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Nearly story of Cyprus joining NATO

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Cyprus and NATO is an old story.

In 1959, when the London Agreements for establishing the Republic of Cyprus was signed, the United Kingdom favoured Cyprus joining the Commonwealth and the Council of Europe, but not NATO.

The argument was that Cyprus was a small country with a small population.

That objection eventually did not apply to other NATO members with small populations, such as Luxembourg and Iceland.

Concerning Cyprus’ strategic position in the eastern Mediterranean, the UK felt this was not a strong argument in favour of NATO membership since it had already secured two sovereign bases on the island, which could also serve NATO if needed.

The fact remains that Archbishop Makarios, and General Grivas, gave the green light to NATO membership in Cyprus.

This was revealed to George Iacovou by Makarios in 1975 and later confirmed by Greek politician Evangelos Averof to Iacovou, when the latter served as ambassador to Germany.

According to the information contained in the British Foreign Office documents, which were made public in December 2014, Spyros Kyprianou, then President of Cyprus, had proposed on January 14, 1985, to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that Cyprus should accede to NATO and the EEC (the former EU).

The British Foreign Office advised its government to hold consultations with the United States, West Germany, France, and Italy.

If, however, President Kyprianou pressed the issue again, the answer would be that, given the reactions of Turkey, accession would complicate instead of facilitating a solution to the Cyprus problem.

At that meeting, President Kyprianou stressed that Cyprus’ accession to NATO and the EEC would be the best guarantee of a solution since it would have made specific guarantees unnecessary.

To the above, I would like to add a personal testimony.

In May 1975, when I was serving as assistant director in the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, on secondment from the foreign ministry, I met with Makarios in Kingston, Jamaica, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Makarios mentioned that in 1965 he had proposed Cyprus’ accession to NATO to the Americans, but they refused to accept the offer.

In September 1976, I was in Washington and our ambassador, Nicos Demetriou, reconfirmed this information, adding that Makarios’ go-between was the then finance minister Renos Solomides.

In August 1977, I met Solomides in Nicosia.

He explained that he had raised the question with the American ambassador, rather than Foreign Minister Kyprianou, because of his good relations with the US.

Evidently, the answer was negative due to the reaction of Turkey.

Bombing

If we examine both attempts, that of Makarios in 1965 and that of Kyprianou in 1985, we observe that the first took place after the bombardment of Tylliria by the Turkish air force in 1964.

The second was after the illegal UDI of the Turkish Cypriots in 1983.

In the minds of the two leaders, the impression perhaps prevailed that Cyprus’ membership of NATO would act as a shield against Turkish aggression.

It is obvious that in the case of Cyprus, the question of security is of paramount importance.

In particular, at this juncture, it is the concern not only of politicians but of public opinion as well.

Recent developments in the international scene speak for themselves.

The wish of Ukraine to seek membership of NATO brought the war in the country with disastrous consequences.

New conceptions concerning the architecture of security, as a result of the war, prompted Finland and Sweden to seek membership of NATO, having the support of an accrued majority of their public opinion.

Finally, the recent summit conference of NATO in Madrid projected the question of the fluid state of affairs concerning security in a rapidly changing defence framework, which is of interest not only to NATO and the EU but also to other powers, like China and India.

The universal character of the security question is proven by the fact that in NATO participates, apart from the 23 members of the EU, the US, UK and Canada.

Given the above, the question to be answered is whether a move by Cyprus to join NATO would be successful under the present conditions.

The answer is definitely no.

Internally, AKEL and externally, Ankara and certain members of NATO will react negatively.

To all those who favour the accession of Cyprus for reasons of protection and security, the answer is given by the threats of Turkey, a NATO member, against another NATO member, Greece (violation of Greek airspace, threats against the islands of the Aegean), as well as Cyprus, which for the last 48 years is under occupation of its northern part.

Only if Turkey becomes a pure Islamic country NATO’s line will pass over Cyprus.

By Dr Andrestinos N. Papadopoulos, Ambassador a.h.