If you have been in Cyprus on 20th July since the events of 1974, then you will know the howling sound that wakes us up at 5.30am. The air raid sirens are sounded throughout the Government controlled areas of Cyprus as a reminder of the exact time when the turks started their invasion around Kyrenia, initialy taking 3% of the territory.
You will also hear sirens at 8.20am on 15th July, whis is a reminder of the military coup against President Makarios in 1974. Archbishop Makarios was ousted by the Greek Cypriot EOKA-B paramilitary organisation, backed by the Greek junta, and was replaced by pro-Enosis nationalist Nicos Sampson.
On the 14th August, whilst talks were taking place in Geneva between Greece, Britain, Turkey, as well as Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot representatives, the Turkish army mounted a second full-scale offensive, which resulted in its military occupation of almost 37% of the island, which included the tourist resort of Famagusta and the rich citrus-growing area of Morphou. Around 28% of Greek Cypriots became refugees of their own country. Some 1,474 Greek Cypriots, both military personnel as well as civilians including women and children, were declared missing, either captured by the invading Turkish armed forces during July and August of 1974, or disappeared long after the cessation of hostilities in the areas under the control of the Turkish army.
It is very sad to have to write that to this day, in the year 2016, even though there is International condemnation of the illegal occupation by the Turkish military, it still exists, thus making Cyprus the only forcibly divided country in Europe today.
In 1981, as a result of the persistent efforts of the government of Cyprus and of the relatives of the missing persons, a Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) was established. The humanitarian mandate of the Committee, which operates under the auspices in participation with the United Nations, is to investigate and establish the fate of the missing persons in Cyprus, however they do not attempt to establish the cause of death, nor attribute responsibility for the deaths. Τhe CMP's project on the exhumation, identification and return of remains was launched on 24 August 2006. The latest update (November 2016) from the CMP website claims that remains have been exhumed from 1101 burial sites located across the island, from which 701 individuals have been identified by DNA. The exhumations continue on both sides of the buffer zone.
The Green line, or The United Nations Buffer Zone is the line that divides Cyprus running through the capital city of Nicosia. It stretches West to East for more than 180km and has an area of 346km square. See map here showing the United Nations Buffer Zone. The buffer zone is patrolled by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force.
In April 2003, coming as a surprise to most, the Turkish Cypriot administration eased travel restrictions across the dividing line by allowing Greek Cypriots to cross at the Ledra Palace Crossing just outside the walls of old Nicosia. Other crossings have since been opened up including; Agios Dometios, Astromeritis, Ledra Street, Pyla, and Agios Nikolaos.
The new Limnitis-Pyrgos road, at the Limnitis crossing, was officially opened on 14th October 2010 . For the past 46 years, residents of Kato Pyrgos have had to travel to Paphos, on the western coast, and Limassol, on the south, in order to reach Nicosia. The new route will halve the time to travel to Nicosia from around 3 hours to around to 1.5 hours.
Citizens of any country are permitted to cross the dividing line, including Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Passports are required for entry into the area not under the ROC’s effective control, but they are not stamped. The occupied and fenced off ancient city of Famagusta, Varosha area is still to this day like a ghost town, deserted and in ruins, since the 1974 invasion, with the people who were forced to flee their homes still unable to even visit, let alone take back legal possession of them. You cannot visit Varosha, and this fenced off area can only be viewed from afar, and may send a shivver down your spine when you see all of the buildings are slowly falling apart, with no repairs being done for over 36 years, and the homes and buildings remaining as they were when their owners were forced to abandon them in fear of their lives.
There have been ongoing attempts to re-unite Cyprus, with probably the most famous of all these processes being the 2004 Annan Plan, which was overwhelmingly rejected at referendum by the Greek Cypriots by 75%, however, the Turkish Cypriots accepted the plan by 65%. The plan failed as it required acceptance from both sides.
The most recent 'estimated' demographics taken of the occupied areas that we could find were on the Cyprus Ministry of Foreign affairs website, from which is notable that in 2004 there were approximately 88,100 Turkish Cypriots, and upwards of 160,000 Turkish settlers. In addition, there were upwards of 43,000 Turkish troops stationed.
We will report here any important developments to the peace talks as they may occur.