Brief Overview of the Cyprus Problem

Cyprus is a small island in the eastern part of the Mediterranean sea. It has about the same size as the state of Connecticut with 660,000 inhabitants. The population of the island, according to the US State Department consists of: Greek-Cypriots 78%, Turkish-Cypriots 18%, Armenian, Maronite and Latin-Cypriots 4%.

Turkish and Greek Cypriots lived together on the island for almost five centuries. They were dispersed all over the island, mosques and churches can still be found side by side and members of one community worked in the business of the other (Gradshaw N. "The Cyprus Revolt").

Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974. As an explanation to this brutal act, Turkey offered the restoration of the constitutional structure of the Republic of Cyprus that was damaged by a coup d' etat, and the protection of an 18% Turkish-Cypriot minority on the island. Just like the Nazis in 1939 when they invaded Czechoslovakia, proclaiming themselves "protectors" of the "oppressed" German minority. The international community strongly condemned the military invasion and rejected Turkey's explanations. In Resolution 353 that was adopted on the day of the invasion, the United Nations (UN) Security Council "equally concerned about the necessity to restore the constitutional structure of the Republic of Cyprus" calls upon all States to "respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus" and demands "an immediate end to foreign military intervention in the Republic of Cyprus".

Turkey not only ignored the international community but launched a second offensive in August, 1974 and managed to seize more than one third of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus. Moreover the Turkish army in order to "protect" the Turkish-Cypriot minority on the island, employed deliberate means of terror and indiscriminate cruelty against the Greek-Cypriots. The goal was the ethnic-cleansing, 17 years before the term was even coined, of the occupied northern part of the island. When one reads the report, adopted on July 10, 1976, after months of investigation by the European Commission of Human Rights, one understands why thousands of Greek Cypriots fled their homes at the approach of the Turkish army. The Commission accepted that there were "very strong indications" of killings "committed on a substantial scale." The atrocities of the Turkish army included wholesale and repeated rapes of women of all ages, systematic torture, savage and humiliating treatment of hundreds of people, including children, women and pensioners during their detention by the Turkish forces, as well as looting and robbery on an extensive scale, by Turkish troops and Turkish Cypriots.

Thousands of Greek-Cypriots lost their lives, 1619 are still missing (BILL H. R. 2826 on missing persons since the Turkish invasion in Cyprus, 1, 2, 3), 200,000 Cypriots fled their homes leaving behind their belongings (the 200,000 refugees in terms of percentage to the population of Cyprus correspond to 110,000,000 in the USA).

As if all this were not enough, the Turkish-Cypriots later declared the occupied part of the island "a Federated Turkish State". The reaction of the international community is strongly negative. The UN Security Council in Resolution 367/1975 "regrets the unilateral decision of 13 February 1975 declaring a part of the Republic of Cyprus would become a Federated Turkish State". Turkey, once again showing its respect to international law and order, is the only country in the whole world that has recognized this pseudo-state!

It is important to realize that Turkey has always planned the invasion of Cyprus and events prior to 1974 just served as a pretext. Taxim, (partition in Turkish) of the island was always in Turkey's plans. In 1956 the Turkish Cypriot leader F. Kutchuck submitted on a map Taxim proposals dividing Cyprus to North and South (Hitchens "Cyprus: Hostage to History"). In 1974 the Turkish troops divided the island to north and south deviating from the 1956 plan only in minor details. It is therefore clear that the 1974 invasion was a part of a plan and not the result of any actions of the Greek-Cypriots in the sixties. The current Turkish Cypriot leader Denktash agreed when he stated: "Even if the Turkish-Cypriots did not exist, Turkey would not have left Cyprus to Greece" ( Turkish newspaper "Milliyet" 7/23/1985).

Currently, 39 years later, 30,000 Turkish troops are stationed on the occupied part of the island making it "one of the most highly militarized areas in the world", according to the June 1994 report of the UN Secretary General to the Security Council. The island is thus still divided, the refugees still away from their homes, the whereabouts of the missing still unknown. The Turkish-Cypriots are also victims of this invasion and imposed separation. More than 110,000 Turkish settlers have been transported to the occupied areas, in an attempt to change the demographic character of the island. These settlers, while Turks, they are completely different culturally from the Turkish-Cypriots whose culture is very similar to their Greek counterparts. The Turkish-Cypriots are becoming a minority in the occupied areas and are migrating to other western countries. On the other hand their leaders, under Turkey's direction, continue to bring the negotiations in the UN to a deadlock. The reason is simple: they are satisfied with the status quo.

The goal of the reunification of the island is the only acceptable solution to the Cyprus problem by the international community. The UN Security Council in Resolution 939/1994 clearly "reiterates that the maintenance of the status quo is unacceptable" and "reaffirms its position that a Cyprus settlement must be based on a State of Cyprus with a single sovereignty and international personality and a single citizenship". It recommends that this state should comprise "two politically equal communities" "in a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation, and such a settlement must exclude union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession".



© Giovanni Bella - Console Onorario di Cipro