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by Archaeology Newsroom

Cyprus after Independence (1959-1986)

The struggle put up by Greek Cypriots in 1955 against colonial rule had as its ultimate goal the liberation and union with Greece. When this struggle came to an end in 1959, its achievement was an independent Republic with many limitations. Such a solution left many Greek Cypriots (80% of the population) with a sour taste and the same went for Turkish Cypriots (18% of the population) who, after British instigation, started to cry out for partition. In fact, the Turkish Cypriots started smuggling arms from Turkey even before the British rule was terminated and the incident of the ship “Deniz” which was involved in gun running proves the case.

When Cyprus was finally declared an Independent Republic on August 16, 1960, the omens were not favourable. On the one hand the sentiments of her people and on the other the Constitution, which was an artificial creation virtually imposed on the Cypriots and containing the seeds of division, quickly precipitated the situation. The fact that part and parcel of the Constitution were the Treaties of Guarantee and Alliance, accelerated the tragic events to follow as both of them infringed on the independence of the newly born Republic. What occured in the summer of 1974 clearly exposed this infringement.Internal strife started as early as Christmas Eve 1963 and many innocent Cypriots, members of either of the two main communities on the island, were killed, most times in cold blood. In the summer of 1964 the Turkish airforce bombed indiscriminately Greek villages and armed forces; the latter were engaged in fighting with Turkish troops in western Cyprus, and many civilians were victims of napalm bombs. The second round of serious fighting occured in 1967 but afterwards a period of relative peace followed. In 1973 the two communities were at a point of reaching a just solution when on 15-7-74 a coup against Makarios took place which was inspired and executed by the Greek junta . On 20-7-74 Turkey grasped the long awaited opportunity to invade Cyprus and using the pretext of restoring constitutional order landed troops on the island after massive air and sea bombing of various, most times non-military, targets. Although the coup collapsed in three days’ time, the Turkish army did not return to Turkey but instead it mounted a second attack on the 14th-8-74. Up to then it had controlled a small strip of land while after the16th-8-74 they occupied the 37% of the island. Thus, although nearly 200.000 people had been expelled by the Turkish force of arms from their ancestoral homes, the three guarantor powers not only failed to stand by their commitments but they were the ones that undermined the independence of Cyprus: The junta of Greece generated the coup, Turkey invaded and still occupies and refuses to negotiate an acceptable solution, while Great Britain played the role of Pontius Pilate. Since the invasion and occupation several rounds of talks have taken place but without results. The U.N. Secretary General has tried time and again to bring about a viable solution but the Turkish side frustrates all his efforts as it wants the occupied territory to be promoted into a mini state having very loose ties with the rest of Cyprus. Two agreements were signed by Denktash. One with the late archbishop Makarios in 1977 and one with President Kyprianou in 1979 but to no avail. What Denktash wants for his puppet regime is the power “to conclude international treaties, convention agreements, issuing of passports, granting of citizenship, even defence” (see Turkish proposals of 1978 for a solution to the Cyprus problem). Obviously, no Cypriot government can agree to such demands. Meanwhile two fifths of the Greek Cypriots continue to be refugees in their own country, while 60.000 mainland Turks have been imported into the occupied territory in an effort to change the ages old demographic character. In this effort of Turkification of northern Cyprus, we can ascribe the eradication of anything Greek. Gone are sixth century AD mosaics , scratched are beautiful Byzantine frescoes . Tombs were looted and churches turned into stables . The most tragic aspect of the Cyprus problem is no doubt that of the missing persons. 1.619 Greeks, many of the civilians, old people, women even children, were captured alive and Turkey refuses thirteen years after the invasion to say anything about their fate. If the Cyprus problem is to be solved two prerequisites are indispensable. First, Turkey must withdraw its army and settlers from Cyprus and secondly, the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the island must be restored throught the implementation of the U.N. resolutions. Towards this end the International Community has a duty to work, otherwise this world will not be safe for small countries.