Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of the 1974 Cypriot coup d'état.
What follow are small excerpts (taken from my recently published book on Britain and the Greek Colonels) which examines the British reaction to the coup and Whitehall's immediate actions on that day:
"[...] The first reports about outbreaks of fighting in Nicosia reached London on 15 July. According to information gained during the first hours, it was looking ‘increasingly like a coup organised by Greek contingent/Greek-officered elements of National Guard’. The most shocking news appeared to be the alleged death of Archbishop Makarios, broadcast by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and conveyed to London by the British high commissioner, Olver.
[...] Callaghan admitted that the treaty gave Britain rights but appeared less urgent to suggest any concrete action as it was too early to judge the situation fully.
[As he told the House of Commons:] We are in the very early hours of this event. It happened only this morning. A declaration has been put out by those who led the coup saying that foreign policy will not change and that Cyprus will maintain friendly relations with all nations while pursuing a policy of non-alignment as happened in the past. I do not know how much reliance at this stage we should attach to any of the declarations that are forthcoming.
[...] In order to help defuse the crisis the foreign secretary prepared a telegram detailing directions to British representatives in Athens, Ankara, Washington, Brussels, and New York. His message to his Greek counterpart expressed his ‘grave concern’ over the situation: ‘[. . . ] it is undoubtedly very dangerous with serious implications for the stability of the Eastern Mediterranean and for the cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance. I am sure you share my concern that the independence, territorial integrity and security of Cyprus should be maintained.
I should be grateful to have urgently your comments on the situation as the Greek Government sees it’.
A similar message was to be delivered to the Turkish capital as well, with the hope that the Turks would avoid ‘any kind of precipitate action or intervention’ at that stage, as it was ‘clearly essential’, if the conflict was not to spread, for the Turkish government to display ‘exemplary patience’ in those circumstances. Washington was to be informed about the content of the two messages, and Dr Kissinger to be approached with an oral message from Callaghan asking his view, any information on action which he might contemplate, and any information on events on the island itself. The British delegation to NATO was asked to invite Dr Luns himself to consider sending messages to the Turks and the Greeks, and the British mission at the UN was told to suggest to Dr Waldheim the convening of an emergency meeting of the contributors to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP)."