Saturday, 17 August 2013

‘We offer an olive branch, but we will never offer earth and water’



Above is a clip from Michalis Cacoyiannis’ film Attila 74: the rape of Cyprus (see the film in its entirety here), in which President Makarios, whose toppling by the the Athens junta preceded Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus, says a couple of things worth stressing.

First, at a rally in Athens in November 1974 – we note the size and passion of the rally – Makarios defiantly tells Turkey, despite its recent invasion and occupation:
‘We offer an olive branch, but we will never offer earth and water.’
Second, while being interviewed by Cacoyiannis, Makarios has this to say of Turkish demands on the island:
‘It’s unheard of. Eighteen percent of a population claiming the right to manipulate the fate of the other 82%. In other countries, minorities struggle for equal rights. The Turkish minority in Cyprus is trying by force of arms to have not only equal rights but to dictate the destiny of the whole island.’
His argument and description of Turkish aspirations on the island applied in 1974, it applied in 1963 and in 2004 when the Annan plan was on offer, and it applies now.

More generally on Makarios, for the 27 years he guided Cypriot Hellenism, I find it hard to fault his leadership.

I suppose it could be argued that he should never have sent the 2 July 1974 letter to Greece’s president, General Phaedon Gizikis, complaining of the junta’s Cyprus policies, its sponsoring of EOKA B, its plots to assassinate Makarios, and demanding that Greek officers of the National Guard be recalled.

In retrospect, the letter seems unnecessarily provocative and that Makarios overplayed his hand, overestimating his strength and the junta’s rationality. Indeed, the letter rather than serving to discourage the junta from its plans to overthrow Makarios, stiffened its resolve to act and, on 15 July, it carried out its catastrophic coup.

Now, it seems obvious that Makarios, and Cyprus, would have been better off not challenging so openly the junta and patiently waiting for it to fall, as it was destined to do and, probably, within a very short space of time, a year or two at the most, after which a more sane Greek government would have come to power and the existential threat to Makarios, his government and policies, from Greece would have been overcome and no opportunity would have been presented to Turkey to invade and partition Cyprus.

2 comments:

Hermes said...

Admittedly, I have to read more but I am not entirely sure about Makarios. Greek Cypriot idolisation of this figure smells of certain Greek's adulation of the supposed ethnarch, Karamanlis. Note, I am not comparing Makaraios qualitatively to Karamnlis.

Obviously Makarios was intelligent, but it seems he was in the tradition of big Greek egos endangering his people, that stretches as far back as Alcibiades. His judgement seemed to be flawed at times.

John Akritas said...

Like you, H, I have no time for this ethnarch business and I am as skeptical and cynical as anyone when it comes to leaders, politicians, etc, but I don’t for one minute buy the assessment of Makarios as someone who allowed his ego to get in the way of what was right and wrong for Cyprus. Far from it. As a statesman and leader, I hold him in the highest regard. In my opinion, Makarios is more of a Pericles than an Alcibiades.