July 20, 2011, marks 37 years since the Turkish military invasion and subsequent occupation of 37% of Cyprus` territory by Turkey. Today, Cyprus pays tribute to those killed during the invasion and those still missing, with memorials and other commemorative events in the southern government-controlled areas of the Republic. Air-raid sirens wailed at 0530 local time (0230 GMT), when the Turkish invasion was launched 37 years ago with the landing of Turkish troops on the island`s northern shores.
In the morning, a memorial service for army officers and soldiers killed during the invasion takes place at Makedonitissa Tomb in Nicosia, in the presence of Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, Greek National Defence Minister Panayiotis Beglitis, representatives of the Hellenic Parliament and other officials. An official memorial service will be held at Faneromeni Church in Nicosia in the presence of President Christofias. A series of other anti-occupation events will take place during the day. Political parties have issued statements condemning the Turkish invasion and continuing occupation.
Turkish troops invaded Cyprus on 20 July 1974, following a coup that toppled the legal government of the Republic which was engineered with the Greek military junta. In a two-phase invasion and despite repeated calls by the UN Security Council, Turkey occupied 37% of the sovereign territory of the Republic. Ankara continues to maintain some 40,000 troops in the northern areas of Cyprus it occupies, in complete disregard to appeals for their withdrawal and calls to contribute to a political settlement through peace talks.
The consequences of Turkey’s illegal aggression were devastating and are still felt today by the people of this new EU member-state. Not least among these is the gross violation of human rights, with hundreds still listed as missing, Greek Cypriot refugees in anticipation of a solution that would allow them to return home, enclaved Greek Cypriots being deprived of fundamental rights and the island’s 9,000 year old cultural heritage being pillaged.
President Christofias is engaged in UN-led peace talks with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community since September 2008 in an effort to find a negotiated settlement that would reunite the country, under a federal roof. So far, little progress has been achieved, but talks will intensify in the coming months.