A solution to the Cyprus problem will not emerge unless Turkey’s strategic military requirements are satisfied, Brigadier Francis Henn (retired), a former Chief of Staff for UNFICYP and Commander of its British Contingent between 1972-1974, has said, ‘Famagusta Gazette’ reports.
“Twentieth July 1974 will forever be engraved as one of the most critical in the long history of the island of Cyprus and I appreciate the importance of commemorating it on this its 40th anniversary”, Brigadier Francis Henn, told CNA.
However, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will not share the same feelings about that day: “As the former lament the tragedy which struck them, they must never forget that it was the reckless and short-sighted action of the Greek military junta in Athens in mounting the coup d`état against Archbishop Makarios five days earlier which afforded Turkey the perfect excuse for military action and brought nemesis to the island”.
Describing the situation that existed when he arrived in Cyprus, Brigadier Henn said that in 1972, he was Chief of Staff and Commander of UNFYCYP’s British Contingent (the largest) and left Cyprus in September 1974, being replaced by General Prem Chand of India.
In 1972, In spite of relatively minor, but potentially major, inter-communal military problems which UNFICYP immediately tried to pacify, Brigadier Henn says “the situation was generally calm while inter-communal talks proceeded somewhat intermittently”.
Following the “invasion”, UNFICYP had to adapt to the changing circumstances which were brought on by the occupation and division. Brigadier Henn said that until the events of July/August 1974 UNFICYP had been deployed to cover sensitive points in all areas of the island, its operational districts general conforming with the government’s Civil Districts. The arrival of the Turkish forces drove a wedge from Kyrenia to the Turkish quarter of Nicosia, which obliged UNFICYP to establish a separate UN operational District on each side of that wedge. Although difficulties arose for UNFICYP to continue operating in areas now under Turkish army control, it continued to be necessary to monitor the position of Turkish Cypriot communities isolated in the south where deployments were retained to this end.
“When after the second phase of the Turkish operation, a ceasefire line developed – UNFICYP was under strict instructions not to determine this itself -, UN troops were redeployed to monitor this. When later in 1974 Turkish Cypriots in the south were transferred to the north, it was no longer necessary to station UN troops in southern districts, and UNFICYP was then concentrated along the lines of confrontation with the purpose of stabilising the situation and establishing a buffer zone and observation posts,” he told CNA.
Invited to assess the situation now, 40 years on, Brigadier Henn said:
“Here I express a personal view, which may not be popular but which I believe to be the reality. Ever since 1974 it has been my firm conviction that the problem of Cyprus is at heart a strategic one, especially relevant to Turkey. I have quoted evidence in my book in support of the view that it has been a major strategic aim of Turkey to ensure that no potentially hostile power (in particular Greece) secures control of northern Cyprus (if not the whole island) and could thus dominate Turkey’s southern approaches.
Turkish forces were held in readiness for many years against this contingency and were twice thwarted by international pressures, but the Greek coup d`état of 15 July 1974 presented them with the ideal opportunity, citing their obligation under the Treaty of Guarantee and the need to protect the Turkish Cypriot community. The Turks did not let slip this perfect open window, their action initially receiving general international support”.
If this view is accepted, then it follows that until some arrangement is devised that fully satisfies Turkish strategic interests (as Ankara sees it) a fundamental settlement in Cyprus will remain elusive, he warns.
“Glafkos Clerides has written that had Archbishop Makarios accepted his advice on 12 December 1972 that the Turkish Cypriots had given sufficient ground on the fundamental question of local government to allow Greek Cypriots, without prejudice to their own interests, to compromise on this point, the coup d`état would have been avoided, the Turkish invasion would not have taken place, and Cypriots would have been spared its devastating consequences. What a missed opportunity”, he concluded.
Over the years of extensive research, Brigadier Henn has accumulated a substantial volume of contemporary information relating to the 1974 events and his “Cyprus Archive” has been deposited in the Imperial War Museum, London.