The military operation repelled the genocidal Greece-backed militias who were baying for the blood of Turkish Cypriots.

Every year the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) celebrates July 20 as its Peace and Freedom Day. 

It is the day when Türkiye launched the Cyprus Peace Operation, a large-scale military intervention to protect Turkish Cypriots from violence that struck the island in 1974.

Wednesday marks the 48th anniversary of the operation that saved the Turkish Cypriots from mass-extermination and prevented the annexation of Cyprus to Greece, maintaining the bi-communal independence of the island.

The Republic of Cyprus was founded on August 16, 1960, on the basis of two equal communities. 

Both Türkiye and Turkish Cypriots welcomed the republic from the very first day, but when Greek Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios said the republic was just a step in the direction of Enosis (union with Greece), things went in the wrong direction.

Greek Cypriots launched the Akritas Plan on December 21, 1963 that sought to eradicate Turkish Cypriots and gain control of the whole island within 48 hours, but Turkish Cypriots resisted the persecution.

Türkiye, a guarantor country, urged the UN and the international community to take action for 11 years, but to no avail. The Greek Cypriots launched Ifestos plan "aimed at committing second genocide" on July 15, 1974.

On July 15, 1974, the Greek junta removed Makarios from power following a coup and Türkiye started negotiations with Greece and the UK.

As negotiations did not bear any fruit, Türkiye stepped on the island early July 20 and called for re-establishment of the constitutional order.

"If the operation had not been held, Turkish Cypriots would have been slaughtered," Yilmaz Bora, a 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation veteran, told Anadolu Agency.

"We are confident that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus [TRNC] will live, thanks to the support of our motherland forever."

Forty years on, the TRNC leadership realised the international community is deliberately not recognising their state and keeping their fate in limbo. 

Cyprus island has long been a contested territory between Turkish and Greek Cypriots
Cyprus island has long been a contested territory between Turkish and Greek Cypriots (TRTWorld)

In an exclusive interview with TRT World, Tahsin Ertugruloglu, the foreign minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) said the TRNC has lost faith in the one-state solution as Greek Cypriots refuse to treat the Turkish Cypriots as equal partners.

“We tried partnership. It didn't work. Why? Because Greek Cypriots could not accept the idea that Turkish Cypriots were their equals,” he said. 

“So the partnership republic formula was tried and failed because the other partner didn't want it to work.”

Ankara maintains its military presence in the island to ensure the security of Turkish Cypriots. 

The foreign minister thinks that the UN, among other international bodies, has long chosen to be part of the problem, not the solution, because it made “the wrong diagnosis of the Cyprus conflict,” seeing the Turkish 1974 intervention as the root of the conflict. 

While everyone agrees that there was a “Turkish military intervention” in 1974, the international community has a serious problem in recognising the fact that it was triggered by the violations of the political rights of Turkish Cypriots by Greek Cypriots, according to the minister. 

“Türkiye will never, ever allow this island to be a Hellenic island,” the minister told TRT World, indicating that the island had been under Ottoman rule for over three centuries. 

“We didn't come to this island from the moon. Our ancestors came here from Anatolia. We are Turkish who happen to live on the island of Cyprus. There is no nation called Cypriots. You're either a Greek Cypriot or a Turkish Cypriot or one of the minorities, Armenian or Maronite.” 

‘Afraid to go out’

Omer Ozyildirim, a veteran of the 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation, said that they lived in very bad conditions before the operation.

"The Greek Cypriots took and killed people from our village between 1963 and 1974. We were afraid to go out. Just before the operation, we handed over our weapons to the UN Peacekeeping Force and the UN Peacekeeping Force gave all our weapons to the Greek police,”  Ozyildirim told Anadolu Agency.

Ozyildirim added that he doesn't trust the United Nations Peacekeeping Force and the United States when it comes to the security of the island.

"I only trust the Turkish Armed Forces. The Turkish soldiers should stay on the Island, if they leave, it means 'We're done'.”

The Cyprus issue is a long-running political conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, two different ethnic and religious communities residing on the strategic Eastern Mediterranean island. 

After decades of political deadlock on the status of the contested island, Turkish Cypriots no longer believe in the one-state solution, a political formula that the international community has dictated since 1960, when the Republic of Cyprus was formed as a bi-communal and bi-zonal union comprising both communities.

"I do not support a federal solution in Cyprus. It would be a disaster if the two peoples lived together,” another Peace Operation veteran, Besim Faruk Can, told Anadolu Agency.

"I think it is impossible for Turkish Cypriots and Greeks to live together. We live in the north too, and there were no problems."

Source: TRT World