• Δευτέρα 27 Ιουνίου 2022

Articles in English

Zurich - from curse to blessing in disguise

TODAY, October 1st, like every year, is a holiday. Most of us have the day off to celebrate our country's independence. Yet few of us recall that, according to the constitution, the Republic of Cyprus is a bicommunal state with a Greek President and a Turkish Vice President (the Constitution makes no mention of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, only of Greeks and Turks), a Council of Ministers consisting of 7 Greeks and 3 Turks, and a mixed House of Representatives, with seats divided between the two communities in the same proportion.

 

Often, those who oppose a federal solution to the Cyprus issue suggest a return to the unitary state of the Zurich agreements with a President, a Vice President and a mixed House of Representatives. If there were a choice between the Zurich agreements and a federation, the majority would undoubtedly choose a return to Zurich. The Zurich agreements have also been lauded by ex-President Tassos Papadopoulos as a "blessing" for Cyprus, which had not been properly valued at the time. In a public speech he gave on January 13, 2005, he said that the Constitution of 1960 "was not, on one hand, Union with Greece, but on the other, it was something better: it was independence for the people as a whole."

 

How satisfactory the Constitution of 1960 was, under the circumstances, can be seen today in the efforts of President Christofias to enhance the bizonality of the Republic of Cyprus and to introduce the presidential system into the proposed solution, offering rotation of the presidency in exchange.

 

Why the Zurich agreements collapsed in 1963 is a separate issue. What will be examined here is the fate of the mixed legislative and executive instruments of the Republic of Cyprus, that is, the House of Representatives and the government. All the information used here is drawn from reports by the then United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, which are the most objective of all available information sources. Note that none of these sources are cited in any of the history textbooks used in our schools. In any case, the history taught in our schools is flawless and does not require any revision.

 

After the collapse

 

Immediately after the collapse of the Zurich agreements in December 1963, the Turkish government under Prime Minister Inonu urged the Turkish Cypriots to return to the Republic of Cyprus. In a letter to Vice President Fazil Kucuk dated March 9, 1964, Ismet Inonu called upon him to seek an understanding with President Makarios and return to the government, with the Vice President and Ministers leading, and the Ministers, the Representatives and later, the civil servants, following.

 

Kucuk replied the next day, saying that this was impossible, citing a crisis of confidence and fear, and claiming that if he insisted, the Turkish Cypriot officials would resign their posts.

 

The Turkish government of the day was in conflict with the Turkish Army and desired the implementation of the Zurich agreements. That is why they forced Rauf Denktash to remain exiled in Turkey from 1964 until 1968. The Turkish Cypriot leadership and the paramilitary organisation TMT were under the influence of the army, which desired the division of Cyprus.

 

The Turkish Cypriots were unwilling to return to the Republic of Cyprus, but the Greek Cypriots were also unwilling to accept them. As early as March 1964, the Greek Cypriot leadership had renounced independence, and set its sights on immediate union with Greece. Until this was achieved, the Greek Cypriots treated the Republic of Cyprus as a purely Greek state, unilaterally abolishing those provisions of the Constitution which secured the bicommunality of the state. The Turkish Cypriot response to this was to demand immediate implementation of the Constitution, which forbade union with any other country and secured the rights and privileges the Turkish Cypriots had achieved in 1960.

 

Minority

 

On August 15, 1965, the five-year term of the first President, Vice President and House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus came to an end. On July 20 (a date which achieved a different significance later), the Council of Ministers approved draft legislation extending the term of the President and House of Representatives for a year. It also approved a revision of the electoral law, abolishing the Turkish Cypriots' right separately to elect the Vice President and the members of the House of Representatives from their community.

 

The draft legislation violated several fundamental (and, according to the Constitution, therefore immutable) articles of the Constitution.

 

Revision of the electoral law also required, according to the Constitution, separate majority votes from representatives of both Communities in the house. The draft legislation was referred to the House for enactment into law, and the Turkish Cypriot representatives requested protective escort from the United Nations Forces in Cyprus to attend the session of the House. UNFICYP relayed the request to the then Speaker of the House, Glafcos Clerides, who imposed such conditions on its acceptance as would be tantamount to an acceptance of minority status by the Turkish Cypriots. He stated that "it must be understood that the paragraph of Article 78 which refers to separate majorities has been abolished, and each Member will only have one vote on all decisions". Article 78 had been abolished unilaterally, without due procedure and, of course, without any negotiation with the Turkish Cypriots.

 

On July 22, 1965, three Turkish Cypriot members of the House met Clerides in his office to discuss their intention to return to the House and take part in the discussion and vote on the electoral law. Clerides repeated his response as he had given it to UNFICYP: the Greek Cypriot community did not recognise the relevant provisions of the Constitution.

 

The next day, Phileleftheros newspaper published the news under the headline, "Turkish Cypriot 'Members of Parliament' have no right to return to the House of Representatives". The Representatives elected according to the provisions of the Constitution of 1960 were now pseudo-parliamentarians, and the denomination of their office entered quotation marks. The rest of the press treated the issue similarly.

 

The House passed the law, without Turkish Cypriot participation, on July 23, 1965. The United Kingdom and Turkey, as guarantor powers, made representations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus about the revision of the electoral law which violated the Constitution. The government responded that it "could not, under any circumstances, contribute in any way to the restoration of circumstances as they prevailed before December 1963".

 

On October 11, 1965, the government of the Republic of Cyprus submitted to United Nations Secretary-General U Thant a "Declaration of intentions on the Constitutional Rights of Turkish Cypriots". The document made clear the Greek Cypriot policy of unilateral abolition of the bicommunal nature of the state, and made a commitment to respect of the minority rights of the Turkish Cypriots.

 

The 1968 Elections

 

President Makarios' term kept being extended similarly until 1968, when it was decided to hold presidential elections. Insisting on the Constitution remaining in force, the Turkish Cypriots unilaterally declared elections for a vice president on the same date. Fazil Kucuk was the only candidate, and was declared elected unopposed. Makarios won the election with an unprecedented, and since unmatched, 95.45 per cent of the vote, against 3.71 per cent gained by his only opponent Takis Evdokas.

 

Two days before the elections, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Orhan Manterisoglu wrote to Speaker of the House Glafcos Clerides, asking him to convene the House in a session in which the Turkish Cypriot members would also take part, so that they could take the oath of office together as provided for in the Constitution.

 

Kucuk also wrote to Makarios and asked him to implement Article 46(3) of the Constitution, and appoint three Turkish Cypriot Ministers. Kucuk made public his regret that Makarios did not respond to his request that they take the oath of office together, which would have been "a gesture of good will and genuine commitment by the Greek Cypriot leadership to respect the rights of the Turkish Cypriot community".

 

The Greek Cypriots did not respond to the request, because they had unilaterally abolished the provisions of the Constitution which referred to the bizonal character of the State. Government Spokesman M. Christodoulou stated that elections were not declared by communities or groups of citizens, but by the State, and were held through the mechanisms of the State, and therefore the election of Kucuk to the vice presidency was neither legal nor binding. The Turkish Cypriot response was that, since the Greek Cypriots were acting unilaterally and in violation of Article 39(1) of the Constitution, the elections for the vice presidency were as valid as those for the presidency.

 

Hindsight

 

From 1964 to 1974, Makarios did not recognise the bizonality of the

 

Constitution and considered the articles which concerned the participation of the Turkish Cypriot community in the structure of the State to be not implementable.

 

On July 23, 1974, three days after the Turkish Army had landed in Cyprus, Makarios sent from New York, where he was in exile, via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece, a message to Speaker of the House and Acting President of the Republic Glafcos Clerides. Makarios instructed Clerides to request, via the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Cyprus, a meeting with Rauf Denktash, who had in the meantime replaced Fazil Kucuk as leader of the Turkish Cypriots. Clerides was to suggest to Denktash the immediate implementation of the Zurich agreements, and the return to their posts of all Turkish Cypriot officials, including the Vice President, Ministers, Members of the House of Representatives, members of the Police Force and civil servants.

 

Clerides requested the meeting as instructed, and his request was accepted the same day. He met Rauf Denktash in the official residence of the Vice President of the Republic in the Turkish quarter of Nicosia.

 

Clerides was accompanied by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Cyprus Mr. Weckman-Muñoz, and Commanding Officer of UNFICYP General Prem Chand.

 

Denktash, on hearing Clerides' request, responded that that was a matter that required consultation with the Turkish government. He told Clerides that he would travel to Ankara by helicopter, and would respond within four days. Denktash eventually responded via the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, stating that "the Turkish government could not examine an issue of a return to the London-Zurich agreements", which "the Greek Cypriots refused to implement for ten years [...] claiming that they were not implementable".


Makarios Drousiotis

Cyprus Mail

01/10/2008