Today marks the 38th anniversary of the Turkish peace operation on Cyprus on July 20, 1974 to protect the lives and liberty of the island’s Turkish community.
The dispute over Cyprus did not begin in 1974.
The independent Republic of Cyprus was born in 1960 as a partnership state based on the political equality of the co-founding Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot peoples. It had a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice-president, each with veto powers to ensure political equality at the executive level.
A special international treaty, the Treaty of Guarantee, obligated Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom to preserve the independence of Cyprus and prevent its annexation by any other state.
This system of checks and balances, however, faced a serious and immediate challenge when the Greek Cypriot side attempted to amend the Constitution by removing all provisions that gave the Turkish Cypriots a meaningful say in the affairs of the State. Failing that, in late 1963 they launched an all-out armed attack on the Turkish Cypriots throughout the island, killing and wounding thousands, driving one-quarter of the Turkish Cypriot population out of their homes and properties in 103 villages and causing widespread destruction.
The ferocity of this onslaught was described by former Undersecretary of the US State Department, GeorgeBall, in his memories titled “The Past Has Another Pattern” by observing that Archbishop Makarios, the then Greek Cypriot leader, had “turn(ed) this beautiful island into his private abattoir.” He further stated that “Makarios’ central interest was to block off any Turkish intervention so that he and his GreekCypriotes could go on happily massacring the Turkish Cypriots.”
The Turkish rescue operation in 1974 undoubtedly saved the Turkish Cypriot community from mass-extermination, prevented the annexation of Cyprus to Greece, and thus preserved the independence of the island. Turkey’s legitimate and timely action has kept the peace on the island since 1974.
Today, the Constitution of the Republic is dead and the “Republic of Cyprus” government has been completely usurped and monopolized by the Greek Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots and successive Turkish Governments have worked toward a settlement and have either instigated or accepted all major United Nations initiatives aimed at such just and lasting solution. The latest and most elaborate document in this respect was the “Annan Plan” named after former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was the architect of the plan. The Annan Plan was put to separate and simultaneous referenda of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots on April 24, 2004. It was overwhelmingly accepted by the Turkish Cypriot people by a 65% majority; but was rejected by the Greek Cypriot people, at the behest of their leadership, by even a greater margin of 76%.
Despite the brave Turkish Cypriot vote in favor of peace and reunification, the European Union instead rewarded the intransigent Greek Cypriots with E.U. membership. In fact, Greek Cyprus recently took over the helm of the rotating EU presidency. As long as the equal rights and interests of both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot peoples over the island are disregarded, a solution to the Cyprus problem will not be possible.