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Foreign Policy

Remembering Ambassador Rodger Davies

Remembering Ambassador Rodger Davies

“[Ambassador] Rodger Davies embodied the qualities and spirit which mark an American. He chose an unusual profession, a profession which required that to serve his country he leave his home but never forget it.” – Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, August 21, 1974

United Nations buffer zone in Cyprus. Eskinder Debebe/UN

On July 10, 1974, Ambassador Rodger Davies, the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus, presented his credentials in Nicosia. He arrived on the small island at a tumultuous time with the ambitious goal of fostering a fair, long-term peace agreement between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. Six weeks later, on August 19, 1974, Amb. Davies was assassinated. A sniper from 100 yards away shot him in the chest as he tried to keep his staff safe during a violent rally outside the embassy. The sniper was a member of the Greek Cypriot paramilitary group, EOKA-B, responsible for the coup d’état that overthrew the government just one month before.

Some thirty-eight years later, the same cultural and political tensions that led to the assassination of Amb. Davies, and prompted the arrival of Turkish peacekeeping troops continue to divide the island to the detriment of its people, its national security, its financial stability and its future economic opportunities. The history of this discord holds the key to reuniting the two faces of Cyprus and commencing a new era of peaceful co-existence.

1963 marked a pivotal year in the history of this dispute. Up until this point the Republic of Cyprus had been a peaceful partnership state with political power divided proportionally between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. However, the situation rapidly devolved when Greek Cypriot members of the government abolished the constitution’s articles that protected the governing rights of the Turkish Cypriots who were subsequently forced to withdraw from the government. Since this time the Government of the Republic of Cyprus has remained the only internationally recognized authority in the bicommunal state.

Cyprus became further destabilized and in 1964 a UN Peacekeeping Force arrived to prevent further bloodshed and protect the Turkish Cypriots. Newspapers at the time, including the Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor, documenting the plight of the Turkish Cypriot peoples reported that they were subjected to extreme violence. Amidst this disorder, the leader of the UN Peacekeeping Force, Major-General Peter Young, drew the island’s first “Green Line,” a demilitarized buffer zone. The Green Line divided the once open island into a northern Turkish Cyprus and a southern Greek Cyprus.

In 1974 Amb. Davies could not have foreseen that five days after his arrival in Cyprus the EOKA-B, would launch a bloody coup overthrowing President and Archbishop Makarios III and installing in his place the more hardline Nikos Sampson. Six weeks later, EOKA-B would strike again, this time taking the life of a revered international peacekeeper.

Over the past 30 years, the United Nations and various international partners have tried in vain to unite the island and create a long-term governing structure that protects the rights of both ethnic communities. In 2004, then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed a comprehensive plan to break the stalemate and facilitate a political partnership between the two communities. The plan was finalized after dozens of meetings and summits with heads of state, diplomats, and international bodies. When put to the Cypriot citizens for a vote, the Turkish Cypriot population voted “yes” and the Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly voted against it.

Recent UN sponsored peace talks initiated in 2008 have not made much progress, essentially reaching a stalemate, hampered by the vote four years ago. The Republic of Cyprus (Southern Cyprus) is now the President of the European Union. Yet, due to an embargo established by the Republic of Cyprus, the benefits of EU membership have not inured at all to the benefit of the people in the North, primarily because Greek Cypriots take the position that, for all intents and purposes, Northern Cyprus and its peoples do not exist.

On the anniversary of Amb. Davies assassination on August 19th, Turkish Cypriots remain steadfast in their support of a plan to unify the island. Right now Southern Cyprus has an unprecedented opportunity to encourage the Greek Cypriots to become active and willing participants in international unification negotiations. Hope for the future of Cyprus, and an end to the longstanding conflict, will only be achieved through examination of the country’s history, and by remembering those such as Ambassador Davies, who wanted nothing more than for the country to succeed.

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17 comments
CDanaD
CDanaD

I am Ambassador Davies' daughter and recently had the opportunity to visit Cyprus again.  The island has held a piece of my heart since the summer of 1974.  I can honestly say that the tensions between the two sides is still palpable today.  At a reception at the American Embassy I met with several members of the staff who were there in 1974 and knew my father.  The assassins were arrested and a trial followed.  One of the Greek Cypriot employees went to every day of the trial and said it was very fair.  Unfortunately, they were ultimately pardoned by President Makarios when he returned.

The American Embassy personnel meet regularly with representatives on both sides of the green line.  Programs are in place to try to get talks moving, but the guide books warned visitors not to bring up the troubles and they were not kidding.  Both Greek and Turkish people are lovely, warm and hospitable until a question is asked.  Then they turn to ice and can not help you.  We were lucky that one of the former "mayors" of the village where we stayed knew who I was and encouraged us to ask questions.  It is exceedingly sad.  Check out the U.S. Embassy in Cyprus' website to see some of the events we have sponsored and to read some of the speeches given by our Ambassador.  It is not forgotten, it is that the problem is between the Greeks and the Turks and they need to want to make a change.

Acun
Acun

There is a misconception in the under-photo phrase "Since fighting erupted between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in 1974..." that the first genocide plan"Acritas" by Greek Cypriots has been implemented in December 1963. Turkish intervention, following the fascist Greek General's coupe d'etat in July 1974, was based on the rights and duties of Guarantor Countries, and Turkey was there to protect Turkish Cypriots from extermination by Greek fanatics.

Sibel
Sibel

It is evident that the Republic of Cyprus will not thrive

peacefully unless the perspectives of both the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek

Cypriots are well understood and their rights as inhabitants of the island are

equally respected. Hopefully an

agreement may be reached sooner rather than later, so tragic events such as the

assassination of Ambassador Davies may be avoided in the future.

Sibel
Sibel

It is evident that the Republic of Cyprus will not thrive peacefully unless the perspectives of both the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots are well understood and their rights as inhabitants of the island are equally respected. Hopefully an agreement may be reached sooner rather than later, so tragic events such as the assassination of Ambassador Davies may be avoided in the future.

Nur
Nur

Ambassador Roger Davies was once again a sign of hope for an island that has been surrounded by turmoil. It is saddening to see that progress can't be achieved on an issue that has gathered so much attention from the world. It is important to note that the Greek Cypriots must recognize Turkish Cypriots' right to live on the island and when this right is recognized, both sides can live in peace. If mutual respect ceases from both sides, a solution can't be achieved. This is evident with Kofi Annan's proposal in 2004 in the UN which was met with criticism and negativity on the part of the Greeks. If the Greek Cypriots continue their resistance, prejudice and conflicting interests will unfortunately continue to cause tension in the region.

Selen
Selen

My

father was born a Turkish Cypriot and is an American citizen. Since my birth, we traveled in the summer

every two years to visit our Cypriot relatives.

I have seen the United Nations border and I have visited the Turkish

Cypriot genocide museum. Both sides

provide their own propaganda, but it is important to remember that because of

the EU embargo and not recognizing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,

these people have not only survived but thrived. Visitors from around the world spend their holidays

there. The uncommercialized Northern

part is seen as a treasure. We landed at

the Larnaca airport one summer and enroute to catch our plane, were questioned

and treated like terrorists. I saw this

firsthand. Until the Turkish Republic

of Northern Cyprus is recognized and treated as an equal with the Greek

Cypriots, there will be no end to the longstanding conflict.

Selen
Selen

My father was born a Turkish Cypriot and is an American citizen. Since my birth, we traveled in the summer every two years to visit our Cypriot relatives. I have seen the United Nations border and I have visited the Turkish Cypriot genocide museum. Both sides provide their own propaganda, but it is important to remember that because of the EU embargo and not recognizing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, these people have not only survived but thrived. Visitors from around the world spend their holidays there. The uncommercialized Northern part is seen as a treasure. We landed at the Larnaca airport one summer and enroute to catch our plane, were questioned and treated like terrorists. I saw this firsthand. Until the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized and treated as an equal with the Greek Cypriots, there will be no end to the longstanding conflict.

Cicek
Cicek

I applaud the article’s objective stance on an issue that continues to put Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots in the wrong. The death of Ambassador Davies should show that any resolution lies in a complete understanding of the history of the island and should take into consideration both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.

ayhan
ayhan

Because Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots share such a tumultuous and interwoven history, it is only natural for them to have unresolved conflicts however the time to resolve them is way overdue. Finding a resolution and common ground is something that the Turkish Cypriots, singularly, have worked to achieve for a long time, most notably in 2004 with their strong support of Kofi Annan's unification proposal in 2004 while the Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly opposed it. Although Annan's feasible and well thought out plan was rejected by Greek Cypriots, that same year the Greek Cypriot dominated Republic of Cyprus became a member of the EU without recognizing the existence of North Cyprus or Turkish Cypriots. Therefore it is important to remember that there are two sides to every story and I thank Mr. McCurdy for his historical and accurate account of the Cyprus issue and for bringing light to the current situation. I also applaud the late ambassador's efforts to foster a fair and mutual agreement between the two Cyprus's and hope that his legacy will eventually become fulfilled.

CerenK
CerenK

We see the importance of understanding the history of any island/country here once again. It is always best to know what happened in the past and what can be done today to make the future better than the present. Anyones hope who know the history this article talks about is for the better of all the ethnic communities who live together.

Altay
Altay

The assassination of Ambassador Davies is simply not as well known as it should be. Greek and Turkish Cypriots must come together and accept the Island's history. Only then can both communities move on and work towards a successful agreement for the future. I also believe the United States and the US State Dept. need to take a more active role in negotiations in Cyprus

Zelda E.
Zelda E.

In order to move forward, one must analyze the past. The historical facts in Cyprus are often overlooked and the present problems are bypassed for the sake of maintaining the status quo. Denying the present tensions and unresolved problems is unjust to the legacy of Ambassador Davies, as well as those whose lives were sacrificed during the conflict. The reality is that the island is encompassed by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, for them this is the only place they have known to be home. Once this issue is viewed from an objective lens, one cannot deny the existence of Turkish Cypriots, and consequently their rights as a people. It is essential - and frankly overdue - for the global powers to accept the fact that Turkish Cypriots do exist. After accepting this reality, we can then take the next step in planning peaceful coexistence.

rabiao
rabiao

Unfortunately, the same mindset that led to the assassination of the Ambassador Davies continues to prevent the country from uniting to this day. It's interesting how one-sided much of the media about this issue has been and it's great to read an assessment from an objective and historical viewpoint. We need to remember what created the conflict in this country and understand the rights of both the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots if this issue is to be resolved. It is often considered the responsibility of the Turks to further indulge the demands of the Greek Cypriots and it is often forgotten the great effort and dedication Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots have already shown in searching for a solution.

Adil
Adil

Imagine how much we would have been hearing from various Congressmen in states like California, MAryland, New York, Michigan and Massachusetts if a U.S. Ambassador would have been assassinated not by a Greek, but by a Turk? Yet, amazingly, despite this assassination (and several others) by Greek terrorists, there are no sanction, no pressure, no word about the wrongdoings by the Greek side. IF they could assassinate a U.S. Ambassador – and get away with it – imagine what they were doing to the ethnic Turks in Cyprus in the years 1960-1974?

sezanm
sezanm

For decades, Turkish Cypriots have tried tireleslly to come to an agreement with the Greek Cypriots. Kofi Annan's 2004 proposal is the most recent example of Greek Cypriots' refusal to reach any kind of compromise with the Turkish Cypriots. Unfortunately, there can not be a solution with out BOTH sides coming together. We can only hope that Ambassador Davies' death was not in vain, and that the conflict between both sides is solved soon.

Aaron Taylor
Aaron Taylor

Excellent analysis. I completely don't remember the Ambassador's assassination. I had the opportunity to travel to Cyprus some years ago and I unfortunately never had the opportunity to explore the island. Hopefully they sort their mess out.

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