Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th June 1964.

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Photo of Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe , Windsor 12:00 am, 16th June 1964

It is not in the same category as an arms embargo, nor is it applied for the same purpose. The object is quite different. Before the right hon. Gentleman returned, I was saying that I thought that a policy of that kind would be unlikely to achieve the desired result. It would be more likely to irritate the South African Government rather than otherwise, and I do not for a moment think that the best interests of the coloured population, the Africans themselves, would be best served in that way.

I remind the House that very limited economic sanctions applied against Italy at the time of the Abyssinian war converted that war from a thoroughly unpopular venture in Italy into a national challenge. According to my recollection, the party opposite broke off diplomatic relations with Spain, as a gesture, shortly after they came to power in 1945. Did that make the Franco régime any more liberal?

Moreover, if one wishes to follow that sort of line, one must apply it universally, without discrimination. If one proposes to take a moral line of that sort, one cannot apply it in the places where one thinks one will get away with it and not apply it in those where one thinks one will not. Does anyone suggest that we ought to restrict, diminish or cut off economic aid to Nyasaland because nine Jehovah's Witnesses were murdered for the crime of not voting for Dr. Banda? Where does one stop? If this is the line which the Opposition intend to take about South Africa, I beg them to realise that there must be some co-ordination between the head and the heart.

I turn now to the subject of Cyprus. Here, up to a point, I agree with a good deal that the right hon. Gentleman said. The situation in Cyprus is very bad. If it deteriorates further, it will have immeasurable repercussions. We have counselled moderation upon the Turks, and the Turks have accepted our advice. This, to my mind, imposes upon both us and the Americans a very heavy moral obligation to ensure that Turkish vital interests are not penalised by reason of the restraint they have shown.

What has happened? Is the United Nations force in Cyprus holding the ring, pending negotiations? I do not think it is. As I see it—I may be wrong—the United Nations force has been an almost passive witness of the gradual erosion of the whole Turkish position step by step, and in this process British troops have unwillingly been participants.

I agree with what has been said on both sides of the House already, that the House and country owe an immense debt to the British troops for the restraint, good humour, discipline and courage which they have shown, but I think they have been absolutely disgracefully treated by President Makarios. They have been asked to operate in circumstances which are deplorable and humiliating. When we get to the stage where a British officer and his driver, both attached to the United Nations force, are simply kidnapped and disappear into thin air and nobody can find them—largely, I suspect, because the United Nations force, as the right hon. Gentleman said, has not the power of search—this is something which even Gilbert and Sullivan never conceived.

When the Cyprus crisis broke out, it was the Labour Party which was rather critical of the Government for not seeking straight away a United Nations solution. I wonder whether hon. Members opposite think like that now. When the crisis broke out, speed was the essence of everything and Britain alone could act speedily. We had troops on the spot and troops which could be moved quickly, and moved quickly they were, to the credit of the Government. I believe that if they had not been moved quickly into the area it is likely that there would have been a war between Greece and Turkey.

Moreover, we were perfectly entitled to act on our own both as a signatory of the original Zurich Agreement and as a N.A.T.O. Power. But Archbishop Makarios did not want speedy action. He wanted delay, and if delay was his essential ally, naturally, a United Nations force was his essential weapon. Inevitably in the assembly of a United Nations force weeks would have to elapse before the troops of the various nations could be got together from the four winds of heaven and put down in Cyprus, and even after the lapse of a number of weeks they were operational only because of the facilities we offered them from the British base.

Once the United Nations force was assembled with the British element in it, the Labour Party began expressing all sorts of anxieties. It must have been obvious that uncertainties would be bound to arise directly there was a United Nations force. Of course they would. The Labour Party asked "Were the orders clear?", "Who was in command?", and "Could the British troops defend themselves and, if so, under what circumstances?" The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) went so far as to suggest that heavy tanks should be used to dismantle road blocks and strongpoints—a very sensible suggestion, too. But the trouble with a United Nations force—let us be frank for this is inherent in the origin and composition of a United Nations force—is that it has never dismantled a strongpoint or a roadblock either in the physical, literal sense or in the metaphorical sense if that strongpoint or roadblock has been erected by a majority. No minority has much to hope for from the United Nations today, unless the minority has a propaganda value of an anti-colonial nature within the ambit of the General Assembly.

I invite the House to contrast the immense pressure which we and the United States and, to a lesser extent, the Secretary-General rightly put on the Turks not to land troops, though, as a matter of fact, under the original treaty they were entitled to do so to protect their own minority—that pressure has, happily, been successful—with the comparable lack of pressure applied to Archbishop Makarios not to proceed with conscription or to buy heavy equipment, which he is not entitled to do. The truth is that the United Nations, to put it quite frankly, is being taken for a ride by Archbishop Makarios, the Prime Minister of a newly independent Commonwealth country which would be bankrupt within a month but for the revenue accruing from the British base and the subventions from Her Majesty's Government.

This cannot go on. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that some solution in the form of a rather more practical method must be reached fairly soon. The trouble is how to get a solution. I agree that the original Zurich Agreement has stood no chance of lasting very long. But various other solutions are being canvassed in the Press and elsewhere. One is the solution of partition. I do not think that Cyprus is a very easy place to partition. One would have to swap the population about a good deal. I also believe that if in the present heat we attempted a serious partition of Cyprus, quite apart from the physical and economic difficulties, we should have to have a kind of permanent Gaza strip right along the frontiers on the island.

A second solution which is discussed is called double Enosis. If I understand the term, it is another form of partition. There would be the Greek portion of the island belonging to Greece and the Turkish portion belonging to Turkey, so that we should have an international frontier running down the island. I do not know whether that is feasible. I should have thought it very difficult for the same reason as before.

The third solution put forward appears to be to hand the whole island over to Greece—which is single Enosis —and compensate the Turks territorially elsewhere. I do not know whether anybody could tell me where else they could be put. What other islands are there in the same strategic position as Cyprus? If they are to be compensated on the mainland, it would mean giving them a large slice of Thrace.

All these solutions which are being mooted really involve a transfer of population in one form or another, particularly the last solution—a transfer of population on something like the 1922 scale. That in itself is a kind of major surgical operation. One can do a surgical operation on a patient when his temperature is normal, but it is much more dangerous to do it when the patient's temperature is 104°F. I hope that the foresight and skill of my right hon. Friend and his colleagues in N.A.T.O. and elsewhere will lead them to appreciate the urgency of the problem.

To end, I very much hope that the British Government will not be party to a settlement which does not commend itself to the Turkish Government and take into account the vital Turkish interests. This is not a simple minority problem. There is a very considerable historical, geographical and strategic element in it. The Turks are very staunch allies in both N.A.T.O. and CENTO, and if they were to feel that some solution was being bandied about which did not take into account Turkish vital interests and that they were being let down by their two major allies in N.A.T.O., America and Britain, the effect on Turkey would be very bad indeed, with a consequent effect which would be even worse in both N.A.T.O. and CENTO.