Sunday, 18 October 2020

Why did the Athens junta overthrow Makarios? Was Enosis the objective?

Since Greece and Cyprus have been in the news lately, here's a thread on an assertion regarding Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus that always bugs me when I come across it.

It's that the 15 July 1974 coup that ousted President Makarios (and was followed five days later by Turkey's invasion) was aimed at bringing about Enosis – union of Cyprus with Greece. This is totally wrong:

The aim of the coup wasn't Enosis but the assassination of Makarios. Not only did Makarios oppose the junta’s policy on Cyprus – double enosis/partition (some sort of variation of the 1964 Acheson plan); but he also provided succour to democratic opponents of the regime. 
Moreover, Makarios had many enemies in the US security and foreign policy establishment – the 'Castro in the Mediterranean' crowd; who were the same circles that supported the junta and to whom the junta thought, by getting rid of Makarios, it was doing a favour. 
The point of getting rid of Makarios wasn’t to replace him with Nikos Sampson but with a respected, conservative figure, like Glafcos Clerides. But Makarios survived assassination and no one from legitimate Cypriot political circles would step in to become president. 
Only as an afterthought did the junta scrape the bottom of the barrel and come up with Nikos Sampson and his EOKA-B gangsters. It's a matter of dispute as to how much Sampson knew about the coup though, certainly, he had no idea he would be called on to be its frontman. 
Any move to Enosis was bound to provoke a Turkish military response; yet the junta had no plan to deal with a Turkish attack. The fact that when Turkey invaded Cyprus, the junta resigned, shows it wasn't considering the consequences of Enosis, because Enosis wasn't its aim. 
The junta's aim – beyond killing Makarios – was to start negotiations with Turkey for double enosis/partition. The junta reassured Turkey in this regard, but the Turks preferred to implement partition on their terms rather than on the junta's terms. 
It’s Turkish propaganda and lazy commentators who plug the myth that the coup's aim was Enosis. It's used to justify the invasion and exonerate Turkey. The narrative is: 'Greece tried to seize the island, Turkey stepped in to prevent this. There's no right or wrong here.' 
The coup/Enosis myth has become tied to another falsehood perpetuated by lazy journalists/academics and that is that the coup was a 'Greek Cypriot coup'. Though elements of the National Guard were involved in the coup, this was led by Greek officers loyal to the junta. 
Moreover, there was no popular support for the coup. Makarios was a democratically elected and overwhelmingly popular president. Greek Cypriots rejected and died resisting the coup. Thus, Greek Cypriots were targets and victims of the coup, not its perpetrators. 
Even if we were to concede the absurd and say the coup's aim was Enosis, we'd still point out that the second, more devastating, phase of Turkey's invasion took place three weeks after Sampson and the junta had fallen and the threat of Enosis, if it ever existed, had ended.