Forty-four years ago to this day the Turkish military launched its second offensive against the Republic of Cyprus, in full violation of international law, including the UN Charter, despite the ceasefire that had been agreed.
The Turkish army invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974, and launched the second phase of the invasion on August 14 of the same year, occupying the best part of Mesaoria, Famagusta, Karpasia and Morphou.
The Turkish side continues to disregard calls by the international community relating to Cyprus and continues to hold the city of Famagusta hostage of its illegal military occupation. Dubbed a “ghost town”, Famagusta’s fenced off section – called Varosha – remains to this day deserted, abandoned to the elements.
Turkish troops invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974, five days after the legal government of the late Archbishop Makarios III was toppled by a military coup, engineered by the military junta then ruling Greece. Two unproductive conferences in Geneva followed; the first between Britain, Greece and Turkey and the second with the additional attendance of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot representatives. Three weeks after the ceasefire of July 22, and despite the fact that talks were still being held and just as an agreement seemed about to be reached, the Turkish army mounted a second full-scale offensive. As a result, Turkey increased its hold to include the booming tourist resort of Famagusta in the east and the rich citrus-growing area of Morphou in the west.
All in all, almost 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus came under Turkish military occupation. Nearly one third of the population, some 200,000 Greek Cypriots, were forcibly uprooted from their homes and properties, thousands were killed during the hostilities, over 1,000 persons were listed as missing while thousands of Greek Cypriots and Maronites remained enclaved.
Numerous UN resolutions have demanded respect to the independence, unity and territorial integrity of Cyprus, the return of the displaced to their homes, and the withdrawal of foreign troops from the island, but all resolutions have been ignored by Turkey.
The latest effort to reach a Cyprus settlement was concluded in summer last year in the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana without a result. Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades expressed to the UN Secretary General`s envoy Jane Holl Lute, during a visit she paid recently to Cyprus, his readiness to re-engage into dialogue for a Cyprus settlement. Lute is also holding meetings in Athens, Ankara, London and Brussels on whether conditions have matured for the resumption of the Cyprus talks. She is expected to submit a report to the UNSG on her contacts with the interested parties.
Cyprus is a full EU member state since May 2004. The Turkish occupied part of Cyprus is also considered EU territory, where the acquis communautaire is suspended until the solution of the Cyprus problem.