Atilla two: the second Turkish invasion of Cyprus

Greek Cypriot refugees

14 August marks the tragic day on which Turkey launched ‘Atilla two’ – its second brutal invasion of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974.

Turkey had already captured part of Cyprus in its initial invasion on 20 July 1974. It used the flimsy pretext that it was “restoring constitutional order” following a short-lived coup to overthrow President Makarios by the US-backed junta which was then ruling Greece. 

Despite the Athens junta and coup collapsing, and negotiations at Geneva, Turkey launched a second invasion to conquer more Cypriot territory. On 14 August, the Turkish military recommenced its ethnic cleansing of non-Turks in the northern areas of Cyprus through bombing, mass executions (of civilians and combatants) as well as torture and rapes. 200,000 Greek Cypriots were forced out of their ancestral lands.

History reveals that Ankara’s real intention in 1974 was (and still is today) the partition of the Republic of Cyprus and the segregation of Cypriots along ethnic and religious lines.

Back in the the 1950s the Turkish Cypriots were encouraged by Cyprus Governor General Harding and Colonial secretary Alan Lennox-Boyd to begin demanding privileges such as ‘self-determination’ at the expense of the 82 percent majority Greek Cypriot population. At the same time Turkey was invited, for the first time, to play a more active role in Cyprus as a counterweight to Greek demands for enosis (union with Greece) in attempts to preserve British influence on the island. 

What the Turks failed to achieve at the Geneva conference by blackmail and gunboat diplomacy, they are now attempting to get by brutal force.President Makarios,  Evening Standard, 14 August 1974

It is hardly surprising that Britain did nothing to halt Turkey’s second invasion in August 1974 (just as it did nothing to stop the first invasion in July). Following Greek Cypriot refusal at negotiations in Geneva to agree to a de facto partition in the guise of a ‘bizonal’ settlement, Turkey ethnically cleansed 37 percent of the island in a brutal aggressive campaign. As President Makarios stated at the time of the second invasion: “What the Turks failed to achieve at the Geneva conference by blackmail and gunboat diplomacy, they are now attempting to get by brutal force.”

That Britain should have ignored its legal, moral and military obligations under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee is lamentable but perhaps not too surprising. It should not be forgotten that those responsibilities still exist today.

Yet what is perhaps more disappointing is that today, the Cyprus government is expected to ignore the sacrifices made by Greek Cypriots who were ethnically cleansed since the summer of 1974 and deliver on a plate the ‘bizonal bicommunal’ solution that Turkey wants. This would be a betrayal of our ancestors and descendants and would jeopardise the future of all Cypriots.

As a guarantor power, Britain together with the rest of the world, failed to prevent the crimes against humanity committed by Turkey not only during its two invasions but also throughout its unlawful occupation. The rapes, disappearances, executions and ethnic cleansing have gone unpunished. There has been minimal condemnation and no prosecutions for these crimes.

So 14 August is a sad anniversary but we fear even more disaster is looming for Cyprus. The imposition of an unjust and unworkable settlement based on ethnic segregation would reward Turkey for its brutality with ill-gotten gains. It may also set a dangerous precedent that could backfire on the very states that continue to appease Turkey.

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