Turkey’s New Warning to Cyprus: “Remember 1974” Invasion

Αssociated Press

FILE - A Turkish, left, and Turkish Cypriot breakaway flag are seen on two polls at a Turkish military area at the north part of the city, as two peacekeepers walk the U.N buffer zone that divide the Greek, south, and the Turkish Cypriots, north, controlled areas in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Ignoring denunciations from the European Union and United States over its plans to drill for energy off Cyprus, a Turkish official gave a stark warning in a chilling message calling on Cypriots to “Remember 1974,” when the island was invaded and one-third seized.

Turkey is upset that the legitimate government of Cyprus that is a member of the EU has licensed foreign companies to look for oil and gas in a designed Exclusive Economic Zone that Ankara doesn’t recognize.

With tensions rising and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades looking for support, Omer Celik, spokesman of Turkey’s ruling AKP party said that, “It would be good for Anastasiades to remember 1974 and keep it fresh in his memory,” Kathimerini said.

The invasion in 1974, he said, had been aimed at “protecting the lives, rights and interests of Turkish Cypriots,” with Turkey still unlawfully occupying the northern third at the same time it doesn’t recognize the legitimate government yet wants to join the EU.

Anastasiades had earlier said that Turkey’s plans to drill in Cyprus’ EEZ was like another invasion of the island and Celik said that his country has sent two research vessels into the area, protected by the Turkish Navy.

He also criticized Greek and Cypriot leaders for “signing deals with countries that have problems with Turkey,” in an apparent reference to Israel which is working on energy deals with the two countries.

With Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepping up his bombast, Cypriot officials said talks were going ahead with the French-Italian consortium Total and ENI for an exploration license for Block 7 in Cyprus’ EEZ.

An ENI vessel had previously been scared off by a Turkish warship but the US energy giant ExxonMobil, with ships from the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the region, has been drilling and said it found a large field of gas.

Erdogan told Turkish cadets that the country wouldn’t tolerate “increasing attempts to violate our rights in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean,” as Turkey has sent fighter jets and warships to violate Greek airspace and making incursions off Cyprus.

“You will give a response of steel to any threat to an inch of our borders but also beyond our borders,” he told the cadets, indicating he was willing to act militarily outside of Turkey although that could bring in Greece, a fellow member of NATO which has butted out so far.

EU officials keep putting out press releases backing Cyprus but without an army, the bloc can’t do anything else and in the last couple of years has simultaneously been chastising and praising Turkey to keep Erdogan from flooding Greek islands with more refugees and migrants still being sent by human traffickers.