Reflecting on Strategic Missteps in Cyprus’ History

history missed opportunities

Reflecting on Cyprus’ history reveals a series of strategic missteps, from the refusal of key constitutional changes in 1963 to the rejection of peace initiatives in the 1980s. Decisions driven by personal motives and missed opportunities have contributed to the unresolved Cyprus problem, shaping the nation’s political landscape to this day.

What were the key strategic missteps in Cyprus’ history?

Cyprus’ history is marked by strategic missteps due to early leaders’ flawed decisions influenced by personal motives. Notable errors include:

  1. Refusal of constitutional changes leading to intercommunal violence in 1963.
  2. Rejection of the 1978 Anglo-American-Canadian plan for troop withdrawal and territorial adjustments.
  3. Dismissal of UN’s ‘Cuellar Indicators’ plan and other peace initiatives in the 1980s.

These decisions have shaped Cyprus’ political landscape and contributed to the unresolved Cyprus problem.

The Early Presidential Blunders

The narrative of Cyprus’ tumultuous history is punctuated by a series of strategic missteps, particularly by its early leaders. Leontios Ierodiakonou, a former Disy deputy and author with insight into the Cyprus problem, paints a vivid picture of the errors made post-1940s, highlighting the flawed decision-making process that often rested solely on the president of the time. The presidents’ decisions were frequently influenced by personal motives—ranging from fear of losing popularity to protecting political careers—which severely undermined the island nation’s ability to engage in sincere and productive dialogue.

This individual-centric approach to policy-making post-Turkish invasion only served to solidify the Turkish position, while progressively weakening that of Cyprus. These leaders set unattainable targets, fully aware that the resources at Cyprus’ disposal were insufficient to achieve them. Such targets inadvertently played into Turkey’s hands, perpetuating a deadlock that allowed the occupying force to further entrench the status quo.

A History of Missed Opportunities

Well before the invasion, in 1963, President Makarios’ controversial decision to revise the constitution sparked intercommunal violence. Despite initial rejection, by 1971 the Turkish Cypriots accepted the proposed changes that they had once opposed vehemently. This acceptance opened a window for a constitutional revision, a potential solution that was sidelined by Makarios’ refusal to authorize an agreement.

Another significant opportunity came in 1978 with the Anglo-American-Canadian plan, which proposed the withdrawal of occupying troops and territorial adjustments, including the return of Famagusta’s inhabitants to their homes. At a moment when conditions were favorable, and Turkish settlers had not yet altered the demographics, President Spyros Kyprianou dismissed the plan—a decision that many now view as a grave error.

The Cost of Inaction and Delay

In the 1980s, under the leadership of Kyprianou, Cyprus had additional chances to resolve its political conundrum. UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar’s ‘Cuellar Indicators’ plan received initial praise, yet ultimately, it too was rejected by the president, leading to the resignation of the foreign minister. A year later, Kyprianou would backtrack on yet another plan he had previously lauded, leading to further stagnation in the peace process.

1986 saw the presentation of a new UN plan, but internal disagreements within the Greek Cypriot community led to preconditions that squandered the opportunity for dialogue. Kyprianou’s subsequent ‘aggressive’ diplomacy—seeking an international conference on the Cyprus problem—was seen as a flight into fantasy, with little chance of realization.

Decisions That Shaped a Nation

The history of Cyprus’ political decisions is a web of complexity and missed chances. The early presidents, through actions driven by personal and national interests, have shaped the island’s destiny in unexpected ways. While Turkey’s intransigence is a key factor in the unresolved Cyprus problem, the inability of Cypriot leaders to capitalize on opportunities has played a significant role in the island’s current state. Reflecting on these historic moments underscores the importance of pragmatic decision-making and the willingness to compromise for the greater good.

How did the early presidents’ decisions impact Cyprus’ history?

The early presidents of Cyprus made decisions influenced by personal motives, leading to a series of strategic missteps that shaped the nation’s political landscape. Their individual-centric approach to policy-making undermined Cyprus’ ability to engage in sincere dialogue, setting unattainable targets that played into Turkey’s hands and solidified the status quo.

What were some missed opportunities in Cyprus’ history?

Cyprus has faced significant missed opportunities in its history, such as President Makarios’ refusal to authorize a constitutional revision in 1971 despite Turkish Cypriots accepting the proposed changes. The rejection of the 1978 Anglo-American-Canadian plan for troop withdrawal and territorial adjustments by President Spyros Kyprianou is another notable example of a missed opportunity that could have potentially led to a resolution of the Cyprus problem.

How did decisions in the 1980s impact Cyprus’ peace process?

In the 1980s, Cyprus had several opportunities to resolve its political conundrum, including the rejection of UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar’s ‘Cuellar Indicators’ plan and internal disagreements within the Greek Cypriot community that squandered the chance for dialogue presented by a new UN plan in 1986. President Kyprianou’s decisions during this period ultimately led to further stagnation in the peace process.

What lessons can be learned from reflecting on Cyprus’ historic decisions?

Reflecting on Cyprus’ historic decisions highlights the importance of pragmatic decision-making and the willingness to compromise for the greater good. The unresolved Cyprus problem is a result of missed opportunities, individual-centric decision-making, and a failure to capitalize on chances for dialogue and resolution. Learning from these strategic missteps can inform future approaches to conflict resolution and decision-making in Cyprus.

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