15 AUGUST 1958, Page 4


r o judge from some of the reactions here to r the Prime Minister's visit to , Greece and Turkey, he might have been travelling as a Western sage, dedicated, impartial, wise, rather than as the head of a Government which has made such a terrifying mess of things in Cyprus. The idea of the visit was, admittedly, good. So was its timing. Neither Mr. Karamanlis nor Mr. Menderes can view without alarm the possibility that communal violence in Cyprus will continue and worsen. If it were possible for the Turks to intervene, they might cynically welcome an excuse to do so; but. so long as British troops are on the island armed invasion from the main- land is hardly conceivable. And if he cannot intervene, Mr. Mehderes certainly does not wish to see a situation arise in which hundreds, per- haps thousands, of Turkish Cypriots might be massacred. The same applies to Mr. Karamanlis. He cannot really relish the prospect of enosis feeling in the island being canalised behind terrorism, whether under EOKA or under Com- munist leadership. Mr. Macmillan's soothing words were consequently most welcome. The Greek and Turkish Governments may fear the English, bearing gifts; but the alternative is far more alarming.

Yet the fact that Mr. Macmillan was com- pelled to make this improvised tour is itself a damning indictment of the policy his Govern- ment has pursued. It is not so very many months since the Conservatives still looked upon Cyprus as a little local difficulty which could be smoothed over by the resolute action of the occupying forces. Every generous promise of partnership and prosperity which Mr. Macmillan now makes is, in effect, a frank admission that the policy which Lord Harding was sent to im- pose on the island was catastrophically wrong (just how wrong it was can also be seen when Lord Harding himself writes articles on Cyprus). Naturally the Government's change of heart should be welcomed, but not to the point of con- verting Mr. Macmillan's penance into a political triumph. If its results are as good as everybody must hope they will be, the credit should go not to the Prime Minister, but to Sir Hugh Foot, who has at least managed to keep the Cyprus situation from deteriorating beyond repair.

Whether any fresh proposals can now succeed depends on speed of action. The Government here has finally abandoned its claim to sovereignty in Cyprus : all that it asks is to be allowed to stay for a seven-year transition period in which the island's future can be settled. There are two ob- stacles. The first is over the wording of the agreement. The Turks have insisted that Partition must be underwritten, as it were, for the future: the Greeks, that it must not. In 'partnership' Mr. Macmillan has found a formula that with a little judicious juggling may be made acceptable to both sides; but it is weighted in favour of the Turks, which makes a settlement improbable. Much will depend, in any case, on the speed and skill with which negotiations now proceed.

The second is more serious. Can the islanders settle down to live and work together amicably after what has passed? Terrorism, even if crushed, leaves a residue: there are bound to be isolated acts of revenge, if nothing worse. EOKA may well find the terms of an agreement too soft for its liking : the Communists will certainly resent any agreement at all, and the more satisfactory it is the harder they will be inclined to upset it. The only chance of the Greek Cypriots as a whole accepting a settlement is if Archbishop Makarios conies back with it in his pocket; he alone (largely owing to the stupidity with which he has been treated by the authorities) carries the weight to satisfy them that they are not being duped. But even he cannot counter the effects of terror overnight.

lf, then, some settlement is reached, we cannot hope for any immediate pacification on the island. It will be months, years probably, before the tensions built up in the island since EOKA began operations are dissipated. The change- over from being a colonial Power to being simply a caretaker on a seven-year lease will not be easy. But if the caretaking job is carried out efficiently and generously, if the shattered island can be given back its prosperity and calm, we may at least claim to have done something to compen- sate for the wrongs that our misguided policy has done. it in the past.