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Cyprus: Anger from All

4 minute read

Ecuador’s Galo Plaza, U.N. mediator for Cyprus, once described himself as a pathological optimist. He was employing no such label last week, as he presented the results of a yearlong study of the labyrinthine Cyprus problem.

As expected, Plaza’s plan pleased no one. He ruled out enosis (union with Greece), which is what many Greeks and Greek Cypriots want, as well as federalism or partition of the island, which is what Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots want. In effect, Plaza said that the U.N. as mediator could do nothing further until the two communities on Cyprus sat down face to face to discuss establishment of a government in which all would have equal rights without regard to racial origin.

Beyond the Boundaries? Turkish Cypriots recoiled from the idea of direct talks because of the predominant Greek position on the island; they are well aware that their top negotiator, Vice President Fazil Kuchuk, is no match for the wily Greek Cypriot leader, Archbishop Makarios, President of Cyprus. In Ankara, the Turkish government railed at the report, accused Plaza of being pro-Greek and denounced him for going beyond the “boundaries of his duty.” Instead of solving one problem, complained a Turkish official, Plaza had created a new one. But U.N. Secretary-General U Thant defended Plaza’s report as perfectly proper.

On Cyprus itself last week there were the usual minor altercations. Shots were exchanged across the Green Line, dividing Nicosia into Greek and Turkish quarters, and a Greek Cypriot was wounded at Ambelikou, a small village near Lefka whose Turkish inhabitants are surrounded by Greek Cypriots. The week’s most intriguing development was the mystery of the missile ship. After the island was hit by a retaliatory Turkish air raid last August, Makarios ordered ground-to-air missiles from Russia, and the weapons were shipped to Egypt to await transshipment. Greek Cypriot missile crews, officered by “volunteers” from the Greek army who have worked with similar missiles in NATO, trained for months in Egypt. Last week reliable reports said that the missiles were loaded onto a freighter in Alexandria, and there the mystery begins. One version has it that the ship never left port. Another maintains that the freighter sailed but was turned back by units of the U.S. Sixth Fleet that constantly patrol the seas around Cyprus. A third version insists that the freighter docked at Boghaz, the new port built by the Greek Cypriots near Famagusta (TIME, March 26), but was not unloaded because Washington, opposing any escalation of arms in the Cyprus dispute, prevailed upon Athens to put pressure on Makarios. According to this rumor, the mystery vessel returned with its missiles to Alexandria.

Word from Grivas. Observers expected to see at least some glamorous, new Soviet equipment at last week’s military parade in Nicosia to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Greek Cypriot uprising against the British. The parade was a disappointment, and the only Soviet weapons on display were trucks pulling old British field guns.

Makarios admitted in an interview that Soviet tanks and missile-launching equipment have reached the island, but no missiles. At week’s end, Makarios was still officially silent on the U.N. report because, he said, it was being studied by his Council of Ministers. Hot-tempered General George Grivas, commander of the Cypriot National Guard, was more outspoken. Denouncing the U.N.’s proposals, Grivas delivered a fiery speech at the parade’s end in which he claimed that the Greek Cypriots had beaten 40,000 British troops in the fighting that began a decade ago and then had been robbed of their victory by “international diplomacy.” The only solution, roared Grivas, was union with Greece. Then he thundered: “Our decision is taken. Either complete freedom or a holocaust!”

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