Greece on Cypriot negotiations (1984-86)

Suggested Citation: Neophytos G. Loizides, Greek-Turkish Negotiations and Crises 1983-2003 Dataset , Queen's University Belfast (available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentrefortheStudyofEthnicConflict/TeachingResearch/Datasets/Greek-TurkishNegotiationsandCrises1983-2003/#d.en.173636)

Case Summary:

Given the nature of the Cyprus problem, any failed attempt to settle the issue increases the chance for future confrontation. A round of negotiations takes place between 1984 and 1986.  The GC side rejects two of the three draft plans, and the TC side rejects one. In January 1985, the UN Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar organizes a high-level meeting in New York, with the expectation of concluding a settlement on the basis of an earlier draft plan. The TC representative, Rauf Denktas accepts the document as a whole and as providing adequate direction to the working groups, but to the surprise of de Cuellar, the GC representative Spyros Kyprianou only endorses the document as a basis for further negotiations, thus reopening all major issues.[i] While negotiations take place between Cypriots, the Greek PM creates a crisis atmosphere by arguing that the plan will threaten fundamental Greek national interests. [ii] One month before the critical January 1985 meeting, Greece changes its defense doctrine and moves troops from the Bulgarian to the Turkish border.[iii] In mid-1996, Turkish troops practice landing exercises in the Aegean, within sight of the Greek islands. [iv]

The negative influence of Papandreou on Cypriot Kyprianou is crucial to his rejection of the plan.[v] Most political forces within the GC community support the plan, and in fact, the two biggest parties in Cyprus, the center-right Democratic Rally and leftist AKEL, accuse Kyprianou of being a hardliner and agree to bring him down in parliamentary elections.[vi]    In a full text search for keywords “Cyprus” and “negotiations,” Lexis/ Nexis produces 37 results for the period 1/1/1985-2/1/1985 (under category European News Sources). 

Case Study Features:

Effectiveness of Offensive Policies :  0

On the Greek side, there is no superiority of offensive (rejecting the plan) over defensive action (accepting the plan). Greece has an incentive to reach an agreement sooner rather than later in Cyprus, before Turkey consolidates the effects of its 1974 invasion. The longer the occupation, the harder it becomes to reverse the effects of resettlement for the Greek Cypriot refugees and the Turkish Anatolian settlers.

No prior changes in the security dynamics among Greece, Turkey and Cyprus can explain the Greek attitude in the negotiations.

There are reports in the international press that Greece prevents the Greek Cypriots from reaching a settlement in order to stop additional US military aid to Turkey (after a possible settlement), which is seen as threatening to the balance of power in the region.[vii] However, this “conspiratorial” scenario seems unconvincing, because the advantages of a settlement in terms of security for Greece are more numerous than any negative effects from a possible improvement in US-Turkey relations.

Finally, Papandreou’s own rational for rejecting the plan seems unconvincing. Papandreou argues that Turkey will renege on its commitment, maintain its troops in Cyprus, and eventually threaten the Aegean.[viii] Yet Papandreou provides no evidence to support these arguments. In particular, he fails to demonstrate how the status quo in the island is better security-wise than it would be in the proposed settlement.  Moreover, if Turkey intends to renege on its commitments, and the Greek government is sure about this, it makes no sense for Greece and the Greek Cypriots to negotiate at all, unless of course, they want to use the negotiations for other domestic purposes.

Offensive vs. Defensive Signals Indistinguishable: 1

The Greek government considers the plan and the mediation efforts as threatening for Greek Cypriot as well as Greek security. An important bone of contention is the plan’s security arrangements, particularly whether the final agreement will include Turkish guarantees or the full and timely withdrawal of Turkish troops. The two sides have diametrically-opposed views on security, something that is reported in this and other rounds of negotiations. Neutral observers recognize the overlapping legitimacy of these concerns.[ix]

Domestic Setting: 1

By 1985, Papandreou has lost his undisputable control of Greek political life. His promises for a better economy and a more independent foreign policy are yet to materialize, and he is facing elections, which take place in July 1985 - six months after the January 1985 rejection of the UN draft plan.

Enduring Ethnic Rivalries : 1

There are “enduring ethnic rivalries” resulting primarily from the non-settlement of the Cyprus issue and the unilateral declaration of the TRNC. 

Confrontational Policies: 1

A negative stance to UN efforts to settle the Cyprus issue is coded as a confrontational policy.  The case confirms the diversionary theory but not the security dilemma. While Papandreou himself justifies his position on security grounds, this is not enough, particularly because he fails to show how rejecting the UN plans is better for security reasons than is maintaining the current status quo in Cyprus.

[i] Ronald Fisher “Cyprus: The Failure of Mediation and the Escalation of an Identity-Based Conflict to an Adversarial Impasse”, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2001, pp. 307- 326. 

[ii] Andeas Papandreou said the following: “We must clearly tell the Cypriot people that if they accept a timetable for withdrawal – meaning the Turks will never withdraw - we will regard this as harmful to Greece's national interest. Legalizing the Turkish occupation of Cyprus will constitute a direct and harsh threat to the Aegean.”   Athens home service 0905 gmt 6 Dec 85, “Excerpts from relay of speech to Chamber of Deputies, Greek Prime Minister's Address to Parliament”, The British Broadcasting Corporation, December 11, 1985.

[iii] “Greece To Redeploy Forces From North To East,” The Associated Press,  December 17, 1984

[iv] “Greece and Turkey; you say I'm going to hit you?” The Economist, July 12, 1986, p.59.

[v] The Times report that among other reasons that Kyprianou’s last-minute intransigence was dictated by the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Papandreou see A Chance for Cyprus / Prospects for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” Times , July 16, 1985; The Guardian quotes a UN diplomat saying that “Papandreou’s pressure on the Greek Cypriots was so heavy that we are now afraid it might not be possible to solve Cyprus except in the context of the Greek-Turkish conflict” see Jane Rosen, “UN chief still hopeful after collapse of Cyprus talks: Greek pressure is blamed for failure of New York meeting”, The Guardian, January 22, 1985.

[vi] “Cyprus; with a bound, he was free”, The Economist, December 14, 1985, p. 50.

[vii] Henry Kamn, “Athens Fears Rise in Arms for Turks”, The New York Times, January 18, 1985, p.3.

[viii]  Athens home service 0905 gmt 6 Dec 85 Excerpts from relay of speech to Chamber of Deputies, Greek Prime Minister's Address to Parliament The British Broadcasting Corporation, December 11, 1985.

[ix] Nick Ludington, “Outlines of New Cyprus Federation Emerge But Problems Remain” The Associated Press, January 10, 1985.