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Why Turkey invaded Cyprus? - Answers

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Why Turkey invaded Cyprus?

Infographic on Turkey Cyprus Conflict

Archbishop Makarios III was the Republic of Cyprus’s first President when the country won its freedom from British rule in 1960. He was a clergyman and a nationalist politician who strongly believed in Enosis – unification with Greece. At the age of 37, he became Archbishop of Cyprus and was popular among the Greek Cypriots.

During the mid-1950s when Cyprus was under British rule, Archbishop Makarios was seen to be close to EOKA, a militant organization, and was active in supporting Greece in raising the unification issue at the United Nations.

On March 9th, 1956, the Archbishop was exiled by the British to Seychelles. He was released the next year, after which he spent two years at the United Nations General Assembly. By this time, he had shifted his support for Enosis, unification with Greece, to complete independence of Cyprus.

On March 1st, 1959, he returned to Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus, to a rousing reception by the people and went on to be elected the first president of the Republic of Cyprus.

Lead up to the coup against Archbishop Makarios (July 15, 1974)

In July 1974, President Archbishop Makarios wrote an open letter to President (General) Gizikis of Greece, head of the military Junta, complaining against the activities of EOKA in Cyprus, an organization he once supported. In his letter, he called for the withdrawal of 600 Greeks officers in the Cypriot National Guard. It upset the Greek officers on the island and the military Junta in Greece.

July 15, 1974 – The Coup

Officers of the National Cypriot Guard led by Greek officers overthrew the President Archbishop Makarios. The Archbishop was lucky to escape through the back door and the next day managed to reach Paphos from where the British flew him out to London. Ninety-one people lost their lives during the coup. The Turkish Cypriots remained largely unaffected during this phase.

Nikos Sampson was declared provisional President. The same day, he falsely announced the death of Archbishop Makarios on the radio. Meanwhile, Turkey presented a list of demands to the government in Greece calling for the removal of Nikos Sampson, withdrawal of 650 Greek officers of the Cypriot National Guard, granting of equal rights to the Turkish Cypriot population, and access to sea lanes in the north to the Turkish Cypriots.

Turkey also approached Britain, a signatory to the Treaty of Guarantee, for allowing Turkish troops to be based on the island for protecting Turkish Cypriots. Britain declined permission.

Tensions between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots were rising. On July 20th, 1974, 10,000 Turkish Cypriots in Limassol were forced to surrender to the Cypriot National Guard. Brutal attacks on Turkish Cypriots followed, resulting in violent protests in Turkey.

The international community condemned the attacks and on July 23rd, 1974, the Military Junta that had come to power in 1967 in Greece, fell along with the junta in Cyprus.

July 24, 1974 – Turkish launches Operation Atilla

July 20th, 1974 – First Invasion

Turkish troops landed at Kyrenia in the north coast and quickly took control of Turkish enclaves to the north. Heavy clashes broke out between Greek Cypriot forces and the Turkish forces. Within a few days, they controlled around three percent of the island.

Meanwhile, between July 25-30, peace talks were held in Geneva between representatives of Cyprus, Turkey, and Greece. The talks failed.

August 14-16, 1974 – Second Invasion

Turkey dispatched a fleet of 33 ships, transporters, and landing crafts, loaded with soldiers, 30 tanks, and military supplies. The second invasion led to further clashes, but soon Turkish troops took control of around 36.2 percent of the island.

The UN mediated a ceasefire, and a UN Buffer Zone established along the ceasefire line that remains to this day.

By 1975, between 120,000 and 200,000 Greek Cypriots were forced to move out of their homes and migrate to the south, and between 42,000 and 65,000 Turkish Cypriots were uprooted and forced to move north.

Context to the conflict

The Congress of Berlin agreement, between Britain and the Ottoman Empire, allowed Britain to take over Cyprus on a lease.

Britain tried to get Greece to enter World War I on the side of the Allied Powers, promising Enosis (unification of Cyprus and Greece). King Constantine I of Greece declined. He was married to Queen Sophia, sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II the last German Emperor and King of Prussia, and so he sided with the Central Powers.

Britain also tried to win over Turkey to join on its side but failed. On November 5th, 1914, Britain annexed Cyprus along with Egypt and Sudan.

April 1955 – EOKA begins armed resistance for independence:

Georgios Grivas, a Greek Cypriot and a nationalist who had served in the Greek Army, launched EOKA, an armed resistance movement against the British with the aim of winning independence from Britain.

On April 1st, 1959, EOKA forcefully took control of the British-controlled Cyprus Broadcasting Station in Nicosia. It was the beginning of an armed struggle lasting until March 1959.

What started off as a resistance against the British, soon extended to Turkish Cypriots. The attacks against them led to violent reactions in Turkey.

Turkish Cypriots fight back

In response to frequent attacks from EOKA, the Turkish Cypriots launched a resistance movement to fight back with support from the Tactical Mobilization Group (TMT) in Turkey. Violent attacks were carried out by both sides on suspected members of each other’s organizations. It became a three-way fight between the British and the two warring factions.

British policies widen the communal gap

On October 3rd, 1955, the former British Field Marshal, Sir John Harding, was appointed Governor of Cyprus. On taking over, he initiated a controversial policy of recruiting Turkish Cypriots in the Police force with a view of getting them to take on the Greek Cypriot members of EOKA. It led to increasing tension and hostility between the two communities. Archbishop Makarios III raised his objections and was exiled to Seychelles.

August 16, 1960 – formation of the Republic of Cyprus

The Republic of Cyprus was founded on this day, with Archbishop Makarios III appointed as its first President. Deepening animosity between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities led to the former protesting against the establishment of Turkish Municipalities.

In December 1963, President Archbishop Makarios proposed thirteen constitutional amendments to the 1960 Constitution. The government in Turkey rejected it along with the local Turkish Cypriots. That same month, communal violence erupted between the two communities, with hostilities continuing until the 1974 Turkish invasion.

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