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Psychological approaches to International Politics. The case of Cyprus

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  1. Introduction
  2. Psychological causes of conflict
    1. Suitable targets of externalisation
    2. Misperceptions of intentions
    3. Psycho-cultural interpretations
    4. Social identity theory
    5. Incompatible beliefs
    6. Non psychological explanations of the conflict
  3. Closing comments
  4. Bibliography

Located at a strategic position in the eastern Mediterranean sea, Cyprus, in the course of its history has frequently switched hands in-between powers which maintained an interest in the region. The list of its successive rulers includes the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Byzantines, the Venetians, the Ottoman Turks, and finally before the1960 declaration of independence, the British.
Amidst all of these populations only two of them had a significant impact on the demographic structure of the Cypriot society. The Greeks, which settled on the island during the second millennium B.C, and the Turks, which sat foot on Cyprus during the period of the Ottoman empire, when, in 1571, the armies of Lala Mustapha seized Famagusta, last city to resist them on the island. Cyprus remained under Ottoman rule until the congress of Berlin in 1878 where it was ceded to Britain. The terms of the agreement stipulated that Britain was to occupy and administer the island in exchange of a promise to help Turkey defend itself against Russia if need arose. In 1914, after Turkey had joined forces with the Central powers, Britain unilaterally declared the 1878 convention null and annexed Cyprus. This illegal (in face of international law) situation was resolved by the Lausanne treaty of 1923 which stipulated that Turkey recognized ab initio (from the 5th of November 1914) the British annexation of Cyprus.
In recent history, the Cyprus problem has gone through three phases while we are now (with the probable acceptance of Cypriot membership in the EU) probably witnessing the beginning of a fourth one. From 1923 until 1960 it was mainly a colonial issue. From 1960 to 1974 the problem became an internal one, in which external powers where involved. These powers where Greece, Turkey, Britain and (although the importance of superpower involvement has been cited quite many times) to a lesser extent the USA and the Soviet Union. After the Turkish invasion of 1974, the Cypriot problem has revolved over the de facto partition of the island and the illegal proclamation of the TRNC. (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) in 1983 which has been condemned by UN resolution 541.
In this paper I will be mostly focusing on the first and second time periods. More precisely I will try to find the psychological causes of the ethnic violence that first erupted in 1963. In order to do so I will shortly present a number of theories which might explain the causes of conflict and I will try to show the elements in the history of Cyprus that enable us to point to these theories (or to refute them) as an explanation of the communal violence. Alternative, non psychological, explanations of this conflict will also very shortly be presented, and as a conclusion, a short assessment (deriving from the paper) of the analytical strength of both types of explanations will be presented.

[...] In effect nationalism links individuals' self esteem to the esteem in which the nation is held.?[23] But can this theory provide us with a plausible explanation of the causes of conflict in Cyprus in 1963? I believe it can. The newly acquired constitution of 1960 was not very well received by the Greek Cypriot community. Indeed, when the details of the agreement were made public, irritation and indignation where the immediate reactions of the Greek Cypriot population. This is due to the fact that the constitution institutionalised communal dualism in all spheres of governmental activities. [...]


[...] Papandreou stated that it would not be conversation but two monologues, two deaf men talking about different things.?[29] Further evidence of this fact can be found in the report of the American under secretary of state, George Ball, which had tried to reconcile the two parties, when he ?informed President Johnson that the atmosphere in the troubled zone was not conductive for the practice of diplomacy Non psychological explanations of the conflict In this short section I will run through some of the most familiar non psychological explanations that have been offered when trying to explain the Cypriot ethnic conflict. [...]


[...] E / Incompatible beliefs Finally, I would also like to briefly expose what I think is one of the most plausible psychological explanation of causes of conflict in the case of Cyprus. Daniel Bar-Tal and Nehemia Geva[26] provide us with a useful, and in my view very simple explanation of why conflicts occur. They assert that conflicts arise when we are in a presence of incompatible beliefs. Of course these beliefs have to be of a central nature to the community otherwise they might be altered and a solution might be reached. [...]

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