Country Listing

Turkey Table of Contents


Conflict and Diplomacy: Cyprus and Beyond

The historical distrust between Turkey and Greece was compounded during the 1970s by the unfolding Cyprus dispute and conflicting claims in the Aegean Sea. Problems arising from the relationship between Turkish- and Greek-speaking Cypriots on the island had produced a pattern of confrontation between the two countries during the previous decade.

In July 1974, the president of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III, demanded withdrawal of Greek army officers assigned to the National Guard on the well-founded charge that they were using their position to subvert his government. In reaction, Athens engineered an anti-Makarios coup, which was carried out successfully by conspirators planning union with Greece. In Ankara, Prime Minister Ecevit condemned the coup as constituting a direct threat to Cyprus's Turkish minority. At the UN, the Turkish representative stated that his government had determined that Greece's direct involvement in the coup was aimed at the annexation of Cyprus in violation of the 1960 independence agreement guaranteed by Turkey, Greece, and Britain. He stressed that Turkey had a clear responsibility under the agreement to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriot community.

Between July 20 and 22, 1974, some 30,000 Turkish troops, supported by air and naval units, were dropped or landed on Cyprus in the Kyrenia area and advanced toward Nicosia, the Cypriot capital. By the time a UN-sponsored cease-fire went into effect on July 22, Turkish troops controlled the twenty-kilometer-long Nicosia-Kyrenia road and occupied territory on both sides of it, in some places thirty kilometers deep, in an area that had a large Turkish Cypriot population.

The discredited Greek government fell within days as a result of the Cyprus imbroglio. Meeting in Geneva on July 30, the foreign ministers of the three guaranteeing powers--Turan Günes of Turkey, James Callaghan of Britain, and Georgios Mavros representing the new provisional Greek government--accepted the establishment of a buffer zone between the two sides on Cyprus, patrolled by UN forces. They agreed to meet again at Geneva in a week's time to work out terms for a constitutional government that would be representative of both communities on the island.

Despite the cease-fire and a UN Security Council resolution calling for the phased reduction of hostile forces on Cyprus, the Turks continued to land reinforcements. In the week between the cease-fire and the first Geneva foreign ministers' conference, they pushed Greek Cypriot forces to the western extremity of the Kyrenia Range and consolidated their positions around Nicosia. Glafcos Clerides, acting president of Cyprus, and Rauf Denktas, leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community, attended the second session of the Geneva talks, held August 8-14. Denktas rejected the notion of communal autonomy within a federal system favored by Greece and the Greek Cypriot authorities, proposing instead the creation of a single autonomous Turkish region in the northern third of the island, a suggestion Clerides refused to consider. Although Turkey backed the Turkish Cypriot demand for regional autonomy, Günes, speaking for his government, offered an alternative plan that would have allowed the Turkish Cypriots the same amount of land by halving their holdings in the north and creating several autonomous Turkish enclaves elsewhere on the island. The Günes plan would have sharply reduced the number of refugees from both communities. Talks broke down, however, when Günes abruptly rejected a request from Mavros and Clerides for a three-day adjournment to enable them to communicate the Turkish proposal to their respective governments.

Two hours after the collapse of the Geneva talks, Turkish forces on Cyprus moved out of the Kyrenia bridgehead to cut off the northeastern third of the island. After three days of fighting, Clerides accepted a Turkish cease-fire offer that left the Turks in control of all territory north of a line that ran from Lefka in the west to Famagusta in the east. Ecevit held that this division should form the basis for two autonomous regions within a federal state. In February 1975, the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus was established in the northern region with Denktas as president. In 1983 this entity was constituted as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). To date, only Turkey has granted official recognition to the TRNC.

The partition of Cyprus created about 200,000 refugees out of a population of about 600,000. About 10,000 Turkish Cypriot refugees from enclaves in the south were flown to northern Cyprus from British bases by way of Turkey. Greek Cypriot authorities protested this action and charged that at the same time the Turks were sending in settlers from Anatolia to colonize areas where Greek Cypriots had been dispossessed.

Relations between Turkey and Greece had already been tense before the Cyprus crisis as a consequence of the continuing dispute over competing rights in the Aegean region. Tensions heightened after March 1974, when Greek drillers struck oil off the island of Thasos. Given the dependence of both countries on oil imports, this development brought into focus a range of outstanding regional disputes: the demarcation of the continental shelf for the purpose of establishing seabed mineral rights, extension of territorial waters and airspace, and the militarization of Greek islands off the Turkish coast. A few months earlier, in late 1973, Turkey had granted oil concessions in several Aegean seabed areas, some of which were on part of the continental shelf claimed by Greece.

In January 1975, Greece submitted a claim to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for sole rights to the continental shelf. Greece claimed seabed rights off each of the several hundred Greek islands in the Aegean, some of them no more than a few nautical miles from the Turkish coast. Greece also unilaterally attempted to extend its territorial waters from six nautical miles to the twelve nautical miles accepted elsewhere in the world and prohibited Turkish overflights in those areas. Prime Minister Irmak responded that it was "unthinkable" that Turkey would accept the Aegean as a "Greek lake" and charged that Greek claims and alleged Greek militarization of the Aegean were in contravention of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. However, Greece maintained that it had primary responsibility for the defense of the Aegean as part of its NATO commitments.

During the summer of 1976, Turkish naval escorts confronted Greek warships when the latter challenged a Turkish vessel engaged in seismic research on the seabed in disputed waters between the Turkish islands of Gökçeada (Imroz) and Bozca Ada (Tenedos). For a brief period, war between the two NATO allies seemed imminent. Although Turkey and Greece subsequently agreed to settle outstanding disputes through negotiation, troop alerts and naval demonstrations were repeated the following year. Ecevit and Greek prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis met in Switzerland in March 1978 to find a mutually acceptable framework for resolving their differences. Two months later, they met again in Washington to discuss issues of bilateral interest. At these meetings, the two leaders affirmed their mutual wish to find peaceful solutions to their unresolved disputes, but relations between the two countries remained strained.

In February 1975, the United States Congress imposed an arms embargo on Turkey on the grounds that United States-supplied military equipment had been used illegally during the Cyprus operation. In June Turkey confirmed that twenty United States installations in Turkey would be subject to a "new situation" unless negotiations were opened on their future status. President Gerald Ford urged Congress to reconsider the arms embargo, citing the damage it would do to vital United States interests in the eastern Mediterranean. Angered by the defeat in Congress the following month of a measure to lift the embargo, the Turkish government announced the abrogation of the 1969 defense cooperation treaty with the United States and placed United States installations, mainly communications and monitoring stations, under Turkish control. This action, however, did not affect the only United States combat unit in Turkey, an aircraft squadron based in Incirlik under NATO command.

President Ford signed legislation in October that partially lifted the embargo, allowing the release of arms already purchased by Turkey. In 1978 the administration of President Jimmy Carter succeeded in persuading Congress to end the embargo, although an amendment to the Security Aid Act required periodic review of conditions as a prerequisite to continued military assistance. Shortly thereafter, Turkey allowed United States installations to reopen under Turkish supervision while a completely new defense cooperation pact was negotiated.

In 1980 United States military assistance to Turkey amounted to US$250 million, and economic aid to about US$200 million. The United States also joined other countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in pledging emergency credits in a bid to halt Turkey's slide into bankruptcy during the financial crisis of the late 1970s.

Data as of January 1995

Country Listing

Turkey Table of Contents