The Turkish invasion of Cyprus
Written by Peter Fitzgerald
History of War - War in The Middle East
In July 1974 a chain of events resulted in Turkey invading Cyprus under the pretext that it was a peace operation to bring back peace and stability to the island. The outcome of this invasion has been far reach and still impacts the island and its inhabitants today; it also impacts Turkey and the wider global powers too.
The outcome of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus has resulted in Turkey recognising the independence of the north of Cyprus from the south, but no other country doing so. To find out more about this Turkish invasion of Cyprus read on.
Prior to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus
What lead up to the Turkish invasion started back in 1571 when the Ottoman Empire decided to conquer the island and took control of Cyprus. This is important as it paved the way for an interesting history in Cyprus.
In 1878 the British leased Cyprus from the Ottoman Turks; however when the Ottoman Turks joined the German side in World War I the British took control and made Cyprus a part of its Empire. In 1923 this move became legally binding in the Treaty of Lausanne as Turkey had to renounce any claims to the island.
Within the treaty an article states that any Muslim on the island was free to leave and go to Turkey to stay as a Turkish national, or stay which would mean becoming a British national instead.
While many stayed they still called their nationality to their country of birth, Turkey. This situation was the same for the Greek Cypriots who also carried on saying they were Greek rather than British.
Because of this the British decided that the easiest way for them to rule from colonial point of view was to keep the two ethnicities separate, this means they would not rise up together against the British. An example is when Greek Cypriots rose up on the Island the British used Turkish Cypriot policemen to quell the demonstrations.
In the early 1950’s a Greek nationalist group called the Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston (EOKA) which translates as the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters was born. This movement had the ideal of removing British rule and annexing the island with Greece, this was in collusion with some Greek MP’s.
In 1955 the EOKA killed a Turkish policeman and by 1956 they were trying to remove the British. The Turkish Cypriots had started its own organization in the mean time called the Turkish Resistance Organization (TMT for short) which started to wage war on Greek Cypriot rebels.
Over time more atrocities were committed by both sides and by 1960 the British relinquished rule of Cyprus making it an independent state. The Turkish and Greek Cypriots agreed on the Republic of Cyprus, but it seemed they did so reluctantly.
It didn’t take long before both sides started waging a war or words with each other over resentment and jealousy. The most notable being the Greek Cypriots who said the Turkish Cypriots are getting a higher percentage of Government posts.
Because of legislation and veto’s in the newly formed parliament fighting and battles occurred frequently from 1960 onwards as neither the Greek nor Turkish Cypriots would relinquish anything for the other side.
Turkish Cypriots started making their own little areas on the island where it was fully Turkish communities, something that Turkey as a nation backed as Turkey was still interested in a split island.
Greece as a nation was under the control of a military junta of Athens, this junta found the EOKA were going to perform a coup to take over Cyprus and they backed it. By July 1974 the then Republic of Cyprus President learnt of Greek backing of EOKA and sent a letter to the Greek government complaining about this and asking for 600 Greek soldiers to leave the island, Greece now asked for the coup to go ahead.
Turkish invasion of Cyprus
The Turkish response to the coup was swift; it simply invaded the island on the 20th July 1974.
The invasion started with armed troops landing at sunrise and instantly met Greek and Greek Cypriot opposition upon being on Cypriot soil. The Turkish troops had a clear strategy on their invasion, this was a clear and hold tactic where they would gain hold of a position, clear it of Greek Cypriots and hold on to the land.
This invasion lasted three days as the Greek military junta disintegrated. The problem was that when peace talks occurred both side could not agree and it sat in stale mate.
The Turkish, not seeing any way forward in peace talks again invaded the island. This time the invasion was a 2 days affair between the 14th and 16th August 1974, the action involved Turkey taking a 40% control of the islands land.
The action also caused around 150,000 Greek Cypriot refugees fleeing the Turkish troops in the north of the island.
After the 16th August peace was restored but it meant that the island was now split into two with a green line running between north and south. Turkey occupies the north while Greek Cypriots in the south.
Today Turkey still controls the north and in doing so has strained relations with Cyprus, Greece and even the EU over its actions. Turkey maintains that the north is now a state of Turkey itself while the rest of the world still sees the north as part of the Republic of Cyprus as dictated in the 1960 independence from Great Britain.