Sunday, 20 July 2008

The Turkish invasion of Cyprus



The Turks had been straining at the leash since Cyprus’ independence (1960) to invade the island and came close to doing so in 1963 and 1967, only to find themselves isolated diplomatically and politically. In 1974, however, they found the support they had been previously lacking and that support came from the USA, which not only approved the Turkish invasion but also encouraged it.

Indeed, the more one reads and thinks about the 1974 Cyprus events, the more one is driven to the conclusion that it is wrong to refer to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus; a more accurate description would be the US-Turkish invasion of Cyprus. (This view is different to that expressed by Perry Anderson in his essay The Divisions of Cyprus, which apportions greater responsibility for the attack on Cyprus to British designs and malevolence).

In any case, it’s worth pointing out that the 20 July landings were only the first part of the Turkish invasion, with the aim of securing a bridgehead at Kyrenia, and that the more devastating Turkish action didn’t occur until 14 August.

Both the junta in Athens and their stooge in Nicosia, Nikos Sampson, were caught by surprise by the Turkish assault on 20 July. Junta leader Dimitrios Ioannidis believed the CIA when it told him there would be no Turkish invasion in response to the 15 July coup against Makarios and he passed this on to Sampson who, rather than use the time he had since seizing power in Cyprus to prepare for a probable Turkish attack, chose instead to settle political scores and put down the resistance to the coup of Cypriot leftists and Makarios’ supporters.

When Ioannidis realised the American betrayal, he determined to attack Turkey across Thrace; but his senior commanders, fearing disaster, rebelled and on 23 July Ioannidis and then Sampson fell from power.

In Nicosia, Glafkos Clerides assumed the presidency and constitutional order was restored; ostensibly removing the pretext the Turks gave for the invasion, though the Turks having come this far were now committed to implementing their long-held plan to partition and effectively annex northern Cyprus. The Turks used a period of sham negotiations – during which Turkey enjoyed American moral, intelligence and diplomatic support – to reinforce their Kyrenia bridgehead and prepare for the second phase of Operation Attila, which began on 14 August and resulted in the seizure of Morphou, Karpasia, Famagusta and the Mesaoria.

In the clip above from Attila ’74: the Rape of Cyprus (watch film in its entirety here), Michalis Cacoyiannis describes the first and second phases of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and its aftermath of refugees, prisoners, enclaved and missing persons and shows the beginning of the occupation.

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