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Atilla II: The Forgotten Second Invasion of Cyprus

Monday, August 15, 2016  | 

Today, the Greek Orthodox world celebrates one of its holiest days — the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.  Given how joyous this holiday is for most — and the fact that it comes in the midst of summer vacation — it is easy to forget the tragedy we suffered exactly 42 years ago.

Since 1974, Turkey has insisted that it did not invade Cyprus, but that it intervened according to its rights and responsibilities as a guarantor for the new Republic of Cyprus.  We have already marked the dark anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on July 20, but few people realize that what started on that day was merely the first phase of the invasion of Cyprus.  By July 22, a ceasefire took hold on Cyprus (at that point Turkey only controlled 3% of the island) and peace talks ensued.  At the break of the second round of peace talks — and despite the absence of any violence on the island in the interim period, despite the fall of the military dictatorship in Greece (which undertook the coup against the Makarios government in July) and the reestablishment of democracy there, despite the request of the Greek-Cypriot negotiator to consult with his government — Turkey launched a second phase of its invasion.

Much of the damage of Turkey’s crimes against Cyprus took place during this second wave of invasion — Operation Atilla II.  Turkey extended its occupation from 3% to nearly 38%, it began its brutal ethnic cleansing of the northern part of Cyprus, it turned Varosha into a ghost city.  Turkey still refers to its crimes during 1974 with terms such as “Peace Operations”.  What definition of peace includes murdering thousands and continuing to throw up obstacles in determining the fate of over 1,500 missing Cypriots (including 4 American citizens)?  Does “peace” in Turkish mean keeping Varosha a ghost city or painting Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags in the Pentadaktylos mountains and lighting them up every night merely to taunt Greek Cypriots?

Turkey lied in 1974, and has continued its lies for 42 years.  Name the Turkish leader — from Ecevit to Erdogan — and then distinguish their claim that they protect Turkish Cypriots from Hitler’s justification for invading Sudetenland or Putin’s for invading Crimea and his actions in eastern Ukraine.  Indeed, Putin was following Turkey’s precedent — not Nazi Germany’s — when Russia invaded Crimea.

The U.S. foreign policy establishment is finally prioritizing a resolution to the Cyprus issue.  In the foreign policy sections of both the Republican and Democratic national party platforms, there was a hope for/commitment to a Cyprus solution.  Yet if the world is serious about solving Cyprus, it has to start by ending the fraud Turkey continues to perpetrate on Cyprus.  If Ankara is serious about peace, it can: (a) start drawing down troops; (b) remove all obstacles in resolving the issue of the missing; (c) begin the process of returning Varosha; (d) end the nightly taunt of Greek Cypriots by lighting up the flag.  Unfortunately, there is no indication that Turkey will do any of this or that an international interlocutor with courage to really push for any of this will emerge.  Instead, we’ll keep hearing of “peace forces”, we’ll be asked to ignore a history that shows that when the Turkish military establishes a beach head on Cyprus they advance from it, and we’ll keep hearing about Turkey’s assurances to the U.N. and to the U.S. regarding solving the Cyprus problem.  Maybe it is fitting that it is August 15, because it seems that prayer is the least frustrating strategy left on Cyprus.  Hopefully God can get Turkey to move, because it doesn’t seem like the U.N. or the U.S. are up to the task.

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