Forty-six years ago to this day the Turkish military launched its second offensive against the Republic of Cyprus, in full violation of international law, including the UN Charter, despite the ceasefire that had been agreed.
The Turkish army invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974, and launched the second phase of the invasion on August 14 of the same year, occupying the best part of Mesaoria, Famagusta, Karpasia and Morphou.
The Turkish side continues to disregard calls by the international community relating to Cyprus and continues to hold the city of Famagusta hostage of its illegal military occupation.
Dubbed a “ghost town”, Famagusta’s fenced off section – called Varosha – remains to this day deserted, abandoned to the elements.
Turkish troops invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974, five days after the legal government of the late Archbishop Makarios III was toppled by a military coup, engineered by the military junta then ruling Greece.
Two unproductive conferences in Geneva followed; the first between Britain, Greece and Turkey and the second with the additional attendance of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot representatives.
Three weeks after the ceasefire of July 22, and despite the fact that talks were still being held and just as an agreement seemed about to be reached, the Turkish army mounted a second full-scale offensive.
As a result, Turkey increased its hold to include the booming tourist resort of Famagusta in the east and the rich citrus-growing area of Morphou in the west.
All in all, almost 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus came under Turkish military occupation.
Nearly one third of the population, some 200,000 Greek Cypriots, were forcibly uprooted from their homes and properties, thousands were killed during the hostilities, over 1,000 persons were listed as missing while thousands of Greek Cypriots and Maronites remained enclaved.
Numerous UN resolutions have demanded respect to the independence, unity and territorial integrity of Cyprus, the return of the displaced to their homes, and the withdrawal of foreign troops from the island, but all resolutions have been ignored by Turkey.
The latest effort to reach a Cyprus settlement was concluded in summer 2017 in the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana without a result.
UN Secretary – General Antonio Guterres appointed in the summer of 2018 senior American UN official Jane Holl Lute, in order to conduct consultations with all parties of the Conference on Cyprus.
Lute visited Cyprus several times and met Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci with a view to clinch an agreement on the Terms of Reference that would lead to the resumption of the negotiations for a Cyprus settlement.
To that end Lute also held contacts with the three guarantor powers, namely the UK, Greece and Turkey.
After a tripartite meeting, in Berlin, on November 25, 2019 among Guterres, Anastasiades and Akinci, the UN Secretary – General issued a statement saying that he agreed to extend his efforts to achieve terms of reference to serve as a consensus starting point for phased, meaningful, and results-oriented negotiations at the earliest feasible opportunity.
Efforts to convene an informal five-party meeting, in a bid to conclude the terms of reference and resume negotiations for a Cyprus settlement, were expected to start after April 2020 and the “elections” in the Turkish Cypriot community.
However, the “elections” have been suspended for October 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Turkish Bar Association organised in 2020 a round table meeting, which was held in Varosha for the first time since 1974, and was attended by Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay and Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, amongst others.
Oktay stated that Varosha belongs to the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime, and took part in a tour of the fenced-off part of Famagusta.
Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades has protested in writing to the UN Secretary General, the five UN Security Council permanent members, the European Council President and the German Chancellor, whose country presides over the EU in the second half of 2020 outlining Turkish provocative actions in violation of UN Security Council on Varosha and stressing that it is necessary to take steps and/or sanctions to put an end to Turkish threats and to facilitate the resumption of Cyprus’ reunification talks as soon as possible.
President Anastasiades’ letter also proposes the establishment of an international committee of experts with the participation of Famagusta residents, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, to evaluate the situation in Varosha, so that it may be returned to its legitimate residents.
Cyprus has been a full EU member state since May 2004.
The Turkish occupied part of Cyprus is also considered EU territory, where the acquis communautaire is suspended until the solution of the Cyprus problem.