It’s one of the most militarized areas on the planet. It’s home to the world’s only divided capital. Since Turkey illegally invaded the island in 1974, the northern part of Cyprus has been filled with abandoned “ghost cities” and 40,000 armed Turkish troops.
The illegal occupation continues to this day
Cypriots of Greek and Turkish descent lived peacefully side by side for hundreds of years. During a period of intercommunal tension, Turkey hatched plans to partition Cyprus. On July, 20, 1974, under the pretense of protecting Turkish Cypriots and restoring the constitutional government of the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey invaded the island and occupied about 4 percent of Cyprus. On August 14, 1974, three weeks after the constitutional government of Cyprus was restored, Turkey launched a second phase of its invasion. The final result was Turkish occupation of 38% of Cyprus, 170,000 Greek-Cypriot refugees, and approximately 1,500 missing Greek-Cypriots.
More than 40 years later, that illegal occupation continues, with tens of thousands of Turkish troops refusing to leave the Republic of Cyprus. Furthermore, Turkey continues to use Cyprus as a means of provoking the U.S. and Greece for its own gain. In 2021, Cyprus had the highest number of asylum seeker applications per capita of any other EU nation. Turkey’s weaponization of refugees has placed an unfair burden on a divided nation to accommodate the large influx of migrants. However, recent American efforts to empower Cyprus have angered Turkey and threatened its unwarranted control over the island’s northern parts.
Growing support for Cyprus angers an antagonistic Turkey
The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act (EastMed Act) called for the lifting of a 1987 U.S. arms embargo placed upon the Republic of Cyprus given that the island nation complies with requirements indicated by the Act. In 2020 the U.S. partially lifted the ban and allowed for the sale of ‘non lethal’ military aid to Cyprus. After refusing port access to Russian naval ships, taking anti-money laundering measures, and eliminating its reliance on Russian foreign direct investments, Cyprus came into full compliance with U.S. legal requirements for arms exports. The arms embargo was completely lifted in September 2022.
News of lifting the arms embargo has angered a belligerent Turkey, citing that arming Cyprus will lead to an arms race and destabilize the region. However, unfounded claims made by Erdogan simply represent his worries over Turkey’s diminishing control over a critical nation in the East Mediterranean. With the arms embargo now removed, Cyprus is placed in a better position to assist the EU, Greece, and other NATO countries in hopes to isolate Russia from the global energy sector. In turn, increased U.S. support for the Republic of Cyprus has clearly discouraged Turkey’s unwarranted occupation in the island’s North.
Turkey is a barrier to peace
Turkey: continues to occupy Cyprus with more troops than the US used as a surge force in Afghanistan; is changing the demographics in Cyprus by importing settlers from Turkey; is insisting on the continued presence of occupying troops and a right of guarantee; and threatens military force against the Republic of Cyprus’ development of its own Exclusive Economic Zone under the international Law of the Sea. There is no way for Cyprus to become an independent, free country again if Turkey insists on wielding the threat of invasion and the presence of occupying forces.
The Cypriot people deserve a free republic, one without foreign troops patrolling their streets and one where they have the right to return to their homes. A reunited Cyprus does not need — nor can it succeed with — rights of intervention being granted to foreign powers like Turkey. Full sovereignty means no foreign armies, and no guarantees or rights of intervention by foreign powers.