Experimental Station

The Cyprus Triangle

by R.R. Denktash
Allen and Unwin, 222 pp., $17.95

Thomas Aquinas never completed De Regno, his treatise on the principles of government. But he addressed its unfinished portion to King Hugh II of Cyprus, prompting Sir George Hill to comment, in his history of the island:

It was fondly hoped that the throne of Cyprus was an experimental station in which principles which commended themselves to the active thinkers of their times could be treated with a chance of favorable results.

Modern times appear to ridicule this “fond hope.” As an “experimental station,” Cyprus is considered by statesmen and diplomats as either a venomous nuisance or as a nest of intrigue. On the international scale of apparently permanent insolubles, it rates somewhere below Lebanon and above East Timor. Thickly forested with radio masts, it has become a spy station, a convenient rendezvous for agents of all sides in the Middle East drama, a sort of Levantine equivalent of Tangier. Dr. Henry Kissinger dealt only briefly with Cyprus in his recent memoir, reserving a fuller consideration to a later volume. In the few paragraphs he could spare for the country he had altered so radically, he described it as the site of “primeval hatred of Greeks and Turks,” “blood feuds” and “atavistic bitternesses,” “a lethal cocktail.”

At first sight, the island may seem to live up to this poor reputation. It is divided by an east to west line, drawn by the invading army of Turkey in 1974. This line has created a species of apartheid, because the Turks are exclusively to the north of it, the Greeks exclusively to the south, and it may not be crossed by civilians. To the north lie some 115,000 Turkish Cypriots, 18 percent of the total population. Together with the Turkish army (which numbers almost 20,000 soldiers) they occupy 36 percent of the territory and more than 60 percent of the productive and developed land. They are presided over by the author of the book under review, who has been head of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus since it proclaimed itself unilaterally in 1975.

To the south (the military partition runs through the capital city of Nicosia) is the Republic of Cyprus, still recognized internationally as the sovereign government of the whole island. Its population, some 82 percent of the total (there are small but active communities of Armenians and Maronites), is Greek. One-third of them, some 200,000, are refugees who fled the advancing Turks in 1974 or who were expelled from the north in the course of the following year. The president of the Republic, Spyros Kyprianou, succeeded the late Archbishop Makarios in 1977.

In this small compass is reflected the dispute between Greece and Turkey. Its essential complexity arises from the fact that (as in the cases of Northern Ireland and Palestine) both communities regard themselves as the oppressed and endangered minority. Within the island, Greeks predominate to a degree that frightens the Turks. But on a clear day, mainland Turkey can be seen from the northern…

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