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OpEd on Cyprus: History and Context

Victoria's state member for the division of Northcote, Kat Theophanous, has recently delivered the message of WHIPA in the state parliament, falsifying history and levelling unsubstantiated allegations against Turkiye. WHIPA is an interparliamentary organisation set up by the Greek government to help deliver its foreign policy goals through the use of elected members with Greek heritage in Western countries. Theophanous' attempt is yet another example of how Greek-Cypriots across the world are appealing to Western public with their unwavering and biased propaganda about Turkiye's righteous intervention to the island in 1974. Here is the historical context through Turkish-Cypriot perspective to understand what went wrong and how can it be fixed in the island.

Historical Context:

The British Government in 1956 and again in 1958 confirmed that there are two distinct peoples co-inhabiting the island of Cyprus, each with its separate right of self-determination.

It was through the exercise of this right that the two peoples decided to establish the bi-national partnership Republic of Cyprus of 1960; and it was in confirmation of this right that they voted on the UN Plan for the Settlement of the Cyprus Problem (the Annan Plan) in the separate, simultaneous referenda of 24 April 2004.

The bi-communal partnership Republic, thus established by the Agreements of Zurich and London, was usurped by force of arms by the Greek Cypriot partner in 1963, a mere three years after its establishment, through the ejection of the Turkish Cypriot partner from the entire state mechanism, in the name of union with Greece or Enosis.

Today, it remains solely as a Greek Cypriot administration.

The last violent instance of the Greek Cypriot campaign for Enosis was the coup d’état by EOKA B on 15 July 1974.

EOKA B backed by Athens’ fascist junta as early as 1960s began using violence and intimidation against both the Turkish population and the Greek-Cypriot leader and an advocate of a power-sharing agreement with Turks, Archbishop Makarios III himself. EOKA B wanted unification with Greece, in accordance with the plans that were devised by high level Greek officials.

During the massacres of Maratha, Santalaris, Aloda, Tochni and Kiti, EOKA B forces massacred hundreds of Turks. The mass graves of these atrocities have recently been unearthed.

Many members of the Turkish-Cypriot community across the world carry the scars of witnessing these atrocities against members of their families.

Following the coup, Makorios fled the island, and told the UN Security Council that the coup was an “invasion of the island” by Greece.

Why Turkish Army is in Cyprus?

Ayse goes on holiday.

On 20 July, Turkish Republic Armed forces landed on the island exercising its right as a guarantor based on a 1960 treaty undersigned by Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and the United Kingdom. The code call for the operation was Ayse goes on holiday, famously known by every Turk in the world.

Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit then told the press on the morning of the operation that Turkish army was going to the island to bring peace not only to Turks but to Greeks as well.

Article IV of 1960 treaty reads as follows:

In the event of a breach of the provisions of the present Treaty, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom undertake to consult together with respect to the representations or measures necessary to ensure observance of those provisions.

In so far as common or concerted action may not prove possible, each of the three guaranteeing Powers reserves the right to act with the sole aim of re-establishing the situation created by the present Treaty.

Turkish Republic never had the intention to occupy the island, as then the Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit told, the Turkish army could easily carry on their march all the way to the southernmost part of Cyprus with ease.

During the period of violence, which came to an end with Turkiye’s peace keeping intervention, over 100 thousand people from each side had been displaced.

Many members of the Australian Turkish-Cypriot community can attest to their pain and suffering arising from their displacement over the years of conflict before the Turkish Peace Operation.

In the absence of a desire to provide the Turkish population of the island guarantees for their safety and equality, the Turkish Republic’s presence in Cyprus continues to be a necessity.

What Does the Australian Turkish-Cypriot Community Want?

The Australian Turkish-Cypriot community along with Turkish-Cypriots across the world believe that there are two distinct peoples in Cyprus, each with a right to self-determination.

We argue that the Greek Cypriot side has repeatedly rejected proposals for a federal settlement for almost 50 years.

As former Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Rolandis publicly admitted, the Greek Cypriot side has rejected at least 16 settlement plans and proposals under the UN process.

Time has come to try a new approach after almost 50 years of inconclusive negotiations.

The Greek Cypriot side continues to refuse to share Cyprus with the Turkish Cypriots as co-owners of the island.

After decades of unsuccessful negotiations, the Turkish Cypriot position, supported by the Turkish government, is that the time has long come to reflect on and draw lessons from the underlying reasons that led to the failure of previous negotiations processes and the inability of the Greek Cypriot side to accept a power sharing settlement under a

federal roof with the Turkish Cypriots which would require sharing governance and wealth.

The Greek Cypriot side has not been able to overcome the obsession that it sees the island of Cyprus as a Greek/Hellenic Island, which is the main stumbling block standing in the way of a settlement.

Consequently, the Turkish Cypriot side, through the election of President Ersin Tatar, have given him the mandate to seek a new ‘thinking outside the box’ approach, as also suggested by the United Nations Secretary-General in his relevant reports.

In the context of the above, a settlement based on the sovereign equality of the two sides, their equal international status, with two States coexisting side by side and are in a cooperative relationship has been put forward by the Turkish Cypriot side and put on the table at the Five-plus-United Nations informal meeting in Geneva at the end of April 2021.

This would enable the two existing States to build trust and confidence between each other through cooperation in the fields of trade, natural resources, tourism, environment etc. in a forward-looking perspective. This approach would also enable the two sides to build bridges on cooperation and provide a strong basis for sustainable peace and stability for future generations.

Based on lessons drawn from the previous processes, the Turkish Cypriot side is consequently aiming at turning a new page in the history of the negotiating process in Cyprus that will not repeat the failures of the past.

As stated before, the Turkish Cypriot side’s new approach is in line with the repeated suggestions in the relevant reports of the former Secretary-General, H.E. Ban Ki-Moon, to “think outside the box”; and the suggestion in the report of the current Secretary-General, H.E. Antonio Guterres dated 28 September 2017 (S/2017/814), which, among other things, “…encouraged the parties to reflect on the way forward”.

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