Why Turkey interfere in Cyprus?

One of the most important title for Turkey & Greece relationships and Mediterranean’s pearl; Cyprus. This island never loses its importance throughout the history in the region. Cyprus entered under British control after Venetians and Ottomans domination. Followed this line, Republic of Cyprus in 1959 and separation in 1983 (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus).


Cyprus was taken from Venetians by Ottomans in 1571 and stayed under Ottoman Empire’s domination for 307 years. Turkish Cypriots population was more than Greek Cypriots until the 18th century’s beginning. Cypriots main livelihood was farming, also Turkish population’s soils were more than Greeks too during this period. Near this social and cultural traditions stayed different between Greeks and Turkish sides on the island.


Cyprus’s governance was given to Britain in 1878 (governance will be in Britain but Ottoman sovereignty will continue). Britain and Ottoman took different places in World War I in 1914. After this development, agreement ended with Cyprus’s annexation by Britain.

Republic of Turkey recognized British domination in Cyprus with Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.


Greek Cypriot’s demands start join to Greece in 1931, these demands born “Enosis” campaign. Greek Orthodox Church made a referendum in January 15, 1950 and this referendum resulted with “Yes” decision with %96 (for join to Greece). Britain strongly stayed against the “Enosis” idea on this period.


Against Britain’s attitude, Greece defended that Cypriot’s have “self-determination” right and moved Cyprus problem to UN in 1954. Apart from that, there started violence policies against Turkish Cypriots with Greece’s decision.

Greece’s “self-determination” applies couldn’t be successful (between 1954-1958) in UN. Also against Greek Cypriot’s self-determination claims, Britain defends Turkish population’s self-determination right on equal way with Greeks. Britain expressed, as well, “partition” option for Turks in 1956.


By the way, Greek commander Georgios Grivas (who came from Greece) founded the terrorist organization EOKA (Participant in Cypriot struggle for Independence and Cypriot intercommunal violence) in 1955. This terrorist organization’s activities and attacks increase continued against Turkish population on the island, with these attacks Turkish population left from 33 mixed village.

On the other side, Turkish Cypriots began organizing against Enosis and EOKA terror.


Greece’s applies didn’t be successful in UN, against this Turkey’s stability about supporting Turkish Cypriots prepared a negotiation environment. Greece and Turkey agreed in February 11, 1959 in Zurich, also happened an agreement in London with Britain and Greek & Turkish Cypriot leaders approval. Zurich and London agreements prepared a ground for independence, bi communal unity and equality. Also there was born an alliance agreement, this agreement was for two base region for Britain and Greece & Turkey’s military presence on the island.


Finally Republic of Cyprus was founded in August 16, 1960. This republic was a unity state with international agreement and was founded with considering island’s two ethnic group’s equality. Under Turkey, Greece and Britain’s patronage Cypriots security was guaranteed. But Greek (Cypriot) government’s attitude didn’t give a chance to Republic of Cyprus’s to live like how it was founded.

Cyprus’s President Makarios III claimed Zurich and London agreements gave unfair rights to Turkish Cypriots. Also he claimed that the 1960 constitution was invalid, on this way Makarios III sends an ultimatum to Cyprus’s Turkish Deputy President Fazil Kucuk in November 30, 1963. This ultimatum from President Makarios III was denied by Turkish Cypriots and Turkey.


After this development Makarios III government started systematic violence policies against Turkish Cypriots. These policies were based on “Akritas” plan. The aim of Akritas plan was the destruction of Turkish population and an ethnic cleansing plan against Turks on the island. Also this plan was called by Turks as well a “genocide attempt”.

Turkish Cypriots

More than 30.000 Turkish Cypriots left from more than 100 village with Akritas plan. Turkish population became refugees to small regions in North and stayed continuously under siege (this region covered island’s %3). Turkish Cypriots were subjected to discrimination, economic pressures and disconnected with the world. 1960 foundation constitution got to be shelved and the validity ended attacks totally in 1963 with pressures against Turkish Cypriots.


Attacks against Turks have reached horrible proportions in December 20, 1963. Two Turkish Cypriots were killed in their car in Nicosia’s Tahtakale district. First 30 Turkish villages stayed under attack, then this number reached 103 villages and Nicosia’s some parts were taken under siege. There were killed 9 more Turkish Cypriots in their house in Larnaka and Tuzla districts. Turkish population started leaving from regions which where under siege.

A reporter from Daily Herald reported these events in January 1, 1964 with these words; “I was horrified when I reached Turkish regions, except walls houses were destroyed totally.”

Reports told that there were killed more than 12 people in Ayvasil region in December 21-22, 1963. Short time after 30 people’s bodies were found near Ayvasil.


EOKA militants massacred a Turkish officer’s family in December 24, 1963 near Nicoasia. French reporter’s words from Le Figaro about this event; “…I saw in a bathroom the bodies of a mother and three infant children murdered because their father was a Turkish officer…”

This period resulted with hundreds of dead people and more than 10.000 Turkish Cypriots were forced to leave from their house. Events were called as well “Bloody Christmas”, official numbers are telling that there were killed 364 Turkish Cypriots and 174 Greek Cypriots during EOKA attacks. Britain, Greece and Turkey formed “Green Line” and “Peacekeeping Forces”. Green Line has divided Nicosia in two pieces.

United Nations sent peace corps to Cyprus with March 4, 1964 decision. Also Greece secretly sent military troops to the island on this period, these troops’ number reached 20.000 in short time. Republic of Cyprus actually passed Greek control and two ethnics state partnership crashed. Near this Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots left from each others totally.


A group colonels (George Papadopoulos and Nikolaos Makarezos) made military coup in Greece in April 21, 1967. This coup was called as the Regime of the Colonels. Junta government suggested some options to Turkey about Cyprus and West Thrace in Kesan and Alexandroupoli meetings. These options to foresee; Turkey will give control to Greece in Cyprus and against this, Greece will give some rights to Turkey in West Thrace. But junta government suggestions were denied by Turkey.

Greek Coup

After this developments organized some attacks to Turkish villages in Cyprus with Greece’s junta governments support. But junta government had to take back their powers UN’s supervision after Turkey’s warnings about intervention right to Cyprus (because of the international agreements).

Cyprus Coup

By the way there started disagreements in EOKA members on the island. Followed this EOKA-B leader Nikos Sampson’s coup against Makarios in July 15, 1974 (because president Makarios was afraid from Turkey’s intervention and he prefered an “economic war” against Turkish Cypriots). Sampson’s target was to reach Enosis and add Cyprus to Greece.


Against EOKA’s coup and attacks Turkish population in Cyprus, Turkey used rights which were born with the 1960 agreement. On this way Turkish army intervention in Cyprus in July 20, 1974 (called as the Cyprus Peace Operastion in Turkey). Cyprus’s junta government was destroyed with Turkey’s intervention, also Greek junta government left from head in Greece during this operation.

Turkish Soldiers

After Cyprus Peace Operation occurred population exchange in 1975. 120.000 Greeks passed from North to South, 65.000 Turks passed from South to North with this exchange and created two homogeneous parts. Also these two parts’ border was determined with Green Line.


Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s July 29, 1974 decision and Appellate Court in Athens March 21, 1979 decision defended Turkey’s intervention is legal. But some international foundations and UN called this intervention as “invasion”.

Photos and Maps: Piri Reis’s map, Global Security, Greek and Turkish archives

Turkish MFA resources are used in this article*

Click for “1974 events from a Greek Cypriot’s eyes”

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