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1974: Turkey invades Cyprus

Thousands of Turkish troops have invaded northern Cyprus after last-minute talks in the Greek capital, Athens, failed to reach a solution.

Tension has been running high in the Mediterranean island since a military coup five days ago in which President Archbishop Makarios, a Greek Cypriot, was deposed.

The coup led to fears among the Turkish Cypriot community that the Greek-backed military rulers would ignore their rights and press for unification for Cyprus with Greece or enosis.

Archbishop Makarios became the republic's first elected president in 1959 only after agreeing to give up plans for a union with Greece.

A Turkish armada of 33 ships, including troop transporters and at least 30 tanks and small landing craft, has landed on the northern coast.

Airlifted to safety

The bulk of the Greek fleet put to sea last night from the island of Salamis.

There are reports of clashes between Greek and Turkish warships near Paphos, a port in south-western Cyprus.

Greek Cypriot forces on the island have been defending the northern coast, around Kyrenia.

The capital, Nicosia, has seen most of the fighting. Turkish paratroops and tanks have been battling for control of the airport - but they have met fierce resistance from the Greek forces.

Shops and offices in the Greek sector of the capital have been deserted since midday yesterday as rumour of the impending invasion spread.

In some parts of the city there were traffic jams as residents tried to flee to the safety of the countryside.

More than 4,500 Britons and other foreign nationals have been moved to the safety of army bases and others have been airlifted to safety in specially-chartered planes.

So far there has been no indication of the casualty figure, but it is thought the Greeks have suffered most from air strikes.

Although Greek military reports from Nicosia claim significant progress has been made against the Turkish forces. Several Turkish planes are reported to have been shot down and "enemy forces" kept out of Turkish Cypriot villages in the north of the island

The Turks have made it clear they will not settle for anything less than the removal of the newly-imposed Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Sampson.

In Context
US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, took the credit for persuading both sides to agree to a ceasefire on 22 July - on condition negotiations began immediately on the island's future.

The foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and Britain - as former colonial ruler - began talks on a new constitution on 25 July in Geneva, the European headquarters of the United Nations.

The talks broke down. Fighting broke out again as both sides fought to strengthen their position.

A second conference in August broke down when Turkish forces advanced to take control of nearly 40% of the island.

About 160,000 Greek Cypriots fled south or were expelled - about 50,000 Turkish Cypriots moved north a year later.

Talks to settle the crisis diplomatically failed. In February 1975, the Turks announced the establishment of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus, with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash becoming president. Eight years later they declared themselves an independent state which is recognised only by Turkey.

Talks have continued since to try to reconcile the two sides. In 2004 a referendum was held on a UN plan to reunite the island - it gained support from the Turkish side, but was overhwelmingly rejected by the Greeks.


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