The conflict

It is often said that in every war the first casualty is truth. This is because each of the adversaries systematically hides or distorts the truth in order to advance and justify their own view of the nature and causes of the conflict, and to rally support for their actions from their own people and from third parties.

In order to truly understand the disputes between the hostile groups of people (in this case being the Greek and Turkish Cypriots) it is necessary to examine the facts in question under the aspects of ideological beliefs and values of both sides. Of course this presentation is influenced by the fact that the author is Greek Cypriot.

In the 1970s, Cyprus had a population of approximately 650,000 which was made up of several ethnic groups. These were (and still are) a Greek Orthodox community (about 80% of the population), a Turkish Moslem community (about 18%), and smaller Maronite, Latin and Armenian minorities.

Some Facts: The 1960 Constitution

According to the Constitution, “the state of Cyprus is an independent and sovereign Republic with a presidential regime, the President being Greek and the Vice – President being Turk elected by the Greek and Turkish communities respectively…” (article 1).

The president was to appoint 7 Greek government ministers and the vice – president 3 government ministers. Of the 50 members of the House of Representatives (the legislative body) 70% were to be Greeks, elected by Greek voters, and 30% Turks, elected by Turkish voters. The president and vice – president had separately and conjointly the power of final veto over legislation, and decisions of the House of Representatives and of the cabinet, on foreign affairs, defense and internal security. Also, all bills imposing duties or taxes required separate simple majorities from the Greek and Turkish Representatives before becoming law.

Another provision of the Constitution was that all government, administrative and state posts, including the police force, were to be apportioned, at all levels, on the principle of 70% for the Greeks and 30% for the Turks. The only exception was the army where the ratio would be 60:40.

Furthermore, the main towns of Cyprus would be split up into Greek and Turkish municipalities, each empowered to raise its own taxes to finance its own public services.

Problems Arising from the Constitution

  • The problem is one of simple mathematics. In 1960, the Greeks made up 80% of the population, and the Turks 18.4% (note that their contribution to public expenditure was only 7.6%). A minority of 18% was given 30% of the House of Representatives and all governmental, administrative and state posts, 40% of the army, and a vice – president with veto power.  This Constitution, which had been imposed by foreign powers, was completely unacceptable to the Greek community, causing discontent and resentment.
  • The Constitution of the independent, integral and unitary Republic of Cyprus was, in effect, the Constitution of the Greek-Cypriot – cum – Turkish-Cypriot State.
    The two communities were seen as the two sharers of the power, resources and wealth of the State. The Republic was split into two states that shared power, instead of the power of a single state being shared through democratic processes to the communities.

Causes of the Conflict

  • Traditionally, at least 80% of the Cypriots have been very conscious of their Greek language, Greek culture and history, and Greek Orthodox religion; and these things make them NOT Cypriots that just happen to have Greek origins, but Greeks living in Cyprus, and as such members of the larger Greek (Hellenic) nation. Analogously, the 18% have thought of themselves as Turks living in Cyprus, and members of the Turkish nation. Thus, although Andreas and Ali may be natives and residents of Cyprus, and regard the island as their common homeland, they do not normally regard themselves as compatriots, but rather as neighbours.

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