Callaghan says US vetoed 74 intervention to protect spy facilities
Cyprus Mail: 13th November 1999
By Jean Christou
THE UNITED States vetoed Britain's intervention in the Turkish invasion to protect its spying bases in northern Cyprus, former British Prime Minister Lord Callaghan has revealed in an interview to a British paper.
This is the first time that America's use of spy bases in Cyprus has ever been confirmed, and the issue is to be raised in the British House of Commons.
In the interview, published yesterday in the Times Higher Education Supplement, Lord Callaghan confirmed that Britain had almost gone to war with Turkey over Cyprus.
He said that although Britain had sent a task force in 1974, the Americans vetoed any military action that might have deterred Turkey.
He implied that this was because the US did not want to jeopardise its electronic spying facilities in northern Cyprus and admitted the invasion left the US free to continue spying on Russia and the Middle East from a 'state' it did not recognise.
"The Turks were willing to let the Americans carry on operating because their presence was a political safeguard against the Russians," he said.
Callaghan was interviewed for the Times by Brendan O'Malley, co-author with Ian Craig of The Cyprus Conspiracy: American Espionage and the Turkish Invasion.
O'Malley said that when researching the book, Callaghan had privately admitted that Britain had sent the task force. "It was the most frightening moment of my career," he said. "We nearly went to war with Turkey. But the Americans stopped us."
The author said that, although Callaghan has in the past shunned interviews about Cyprus, he relented last month.
Callaghan disputed the authors' conclusion that the division of Cyprus was an international plot at a time when the US was embroiled in the Watergate scandal that toppled the Nixon presidency.
At the same time, the Labour government had come to power in Britain determined to slash defence spending at a period when spying in Cyprus was increasingly important.
"We took a decision to cut down on defence and closing one or two of the major bases on Cyprus was a strong runner," Callaghan said, adding that the US military and senior State Department officials repeatedly asked for the bases to be saved, primarily because they could not have taken them over themselves.
"Cyprus had extreme value as a centre for electronic surveillance of the Soviet Union's nuclear activities," Callaghan said. "So the American's didn't want us to go."
Duplicity over Cyprus survives to this day
by Michael Jansen
The Daily Star 20/07/99
Twenty-five years ago, the Turkish Army invaded Cyprus. Ankara claimed that it was obliged to act to protect the Turkish Cypriot community following a coup against President Makarios mounted on July 15th by the faltering Greek junta in Athens. The colonels had named as president Nicos Sampson, a Greek Cypriot right-winger with a reputation as a Turk fighter. This provocative appointment presented Turkey with a perfect propaganda ploy to justify intervention under the Treaty of Guarantee which empowered Greece, Turkey and Britain to take action if the communal balance on the island were disturbed. Britain, also obliged to intervene, was instructed to stay out by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Under the treaty, the two should have used force to counter the coup and re-establish the legal government of the republic. Instead Turkey, acting on its own, occupied the northern 37 percent of the island and expelled 125,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes and villages. Later Ankara used its military muscle to compel Turkish Cypriots still living in the south to move north. The island where the Greek and Turkish communities once lived together in mixed towns and villages was divided into two ethnic zones.
Cyprus remains divided, its people separated by the worlds first Green Line, so named because during an earlier round of troubles a British officer drew a line in green ink to divide the capital, Nicosia, into two sectors. After Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, the term Green Line was used to refer to the 1948 cease-fire line in Palestine and, of course, Beirut acquired its own Green Line during the civil war.
The Turkish side says that the Cyprus problem has been solved. The Greek side argues that the occupation and de facto partition of Cyprus are illegal and that the presence of 35,000 Turkish troops on the island poses a threat to the stability of the eastern Mediterranean. The international community agrees that the status quo is not acceptable and has called for an end to the arms race which has turned the island of Aphrodite into one of the most heavily militarized pieces of real estate in the world.
The Cyprus problem which had repeatedly threatened to precipitate Greco-Turkish warfare was supposed to be resolved in 1974. But the men in Athens, Ankara and Washington (yes, Washington) who planned the summer scenario miscalculated. Instead of solving the Cyprus problem, they perpetuated it, deepening Greco-Turkish antagonism.
Two British journalists, Brendan OMalley, foreign editor of the Times Educational Supplement in London, and Ian Craig, political editor of the Manchester Evening News, have, on the 25th anniversary of the events, brought out a book entitled The Cyprus Conspiracy: America, Espionage and the Turkish Invasion (published by I.B. Taurus in London).
But the conspiracy theory is nothing new. The conspiracy was revealed as those events unfolded. Elements of the plot came out in the British press and many politicians who disapproved of the Cyprus affair soon spoke out. I used this material and interviews with Cypriots and U.S. sources for a book entitled The Aphrodite Plot written during the spring and summer of 1976, sitting in a house in Chemlan with shells from a 75-millimeter howitzer positioned on the ridge above Ainab soaring overhead and crashing into targets in East Beirut.
Lawrence Stern of The Washington Post wrote about the plot at the same time (The Wrong Horse); Peter Murtagh, formerly of the Guardian and now with the Irish Times, added details in a book about the colonels published in 1994 (The Rape of Greece). There were, of course, many other books which referred to the plot.
The object of the plot was to solve the Cyprus problem once and for all. A general outline of a deal had been thrashed out during clandestine conversations between Greek and Turkish ministers meeting privately during NATO conferences in the early 1970s. The deal itself involved the establishment of a Turkish base on the Karpass Peninsula and arrangements for the protection of the Turkish Cypriots while most of the island and the Greek Cypriots who made up 82 percent of the population would be granted union, Enosis, with the Greek motherland.
Since the Cyprus troubles began in 1963-64, the U.S. had been determined to get rid of President Makarios, seen by Washington as the major obstacle to such a deal. The U.S., a country based on the separation of church and state, had a visceral dislike for Archbishop Makarios because he was a cleric in politics. He also drew electoral support from the communist Akel Party while the Cold War raged on the international scene. He was non-aligned, thus immoral in Washingtons eyes. He was a friend of the Arabs, while the U.S. backed Israel. And Makarios was an enemy of Washington's junta friends in Athens who, according to Peter Murtagh, had allowed Israeli planes to use a U.S. base in Crete to launch the air strikes on Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian air fields that decided the outcome of the 1967 war before Arab and Israeli troops came together on the ground.
After the October War in 1973, the U.S. became increasingly eager to get rid of Makarios and secure a strategic foothold on the island by installing its Greek and Turkish allies on Cyprus. Britain had denied Washington the use of Cyprus-based communications facilities which might have enabled the U.S. to warn Israel of the Arabs preemptive attack. And Washington was not allowed to use British bases as staging posts for resupplying Israel with the weaponry which enabled it to win the war.
The timing of the coup was crucial. By late 1973, Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiators had reached a constitutional agreement which would have settled the Cyprus problem within the context of the existing unitary state. Turkish Cypriots were leaving the communal enclaves they inhabited since 1963 to work and to settle back in their old homes.
Athens and Ankara took steps to block the accord. Then Athens began to make arrangements to overthrow Makarios. He knew full well what was going on and demanded the withdrawal of mainland Greek officers of the Cyprus National Guard who were instructed to mount the coup on behalf of Athens. Makarios warned everybody who would listen, even journalists like my husband and myself during an interview a few months before the plot was mounted.
The July 1974 coup was the last of several attempts. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agencys chief of station in Athens had been fully informed of the plots development since early in the year. The State Department was also aware of what was going on and told the U.S. ambassador in Athens to warn off the colonels. But he did not make a forceful statement in time to stop them from going ahead. Which they did. And they botched it.
Just after 8am on the morning of July 15th, Greek-commanded units of the National Guard rolled up the curving drive to the presidential palace in armored cars. They were held off by bodyguards and policemen expecting such a bid. President Makarios was receiving Greek schoolchildren from Egypt. He led them to safety in the garden behind the palace, escaped down a path and caught a taxi which took him to safety. The coup had failed in its first objective.
But not in its second which was to give Ankara a military foothold on the island. On July 20th, Turkish troops were parachuted onto the island and landed on the tourist beaches near the pretty port of Kyrenia. Although Greek Army officers commanding the National Guard were ordered not to resist, those who did fought well but could not prevent the Turks from occupying, in two stages, the entire northern part of the island. But instead of sticking to the deal which gave Turkey a base in the Karpass, Ankara had decided to implement its own plan for the partition of the country along a line first put forward in the mid-1950s.
The Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus precipitated the collapse of the Greek junta, the CIAs Athens asset, but this did not worry the State Depa rtment which had reached the conclusion that the junta was no longer an acceptable partner. Although Kissinger said later that Washington was too preoccupied with Watergate to function effectively as the crisis on the island was building, his excuses must not be taken seriously. It was reported in the press at the time that Kissinger first discouraged Britain from mounting a joint intervention with Turkey with the object of restoring the legitimate government and then told the British foreign secretary, James Callaghan, not to be a boy scout when he suggested that Britain stage a naval operation to prevent Turkish landings on Cyprus. Kissingers nos speak complicity.
Like many other well-laid plots, the Cyprus conspiracy went astray.
It solved nothing. But it is important to know that there was
a plot. Today, after 25 years of fruitless settlement talks, Washington,
the only power on earth which might press Turkey to agree to a
UN-drafted federal solution, refuses to do so. The U.S. secretary
of defense, William Cohen, stated as much during his recent visit
to Ankara. Why should Washington intervene to reverse the outcome
of the conspiracy it supported?