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Turkey's Invasion of Greek Cyprus

The roots of the Cyprus conflict lie in the striving of the Greek Cypriot majority for unification, or enosis, with Greece, an idea that emerged during the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s and developed under British colonial rule. For members of the Turkish Cypriot minority, who regarded Turkey as their motherland, enosis would have meant becoming a much smaller minority within the Greek nation.

The politics of Cyprus evolved from the shadow of the dominant figure of Makarios, who embodied the struggle for independence from Britain and enosis with Greece. After independence was achieved without enosis, Makarios's own thinking changed, and Cypriot politics struggled with its internal ghost-- enosis. Makarios became persuaded that true national independence for Cyprus had advantages, and Greek political trends by the mid1960s convinced him that Cyprus had a destiny distinct from that of Greece. The Greek Cypriot population did not let go of the dream of enosis as quickly, and pro-enosis forces eventually turned on Makarios, leading to the 1974 coup.

Events in Cyprus between 1967 and 1974 were shaped by the differences over enosis that arose between Makarios and the military government that was installed in Greece after a coup d'état in 1967. Convinced of Turkey's willingness to use its superior force to prevent enosis, Makarios began to seek support among Greek Cypriots -- especially those in the communist party -- who rejected enosis, at least for the near future, in favor of an independent, nonaligned Cyprus. Because Makarios had decided enosis was no longer possible in the short term, more adamant pro-enosis Cypriot groups and anticommunist Greek officers, both of which infiltrated the National Guard during the late 1960s and early 1970s, would subvert his government increasingly after 1967 and finally overthrow him in 1974.

Intercommunal talks for a solution to the constitutional crisis began on June 24, 1968, and reached a deadlock on September 20, 1971. Talks resumed in July 1972, in the presence of UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and one constitutional adviser each from Greece and Turkey. Both sides realized that the basic articles of the constitution, intended to balance the rights and interests of both communities, had become moot and that new constitutional arrangements had to be found.

At the same time, extralegal political activities were proliferating, some based on preindependence clandestine movements. The emergence of these groups, namely, the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston B--EOKA B) and its Turkish Cypriot response, the Turkish Resistance Organization (Türk Mukavemet Teskilâti--TMT), were eroding the authority of conventional politicians. There were mounting calls for enosis from forces no longer supportive of Makarios, notably the National Guard, and there was a radical Turkish Cypriot reaction.

In July 1974, the military junta in Athens sponsored a coup led by extremist Greek Cypriots against the government of President Makarios, citing his alleged pro-communist leanings and his perceived abandonment of enosis. The Greek Cypriot coup was aimed at uniting Cyprus with mainland Greece.

The Turkish response was swift. Turkey, citing the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, intervened militarily to protect Turkish Cypriots. The 1960 Treaty of Guarantee was signed by Great Britain, Greece, Turkey, Greek Cypriots, and the Turkish Cypriots. Article 1 states that the Treaty's purpose is to "ensure the recognition and maintenance of the independence, territorial integrity, and security of Cyprus by preventing direct or indirect partition or annexation by the guarantor states. ... It (the Republic of Cyprus) undertakes not to participate, in whole or in part, in any political union with any State whatsoever. It accordingly declares prohibited any activity likely to promote, directly or indirectly, either union with any other State or partition of the Island." Under Article IV of the Treaty, Great Britain, Greece, and Turkey all had the right to intervene on the island should the sovereignty of the island was threatened.

In a two-stage offensive, Turkish troops took control of 38% of the island. On 20 July 1974, Turkish troops reached the island and established a beachhead in the north. A ceasefire was reached two days later, with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies of Greece and Turkey working urgently to avoid an intra-alliance confrontation. Peace talks were hastily convened in Geneva, but those talks did not satisfy Turkish concerns. On 14 August 1974, the Turks began a second offensive that resulted in their control of 37 percent of the island.

The events of 1974 dramatically altered the internal balance of power between the two Cypriot communities and coupled their prevailing political and institutional separation with stark physical and geographical separation. In a grim historical echo of the widely praised 1930 Greek-Turkish exchange-of-population agreements, roughly a third of each community, displaced by the war, was transferred to the side of the island that its community controlled.Almost all Greek Cypriots fled south while almost all Turkish Cypriots fled north. As a consequence, in 1990 nearly a third of the people of Cyprus lived outside their birthplaces or places of residence in 1974.

The ceasefire lines achieved after the extension of Turkish control formed the basis for the buffer zone manned by the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), which had been in place since 1964. Since the events of 1974, UN peacekeeping forces maintained a buffer zone between the two sides. Except for occasional demonstrations or infrequent incidents between soldiers in the buffer zone, the island was free of violent conflict from 1974 until August 1996, when violent clashes led to the death of two demonstrators and escalated tension. The situation has been quiet since 1996.

The 1960 Cypriot constitution provided for a presidential system of government with independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as a complex system of checks and balances, including a weighted power-sharing ratio designed to protect the interests of the Turkish Cypriots. The executive, for example, was headed by a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice president, elected by their respective communities for 5-year terms, and each possessing a right of veto over certain types of legislation and executive decisions. The Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus retains most elements of the presidential system of government expressed in the constitution, although it has cited the Turkish Cypriots' "withdrawal from government" and the "law of necessity" to enact structural changes that allow "effective governance."

Following the 1974 hostilities, the Turkish Cypriots set up their own institutions in the area they administered with an elected "president" and a "prime minister" responsible to the National Assembly exercising joint executive powers. In 1983, the Turkish Cypriots declared an independent "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TRNC"). The United States does not recognize the "TRNC," nor does any country other than Turkey.

As of 2004 Turkey still maintained about 40,000 troops in northern Cyprus, which is recognized as an independent country only by Ankara. Since 1974, Cyprus had been divided de facto into the government-controlled two-thirds of the island and the Turkish Cypriot-administered one-third. The Government of the Republic of Cyprus has continued to be the only internationally recognized authority; in practice, its authority extends only to the government-controlled area.

The last major UN-led effort to deliver a Cyprus solution commenced in January 2002 with Secretary General Kofi Annan orchestrating direct talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot community leaders. Nine months later Annan released a comprehensive settlement proposal, informally called "the Annan Plan". Intensive efforts were made to gain both sides' support for the plan prior to the December 2002 European Union (EU) Summit in Copenhagen, where member states would determine the island's future status vis-à-vis the union. Neither side agreed to the Annan Plan before the summit.

UN-sponsored talks continued following Copenhagen. In February 2003, Tassos Papadopoulos was elected president of the Republic of Cyprus. A year later, President Papadopoulos and then-Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash resumed negotiations on the Annan Plan. The UN-brokered plan was to re-unite Greek and Turkish Cypriot states within a loose federation. It called for the removal of most Turkish troops now based in the northern Turkish Cypriot enclave, and outlined a settlement of outstanding land and property issues stemming from the partition 30 years earlier. But many Greek Cypriots said the plan did not adequately guarantee their rights to regain properties they lost after the 1974 Turkish invasion, nor did it completely rid the island of Turkish troops or Turkey's influence. Turkish Cypriots felt the UN plan would end their long political and economic isolation and offer them a better future within Europe. But most Greek Cypriots said they're hoping for a better deal in the future.

The comprehensive settlement package was put to both sides in simultaneous referenda on April 24, 2004. Sixty-five percent of Turkish Cypriots endorsed the Annan Plan, but a larger majority of Greek Cypriots (76%) voted "no." The results came as no great surprise, and followed predictions of recent opinion polls. Rejection of the plan meant that Cyprus remained divided, and only the Greek portion of the island entered into the European Union on 01 May 2004. The Secretary General later suspended his Good Offices Mission. Nonetheless

For two years following the Annan Plan referenda, the island saw little progress toward reunification. However, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari, in his July 2006 visit to Cyprus, succeeded in securing commitment from both sides to commence exploratory talks, and on July 8, community leaders President Papadopoulos and Mr. Talat and met for the first time since 2004. They agreed to a UN-brokered negotiating framework that envisioned the establishment of technical committees to tackle everyday life issues and expert working groups to discuss substantive matters. While negotiators continue meeting frequently under the auspices of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Cyprus, the committees and working groups have yet to convene. Recent positive developments include the Turkish Cypriot removal of a controversial footbridge at Ledra Street/Lokmaci crossing in January 2007, and the Government of Cyprus' removal of a wall in the same area in March, both prerequisites to establishing a Buffer Zone pedestrian crossing in the heart of old Nicosia. A March 27, 2007 UN Security Council press statement welcomed these developments and urged the two communities to open the crossing and quickly begin implementing the July 8, 2006 agreement.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:27:26 ZULU