Patsourakos: Turkey Must End Its Control of Northern Cyprus

George Patsourakos, commentator on the AOI blog and editor of the Theology and Society blog, argues Turkey must end its occupation of Cyprus.

Map of divided Cyprus

South - free, North - occupied

Source: Theology and Society

For the first time since Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus in 1974, it was revealed by a former Turkish general this week that Turks secretly and intentionally burned down at least one mosque on the island at that time, in order to encourage Turks to be more aggressive in fighting Greeks.

Retired Turkish General Sabri Yirmibesoglu — speaking in an interview about military strategy on Turkey’s Haberturk TV channel — admitted that Turks burned (at least) a mosque to increase animosity toward Greeks in Cyprus. The retired general added that for Turkey it was “a rule of war to engage in acts of sabotage made to look as if they were carried out by the enemy.”

I find this military tactic to be barbaric, sacrilegious, and disgusting. I could never picture Greeks intentionally burning down a Greek Orthodox Church, so that Greeks would think that Turks did it, and thus would become more aggressive in fighting Turks. Moreover, burning down a mosque conveys sinful disrespect for Islam.

The war in Cyprus in 1974 was a result of the government of Greece — at that time a junta dictatorship — sending additional troops to the island. Archbishop Makarios, President of Cyprus in 1974, had asked Greece for Greek troops, because he believed they would help to protect the island from Turkish violence.

However, the Greek junta had secretly ordered the leaders of these troops to overthrow the Cypriot government itself, so that Cyprus — an independent nation — could become a part of Greece. The attempted rebellion failed to accomplish its mission, and Turkey took advantage of this situation by sending thousands of its troops to the island.

Turkey bombed parts of Cyprus and managed to take control of the northern third of the island. Turkey has continued to control this area of Cyprus to the present time — more than 35 years since its illegal seizure.

At the time of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus, the United States “looked the other way,” because of Turkey’s strategic geographical proximity with respect to Russia. In 1974, the Cold War between the United States and Russia was at its peak, and the U.S. felt it needed Turkey as an ally much more than it needed Greece, in the event of a major war between the two superpowers.

Although Turkey continues to illegally control the northern third of Cyprus, there are indications that it may soon relinquish this control. The fact is that Turkey wants to join the European Union (EU), but the EU has said it will not approve Turkey’s membership until Turkey ends its illegal control of Northern Cyprus. Greek and Turkish leaders in Cyprus have been conducting talks in recent months designed to establish an agreeable exit plan for Turkey.

Indeed, it would behoove Turkey to relinquish its control of Northern Cyprus and become a member of the European Union — and the sooner the better — for its own prosperity, and for a more harmonious interrelationship of the world community.

Care to Comment?