Nicosia.- (GreekNewsOnline, CNA)
Cypriots woke up Saturday, once more, to the sound of sirens to remind everybody, lest we forget, of that fateful Saturday morning of July 20th, 1974. Today, Saturday, July 20th 2019 marks 45 years since Turkish troops invaded and occupied Cyprus’ northern part.
This East Mediterranean island remains to this day divided, by virtue of the massive presence of Turkey’s military and Ankara’s stronghold on the Turkish Cypriots. Repeated UN-led attempts to reunite the country under a federal roof have so far failed, due to uncompromising positions maintained by the Turkish side, which insists on retaining its right of intervention, its role as a guarantor power and a military presence on the island.
The Turkish invasion of Cyprus came only five days after the coup engineered by the Greek military junta, then ruling Greece, which toppled the democratically elected president of Cyprus, the late Archbishop Makarios III.
Air-raid sirens sounded at 0530 local time (0230 GMT) when the Turkish invasion was launched and Turkish troops landed on the island`s northern shores. Thousands of dead, hundreds of missing, 200,000 became refugees as they fled the advancing Turkish troops, and enclaved Greek Cypriots in Turkish occupied Cyprus.
This morning, a memorial service for army officers and soldiers killed during the invasion took place at Makedonitissa Tomb in Nicosia, in the presence of Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, standing in for President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek National Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos.
A formal church memorial service was held at Faneromeni Church in the old part of Nicosia, attended by Christodoulides and the political leadership.
In the evening an event took place at the Presidential Palace to mark and condemn both the coup and the Turkish invasion. The Foreign Minister will be the keynote speaker.
Political parties and various associations and organised groups have issued statements, condemning the Turkish invasion and the continuing occupation and reiterating their determination to fight for a just and viable solution.
Cyprus Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Christodoulides reiterated the Greek Cypriot side’s will for a new round of UN-brokered talks from where they left off at the Swiss resort of Crans Montana in July of 2017.
Christodoulides’ remarks came as Cyprus commemorated the fallen during the 1974 Turkish invasion that resulted in the occupation of 37 per cent of the island’s territory.
“Our sincere will is for the termination of the current unacceptable destabilizing conditions and threats and the return to the negotiating table from where they left off in Crans Montana,” Christodoulides said addressing the formal memorial service held at Faneromeni Church in the old part of Nicosia
“For a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem that safeguards conditions of peace and security for all Cypriots and a functional, independent state,” Christodoulides said, adding “in this state, a member of EU, there is no place for guarantees and foreign armies, there is solely a place for the implementation of human rights, international law and the principles and values of the EU for all its citizens.”
The Cypriot FM added that “despite Ankara’s continued provocations, the Greek Cypriot side with devotion and determination and utilizing every means at its disposal exerts sincere and intensive efforts for the resolution of the Cyprus problem aiming at a viable and functional solution.”
“A bi-zonal and bi-communal solution with political equality, based on the UN relative resolutions, the principles and values of the EU and the EU acquis, a solution that would really reunite and restore Cyprus as a modern, functional and efficient state with a single sovereignty and international personality,” he said.
As he noted, 45 years after the tragic July of 1974, with the generation of the invasion concerned over its own legacy to its children, there would not be a better memorial service to all those who heroically lost their lives or those still counting their wounds than the continuation of the efforts to reunite Cyprus.
The issue of the missing persons which remains unresolved constitutes one of the most important open chapters of the 1974 tragedy, President of the House of Representatives Demetris Syllouris told a ceremony for the missing persons held at the Panorama of Missing Persons in Kornos.
“The concern of the Cypriot state is to safeguard and protect every family’s inalienable right to be informed and to know the fate of their loved ones based on facts and proof,” he said, noting however the passage of time is not conducive to our efforts.
He also noted that the limited number of witnesses, or their refusal to cooperate and construction activity in possible burial sites constitute additional obstacles to the whole effort.
“Irrespective of these, our struggle and hard work should continue with no sense of discouragement. This is our debt to history, to our island, to our dead, to our missing persons and their families,” he said.
Furthermore, Syllouris noted that Turkey should comply and assume its responsibilities respecting the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Cyprus fourth interstate application.
Representing the President of the Republic, Minister of Defence Savvas Angelides, called on the UN and the international community “to exert the necessary pressure to the occupation force to grant access to their military records so the International Committee on the Missing Persons to conclude its search by carrying out excavations in military zones.”
Angelides noted raising the issue of the missing is top priority for the government in its contacts both with the Turkish Cypriot leadership and representatives of organisations and other countries.
Greek Minister of National Defence, Nikos Panayiotopoulos said that his monument depicts the brutality of the occupation and is reminiscent of the humanitarian crisis and untold pain caused by the Turkish invasion on Cyprus.
He vowed that the Greek National Defence Ministry in collaboration with the Cypriot Defence Ministry will continue the difficult effort for the location and identification of the missing persons.
This effort will be a top priority for me and the new Hellenic government because we acknowledge the struggle of all those that defended Hellenism, those who fell fighting for freedom and those who are still missing. Only in this way redemption and justice vindication will be achieved.”
On his part, Nicos Sergides, President of the Cypriot Missing Persons Organisation said the relatives of the missing have been striving for the fundamental right to know the truth about the fate of our loved ones.”
“After forty-five years we continue our humanitarian struggle for the fate of our loved ones. We fight against the inhumane stance Turkey continues to observe against a purely humanitarian issue,” he said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Since then, the fate of hundreds of people remains unknown.
A Committee on Missing Persons has been established, upon agreement between the leaders of the two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying and returning the remains of missing persons to their relatives.