The Turkish army began the first phase of the operation on Cyprus this week in 1974, an event that was celebrated both by Turkish Cypriots and mainlanders. 46 years ago today, this event began when, on July 15th, a Greek Nationalist junta government took control of the island with a coup d’etat.
What happened on July 20th, 1974?
The prelude to the operation began when some Greek nationalists groups in Cyprus formed the infamous terrorist organization known as EOKA, with Georgios Grivas as their leader. After some brutal incidents performed by EOKA, some Turkish Cypriots formed resistance groups as a reaction.
Due to the rising tensions between the two ethnic groups on the island, the Turkish Armed Forces conducted the Cyprus Peace Operation which was legally justified due to Turkey guaranteeing Cyprus.
3 days after the first phase of the operation, the junta government had to resign and the island was separated, which persists to this day.
Why is this crisis taking so many years to resolve?
There were multiple plans prepared to reunite the island over the last 46 years, with the Annan plan of 2004 being the most famous. However, when the plan was put on a referendum, it was rejected with 65% of support from Turkish Cypriots but 76% opposition from the Greek Cypriots.
Tensions have risen again in recent years due to clashes on the EEZ in the Eastern Mediterranean, mainly between Turkey and Greece.
Large energy reserves were found off the shores of Cyprus, causing a dispute between Turkey and Greece, alongside its EU allies. The island, once described by the British as “the unsinkable aircraft carrier”, holds critical importance in the region to this day. Two different EEZ maps, as well as different maritime agreements, were made by both Turkey and Greece/the EU. It seems the island will remain as a clash zone for some time.
Celebrations of the anniversary from political leaders
On the 20th of July this year, many leaders from Cyprus and mainland Turkey have given several statements regarding the anniversary of the Peace and Freedom Day of the TRNC.
The Prime Minister of the TRNC, Mehmet Tatar, addressed the Turkish Cypriots with an open letter: “If the TRNC is a free, sovereign and a hopeful nation, we owe this to our freedom fighters, as well as the Turkish Army. I hope that we will celebrate many more 20th of Julys.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also addressed the Turkish Cypriots: “This Peace Operation is the resurrection of a nation that was wanted to be eliminated completely. The patience of the Turkish Cypriots, with a struggle for equality of more than 50 years, has no other example in human history.”
The President of the Patriotic Party, Dogu Perincek, was among the names that celebrated the 20th of July Peace and Freedom Day on Twitter: “I celebrate the 46th anniversary of the Cyprus Peace Operation. I commemorate the National Hero, Great Statesman, and the Founder President of the TRNC, Rauf Denktas, and all our fallen martyrs and our veterans. Turkey and the TRNC will do what is necessary to safeguard our Foster Homeland, and to protect our Blue Homeland.”