Cyprus

on the World Today

CYPRUS is still a battleground. Shootings and explosions during November killed more men than in any previous month, and streets in Nicosia and the well-kept country roads are more treacherous than ever for unwary Englishmen. An intended “six months mop-up,” begun a year and a half ago, has now become a dreary war of nerves between tough Cypriote terrorists and British tommies.

Britain shares blame for the impasse with several partners. Greece, having rejected Britain’s offer to cede Cyprus after World War I, now wants the island and apparently is willing to strain the bonds of Western unity to get it. Stirred by an anti-Greek revival, and apprehensive that the Turkish minority would receive scant justice under Greek domination, Turkey insists that the island remain British. Cypriotes themselves are torn.

Britain’s recent strategy has been dictated solely by military considerations. Counter to the recommendations of earlier island governors, the Eden government consistently has rejected Cypriote demands for self-government. The most vociferous demands came three years ago when the British Army was still smarting over the evacuation of the Suez base. Responsible for Britain’s stake in the Persian Gulf and eastern Mediterranean, the generals won out. Cypriotes seeking self-rule were slapped down emphatically.

Union with Greece?

Britain’s failure on Cyprus has a long history. In 1931 the Colonial Government gave coherence to Enosis — the Cypriote movement for union with Greece — by taxing Cypriotes £70,000 to rebuild the island governor’s residence in Nicosia. The original building, an antiquated wooden structure, had been burned by demonstrators moved chiefly by economic complaints. The fine, which Sir Ronald Storrs (t hen governor) later described as “unjustifiable, inexcusable, and unforgivable,”combined with the incident to give Enosis its Boston Tea Party. From then on, politically conscious Cypriotes had a rallying point.

World War II temporarily stilled the movement as Cyprus went through a war-induced prosperity. From 1938 to 1948 living standards improved markedly and, with economic discontent removed, Enosis on Cyprus was chiefly talk and thought, not action. Then, after the war, clergy of the autocephalous Church of Cyprus took up the cry.

The movement snowballed, particularly in rural Cyprus. Without doubt the British military command has erred in judging Cypriote loyalties. By enforcing curfews of entire villages and collective fines for failure to expose terrorists, the government has solidified resistance. Each new mass punishment broadens t he base of support for Enosis.

The final blow came when the government unceremoniously exiled Archbishop Makarios to the Seychelles. British authorities said that the Bostoneducated prelate had participated actively in the underground and is, therefore, a murderer. The Colonial Office claims to possess documents supporting its charge. Cypriotes take the position that killing for a national cause is not murder in Cyprus in 1956 any more than it was in the American colonies in 1776, and Makarios is their patriot leader. The British, they charge, did not observe habeas corpus and due process and other tenets of Anglo-Saxon law in disposing of him.

The Cypriote Resistance

The National Organization of Cypriote Resistance, EOKA, keeps itself small, numbers probably about a hundred men, utilizes ammunition caches built up for several years, and prefers isolated assassination to mass frontal attack. Guerrillas work alone or in pairs, ambush suddenly, and expend few bullets. British ballistics experts credit less than a dozen guns with most of the shootings so far. When a guerrilla is killed or captured, one, and only one, is recruited to replace him.

By killing Cypriotes as well as Britons, the terrorists have stilled pro-British sentiment, discouraged informers, and improved their chance to escape after shootings. Rarely today do the police learn of an incident, unless a military patrol is involved, in less than half an hour. During this interval guerrillas can travel halfway across the island to escape detection. The populace is thoroughly cowed.

The Turkish community alone stands up today for British rule. Largely rural and comprising 20 per cent of the island’s population, Turkish Cypriotes prefer colonial status under Britain to any alternative yet advanced. As a minority, their lot under British rule has been good. Those who leave farming find favored employment in the island police force or other “sensitive" occupations. Under Greece they probably would not do so well. Nor would their lot improve should a Greek Cypriote majority dominate a lawmaking assembly.

A by-product of the deadlock has been dissension among NATO members. Convinced that Cyprus’s role must be that of a British-run police station and listening post, in the eastern Mediterranean, Eden’s government has to date proved obstinate. Clamor in Greece is rising, to the frequent embarrassment of the Karamanlis government. Turkey too is restive. Suspicious of Greece and convinced that chaos would accompany Greek rule of the island, the Turks want Britain to stay. As the island’s closest neighbor, as proprietor before 1878 and ancestor of 20 per cent of its populace, Turkey claims a vote in the decision.

Overworked soil

Part of Cyprus’s troubles are economic. Poverty is widespread and urban unemployment can rise sharply in the foreseeable future. The fundamental economic problem is that of a rapidly expanding population (almost 2 per cent yearly) within a limited land area — at a time when all available land is under cultivation. Half the island’s population is rural and dependent upon farming for a living. ‘Today there is about an acre and a half of cultivable land per Cypriote — less than what the UN estimates to be the minimum to sustain a Western living standard. Worse still, the land is spread among the 60,000 farmers in parcels averaging 121/2 plots per farmer. Each farmer’s 15 acres are divided, therefore, into more than a dozen small tracts. Half of his workday is spent traveling, on foot or by donkey or oxcart, between his dispersed holdings.

The typical farmer still raises wheat or animals (usually goats), seldom a combination of the two. Throughout the island, farmers grow cereal crops in two-field rotation. Half the land lies fallow each year. The land which each farmer harvests produces 7 to 10 bushels of grain per acre, resulting in an annual income just over $200.

Under these circumstances the Cypriote merely grips the rails of his downward slide and shouts against British rule, lie has no surplus capital to invest in improving production on his already overworked soil; Ins income is too low for him to be a substantial purchaser of goods from factories in Nicosia, or Famagusta; his only escape is to send his sons and daughters to work in the city. About 3000 Cypriotes leave the island each year — most go to England— but to date city jobs have absorbed most of the surplus rural populace.

Limited industrial plant

Urban employment has grown during the past two decades. Today there are over 13,000 industrial establishments employing 50,000 people — a third of the island’s labor force. Despite recent expansion, most industrial plants on Cyprus remain small (fewer than ten employees), are family owned and operated, and devote themselves to making food products, textiles, clothing, shoes, automobile repairs, beverages, or building construction. Investment is low, production inefficient; and in view of the low purchasing power in rural Cyprus, the island’s industrial plant probably cannot expand much further.

Mining is the island’s sole industrial enterprise in the proper sense. In 1905, Seeley Mudd, a Los Angeles mining engineer, set out to resuscitate copper mines near Morphou Bay which had produced copper in the third millennium B.C. Mr. Mudd’s firm, the Cyprus Mines Corporation, still operates. Other mining concerns produce copper, asbestos, and chrome ore and ship their products to Europe and the United Kingdom. Together the mining companies employ over 6000 workers, produce ore and concentrates worth $30 million yearly, and pay tax royalties to the Crown Colony of almost $10 million each year—a third of the island’s budget for government.

In addition to mining tax royalties, British military expenditures have, in recent years, transferred sums ranging from $15 million to $30 million each year to the island. Spent on base construction, civilian employment, and soldier pay, this money has employed some 12,000 Cypriotes and provided residual income for many more.

Until the recent disturbances discouraged travel to Cyprus, tourism earned almost $6 million yearly for the island. Well-equipped with hotels, mountain scenery, and a balmy climate, Cyprus offered an inexpensive sojourn to Europeans, Egyptians, and eastern-shore Levantines. Its monuments and ruins, while unspectacular compared with those in Athens, Baalbek, and Jerusalem, give a crosssect ional view of history from neolithic times to the nineteenth century. Today the only tourists who brave Cyprus are young Israelis who come over for civil marriages—prohibited at home by Israel’s rabbinate.

The total capital transfers to Cyprus 1 of $40 million to $50 million annually (which divide out into $80 to $100 per Cypriote) have gone, as government money, into road building, a power grid, and the like — and, as private funds, into a series of investments, mostly apartment houses in the six district towns. Investment has been high, unemployment v irtually nonexistent, per capita incomes — more than $300 a year — good on Middle Eastern standards.

New money needed

Despite the impressive statistics, the Cyprus economy seems extremely fragile. Copper ore reserves are dwindling rapidly. Unless new mines are found and developed, the island’s income from this source (which has paid for most of the recent public investments) will dwindle markedly within a decade. Present plans call for military construction to slacken in the near future. Soldier pay alone cannot keep the balloon aloft.

What is the solution? Cyprus obviously must remain a pro-Western bastion in the Middle East. The island’s 8000 card-carrying Communists, working chiefly through trade unions, cannot fail to capitalize on continuing tension. Faced with this threat, it behooves the Atlantic Alliance to advance the good will and capital necessary for understanding. Who will make the concessions?

Britain is hardly in position, once copper revenues fall and base construction levels off, to promote economic development by transferring capital to Cyprus at the rate of $40 million to $50 million yearly. To support the island’s growing population and really develop as capital plant will require resources beyond Britain’s present capacity. And many Cypriote merchants and building owners nurse cynical hopes that an American aid program eventually will replace Britain’s modest disbursements.

Aware of Cyprus’s dependence on the West, Cypriote businessmen admit privately their misgivings about the demands for transfer of the island to Greece. Since the war, many have traveled in Greece and the Greek islands, compared living standards, and watched the Greeks at work as bureaucrats — an unimpressive sight. None has illusions about Greece’s capacity to support economic development. in Cyprus, and few want Cyprus to become another Crete.

One solution would be establishment of a NATO trusteeship, with an election scheduled five to eight years hence to decide the island’s destiny. For military reasons a UN trusteeship would be unacceptable to Britain. Supporters of a NATO plan feel that it alone offers the West a chance peacefully to control the island’s defense, internal security, and foreign affairs. All concerned could save face, and the aims of the Atlantic Alliance in the Middle East could still be served from Cyprus.

This arrangement might well placate Greece and release the Karamanlis government from the embarrassing need to bring Cyprus into virtually every discussion of foreign and internal policy. As a NATO partner Greece could participate in rule of Cyprus, and the tiny island could be removed as a wedge in Greek-Turkish relations, the Balkan Pact, and the Atlantic Alliance.

Such a plan also might permit launching a larger scheme for economic development than seems practicable under British rule. While there is no guarantee that the plan would work, it clearly is in the interests of the NATO partners to try. If they were successful, Cyprus could well prove a test run for the broader powers envisioned for NATO.