Having this column scheduled to be every Monday was always going to create an enormous elephant in the room if one of Cyprus’ “anniversaries” ever happened on a Monday. Today, for those unaware, is the 45th anniversary of the coup d’état performed by the Greek Army. This in turn triggered Turkish forces to conduct Operation Attila, which created the de facto division of Cyprus which has lasted to this day.
Whatever your personal belief on the matter, 15th July 1974 was a watershed moment for this country. The Republic of Cyprus had been broken for a long time before that moment, possibly since before its inception, but the coup that was staged 45 years ago today made the damage irreparable. The Republic of Cyprus effectively didn’t exist, and instead Cyprus was effectively in Greek hands, with the Greek Army having installed puppet leader Nikos Sampson as Cyprus’ president.
By the time the Greek junta in Cyprus fell, and took the Greek regime it was supported by with it, there was a small Turkish Force occupying about 3% of Cyprus’ land area. What followed that was barbarism, bungling, and confusion. Without willing to turn this entire column into a history lesson, 20th July 1974 was a day on which some of the worst atrocities in this island’s history were committed in places such as Limassol, the “peace talks” which took place over the summer yielded no result and only created confusion, and the summer ended with Turkey conducting another operation in which it took around a third of Cyprus’ land area.
the politics of “any day now” reigns supreme
Since then, as regards to the Cyprus Problem, little has changed. The area taken over in 1974 has since declared itself independent, but scant progress has been made to solve the problems created before, on, and after this day 45 years ago. Time, on this issue at least, has stood still since 1974. Beliefs and ideas which reality has long since rendered impossible are still deeply held, and among far too many people, the politics of “any day now” reigns supreme.
The politics of “any day now”, for those wondering, is a poisonous and anti-progressive ideology that has a stranglehold on Greek Cypriot politics. Large swathes of the political landscape are occupied by people who believe that any day now, things will go back to the way they were. Turkey will fold, a unitary state is possible, all the refugees (who at this point are all elderly) are all going to go back to their homes no matter what the circumstance, and everything will go back to how it was.
I sincerely believe that it’s “any day now” that has been the major barrier to a progress on the Cyprus Problem over the last 45 years. “Why would we agree to this compromise” goes the argument “when any day now it’s all going to go my way?”.
having been a negotiator since the seventies he knew full well that nothing but a federal solution was on the table
It was this belief that stalled the Annan Plan in 2004; Tasos Papadopoulos telling the world that he “took over an internationally recognised state and wouldn’t pass on a community” when having been a negotiator since the seventies he knew full well that nothing other than a federal solution had been on the table for thirty years at that point. It could even be argued that it was Greek Cypriots believing that “any day now” it would all be okay that led to the second Turkish operation in August 1974 but I’m not writing a history dissertation.
Following on with misguided Greek Cypriot beliefs, if I really wanted to stir the pot I’d mention something about the contrast in a seemingly permanent love-in for Greece among large swathes of the population in contrast to a deep hatred for Turkey in spite of both countries trying broadly similar things in Cyprus. Makarios himself called 15th July 1974 a Greek invasion, after all. However, I don’t want to get too sidetracked so I won’t go any further.
the longer it gets left unsolved, fhe less favourable the terms of reunification will be
The opposite to “any moment now” is reality. A unitary state as a solution to the Cyprus Problem will never happen, and the longer it gets left unsolved, the less favourable the conditions of reunification will be. Every day in northern Cyprus more people move in and more things are built. Further, as Turkey’s activity in the eastern Mediterranean of late has shown, no reunification is also not an option. Turkey can do what it wants in and around Cyprus now; the island is currently surrounded by Turkish Navy ships, and only a comprehensive solution and reunification will ever be able to put an end to that.
There may be some of you wondering why this column has been so heavily focused on Greek Cypriots, and the explanation for this is a couple more difficult truths. First of all, Turkish Cypriot voting patterns suggest a readiness and will for solution in a way that the Greek Cypriot equivalent does not. Depending on how lenient you’d like to be, Turkish Cypriots have voted two, three, or four times in favour of reunification since the turn of the century. Further, Turkish nationalists among the Turkish Cypriots have what they wish for at this moment: part of Cyprus under effective Turkish control. There is no need for “any day now” when in their minds, their moment has already come.
To attempt to summarise my thoughts into as few words as possible, I’ll say this. Thanks in a large part to the Greek Army, forty five years ago today Cyprus backed itself into a corner. Forty five years on it is still trying to fight through the corner it backed itself into rather than walking away from it in the opposite direction. It has been evident for well over four decades that the only possible solution to the Cyprus Problem is a federation, but for four decades too many people have been pretending that that is not the case.
Federation is the only solution. Any day now you’ll realise that yourself.