Residents of Cyprus woke up to the sound of alarm sirens throughout the island early Wednesday morning to commemorate the anniversary of the Turkish Operation Attila launched on July 20, 1974. The two communities of the divided nation remember this piece of history differently.
Turkish forces entered and captured a corridor stretching from the northern city of Kyrenia to the Turkish Cypriot enclaves in Nicosia, and fighting on the island led to the collapse of the Greek military junta in Athens a few days later. The following weeks were filled with hostilities, failed ceasefires and intense diplomacy, resulting in Turkey taking over 37% of the island.
The Turkish operation, codenamed “Ayse tatile gitti”, was condemned by the Greek Cypriots as an “illegal invasion”, while the Turkish Cypriots view Ankara’s actions as a “peaceful intervention” for their protection.
The day before Turkish troops landed on Five Mile Beach, Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios addressed the United Nations in New York, saying that “the coup d’état carried out by the Greek military regime represents a halt in the settlement negotiations.”
“As I said, the events in Cyprus are not an internal affair of the Greeks of Cyprus, the Turks of Cyprus are also affected. The coup of the Greek junta is an invasion, and the entire people of Cyprus, both Greeks and Turks, suffer from its consequences,” Makarios said.
On the day of the operation, Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit announced that it was carried out for peaceful purposes, but the Greek Cypriots rejected this position. “We are going to Cyprus not for war, but for peace, not only for the Turks, but also for the Greek Cypriots,” Ecevit said. “I hope that there will be no attacks on our forces that will lead to bloody clashes.”
Turkish troops remain stationed in the northern third of the divided island after Ankara exercised its right as a guarantor power to defend the Turkish Cypriots and the constitution of the Republic of Cyprus 48 years ago.
Greek Cypriots in the south argue that a prolonged and illegal military incursion is at the heart of the Cyprus problem and have repeatedly called on Turkish troops to leave the island. At the same time, the motto “zero troops, zero guarantees” becomes a very controversial position during peace.
Sirens also sounded for a few seconds across the country last Friday at 8.20 am, marking the anniversary of the coup.
Ongoing peace talks on the island, intermittently initiated by the United Nations since 1968, were recently unceremoniously halted after both sides officially declared their diametrically opposed views on a political settlement, and the Greek Cypriots in the south reaffirmed their commitment to political equality.
A peace referendum proposed by the UN in April 2004 and held simultaneously by both parties failed to reunite the island under a federal system after it was overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriots days before the republic was due to join the European Union. To date, only the south side of the island is a member state. EU and the UN, and the north is recognized only by Turkey.