The Cyprus Problem: A Commemoration of the July 15th Turkish Invasion


On July 20th 1974 Turkish land, sea and air forces, in flagrant violation of international law, launched operation "Attila." Attila was the code name for the invasion of the independent Republic of Cyprus. The invasion progressed quickly, Cypriot resistance being severely hampered by domestic turmoil taking place at the same time.

Eventually Turkish forces came to occupy over 1/3 of the territory of Cyprus. Some 40,000 Turkish troops remain in the occupied areas, and Cypriot and Turkish forces face each other across a cease-fire line administered by the UN. As an immediate consequence of the invasion churches and cemeteries were desecrated and centuries old artifacts looted.

Over the years, thousands of settlers have been imported from the Turkish main land, displacing not only the previous Cypriot residents of Greek origin but also those of Turkish origin. To this day a major problem, with an international dimension, is that the property of displaced, legal, owners is sometimes 'sold' to unsuspecting buyers by swindlers. In many cases the buyers subsequently lose this land and any money they invested into it. In any event, the continuing occupation, a sinister legacy of 1974 divides an ostensible independent nation, a member of the EU. This is the Cyprus problem. A problem which successive Cypriot governments have worked to solve

In recent remarks, Andros Kyprianou, the General Secretary of the CC of AKEL, the current governing party of Cyprus, has said that the best possible scenario would be if the events of 1974 had never happened, but the unfortunate reality is that they did. This is the reality that now faces all Cypriots who are honestly working to end the Turkish occupation and unify the country. The sad tale of Cyprus, one of treachery, betrayal and big power meddling, goes back to the 1960's, when Cyprus won its independence from Great Britain. To understand the difficulties faced those working to resolve this problem today a survey of this historian is necessary.

Historical Perspective

Human activity on Cyprus goes back to the Stone Age, to around 8000 BC. Over the course of the many centuries that followed Cyprus came to be dominated by a host of foreign rulers, finally coming under British administration in the mid 19th century, and, being formally annexed by Britain after World War I.

Over the coming years, Cypriots struggled for independence from Britain. This struggle came to a head in the years following WWII, the era of decolonization. Although AKEL favored the tactic of mass popular action in pursuing independence others favored an armed struggle against the British, and in 1955 an anti British guerrilla force, EOKA, initiated warfare. The British reacted harshly to the insurrection. They executed EOKA fighters and used the uprising as a pretext to try and crush the left. In 1955 AKEL was banned and its leading members were arrested.

Cyprus finally was granted independence from Great Britain in 1960 and the Archbishop of Cyprus Makarios III became its first President. Unfortunately the new state was saddled with a constitution that was largely dictated by the British and was meant to weaken it via the age-old strategy of divide and conquer.

Ethnically the islands population is overwhelmingly of Greek heritage, but there is a significant minority of Cypriots who are of Turkish heritage. In Cyprus, Britain sought to codify a permanent division between Cypriots of Greek and Turkish background and thus, from the earliest days of the Republic, imperialism worked to undermine the unity and solidarity of Cypriots. Nationalist elements from both communities played into this strategy. The extreme nationalists rallied around parallel concepts. For Greek chauvinists the concept was Enosis, the union of Cyprus with Greece, for the Turkish right the concept was Taksim, the partition of Cyprus between Greece and Turkey.

Leading up to, and after independence, Makarios was considered to be the political leader of the Cypriots. The military leader was Georgios Grivas. Although Cypriot by birth Grivas had a long history as an officer in the Greek army. Politically he was an extreme nationalist, a monarchist and an anti-Communist. Towards the end of World War II Grivas, along with other right-wing Greek officers, formed Organization X, which was called a resistance group, but which was actually armed by the retreating Germans to fight alongside Greek monarchists and the British against the Greek left.

For a time in the 1960’s just after independence, Grivas participated in the Makarios government as the head of the Cypriot National Guard. However, while Makarios came to support an independent, bi-communal Cyprus, Grivas hoped for Cyprus to become a province of Greece. When he was unable to persuade Makarios of this he left his governmental post, went to Greece and plotted against Makarios, after 1967 in concert with the right-wing military junta. In 1969 Grivas founded the extreme right-wing nationalist terrorist organization EOKA B and in 1971 he returned to Cyprus to personally direct its activities. Under the leadership of Grivas, EOKA-B perpetrated various outrages against at the Turkish Cypriot community, murdered leftists and conspired to undermine the elected government of Makarios. TMT was the equivalent Turkish chauvinist terrorist organization. It was affiliated with the right-winger Rauf Denktash. Among other criminal acts it hunted down and murdered Turkish Cypriot members of AKEL. Among its many crimes TMT was responsible for the murder of the famous Turkish Cypriot member of the CC of AKEL, Dervis Kavazoglou, who was killed in an ambush along with Greek Cypriot AKEL and PEO member, Costas Mishaoulis.

Egged on by imperialism and the extreme right in Greece and Turkey the nationalist terror organizations engaged in horrific intercommunal violence, which served as a pretext for an air assault by Turkish forces in 1964. The 1964 bombing raids led Makarios to extend an invitation to the Greek military to help with Cyprus's defense. This proved to be a big mistake! The right-wing Greek officers, who after 1967 came to be associated with the Greek military dictatorship, turned out to be the real threat to Cyprus.

In Greece a right-wing military junta came to power in 1967 by overthrowing the democratically elected government. Almost immediately right-wing violence in Cyprus escalated, both in the form of attacks on leftists and intercommunal violence. Only international pressure kept Turkey from invading in 1967, but in 1974, an even more extreme faction of the Greek junta took over.

On July 2nd, 1974 President Makarios sent a very strong letter to General Gizikis, nominal head of the coup government. The letter was a stern and direct denunciation of the Athens-based conspiracies to murder him and undermine his government. In it Makarios makes it clear that he was well aware that activates of Grivas and EOKA-B were directed by the junta in Athens as were the Greek military units stationed in Cyprus.

The coup itself was initiated within two weeks, on July 15th, 1974. The goals of the coupists were to overthrow Makarios, abrogate Cypriot independence, destroy the Cypriot left and, ultimately, to partition Cyprus between Greece and Turkey. This time Turkey did invade, using the coup as a pretext. Although the Greek junta and EOKA B were directly responsible for the coup attempt, the culpability of the U.S., Britain and NATO in the coup and in the Turkish invasion and occupation is well known and understood by all Cypriots. Recently the Cypriot House of Representatives reviewed the events of 1974 and issued a report. In part the report confirms the treachery of the EOKA B organization and the insidious role played by the Greek junta and the imperialist powers. 

At the time of the coup the U.S. and Britain favored a right-wing government on Cyprus, and although, crocodile tears aside, they looked favorably on the then ruling Greek military junta, they considered it to be unstable. Turkey was considered to be a far more reliable right wing puppet and thus they favored a Turkish presence on Cyprus. The U.S. and Britain also wanted to get rid of the Cypriot President Makarios, who they considered insufficiently obedient. Towards this end the U.S. hatched a really cynical plot (we are talking about Kissinger after all). It is no coincidence that the attempt on the life of Makarios came only one year after the murder of Allende in Chile. In Cyprus the imperialist powers stood by and let the Cypriot extreme right stage a coup, while looking the other way when Turkey used the coup as a pretext to invade.

Fortunately Makarios escaped and rallied popular and international support for Cyprus. Meanwhile the military junta in Greece collapsed, the immediate cause being the Cyprus fiasco which had very nearly resulted in war between Greece and Turkey. The coup in Cyprus lasted only eight days, collapsing along with the Greek junta, and democratic rule was reestablished. Not to be denied the Turks launched a second invasion, on August 14th. This phase of the invasion proceeded  quickly, (quicker then even the Turks expected), sweeping aside the Cypriot National Guard, which was in disarray due to the participation of some of its elements in the failed coup and due to the fact that, at the time, it was commanded by Greek officers connected with the junta, which itself had disintegrated. However, after the invasions initial success mass popular resistance, in which AKEL played a prominent role, was organized. This, plus international pressure, stopped the Turkish army along what today is known as the 'green' line, the UN patrolled demilitarized zone which divides the island.

From 1974 to the present time

In 1977, only a few years after the reestablishment of democracy in Cyprus, President Makarios began work to reunify the nation. In meetings he held in the 1970’s with Turkish Cypriot strongman Rauf Denktash a four-point agreement was hammered out. Spiros Kyprianou continued the talks in 1978, after the untimely death of Makarios. By 1979 it had been agreed that the unitary state would be transformed into a bi-zonal bi-communal federation, a major concession made by the Greek Cypriot’s. This federal republic would have a single sovereignty, citizenship and international personality. These have been the basic principles that have guided all subsequent negotiations.

In November of 2002, then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan presented a plan that he hoped would settle the Cyprus problem once and for all. Over the next few years this "Annan Plan" would go through several iterations, based on the input of the various Cypriot and external parties. By 2004 the final version, "Annan V," came to incorporate most of Turkey's demands. Although this plan was approved by a majority of Turkish Cypriots, the Greek Cypriot community overwhelmingly rejected it.

In the eyes of the majority, the biggest problem with the solution envisioned by the plan was that it provided for the replacement of the republic of Cyprus by a loose confederation, a violation of the basic principles that had guided the search for a solution since 1977. Another major problem was that it allowed for the continued presence of Turkish troops and gave Turkey the right to intervene militarily. Anyway, the plan was rejected. Afterwards, however, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos continued to seek some resolution for the problem. Towards that end, in July of 2006, he meet with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehemet Ali Talat and both agreed that the island should be reunified as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.

After the ascension to the Cyprus presidency of former AKEL leader Demetris Christofias full-fledged direct negotiations began and lasted until mid-2010 between Christofias and Talat and afterwards between Christofias and Dervis Eroglu, who had succeeded Talat as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. In the initial talks between Christofias and Talat good progress was made on certain issues although there were also some areas of difficulty. The new Turkish Cypriot leader, Eroglu, a right wing nationalist and follower of Denktash, has proved more intransigent on certain issues and the talks, although continuing, have been more difficult.


Looking forward, progressive minded people, both inside and outside of Cyprus, are hoping for a peaceful solution. A solution that provides for the territorial integrity of Cyprus, the withdrawal of Turkish military forces and settlers, the right of return and recovery of property for all refugees and, the respect for the human rights and freedoms of all Cypriots. These, along with the basic principles agreed to since 1977 and the relevant UN resolutions will guarantee a just and viable solution. 

In addition to working tirelessly at the negotiating table, AKEL is working for rapprochement between Cypriot people of Greek and Turkish heritage, working to achieve the greatest possible unity towards the efforts at reaching a settlement. A recent positive development has been the mass demonstrations of Turkish Cypriots against the right wing Eroglu clique. These demonstrations shook the right and its backers in Ankara! Eroglu and other right wing nationalists could only resort to hysterical denunciations of the demonstrators, calling them, "ungrateful" and, "tools of AKEL". Hopefully this mass anti Eroglu sentiment will militate against any intransigence in the continuing negotiations.

However, besides the efforts of the Cypriots themselves international solidarity is needed, since international pressure on Turkey is critical to achieving a suitable resolution.

Although the Turkish occupation and the positions of the chauvinists in both communities are major obstacles in the way of any settlement; Kyprianou has pledged that AKEL will work tirelessly for a solution.

Photo: Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias and first lady with U.S. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama (Wikimedia Commons/cc by 2.0).

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  • The cyprus problem is not started with the turkish intervention, its started at when the greek made chop in island and try to link island to the greece, after that they started to kill turkish people in the island, and fot turkish cypriots the turkey intervention were the god send because of lots of turkish people in island killed by greek soldiers, its not invasion its peace operation.

    Posted by Tachosia, 11/19/2013 11:30am (5 years ago)

  • The title says it all: The Greeks (ant the Greek Cypriots) made a coup on 15 July 1974 to annex the island of Cyprus to Greece, violating all international agreements and the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey only intervened, as legal Guarantor, to save the Turkish Cypriots from extermination in the hands of Greek and greek Cypriot soldiers and paramilitary forces (in other words terrorists)...

    Posted by A Turk, 07/06/2011 3:50am (7 years ago)

  • All Cypriots have suffered and are still suffering compliments of Turkey !!! Turkey FORCED the Greek AND Turkish Cypriots to become refugees. The Turkish Cypriots have been saying all along to Turkey. "Get your hands off our land" Tens of thousands have recently demonstrated against the ongoing Turkish occupation.

    Turkey has ethnically cleansed and colonized Cyprus and continues to violate international law. More than half of the Turkish Cypriots who lived in Cyprus before the Turkish invasion have left Cyprus because they could not live under the "Turkish protection".

    Posted by Petros, 07/05/2011 6:41pm (7 years ago)

  • All Cypriots have suffered and are still suffering compliments of Turkey !!! Turkey FORCED the Greek AND Turkish Cypriots to become refugees. The Turkish Cypriots have been saying all along to Turkey. "Get your hands off our land" Tens of thousands have recently demonstrated against the ongoing Turkish occupation.

    Turkey has ethnically cleansed and colonized Cyprus and continues to violate international law. More than half of the Turkish Cypriots who lived in Cyprus before the Turkish invasion have left Cyprus because they could not live under the "Turkish protection".

    When the Turkish occupation puppet regime of the occupied part of Cyprus decided to declare itself as a state, the UN passed resolutions 541 and 550 which state “the attempt to create a ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’, is invalid”. the UN “Calls upon all States to respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, unity and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus” and “Reiterates the call upon all States not to recognize the purported state of the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ set up by secessionist acts and calls upon them not to facilitate or in any way assist the aforesaid secessionist entity”.

    The UN mandated embargo on the occupied part of Cyprus is in effect because Turkey ethnically cleansed and continues its occupation of the northern part of Cyprus and prevents the refugees from returning to their homes. Furthermore Turkey continues to prevent the reunification of Cyprus with efforts to partition and annex the occupied part of Cyprus, and stations more than 40,000 troops there.

    A number of landmark European Court of Justice case decisions reaffirm that Turkey is still in violation of international law with the continuing occupation, and human rights violations against the Cypriot refugees. Turkey has been ordered to pay fines because it is not abiding by international law.

    Posted by Cyprus Refugee, 07/05/2011 2:32pm (7 years ago)

  • This is a rubbish article, sorry.

    It sounds like another Greek Tragedy. Pity, for it was the TCs that suffered most, both then, during and now, compliments of the Republic of Cyprus and the rest of the world!

    It's not peace that Cypriots want, its property they are after!

    Posted by Cahit, 07/05/2011 11:22am (7 years ago)

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