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Politics

Marking Invasion Date, Greece’s President Wants Turkish Troops Off Cyprus

Repeating a futile gesture made for decades, Greece's President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said the goal of her country and Cyprus remains getting 35,000 Turkish troops off the northern third of the island occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion.

She spoke on the 46th anniversary of a second wave of an invasion that began a month earlier that year on July 20, the United States looking the other way and said to allow it to happen while the United Nations did nothing either.

With Turkey now planning to drill for energy off Greek islands as it's doing off Cyprus, the European Union issuing only soft sanctions in fear of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unleashing more refugees and migrants through Greek islands, she said those provocations “are not going to distract us from our national priorities,” said Kathimerini.

“I think of Famagusta behind barbed wire, its beach hotels that were once full of life in ruins, its streets grassy, its houses deserted, looted. A ghost town, an empty shell, surrendered to abandonment and decay. But I do not think of it as a dead city. Whatever is kept alive in memory never dies,” she said.

That was in reference to a ghost city on the Turkish side that was once a prospering resort drawing many celebrities and VIPs with Turkey off-and-on saying it would restore the city in violation of a UN resolution.

The second invasion lasted from Aug. 14-16 and settled the current borders, coinciding with the Aug. 16 anniversary now of the 1960 day of independence from British rule which held the island as a colony.

In a feature, Agence France-Presse noted how that day has lost its meaning to many  on Cyprus, overshadowed by the constant failures of reunification talks and Turkish provocations, including drilling for energy in Cypriot waters.

"At the time, independence was a compromise none of the conflicting sides had wanted or demanded," Hubert Faustmann, Professor of Political Science at the University of Nicosia told AFP.

Cyprus still hosts two British military bases and the island is heavily reliant on British tourists and ex-patriates to prop up the economy but now seems hopelessly divided into a permanent partition, rendering independence less of a reason to celebrate.

"Two British bases, a mess of a constitution when they left, and then Turkish occupation – what independence?" asked Georgios Afxentiou, a Greek Cypriot restaurateur on Nicosia's popular Ledra Street where the main checkpoint crossing allows people to go from side-to-side.

The island's majority Greek Cypriot community had fought in 1955-1959 for Enosis, a long-yearned union with "motherland" Greece and Turkey invaded in 1974 in what it said was a response to Greece trying to overthrow the government and make that happen.

After long, bloody fighting, Cyprus  accepted Britain's offer of independence in 1960, conditional on the United Kingdom keeping its military bases there but then there was fighting between Cypriots and Turks and the invasion.

The handover came the night of Aug. 15-16, 1960 from Britain's last Governor, Sir Hugh Foot, to Cyprus's first President, Greek-Orthodox Archbishop Makarios, in power until the invasion.

Independence day Aug. 16, when most Cypriots will themselves take to the beaches this year empty of tourists because of COVID-19, is "not really important," said Giannis Ioannou, founder of the think-tank Geopolitical Cyprus.

Professor Ahmet Sozen, chair of political sciences at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Famagusta, northern Cyprus, said: "For more than 90 per cent of Turkish Cypriots, it (Aug 16) does not mean anything. People do not even know it."

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