32 Pages

‘One of our problems’

The British view of 1974
WithJohn Burke

Following the coup against President Makarios on 15 July 1974, Harold Wilson and his Foreign Secretary, James Callaghan, were faced with an international crisis that would severely test the limitations of British diplomacy. In his memoirs, James Callaghan described Cyprus in the lead up to 1974 as akin to that of an active volcano, 'knowing it is always likely to erupt, but not expecting every subterranean rumble to lead to disaster'. The response of the Foreign Office to this coup was swift, as Britain 'took the initiative' and called on their fellow Guarantor powers of Greece and Turkey to urge restraint on all sides. Although the British acquiesced to American policy throughout the conflict, in part due to their accepted but unwanted position of 'responsibility without power', there was a significant level of frustration targeted towards American officials. When considering the British government's reaction to 1974, one cannot ignore the spectre of Northern Ireland.