Accussed of being both
a Brit basher and schmoozing up to the government, MARTIN PACKARD attempts
to put the record straight
First, honoured as I am to be referred to as a 'spook', I have never in
fact been a spy or an 'intelligence agent'. While serving as a Royal Navy
officer, I did have a three-year stint as intelligence adviser to NATO's
Comedsoueast and to the UK's C-in-C Mediterranean, but I was acting simply
as an analyst and the job didn't make me a member of the professional
intelligence community. What it did do was give me access to diplomatic and
intelligence reporting from throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, much of
which I found to be either biased or inaccurate when it referred to areas
of which I had personal knowledge.
Nor have I ever worked for the British Foreign Office, which will have been
a matter of relief to that establishment.
I was sent by the Navy
to Cyprus on January 6, 1964, solely because General Peter Young, who had
just taken command of Joint Force (the original peacekeeping operation),
had asked for the secondment of officers qualified as Greek-language
interpreters, of whom I was one.
By General Young, I was mandated to lead, with officers from ELOYK and
TUROYK, a I tripartite mediating initiative for the northern areas of
Cyprus. I was assured by the general that I could consider my loyalties to
be wholly committed to the Cypriot people, rather than to any ulterior
British agenda, and I received very strong support from President Makarios
and Vice-President Kutchuk and from most of the other key leaders in both
communities. The initiative was bottom-up, starting at village coffee-shop
level, whereby we acquired an intimate knowledge of all of the real
problems of rural Cyprus. We worked our way through every instance of
confrontation, finding solutions sometimes through local understandings and
sometimes through negotiation with leadership figures in Nicosia.
The tripartite mediating process had remarkable success. It, rather than
regular British army units, was principally responsible for turning back
the anarchy that had momentarily enveloped rural Cyprus and for
re-establishing working partnerships in every mixed area of the island.
From there it moved on to island-wide projects.
The success of the initiative derived from the fact that it was wholly
answerable to the Cypriot people (but could call on military support if
needed), that it talked to people in their own language, that it was
strongly supported by (and had private access to) the leaderships and key
figures in both communities, that it had intimate knowledge of the real
causes of dispute in every case, that it recognised the traumas, the
insecurities and emotional ingredients of each situation that it faced. We
were also able to feel out the limits to which re-engagement was possible
and to establish quiet progress away from the glare of publicity or the
interference of foreign interventionists.
The momentum that was created through the tripartite initiative could, if
properly fostered, have led to a new bi-communal partnership under more
realistic terms than were possible under the 1960 constitution. There were
compromises available that could have been ring-fenced against extremism
and foreign intervention and that would have satisfied the need of both
communities for real security.
In early June 1964
agreement was achieved, with approval from the Organisation, the Secret
Army, TMT and all relevant political and local leaders, for a return of the
Turkish Cypriots to some of the mixed villages they had abandoned. This was
not a solving of the Cyprus problem but it was a vital step forward. The
plan required the provision by UNFICYP of escort and policing arrangements,
for which I already had the go-ahead from the UN's mediating directorate.
General Young had been
replaced in February (accused in London of being 'too pro- Cypriot') by the
hard-line General Carver. As soon as Carver learned of the agreement, I was
told to consider myself under open arrest: the following day I was removed
unceremoniously from Cyprus (despite pleas from Makarios, Kutchuk and the
UN that I stay) and my mediating operation was dismantled. Movement stopped
in all those areas of communal re-engagement for which my unit had provided
the interface and the glue.
I was told at the time by both UK and US ministers that I had exceeded my
role and failed to understand that the NATO target was for communal
My key Greek Cypriot
contacts were not starry-eyed idealists but pragmatic men who were prepared
to go forward from the disaster of Christmas ’63 and accept that the future
well-being of Cyprus would depend on a workable bi-communal partnership in
which their Turkish Cypriot co-islanders would feel wholly secure. My key
Turkish Cypriot contacts believed that their culture and history could be
preserved and their security and rights of equality safeguarded within an
achievable arrangement that would build on a common attachment to a shared
I hope that I am not,
as you suggest, a traditional 'Brit-basher', nor am I a
conspiracy-theorist. I do believe that Britain, like every other nation,
will always seek to pursue its own interests. Unhappily for Cyprus, Britain
considers that it has a special relationship with the Turkish army and one
aspect of its policies in the eastern Mediterranean has frequently been the
promotion of communal separateness in order to provide counter-balances or
influence. I believe that since the 1960s there have been opportunities for
Britain to promote a regional convergence between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus
that were neglected in favour of traditional 'divide-and-rule' theory. I
believe this neglect has been very damaging to Turkey and Greece as well as
to the Cypriots and that Britain has failed to garner huge benefits that
could have accrued from an alternative route. I also believe that it would
not hurt the British government to apologise to the Cypriot people for its
past contribution to communal division.
intelligence and military establishments wanted to hang on to the whole of
Cyprus in perpetuity. Since the 1950s Ankara has repeatedly involved itself
in the internal affairs of the island, claiming that its national security
was at risk. The Greek-initiated coup d'etat of 1974 was run from a blueprint
prepared, with US prompting, in Athens in 1964, when Greece was under
democratic government. Cyprus has been subject to consistent interference
and subversion from abroad. This is not to absolve Cypriot politicians of
responsibility for their mistakes but it suggests that they should be
careful of putting much faith in foreign planning for their future.
The events of early 1964 have never been clearly explained to the Cypriot
public and have been grossly distorted by foreign commentators. The truth
about them is essentially unifying rather than divisive.
The mediating process
then, which came close to success, depended on two men, Tassos Papadopoulos
and Fazil Kutchuk. Each was a Cypriot nationalist, rather than a Greek or
Turkish one; but each was prepared to seek a new and workable partnership.
Maybe it was a recoil from the abyss but no snide belittlement can alter
the fact of what. they achieved, or sought to achieve, during the period
that I was working with them. The conquering of violence and the survival
of a great number of Turkish Cypriots stemmed from that co-operation and
from the conciliatory efforts that were spearheaded by Papadopoulos: I say
this not because of friendship or respect but as a witness to events in
which I was involved.
I was asked some time
ago by the Clerides government to create a record of the mediating process
in 1964 and was helped with the expenses of doing so. The Turkish Cypriots
also offered financial support. I hope the finished work will be a useful
contribution to the national archive of Cyprus.
I was unhappy with the
Annan Plan and with the Wilton Park conference because they seemed to me
rooted in the concept of a permanence of communal separation rather than
being helpful to the creation a framework for an 'organic' process of
evolving re-engagement. Equally I am saddened to see such mudslinging
between 'Yes' voters and 'No' voters, at a time when tolerance, mutual
understanding and objectivity could pay real dividends. Annan 5 clearly had
very serious shortcomings: the division between those who thought its
faults made it unacceptable and those who thought that nothing better might
become available needs to be bridged for the common good. The mutual
demonising, eminently exploitable from abroad, surely needs to end
otherwise Cypriots will lose another opportunity to be the deciders of
their own future.
The events of early
1964 made me an optimist. They also made me a profound believer in the
ability of Cypriots to resolve their own problems when given a suitable
framework within which to do so.
Two weeks ago, Packard appeared on a CyBC interview programme where he
was presented as a former member of the British Secret Services
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 6 March 2005