The Cyprus Problem

Ruins near Agios Sozomenos, deserted after hostilities between Turkish and Cypriot forces.
Agios Sozomenos Ruins

 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 sound throughout the Government controlled areas of Cyprus as a reminder of the exact time when the Turks started their invasion around Kyrenia, initially taking 3% of the territory.

You will also hear sirens at 8.20am on 15th July, which is a reminder of the military coup against President Makarios in 1974. Archbishop Makarios was ousted by the Greek Cypriot EOKA-B paramilitary organization, backed by the Greek junta, and replaced by pro-Enosis nationalist Nicos Sampson.

You can read the '1960 Treaty of Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus' here.

A Country Ripped in Two

On the 14th August, talks were taking place in Geneva between Greece, Britain, Turkey, as well as Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot representatives. While the negotiations were ongoing, the Turkish army mounted a second full-scale offensive.

This invasion resulted in a 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.

Special report by the Cyprus Mail:

It is unfortunate to have to write that to this day, in the year 2018, even though there is an International condemnation of the illegal occupation by the Turkish military, it still exists, thus making Cyprus the only forcibly divided country in Europe today.

Committee on Missing Persons

In 1981, as a result of the persistent efforts of the government of Cyprus and 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 of participation with the United Nations, is to investigate and determine 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 (31st December 2017) from the CMP website claims that remains have been exhumed from 1188 burial sites located across the island. From which DNA has identified 645 Greek Cypriot and 210 Turkish Cypriot individuals.

The exhumations continue on both sides of the buffer zone.

The Green Line of Cyprus

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 346 square km. See map here showing the United Nations Buffer Zone.

A U.N. peacekeeping force patrols the buffer zone.

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, to reach Nicosia. The new route will halve the time to drive to Nicosia from around 3 hours to roughly to 1.5 hours.

Citizens of any country are permitted to cross the dividing line, including Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Entry into the area not under the ROC's effective control requires a passport, but they are not stamped.

Echoes of War

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. The people who were forced to flee their homes are still unable to visit, let alone take back legal possession of them.

Famagusta-Varosha 2007Varosha ruins by TomasNY.

You cannot tour Varosha. This area is fenced off and can only be viewed from afar. The scene may send a shiver down your spine when you see all of the buildings that are slowly falling apart.

No repairs have been done for over 36 years, and the homes and buildings are remaining as they were when their owners were forced to abandon them in fear of their lives.

Hope Remains for Reunification

There have been ongoing attempts to reunite Cyprus, with probably the most famous of all these processes being the 2004 Annan Plan, which was overwhelmingly rejected at a 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.

Between May 2015 and July 2017, there were regular meetings between the President of Cyprus and the newly elected leader of the Northern occupied side. At times, the talks looked very promising, and many were raising their hopes that a solution could be found. The talks escalated to UN-sponsored conferences in Switzerland.

However after a few break-downs and returns to Switzerland, the UN announced on 7th July 2017 the talks were brought to a halt by The Secretary General Antonio Guterres after negotiations broke down. Currently it is not known if there will be any resumption of these talks.

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.

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We will report here any important developments to the peace talks as they may occur.

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