sense, Turkey wanted from US to be a part of the negotiations, however US’s stance to be neutral between two NATO states, Greece and Turkey, caused disappointment for Turkey. At the end of the negotiations, UN decision was to send troops to settle peace in the island, yet UN force failed to end violence. In addition to this, Greek Cypriots began to deploy heavy weapons to the island which came from USSR. Turkey decided to invade to the island on June 1964 after consulting to the US.

After consulting the US, on 4 June Prime Minister Inonu received the famous the US president Johnson letter, is considered as a turning point in Turkish Foreign policy and Turco-American relations. Pointing to the threat of Soviet involvement in the matter Johnson warned Inonu: “I hope you will understand your allies have not had a chance to consider whether they have an obligation to protect Turkey against the Soviet Union if Turkey takes a step which results in Soviet intervention without full consent and understanding of its NATO allies”, and that Turkey could not use the US-supplied weapons for an invasion of Cyprus. Turkey was really shocked because she based their entire security on NATO and now there was no NATO’s security umbrella in case of Soviet attack. Indications of this letter were so huge in Turkey. There were lots of criticisms against the US interference to Turkey’s intervention. It was time to criticize the whole Turkish foreign policy that basing security only on the US and NATO, and isolation from the USSR and third world countries for Cyprus question. There were sounds in Turkey which openly called for Turkey’s withdrawal from NATO and the severance of all political links with the US. On the other hand, Turco-Soviet relations were also bad at that time. Soviets declared that if Turkey attempts such an intervention, the USSR would assist to Makarios. So, Inonu feared the possibility of Soviet intervention in Cyprus on the side of Makarios without gaining the support of the US. The most significant impact of 1964 crisis on Turkish foreign policy was because of deterioration of relations with the US, Turkey understood the importance of improving relations with the USSR. Because of this, while relations with the US started to go bad, a Turco-Soviet relation was improving after 1964. There were several reasons for multi-faceted Turkish foreign policy. Reasons were Turkey needed to strength security, economic resources for her development, good relations with neighbors and support of international community on Cyprus issue. In accordance to the multi-faceted foreign policy Turkey also sought to improve relations with Arab countries which were blaming Turkey as being a tool of the US.  Turkey increased her support to Palestinians and stayed neutral in 1967 Arab-Israel war.

Instability in Greece indirectly brought out the 1967 Cyprus crisis. In April 1967 Greek military held a coup d’état. Junta was secretly aiming the enosis with giving minority rights to the Turkish Cypriots on the island. In spite of all these, Turkish and Greek Prime Ministers made unsuccessful negotiations in September 1967. Only two weeks later Greek Cypriots again attacked Turkish villages in Cyprus. Thereupon, parliament gave government to send Turkish troops abroad, to Cyprus. Because Turkey had equipment shortages and the presence of US Sixth Fleet, Turkey did not invade to Cyprus. President Johnson did not repeat the same mistake that he did in 1963 and he tried to mediation rather than directly vetoing Turkey. However, most Turks still perceived the US only major barrier to a military intervention in Cyprus. In this sense, Demirel carefully avoided blaming the US for any criticism leveled against her rather blaming the US for failure to intervene like Inonu did. Because of those several reasons Turkey did not accuse the US Administration of being pro-Greek as Inonu did in 1964. In 1967, the US used her capabilities on preventing a war between two NATO countries, Turkey and Greece. On the other hand, in 1967 USSR carefully avoided criticizing Turkey’s invasion to Cyprus as they did in 1964 crisis, since Soviet Union strongly opposed the junta in Greece. Turkey was also less isolated from international community in accordance with multi-faceted foreign policy after 1964 disaster of being lonely in international arena. Arab countries also supported such a Turkish invasion on Cyprus or kept their silence. At the end of the 1967 crisis the status quo on the island and Turco-Greek relations was kept.

Erbakan’s anti-western party, National Salvation Party (MSP), and Ecevit’s secularist Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) formed a coalition government in 1974. There in Greece were also developments in government. Continuing negotiations until 1968 let Greek administration to be impatient to reach ultimate desire, enosis. Greek administration saw Makarios as an impediment in front of enosis. Eventually, on 15th of July 1974 Makarios was overthrown by a Greek assisted coup d’état and replaced by Nikos Sampson. He was the worst possible of choice from several points, because there was no support to him in Cyprus, and he was known as sadistic killer of Turks and Britons. The Sampson coup of 15 July 1974 caught the Ecevit’s government by surprise. The military coup in Cyprus changed the character of Cyprus question completely.

Britain was against a military action which would done by Turkey because of security of British citizens on the island and to maintain British bases on the island which are heavily dependent on corporation with Greek Cypriots. However, both Britain and the US were not physically opposed to a Turkish intervention, as Turkey now had sufficient land-crafting and other equipment to carry a successful invasion of Cyprus. Before launching the invasion, Turkey consulted to Britain and the US, yet both did not act effectively to prevent it, and the Soviet Union declared that it was consensual to a limited military intervention. Eventually, Turkey launched invasion on 20 June 1974. Soviet Union did not oppose Turkey’s Cyprus landing, and even continued its silence since the second offensive. Third world states and regional countries did not arouse antagonistic response to Turkey’s Cyprus intervention. And Turkish Government realized that in détente era the US was in no position to interfere in the affairs of its smaller allies. The Cyprus crisis of 1974 also had important effects on Turkey’s relations with the United States. The US congress decision on imposition of an arms embargo, which promoted by a powerful pro-Greek lobby, on Turkey caused repercussions on the eyes of Turkish people. Demirel’s government suspended all operations at all US facilities in Turkey after arms embargo decision. This caused a serious problem for the US for monitoring Soviet military movements in southern region of Soviet Union. Turkey solved the US embargo problem by supplying equipments from other NATO countries. At the end, the US congress completely lifted the embargo in August 1978. If the embargo were not lifted, Turkish government also calculated the withdrawal from NATO. However, the effects of the arms embargo of 1975-78 had comparatively little political effect, on the eyes of Turkish public that in Johnson’s letter of 1964. Because, the Turkish government chose to suffer the deprivations of the embargo rather than accept the humiliating conditions set by Congress which practically meant the adoption of Greek demands prior to negotiations. After all these, relations between Turkey and the US were not cut, yet it was close to cut. Johnson’s letter of 1964 and the arms embargo of 1975-78 left permanent bad effects on the eyes of Turkish people. On the other hand, because of difficulties in Turkey’s relationship with the US, Turkey accelerated her relations with Soviet Union with decreasing threat coming from Soviets. Turkey noticed that Turkish security was over-dependent on NATO and the US. Turkish government also wanted to develop relations with third world countries and Warsaw Pact countries. Turkey signed a good neighborhood pact with the USSR and Ecevit announced that Turkey would reduce corporation with the US and NATO, and Soviet Union no longer constituted a threat to Turkey. However, after Greek withdrawal from NATO, Soviets tried to develop its relation with Greece while cooling the relations with Turkey off. Actually, Turkey did not affect profoundly by this improvement, because in those days Turkey was pretty much affected by her ally’s impediment, the US.

In conclusion, the three Cyprus crises significantly altered Turkish perceptions of America’s importance to Turkish national security. Turkey realized that her NATO membership did not assure the protection of interests in Cyprus. All these developments caused Turkey to strength her relation with the Soviets and Third World countries to some extent.

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