1960 Republic of Cyprus
1974 Greek Coup d'etat & Turkish Intervention 

Archbishopric ruins: shortly after its takeover by the Greek coup forces

After 1967 some hopes arose that a compromise on separate municipalities could be achieved in negotiations between Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash and certainly agreement came close, but the Makarios government could not accept de jure separateness, which would have denied the principle of the unitary, if bi-communal, state.

Inter-communal strife was also overshadowed during this period by a serious rift on the Greek side, between Makarios and the enosist National Front supported by the Greek junta. Makarios had now become an obstacle to enosis. An attempt was made on his life, and Grivas returned in 1971 to head a new organisation, EOKA-B, with Makarios, rather than the Turkish-Cypriots, in its sight. 

Makarios was told from Athens to dismiss his foreign minister and to regard Athens as the National Centre. Makarios rallied supporters successfully against attempts to remove him. He was still popular in Cyprus.

Makarios flees the island

President Makarios flees the island upon the coup by Greek soldiers

Matters became worse when a new junta came to power in September 1973, and there was less relief from rightist pressure than might have been expected when Grivas died suddenly in January 1974. The pressure mounted until a coup in July 1974 led by a `hammer of the Turks' Nicos Sampson, overthrew Makarios, who managed to flee the country via a British base. For Turkey this raised the spectre of Greek control of Cyprus. [Later, in his address to the UN Security Council, Makarios called the Greek attempts as the invasion of the island by Greece].

Turkish Intervention

Turkish forces landing in Kyrenia, Cyprus

Turkish forces landing in Cyprus

The Turkish government therefore now demanded that Greece should dismiss Sampson, withdraw all Greek officers from the island and respect the island's independence. The junta prevaricated. For the United States, Kissinger did not seem to be greatly disturbed by the Sampson coup and looked as if he could accept enosis.

Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit's assertiveness in foreign policy, reinforced by his junior coalition partner strongly inclined the Turks to intervene. The British were invited to participate in military operations, under the Treaty of Guarantee, but declined. The American envoy Joseph Sisco tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Greek junta to accept Ecevit's conditions for a Cyprus settlement, which included Turkish-Cypriot control of a coastal region in the north and negotiations for a federal solution. The Soviet Union stood aside not wanting to see enosis, which would strengthen NATO and weaken the left in Cyprus.

Turkish paratroopers landing in Cyprus

Turkish paratroopers landing in Cyprus

Turkey intervened on 20 July 1974, having the right to do so unilaterally as concerted action had not proved possible. Under the 1960 Treaty, Turkey's sole object could be to re-establish the state of affairs guaranteed by the basic articles of the 1960 Constitution. The coup d'etat was of course ipso facto unconstitutional and was said by Makarios himself to be an attempt to extend Greek dictatorship to the island. The Turkish intervention was first welcomed by the world generally; it led to the overthrow of the military regime in Athens and of Sampson in Cyprus.

Launched with relatively few troops, the Turkish landing had limited success at first, and resulted everywhere on the island in the occupation of Turkish-Cypriot enclaves by the Greek forces. After securing a more or less satisfactory bridgehead Turkish forces agreed to a cease-fire on 23 July 1974. The same day civilian government under Karamanlis took office in Athens, the day the Sampson coup collapsed. Glafcos Clerides became the Acting President in absence still of Makarios.

A conference of the guarantor powers, Greece, Turkey and Britain, met in Geneva on 25 July. Meanwhile Turkish troops did not refrain from extending their positions, as more Turkish-Cypriot enclaves were occupied by Greek forces. A new cease-fire line was agreed. On 30 July the powers agreed that the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island should be linked to a `just and lasting settlement acceptable to all parties concerned'. The declaration also spoke of `two autonomous administrations -that of Greek-Cypriot community and that of the Turkish-Cypriot community'.

Division of the island

Landing of the Turkish soliders in Cyprus in 1974

Landing of the Turkish solidier in Cyprus, July 1974

At the second Geneva Conference on 9 August, Turkey pressed for a federal solution to the problem against stiffening Greek resistance. Whilst Turkish Cypriots wanted a bi-zonal federation, Turkey, under American advice, submitted a cantonal plan involving separation of Turkish-Cypriot areas from one another. For security reasons Turkish-Cypriots did not favour cantons. Each plan embraced about thirty-four per cent of the territory.

These plans were presented to the conference on 13 August by the Turkish Foreign Minister, Turan Güneş. Clerides wanted thirty-six to forty-eight hours to consider the plans, but Güneş demanded an immediate response. This was regarded as unreasonable by the Greeks, the British and the Americans who were in close consultation. Nevertheless, the next day, the Turkish forces extended their control to some 36 per cent of the island. they were afraid that delay would turn international opinion strongly against them if Greek spoiling tactics were given a chance and they were determined to come to the rescue of greatly threatened Turkish Cypriots whose enclaves were still occupied by Greek forces. Up to 160,000 Greek-Cypriots went to South when the fighting started. Some 50,000 Turkish-Cypriots later (1975) moved to the North.

Cover of the Time magazine - 29 July 1974Turkey's international reputation suffered as a result of the precipitate move of the Turkish military to extend control to a third of the island. The British Prime Minister regarded the Turkish ultimatum as unreasonable since it was presented without allowing adequate time for study. In Greek eyes the Turkish proposals were submitted in the full awareness that the Greek side could not accept them and reflected the Turkish desire for a military base in Cyprus. The Greek side has gone some way in their proposals by recognising Turkish `groups' of villages and Turkish administrative `areas'. But they stressed that the constitutional order of Cyprus should retain its bi-communal character based on the co-existence of the Greek and Turkish communities within the framework of a sovereign, independent and integral republic. Essentially the Turkish side's proposals were for geographic consolidation and separation and for a much larger measure of autonomy for that area, or those areas, than the Greek side could envisage.

History has bequeathed to Cyprus a legacy of strife, in which the years from 1960 to 1974 have a special place. It has aptly been observed that the Turkish-Cypriots cannot forget those years and that the Greek- Cypriots cannot remember them [quoted from Reddaway, 1990, "Odi et Amo: Vignettes of an Affair with Cyprus", p.83, his source being an unnamed diplomat].

  • From: C.H. Dodd, (1993), `Cyprus: A Historical Introduction', in C.H. Dodd (ed.), "The Political, Social, and Economic Development of Northern Cyprus", Eothen Press, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England.

Chronological History