A war of words has sprung up between Greece and Cyprus, on the one hand, and the Swedish presidency of the European Union on the other, regarding the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
On Monday July 21 Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs that the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 should be seen in its historic context as a reaction to the Greek coup attempt on the island.
Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras issued a statement the following day saying that “The coup cannot form an excuse for the invasion and occupation for the past 35 years of a portion of the Republic of Cyprus. It cannot form an excuse for the blatant violation of international law and human rights.”
Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said on July 23, “The least I can say is to express my disappointment over the positions expressed by the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs... We expect the country holding the presidency to act and express itself in the framework of community solidarity.”
In July 1974, Greece's ruling dictator, Colonel Dimitrios Ioannidis, dispatched the Cypriot National Guard under Nikos Sampson to depose elected leader Archbishop Makarios, and form a government more pliant to the dictatorship in Athens. Invoking its right to intervene unilaterally under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, Turkey launched an invasion on July 20, which, by late August, had occupied 37 percent of the island. Approximately 200,000 Greek-Cypriots lost their homes.
“At the time, Col. Yeorgios Papadopoulos was the leader of the military junta in Athens. The junta in Athens started a series of incidents in Cyprus which led to this [invasion]. This is the reality. There cannot be any junta in EU members,” the official Turkish Anatolia News Agency quoted Bildt as saying.
In answer to a reporter's question on Cyprus Bildt later expressed hope for a solution: “I think that we are at a rather unique moment in history in the sense that both [Cypriot] President Chistofias and [Turkish-Cypriot leader] Mr Talat are convinced of the need to overcome the division. It's 20 years since the fall of the wall in Berlin. We still have a capital in Europe that is divided. I don't think we should lose any time in overcoming that.”
Bildt also expressed urgency: “We should be aware of the fact that success will bring great benefits but failure will also have major consequences. There will not be a status quo. It's a question of seeking a solution or entering another situation which is somewhat difficult to see exactly how that will evolve... If I were from Cyprus I would say that the deadline is yesterday.”