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20 July, 2014: 40 years from the Turkish invasion of Cyprus

The role of the "usual suspect" Henry Kissinger

More than one quarter of the population of Cyprus was expelled from the occupied northern part of the island where Greek Cypriots constituted 80% of the population. A little over a year later in 1975, there was also a flow of roughly 60,000 Turkish Cypriots from the south to the north after the conflict.”

In the spring of 1974, Greek Cypriot intelligence discovered that EOKA-B was planning a coup against President Makarios which was sponsored by the military junta of Athens.”

In the meantime, Nikos Sampson was declared provisional president of the new government. Sampson was a Greek ultra nationalist who was known to be fanatically anti-Turkish and had taken part in violence against Turkish civilians in earlier conflicts. The Sampson regime took over radio stations and declared that Makarios had been killed, but Makarios, safe in London, was soon able to counteract these reports. In the coup itself, 91 people were killed. The Turkish-Cypriots were not affected by the coup against Makarios; one of the reasons was that Ioannides did not want to provoke a Turkish reaction.”

Turkey invaded Cyprus on Saturday, 20 July 1974. Heavily armed troops landed shortly before dawn at Kyrenia (Girne) on the northern coast meeting resistance from Greek and Greek Cypriot forces. Ankara said that it was invoking its right under the Treaty of Guarantee to protect the Turkish Cypriots and guarantee the independence of Cyprus. The operation, codenamed 'Operation Atilla', is known in the North as 'the 1974 Peace Operation'.”

On 23 July 1974 the Greek military junta collapsed mainly because of the events in Cyprus. Greek political leaders in exile started returning to the country. On 24 July 1974 Constantine Karamanlis returned from Paris and was sworn in as Prime Minister. He decided against further military involvement as the Turkish forces were much stronger. Shortly after this Nikos Sampson renounced the presidency and Glafcos Clerides temporarily took the role of president.”

On 14 August Turkey launched its 'Second Peace Operation', which eventually resulted in the Turkish occupation of 40% of Cyprus. Britain's then foreign secretary (later prime minister) James Callaghan, later disclosed that U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger 'vetoed' at least one British military action to pre-empt the Turkish landing.

In the process, many Greek Cypriots became refugees. The Cypriot government estimates their numbers at about 200,000, with other sources stating 140,000 to 160,000. The ceasefire line from 1974 separates the two communities on the island, and is commonly referred to as the Green Line.”

The missing persons list of the Republic of Cyprus confirms that 83 Turkish Cypriots disappeared in Tochni on 14 August 1974. Also, as a result of the invasion, over 2000 Greek-Cypriot prisoners of war were taken to Turkey and detained in Turkish prisons. Some of them were not released and are still missing. In particular, the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus, which operates under the auspices of the United Nations, is mandated to investigate approximately 1600 cases of Greek Cypriot and Greek missing persons.


Kissinger and Callaghan continued to have problems with trans-Atlantic calls but US-UK communications increased during the unfolding Cyprus crisis. Wanting to avoid antagonizing the Greek junta which had sponsored the 18 July 1974 coup against Archbishop Makarios, Kissinger opposed putting any pressure on them. As he had explained to his State Department “Cyprus group”, “To attempt to overthrow the Greek Government to satisfy our souls and bring Makarios back is a high price to pay.”

Turkey invaded Cyprus on 20 July and two days later, the day the Greek military dictatorship fell, on 22 July, Callaghan and Kissinger discussed developments. Both agreed that Nicos Sampson, the gunman whom the Greek junta had installed to rule the island, had to go, because of his role in provoking the Turkish invasion, but the junta’s collapse quickly put Sampson out of power. Thus, the banter about Kissinger being “filthy” to Sampson was irrelevant.

Plainly Callaghan and Kissinger had different takes on the situation, with Callaghan stating that Archbishop Makarios, the deposed President, was the “legitimate President,” while Kissinger took a “noncommittal” stance. Kissinger wanted freedom of action on the Cyprus problem and did not want to support Makarios, whom he had seen as too independent. While the conversation was affable, Kissinger later declared that “Basically Callaghan screwed up all along” by not pressing the Greeks to be a more forthcoming toward Turkey.


Photos of derelict homes, hotels and airports in Nicosia:


A revealing documentary by Michael Cacoyannis about the Turkish invasion in Cyprus on July 20 1974:

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