Cypriots remember invasion

NICOSIA – Calls for a new push to end Cyprus’s division came from the Turkish-Cypriot leader yesterday, while the country’s president vowed not to be pushed into an unacceptable deal, as the two sides marked the 31st anniversary yesterday of Turkey’s invasion. «I repeat my appeal to the Greek-Cypriot side for peace and friendship,» Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the Turkish Cypriots, said at a ceremony in Turkish-occupied northern Nicosia. «We have extended our hand in peace to the Greek-Cypriot people and we are waiting for them to take it,» he said, as tanks and armored vehicles paraded past and a military aerobatics team performed overhead. «I appeal to the Greek-Cypriot side to fulfill the demands of the UN secretary-general… and come to the negotiating table,» Talat said. «We are ready for any peace initiative.» Earlier, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said after a memorial ceremony that «31 years is a long time, but time will not pressure us to accept a solution that won’t secure our physical or national survival of Hellenism in Cyprus.» «We seek a settlement as soon as possible, a solution based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation,» he added. The Turkish Cypriots voted overwhelmingly in favor of a UN-sponsored reunification plan in April 2004, but the plan was killed off by a strong «no» vote from the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot side. That ensured that the Greek Cypriots alone joined the European Union on May 1, 2004, leaving the Turkish Cypriots out in the cold. Both Ankara and the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus are eager to resolve the conflict, which remains a major stumbling block to Turkey’s efforts to join the EU and keep the Turkish Cypriots internationally isolated. «EU membership is our common strategic objective,» said Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who also participated in the ceremonies. «We support the Turkish-Cypriot people’s desire to join the EU, but this should not happen at any price.» «The Turkish Cypriots will continue to be conciliatory as long as the hand they have extended is not ignored,» he said. Gul urged the EU to fulfill a 2004 pledge to provide economic aid and ease trade restrictions on the island’s Turkish-held north as a reward for Turkish-Cypriot support of the UN peace plan. The EU measures have been blocked by the Greek Cypriots. Ankara has for years propped up the island’s Turkish-held north, which became a self-proclaimed state in 1983, nine years after the Turkish invasion split the island into a Turkish north and a Greek south, still divided by a UN-manned buffer zone. In the south, the majority Greek Cypriots marked the invasion as a «black anniversary,» while their Turkish neighbors celebrated the intervention that followed years of bloody intercommunal strife as a «peace operation» that saved them from Greek-Cypriot violence. Sirens wailed across the south to mark the exact time of the invasion. At 5.30 a.m. on July 20, 1974, Turkish troops landed on a northern beachhead in Kyrenia five days after Greek-Cypriot rebels, backed by Greece’s junta, overthrew then president Archbishop Makarios. There was a church service in Nicosia and an official wreath-laying ceremony in memory of the nearly 3,000 dead and missing during the invasion. Some 200,000 Greek Cypriots were made refugees as Turkish forces swept across the north of the island toward the capital Nicosia, meeting only small pockets of resistance. Political and refugee groups have also organized gatherings throughout the day to condemn the Turkish invasion and demand the withdrawal of Turkish troops so people can return to their homes. Efforts to revive the peace process remain on the United Nations back burner until a more conducive climate on the island is perceived. US re-endorses UN-backed blueprint for Cyprus reunification WASHINGTON (AP) – On the eve of the anniversary of the Turkish invasion that tore Cyprus apart, the United States again endorsed a peace plan already rejected by Greek Cypriots as the only way to settle the island’s 31-year-old separation. «The hope for settlement of the Cyprus issue is the Annan plan,» State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said in Washington on Tuesday, «and we believe that it behooves all parties to engage with renewed commitment and vigor and energy and creativity on the basis of that plan to help resolve this longstanding issue.» Ereli refused a Greek correspondent’s requests that he discuss the invasion. «I’m not going to go back 30 years. I’m going to say what our focus now is and what our view of the future is, and that’s the Annan plan.» «There is a solution at hand. There was a solution at hand and unfortunately, it was rejected.» Ereli said the Annan plan «remains a basis for discussion. It remains a basis for resolution, and the United States continues to work actively in support of the plan and with all the parties to see if we can’t find a way to move forward on the basis of it.»

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