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West of Suez: Britain and the Mediterranean, 1704-1967

Towards independence

Cover of pamphlet displaying anti-British textCover of pamphletThe pamphlet featured here was published by ‘the Greek Youth of Athens’ in response to a new economic development plan for Cyprus allegedly proposed by the Conservative government in 1956 ‘in the hope of bribing its Greek population to consent to the perpetuation of British colonialism over the island.’

Supported by photographs and copies of letters and other documents, the authors compile a list of charges, beginning with a historical grievance, the British misappropriation of the ‘tribute to Turkey’ which, under the Cyprus Convention, the island was obliged to pay to the Ottoman Sultan; they also include the discouragement of industry, the depression of agriculture, and the plundering of antiquities.

During this period the Greek Cypriots had continued to agitate for union with Greece. Political opposition to British colonial rule in Cyprus was led by Archbishop Makarios III. In April 1955, EOKA (‘National Organisation for Cypriot Struggle’) began a guerrilla campaign, attacking public British targets.

After the Suez Crisis of 1956, a compromise began to take shape. The British were prepared to grant Cyprus independence on condition that they could retain military bases on the island.

A union between Cyprus and Greece, however, was not considered feasible and would have been opposed both by the Turkish minority on the island and by Turkey.

The Zurich and London agreements of February 1959 approved the setting up of an independent Cypriot state. This came into existence in August 1960, and shortly afterwards the Republic of Cyprus became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Agreement allowed for a form of power sharing between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. However, this arrangement was to prove unstable, leading to intercommunal violence, and, in 1974, to the partition of the island that still obtains today.

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