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Friday, August 14, 2009

Cyprus marks 35th anniversary of second Turkish offensive

(CNA) - Cyprus marks Friday the 35th anniversary of Turkey`s second offensive against the island in the summer of 1974 resulting in the occupation of the island’s northern third.

It was 14 August 1974 when Ankara`s representatives to the Geneva peace talks refused to give the Greek Cypriot representative time to consider their proposals and effectively presented Glafcos Clerides, former President of the Republic, with an ultimatum.

Turkish troops invaded Cyprus on 20 July 1974, five days after the legal government of the late Archbishop Makarios III was toppled by a military coup engineered by the military junta then ruling Greece.

Two unproductive conferences in Geneva followed; the first between Britain, Greece and Turkey and the second with the additional attendance of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot representatives.

Three weeks after a ceasefire was declared on 22 July, and despite the fact that talks were still being held and just as an agreement seemed about to be reached, the Turkish army mounted a second full-scale offensive.

As a result, Turkey increased its hold to include the booming tourist resort of Famagusta in the east and the rich citrus-growing area of Morphou in the west. All in all almost 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus came under Turkish military occupation.

Nearly one third of the population, some 200,000 Greek Cypriots, were forcibly uprooted from their homes and properties, thousands were killed during the hostilities, over 1,000 persons were listed as missing while thousands of Greek Cypriots and Maronites remained enclaved.

The European Court of Human Rights has found Turkey guilty of mass violations of human rights in Cyprus.

Over the years, a number of unsuccessful peace rounds were launched under the auspices of the United Nations to find a settlement. These efforts were short lived as they stumbled on the Turkish Cypriot side’s insistence to gain recognition for the puppet regime it set up in November 1983. Only Turkey has recognized the so-called regime which was branded by the Security Council ``legally invalid``.

Ankara has ignored numerous UN resolutions calling for respect of the sovereignty, the independence and the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus and the immediate withdrawal of the Turkish occupation troops.

Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began in September 2008 UN-led direct talks to achieve a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem and so far had 40 meetings covering the first reading of all main aspects of the Cyprus problem (Governance and power-sharing, property, territory, EU matters, economic matters and security).

The agreed solution, they added, will be put to separate simultaneous referenda.

The two leaders are scheduled to enter the second phase on September 3.

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