CYPRUS has never been a peaceful place for very long. This sun-scorched stage of cactus, lemon trees, and pines has suffered the conspiracies of many faiths. The worshipers of the Roman and Greek gods claimed Aphrodite-Venus rose here from the sea. The gods of Egypt, Persia, and Israel staked their claims on their spears. In combat today the ingenuity of the Orthodox Greek and Muslim Turkish Cypriots shows little influence of the love goddess. Cypriots send explosives in the mails, mine the mosques, convert tractors into tanks, confect bombs in kitchens, put looted villages to the torch, shoot playing children and kneeling women, burn traitors with gasoline, and run disc harrows over the bodies of the losers.

Their venom is aristocratic even by Middle East standards. The shores are narrow. But the mistrust is so boundless that it infects the offisland Greeks and Turks too. “How can we trust them?” cry both sides, shrugging.

In an area of only 3572 square miles, with less than 600,000 people, international peace-keeping ought not to milk the United Nations at the rate of $24 million a year. But it does. From Kvrenia’s mountains on the north, facing Turkey’s snowy peaks across forty miles, it is hardly twentv minutes by helicopter to the southern port of Limassol, facing Egypt. East to west, the long way of the island, a chopper can tly in about a half hour from Famagusta, Othello’s walled city facing Syria only 110 miles away, to Paphos in the west. Except for its two mountain complexes, meagerly clad with stunted firs, Cyprus is mostly a dry waste of brown hills. Its surface, scarred by gullies but no rivers, is as barren and burnished as the rude ingots of copper that brought the classical adventurers: Egyptians, Persians, Jews, Phoenicians, and Romans, and later, the Crusaders, French, Venetians, Turks, and British. This year Russia too declared itself a protecting power.

The Cypriots number four Greeks to one Turk. In the ultimate showdown, a poor, plodding, and provincial minority of 100,000 Turkish farmers must somehow yield greater political leverage to a clamorous, mercurial majority of 400,000 Greek artisans, traders, and gardeners. The Turks are more dogged, but the Greeks are more clever.

Turkey is not naturally aflame to intervene in Cyprus; only Greek Cypriot atrocities make Turks feel that way. In Istanbul, it has been pointed out, there are more Turks left unemployed by the muddled Turkish economy than there are Turks on all Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots are regarded in Turkey a little suspiciously, as crafty demiHellenes. Many of them speak Greek, a sinister sign in itself.

Between Russia and the West

Both sets of Cypriots are caught in a geopolitical vise between Russia and the West. Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the Greek Cypriots give their allegiance to a solid, labor-based Communist Party, two generations old, one of the two (the other is Israel’s) that are legal in the Middle East. Communism seems an unnatural ally for an archbishop, but it is not. In return for granting the Communist Party legality, President Makarios has, since January 1, been publicly promised protection by Khrushchev against “aggression . . . from any quarter, under any pretext.”

An unspoken compact between Makarios’ autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Communists keeps the oil and vinegar, Cypriot nationalism and Marxist-Leninism, in harmony. No totally Communist units are permitted in the new armed bodies that Makarios is constantly shifting, renaming, and modifying. But individual Communists are welcomed.

Partly in return for Khrushchev’s red umbrella there is an ideological truce on the island. The Cypriot Communist Party, which is completely Greek, deliberately overlooks the fact that the Orthodox Church is the largest and most affluent landowner, both plutocratic and religious, hence doubly the class enemy.

To give the land of the monasteries to their sharecroppers has been a fundamental Marxist program; but the Cyprus Communists need most the rights to agitate, organize, and vote. Only the archbishop can grant these blessings.

The privilege of legal operation is more than the Communists would enjoy in Greece, where the Party is officially banned but actually legalized under another name. If Cyprus and Greece were unified, and the two parties merged, the Greek Party would gain the advantage of numbers over the Greek Cypriot Party. But the Cyprus faction would bring to the Greek Communist Party, still shadowed by its conspiracy of 1944-1950 with the Slavic Communists, a purifying cachet of spotless legality under the protection of the elastic cross of Byzantium.

On the Turkish side this complicated situation does not exist, because no Turkish Cypriot is a Communist. In Turkey, Communists are really illegal, not masked under another name. They are not banned because of being Marxists —— Turkey is encumbered with an archaic, corrupt socialism borrowed by Ataturk from Lenin — but for the grave sin of being pro-Russian. The Turkish Cypriots are against Communism on the island because it is Slavic in origin and Greek in practice, two enemies in one. The Greek Cypriots tolerate Communism because it is anti-Turkish, which automatically hellenizes it and removes its old pro-Slav Stalinist stigma of the Greek civil wars.

Why all the killing?

The Greek Cypriot Communists cut across this semantic folk dance by wooing the Turkish Cypriots directly with secret missions. The Communists explain that they, unlike the Greek nationalists of Makarios. have never burned Turkish villages. On Cyprus, never to have ignited a Turkish home or daubed a blue cross on its blackened walls is as far as compromise can go. Since both kinds of Cypriots have so much to gain through this contrived status quo, why all the killing?

“Because the Greeks cannot forget that the troops of Kemal Ataturk burned Smyrna and built Izmir on the ashes,”suggests one deplomat. “Why did NATO have to choose that city of tragic memory for its Southeast headquarters? The Greek Cypriots are fighting Turkey’s revolution over again, but in reverse. What makes it so sterile is that Makarios, who was president of the Greco-Turkish republic of Cyprus for four years, has now slipped down to being simply the ethnarch, the political and religious imam of the Greek Cypriots. He can never bring unity again between Moslem and Christian. Yet Greek Cyprus can never unload him, because though he rules the state for only five years, he rules the church for life.”

In Makarios the fumbling Turks, outguessed and outmaneuvered, have at least the satisfaction of a personal enemy. The low-voiced archbishop, with his neat beard, blue working tunic, pectoral cross, and calm, enigmatic smile, is a hatefigure of ironic dimensions. He seems to lose them a little only when his rival, Lieutenant General George Grivas, the mustached, violently nationalist leader of the youthful EOKA guerrillas, makes a move to split the Cypriot front on the issue of Communism. Makarios tries, not very successfully, to argue that Grivas’ version of enosis is impossible because the Turks will not tolerate it. Actually, Makarios wants independence. But Grivas, who controls the National Guard, has more power.

Power decides. The Soviet bloc and Nasser have given the Greek Cypriots power in weapons. Makarios acts; Vice President Fazil Kutchuk, a genial Turkish surgeon, only protests. Kutchuk, chafing under Makarios’ pre-emption of the term “the government” for the thirty-fivemember all-Greek rump session of the fifty-member parliament, asked for a common cabinet meeting under UN protection. Makarios refused. His refusal did not impair his standing with the UN leadership; the UN directorate blandly continued to treat with both physician and archbishop.

Useless bloodshed

The 55,000 Turkish Cypriot refugees estimated by the UN to be “in need of relief in the form of basic foodstuffs and medical supplies” are one core of unrest, and so are the 16,900 who have lost their homes. Cyprus is a Palestine in the making. But the real abiding cause for enmity is the unbalance in casualties. According to the UN head count, between fifty and sixty Greek Cypriots have disappeared, victims of Turkish violence.

If losses by “kidnapping” — a Cypriot euphemism for murder — were apportioned equally by population, only fifteen Turks would be mourned. Instead, according to the UN, the number of Turks vanished and presumed dead has passed the five-hundred mark. In other words, transposed on the weight of population in Cyprus, Turkish losses are about thirty-three to one.

The shock of useless bloodshed in Cyprus is intensified by the fear of larger implications. In 1921 and 1922, when there was no United Nations to hover over their intransigence, and no United States to buy them off with aid, bleeding Greece and disorganized Turkey got together in a peaceful exchange of a million refugees. Nobody was pilloried, as Makarios has hit against Dean Acheson and George Ball, for “uninvited mediation.”

Moreover, the resulting peace, born of exhausted desperation, was durable. Venizelos, having earlier Separated his native Crete from Turkey and chased out the Turkish minority, was not insistent on getting Cyprus too. Ataturk, having pushed the Greeks out of Anatolia, was satisfied to have the Italians hold the strategic belt of the Dodecanese Islands between them as an alarm system when and if the Greeks pushed eastward again in search of their “greater Greece.”

In Korea in 1950 both Greeks and Turks fought gallantly and were both rewarded by American military aid well above meager losses. When Cyprus became an independent republic in 1960, it seemed like the perfect child of reconciliation to bring Athens and Ankara into true alliance. The Turks had taken little shooting part in the struggle from 1956 to 1959 between the British and Greek Cypriots, and were generously rewarded with a promise of 30 percent of the government jobs for over 18 percent of the population.

Cyprus boomed, with 22,000 Israeli tourists a year purchasing nearly $400 per person from Greek merchants. The newborn republic cost its foster parents little. Greece’s Prime Minister Karamanlis cut off the $400,000 secret subsidy which had been granted to help the Cypriots fight the British. Turkey trimmed down its aid to the T.M.T., the Turkish underground. The overt angels were Britain and America, meeting every deficit, pouring in help to Makarios, hoping that his alliance with the Communists was not real.

Makarios wins

The whole tidy cat’s cradle fell apart when one of the several “private armies" operating irregularly under Makarios elected to bomb the American Embassy in Nicosia in January, 1964. Nobody was even wounded, but the Americans took out their women and children by special airlift. As the Soviets openly became Makarios’ political allies and military purveyors, the inflow of useful intelligence about the Cypriot Communists reaching the Americans dwindled. It was significant that nobody was arrested for bombing the American Embassy, even though the outrage was traced by the Americans to a private army run by one of Makarios’ advisers.

The opening British task, alter fighting erupted, was to be the responsible peace-keeping power for all three of the official protecting powers of Cyprus. Under these terms the British, with Makarios’ cool consent and the support of Greece and Turkey, sent in forces enough to bring about law and order. They failed to decentralize their forces or to set up an effective alarm system. As a result, hundreds of Turkish homes, and a few Greek ones, were pillaged, burned, and bulldozed.

During the two months of British peace-keeping, Makarios gained his main objective: a chance to arm his forces and to put them under trained leadership from the Athenian Ministry of War while the British, as legal watchmen of the three-way alliance, prevented the Turks from landing. Under the Cyprus convention any of the three powers is entitled to intervene unilaterally.

The UN moves in

The real victory of Makarios was gained in February when he succeeded in convincing the British to depart and to refer their sinking predicament to the United Nations. A completely different legal situation emerged. Unlike Britain, the United Nations did not arrive as peacemaker under the treaties that gave Cyprus birth, by consent of all three parties. It came at the “invitation" of the “Cypriot government.”

Aside from its disregard of the legal birth certificate of the Cyprus republic, the United Nations was handicapped by the very terms under which the Cyprus baby was placed in its lap March 27. The legal deviation had begun even under the treaties, when the British, at Makarios’ protest, gave up inspection of incoming arms.

But the British had weakened the legal as well as the military position before referring Cyprus to the UN. In January, when the bloodiest fighting had drawn to a lull, the British invited leaders of “both communities" to London for a conference. The clear intention was to withhold recognition of full sovereignty lrom both the distressed Makarios faction and the besieged Turkish faction.

Makarios outmaneuvered the British by sending his Foreign Minister, Spvros Kyprianou, unbidden, to the conference. Young, vigorous, and eloquent, Kyprianou demanded that the “Cyprus government" be heard. The British found themselves with two sets of “community" spokesmen and an extra spokesman of the “government of Cyprus.”They yielded legality, and with it sovereignty, to Makarios. The representatives of Turkish Cypriots who went to London as a “community" equal to the Greek Cypriots were shoved onward to New York as a “minority” confronting “the legal government.”

U Thant accepted an agreement in which the original treaties, that gave both Makarios and Kutchuk their offices and privileges, were not even mentioned. He accepted an unqualified sovereignty for Makarios and ignored the constitutional power of the Turkish Cypriots to veto military matters and matters of foreign affairs. He crippled the UN forces in dealing with the Greek Cypriots by leaving sovereignty under Makarios completely unmodified.

After his meetings in Washington with Papandreou and Inonu, President Johnson culminated the confusion by giving the Turkish Premier assurances that for the United States all the original agreements about Cyprus, presumably including the right of intervention, which the UN had been trying to smother, were still valid. The Turks could land legally, Washington seemed to tell them, but they would get no American help if Russia should strike them.

The Turks carefully hung the albatross of responsibility around Washington’s neck. The Cyprus question was being deferred, but it was escalating, too. When President Johnson sent carrier planes against coastal patrols in Vietnam, the Turkish press and military demanded that Inonu do likewise in Cyprus.

The UN’s respect for the Makarios sovereignty, without inhibition by the constitution or the original treaties, came home to challenge U Thant. To make his next purpose perlectly clear, Makarios informed UN General K. S. Thimayya that it was his intention bv September 27, the expiration date for the second three-month term of the UN forces, to do away with the UN entirely. The UN forces had. in fact, served their purpose for Makarios by deferring a landing by the Turks.

The natural preoccupation of Washington and London with the preservation of NATO, and the alliance of Makarios with the antiNATO forces as well as with Greece, tended to obscure a more serious development. Behind the cloud of the Cyprus affair a larger pattern was emerging: that of a greater Byzantium, of a golden Greek Constantinople as the second Rome, and of Cyprus as the redeemer of the lost Greek cities of Alexander’s empire in Southern Anatolia. In this alliance there would be a noose of power — Russia, Greece, Cyprus, and Bulgaria — around Turkey.