Author: Not mentioned

Posted on:   Financial Times

Date: JULY 14, 2017




For years a basement in Athens has harboured a secret: a trove of documents relating to one of the most traumatic events in modern Greek history, its role in the 1974 Cyprus coup.

Three rooms under Greece’s foreign ministry have contained the 21,000 pages of the “Cyprus File”, documenting the chain of events that led to the coup by the then military regime in Athens against Archbishop Makarios, the island’s leader. The coup prompted a Turkish invasion of Cyprus days later, leading to the division of the island that has subsequently haunted regional politics, while it also sparked the collapse of military rule in Greece.

Cyprus has been demanding for years that Greece hand over the information to try to clear up many unanswered questions surrounding the run-up to the coup — and Greece has finally agreed. On Friday — a day before the July 15 anniversary of the coup — Nikos Voutsis, president of the Greek parliament, flew to Nicosia and handed the 134 files to Dimitris Silouris, his counterpart in Cyprus.

Greece’s parliament had approved the handover in a unanimous vote on Tuesday. Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, said the decision “constitutes an unfulfilled debt of the Greek state towards the Cypriot people”.

Even on the eve of the handover, however, Mr Voutsis sparked further controversy by admitting that 11 of the files had been lost, while Greek government sources say the most sensitive information may remain classified for the time being. The revelation of the lost documents has prompted speculation that the complete “Cyprus file” will never be fully revealed.

Opening the files was one of the main pledges of Andreas Papandreou, the Socialist leader, as he became Greek prime minister in 1981. It took five more years before a parliamentary committee of inquiry started gathering evidence, hearing some 130 witnesses.

The committee completed its work in 1988 but while a general statement of findings was released, the bulk of the documents were declared classified and languished for years in parliament, then in the cellars of the foreign ministry.

Greek historians and ministers say the documents contain evidence of the Greek junta’s secret plans to overthrow Archbishop Makarios, alongside confidential information about his power struggle with the Cypriot National Guard as well as EOKA B, the Greek Cypriot nationalist paramilitary organization that sought union with Greece. The documents also outline the role played by the UK, US and Nato at the time of the coup.

Tension has simmered for years between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey over the coup and its aftermath. Turkey’s invasion, which Ankara said was intended to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority and prevent annexation by Greece, led to Cyprus being partitioned into two states separated by a UN buffer zone.

The internationally recognized government of Cyprus controls the southern, Greek Cypriot portion of the island while Turkish Cypriots maintain a self-proclaimed independent state in the north, recognized only by Ankara and garrisoned by Turkish troops.

Cyprus’s government has welcomed the handover of the files. Kyriakos Kenevezos, Cyprus’s ambassador to Greece, says it “will clarify the picture of what actually happened and demolish whatever myths, positive or negative, might have been developed during all these years”.

Not everybody agrees. Some observers worry it might increase tension between the two Cypriot communities, just after the collapse of the latest UN-brokered talks in Switzerland to try to resolve the island’s future.

Costas Tasoulas, a former Greek defence minister and opposition MP, says the documents “will reveal as even more repugnant the unlawful Turkish invasion and the subsequent occupation of Northern Cyprus for 43 consecutive years”.

Tensions are also rising as Cyprus ploughs ahead with attempts to exploit sizeable offshore gas resources, resisted by Turkey, which this week sent frigates to monitor the start of drilling by a consortium led by Total of France and Eni of Italy.

However Harris Pampoukis, a former minister in the centre-left government of George Papandreou and now a law professor at the University of Athens, says more knowledge of the events of 1974 “would enhance the efforts for a sustainable solution to the Cyprus dispute”.

Cyprus’s government has assigned historians to study the file and says it intends to publish documents after a few months — but not all on the island believe they will reveal many secrets. Those that do emerge may continue to be seen differently by those on opposite sides of an entrenched political divide.

While the files have value for researchers the suspicion is that the documents will once again be left to gather dust, The Cyprus Mail newspaper said this week.

“It is very difficult to see how they will be useful to the politicians that have been clamouring for their handover for years,” an editorial said. “The irony is that our politicians have dogmatic views about the events of 1974 and will never accept any information that diverges from the narrative they have been repeating for decades.”


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