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Martin Packard Thoughts


Martin Packard MBE - British Consul to Cyprus 1963- 64

Martin Packard MBE – British Consul to Cyprus 1963- 64


Martin Packard was a British intelligence analyst, serving in the NATO staff in Malta, when he was appointed in 1963, as Greek interpreter, to the staff of Joint Forces in Cyprus. These Forces were formed by the three guarantor powers, Great Britain, Greece and Turkey, after the intercommunal clashes started in December 1963. He writes that the title “intelligence analyst” led the uninformed to the mistaken supposition that he was part of the British Intelligence Service. Packard had a good command of the Greek language, since he got married to a Greek woman, whom he met in Greece while on a Navy assignment in 1956.

“Getting it wrong: Fragments of a Cyprus Diary 1964”
is the name of his book, which was published in 2008, 44 years after the notes were taken.
The book describes in the words of the writer “a mediating process that was palpably successful in proving the ability of Cypriots to resolve their own problems. That the process was prevented from realising its potential, is  to the deep discredit of those who were unwilling to tolerate Cypriot independence.”

Martin Packard writes: “All of my experience in Cyprus showed that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots could work out effective solutions when provided with an appropriate mechanism through which to do so and with an accurate appraisal of the problems that confronted them. That was so in the numerous local disputes to which the tripartite mediating process was applied. It could have worked equally if the process had been extended to the roots of inter-communal misunderstanding. In each respect, the crucial factor was that the mediating process must be answerable to communal leaderships rather than to an outside power. Such a concept was hardly likely to be attractive to Washington or London or Ankara. The comment by Mark Curtis (in ‘Web of Deceit’) that ‘British and US policy generally rejects action genuinely based on multi-lateral legal and ethical standards to cover all nations equally’, would here seem particularly apposite.” (p.353)

Actually, Martin Packard and his associate major John Burgess had prepared a report of their work in Cyprus and in October 1964 gave the 250-page-typed copy to Cyril Pickard, who had commissioned it as the Assistant Undersecretary of the State at the Commonwealth Relations Office. Pickard, who was also serving in the first months of 1964 in Cyprus as the acting British High Commissioner, assessed the report as follows: “It is fascinating story of a unique operation and will be of great value, for a long time to come.”

But later, the fate of the report entered into the darkness of history. The authors of the report were told that the document was to be given a security classification. It is interesting to note that their home was broken in and the related material was confiscated by unknown persons, right after they were instructed to hand over all their copies and the raw material. The copy given to Cyril Pickard had also disappeared in the rooms of the Foreign Office and was not given back to him, despite requests for its return.

Packard writes the following: “The United Nations, under whose aegis I had latterly been working and for whom the study would have provided an important case history, heard about it, applied to the British government for a copy and were told that it could not be located. On a visit to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2000, I was told by the archivist for papers concerning Cyprus that records showed it had been sent to HMSO for printing in 1964 and then “lost.”

The comments on the report, which have survived, show that I was considered by the mandarins in London to have been a dangerous loose cannon and to have exceeded what they felt should have been my authority. The general tenor of comment was that mine was an intriguing story, but that it clearly was unacceptable that I should have presumed to play a mediating role, particularly one outside any direct British governmental control.”

It is well-known that the constitutional conflict and the following intercommunal clashes in December 1963 were mentioned rarely after the fascist coup and the following invasion and the occupation of Cyprus in 1974 by two of its guarantor powers. The constitutional conflict between the two communities in Cyprus dates back to these days and the so-called Cyprus problem has some internal as well as very important external aspects. One can find many references in Packard’s book about the involvement of the secret services of the NATO countries in Cyprus. The role of the British and the American imperialism can be seen very vividly as the author reports about his daily activities and his contacts.


When George Ball, the US foreign minister, visited the island in 1964, Martin Packard was accompanying him during his fact-finding mission. Packard writes: “I was able to show him widespread evidence of the fact that a unitary state could be made eminently workable. I described the steps that still needed to be taken. I talked at length about the advantages of a tripartite mediating approach and the opportunity this gave for sources of violence to be identified and isolated, giving realistic hope that a much stronger multi-ethnic society could be created within a bi-communal Cyprus, with genuine security for the Turkish Cypriots. I said that limited movements of population by mutual agreement had been beneficial in areas of particular tension and that in most areas a reintegration of the two rural communities would present no problems once a general political accommodation was reached. I suggested that an extension of the tripartite mediating process was needed, rather than an enlargement of the military peacekeeping effort, and that the lessons we had learned needed to be applied at the upper levels of inter-communal dialogue and co-operation.


When we returned to Nicosia Mr Ball complimented me on what had been achieved. He then said, sympathetically:

“But you’ve got it all wrong, son. Hasn’t anyone told you that our target here is for partition?”

Regrettably I didn’t take it seriously at the time. I thought that this was some misguided American politician talking nonsense. I felt relieved that the Commonwealth Relations Office, rather than the State Department, was responsible for western policy in Cyprus. Nobody had explained to me the key position that George Ball held, in tandem with Dean Acheson, in the formulation of new Washington policies for the island. Nor had I then any understanding of the implications of Washington seeking the leadership of UK/US initiatives for the area. (p.166)

The commander of the Joint Force, General Young had been replaced in February 1964, accused in London of being ‘too pro-Cypriot” by the hard-line General Carver. In early June 1964, an agreement was achieved, with the approval from the Organisation, the Secret Army, the TMT and all relevant political and local leaders, for the return of the Turkish Cypriots to some of the mixed villages they had abandoned. This was not a solving of the Cyprus problem, but it was a vital step forward. The plan required the provision by the UNFICYP of escort and policing arrangements, for which Martin Packard already had the go-ahead from the UN’s meditating directorate. As soon as General Carver learned of the agreement, Packard was told to consider himself under open arrest: the following day he was removed from Cyprus, in an unmarked American C-47 transport, apparently provided by the CIA. Two hours later he was deposited at the US Air Force base at Hellenikon, on the outskirts of Athens. (p.240) Despite pleas from Makarios, Kutchuk and the UN that he should stay, his mediating operation was dismantled. Packard was told at the time by both UK and US ministers that he had exceeded his role and failed to understand that the NATO target was communal separation.

Now that the separation and the partition of Cyprus still continue since the bloody events of 1974, the day-to-day experiences of Martin Packard as a peace-maker in 1964 are very impressive to read.

Some excerpts are given below as examples of his notes and assessments:

“In 1958 there had been a sea-change in the texture of inter-communal relations in Cyprus. British use of Turkish Cypriot police units to counter the EOKA-led Greek Cypriot struggle for enosis, British encouragement of a Turkish involvement in Cypriot affairs, as a counterweight to Greece’s international campaign for Cypriot self-determination, and Britain’s apparent willingness to accept Turkish demands for separate communal administration in the municipalities, set the stage for an outbreak of serious inter-communal violence, which some Turkish Cypriot leaders described as the first push towards partition. The full force of British counter-insurgency strength was directed against the Greek Cypriot EOKA: TMT, the parallel secret Turkish Cypriot organisation, which was not even proscribed by the colonial authorities until the troubles were almost at an end, was allowed to build up its fighting strength without any serious encumbrance and initially viewed by the British army as an ally. London’s response to the violence was the Macmillan Plan, described by The Times as a proposal for “administrative partition”.” (p.136-137)

“The Greek Cypriots felt that their overwhelming numerical majority gave them a democratic right to decide the future of Cyprus, including the option of union with Greece if they so wished. The Turkish Cypriots felt that, although comprising only eighteen per cent of the population, the 1960 constitution had given them an equality in matters of state and that their security was dependant on an ability to veto key governmental decisions of which they disapproved. Turkey believed that its national interests demanded an ability to exercise a covert control over developments in Cyprus. The intelligence services of America, Britain, Turkey and Greece all believed that a unitary, leftward-leaning independent Cyprus would be inimical to their interests.

The Turkish Cypriots were favoured by an externally constructed constitution. The Greek Cypriots saw this constitution as inequitable and needing amendment and considered that they were supported by democratic principle. Each community believed that the other would pursue its perceived objectives through force of arms, and each established illegal paramilitary organisations to counter this possibility or to seek to impose its own will. The situation thus created was acutely vulnerable to the sidelining of democratic process, to a hijacking by nationalistic extremists and to exploitation by foreign agencies.” (p.145)

“The beginning of the UN’s peacekeeping stewardship had been marked by mutual misunderstandings, the Greek Cypriots expecting to be supported in the island-wide re-imposition of central government control, the Turkish Cypriots expecting that they were to be more forcefully protected than before, and the UN unaware of Cypriot complexities or of the degree to which most of the policies they were inheriting from the British were unsupportive of communal re-engagement. The outcome of these misunderstandings was a general heightening of tensions, a series of clashes, and then the onset of disillusionment.” (p.303)

“A country in which concepts of separate communality had been encouraged by foreigners over many years, specifically formulated in the municipalities proposals, and then taken forward in a divisive, externally-constructed, constitution, found itself faced in 1963 with an appalling dilemma, when each community realised that it was threatened by armed parastatal conspiracy sponsored from abroad. Within each community the agenda was dictated by tough, foreign-linked extremists rather than by democratic process. A resolution to this should have been found through pro-active mediation, but the British antipathy for independence in Cyprus meant that none was available. Instead there was NATO involvement with the conspirators.(…)

Ultimately, everyone has lost from Britain’s pursuit of its own narrow interests in Cyprus and its encouragement of Turkish involvement there. Cyprus has been a prime cause for regional division, when it might have been a catalyst for convergence between Turkey and Greece, with vast economic and social benefit for both countries and for all Cypriots. The EU could have inherited a cohesive association of eastern Mediterranean states. Turkey could have found its route towards EU accession less littered with impediments.

A genuine independence for Cyprus, within a formula that provided real protection for each community against extremism, that satisfied Turkey’s valid strategic concerns and that left London with a staunch regional ally, could have been achieved. Britain should have taken a lead towards that end but signally failed to do so. (p.353)
As Martin Packard said in a conference much later in 1995 in Athens, “Events in Cyprus in 1964 were full of lessons that would have been applicable to Bosnia in later years. Sadly there is no sign that the UN ever applied itself to an analysis of those events or to an application of those lessons… But the peacekeepers evicted the peacemaker. The British still have their bases.”

Packard stressed that despite a federal formula which would guarantee the security, Ankara felt obliged to maintain a huge army in foreign territory, to the detriment of its own European objectives and of Turkish Cypriot aspirations for a better quality of life, of which Turkish Cypriot emigration rates stand as testimony.
(Friends of Cyprus Report – London- No.51, Summer 2008)

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