A TUNE PLAYED PIANISSIMO
By A CORRESPONDENT LITLE Greek children enjoy pulling out the chewing gum which American sailors give them to the point where it snaps. Mr. Karamanlis's Government is indulging in the same sport, trying to find out how far Greek public opinion can be stretched to accept a retreat over Cyprus.
Ministers no longer bother to keep 'off the record' their desire for a negotiated settlement with Britain. Some Opposition leaders admit privately that Greece turned down a blind alley two years ago, from which there is no way out except backwards. But what they say in public is very different: Cyprus is the overwhelming national issue : to Greeks it is more than an issue; it is a mystique; it hovers over the arena like Zeus of old. Beware the Greek who tempts the wrath of the King of the Gods by abandoning the epic struggle to unite the 'last of the islands' to the Hellenic Motherland! Mr. Karamanlis came to power for the excellent reason that, as Minister of Public Works, he was the first Greek Minister who had shown some value for the tax- payers' money for many years. His main interest is to continue and expand his ambitious policy of construction and road making. The quarrel with Britain and Turkey over Cyprus is bad economics for Greece; it wastes the time and energy of Cabinet, civil servants and of those who might otherwise give their enthusiasm to the social betterment of the countryside. If the Prime Minister could find a way of accepting the recent British proposals for a Three-Power Conference, he would. But he and his Ministers are beginning to realise that, if they pull out the chewing gum much farther, it will snap.
The present position is that the Greek Govern- - Athens ment has asked Britain for a guarantee that any Three-Power Conference will be held within the framework of self-determination after a fixed interval. Mr. Karamanlis must obtain such an undertaking for the sake of Greek public opinion. But it is just such a guarantee which Mr. Macmil- lan feels that he cannot give; for no Turkish Government, neither the present Democratic Party one of Mr. Menderes nor the Opposition (if by any unlikely chance it succeeds in the com- ing elections), is prepared to accept any settlement which leaves the narrowest loophole for enosis.
Turkish reactions ale so easily predictable that one cannot help wondering why men as intel- ligent as Mr. Karamanlis and Mr. Averoff should spend their talents on seeking a formula for a Three-Power Conference. The answer is three- fold : first, the Government wishes to improve relations with Britain, which can better be done by diplomatic courtesy than public insult; and second, the Government has been urged by the United States to show more willingness to com- promise. The third reason is more ingenious : Mr. Averoff believes that a tune played pianissimo by Greece might lull Britain and even Turkey into a gentler mood.
There is certainly some good sense in Mr. Averoff's logic, but he will find that the Greek public ear likes loud noises; to say the least, it will insist on the continuation of the 'atrocity cases' brought before UN and the Council of Eureope. And in any case, at this moment of electoral uncertainty in Turkey, Turkish politi- cians are not listening to tunes played on the other side of the fEgean. They are booming 'Cyprus is Turkish' on their own organ, with all stops out.