It is 43 years since Turkey intervened in Cyprus in the wake of violent clashes to prevent the forced unificatıon with Greece. Since then the island remains divided despite several peace talks.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (R) greets Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim at the 43rd anniversary of Turkish intervention in Cyprus.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (R) greets Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim at the 43rd anniversary of Turkish intervention in Cyprus. (TRT World and Agencies)

July 20 of this year marks 43 years since the Turkish military intervention on the island of Cyprus.

Turkey maintains that the move was in response to violence against Turkish Cypriots following the Greek Cypriot-led coup.

More than four decades later, the crisis continues, and the island stands divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

The stakeholders: Greek Cypriots, Greece, Turkish Cypriots and Turkey, have been unable to reach a reunification deal for decades.

TRT World 's Olcay Kirac is following the story from Nicosia.

In 1974, violence broke out amid a Greek Cypriot attempt to forcibly unite Cyprus with Greece, then ruled by a right-wing military junta. Turkey sent 40,000 troops under Operation Atilla, to the island's north.

As a result of Greek Cypriot attacks, at least 30,000 Turkish Cypriots were displaced from their villages. Tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots were also displaced.

The Turkish Cypriot population moved north, and the Greek Cypriot population moved south.

Negotiations over Cyprus resumed after a 2004 deal put forward by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to reunify the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities.

The plan was rejected in a referendum by the Greek portion of the island, while Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the plan.

Then in 2004, Cyprus acceded the European Union.

Turkey objected to this accession, as the European Union had made the passing of the referendum a condition for Cyprus's membership.

Failed reunification talks

Representatives from the EU, the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaderships, and the guarantor nations of Turkey, Greece and the UK, had participated in the discussions that began at the end of last month to resolve the dispute.

The UN sought a peace deal to unite Cyprus under a federal umbrella that could also define the future of Europe's relations with Turkey, a key player in the conflict.

Some of the contentious sticking points include resource sharing, ethnic discrimination, and military presence.

"The Greek position remains that ... the occupying troops must leave," said Nikos Kotzias, foreign minister of Greece, during talks earlier this month..

The Turkish Cypriot side, however, says that the troop presence is necessary for security.

"We could not accept the removal of our only source of security when the bitter experiences of the past are still so fresh and without living and seeing what will happen. There is nothing in this that is in line with good will and sincerity," said Mustafa Akinci, leader of the Turkish Cypriots. adding that the Greek Cypriot side's reluctance to accept a rotating presidency and active participation in decision making was proof of this.

Akinci noted that the Turkish Cypriot side sought the security and freedom of not only Turkish Cypriots but Greek Cypriots as well.

Turkish Foreign Ministry slams Greece's comments

The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on the future of Cyprus, referring to the "titanic struggle for the rights of Hellenism [ancient Greek culture as expressed in politics], Cyprus, and the Cypriot people."

The statement also called for the removal of "illegal" Turkish troops from the island.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Greece's statement was "unacceptable."

"As the Prime Minister once again emphasised at the Peace and Freedom Day celebrations, the Turkish Peace Operation was carried out within the framework of Turkey's rights and obligations arising from international treaties," a statement from the Turkish ministry said.

"As a guarantor country, Turkey showed with the Peace Operation that day that it would not allow Enosis [unification of Greece and Cyprus] to take place, and that the Turkish Cypriots were not alone," the statement continued.

"Turkey maintains its determination to prevent the targeting of the existence and freedoms of the Turkish Cypriots through common action taken by the Greeks with the Greek Cypriots, as mentioned in the Greek Foreign Ministry's statement."

"Untimely and dangerous" energy moves

Last week, Turkey sent two ships and a submarine to monitor Cyprus's "West Capella" drilling vessel, which was contracted by France's Total and Italy Eni, when it moved into position in the eastern Mediterranean to start exploring for gas.

Prime Minister Yildirim warned Greek Cyprus its moves to explore for energy around the eastern Mediterranean were "untimely and dangerous," adding that Ankara would continue to protect the rights and interests of Turkish Cypriots.

Yildirim was speaking at an event in Nicosia and his comments were broadcast live on Turkish television.

The Greek Cypriot side said in a statement that the drilling was of exploratory nature, and that "the natural resources of Cyprus belong to the Cypriot people."

Ankara has said it will take measures against Greek Cyprus for engaging in gas and oil exploration around the island. It says that hydrocarbon resources in the waters around the divided island should belong to both sides.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies