The interest of Greek politicians, media and citizens in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the risks it poses for all of us is understandably huge. Yet, we appear to ignore or overlook the importance of another invasion of another independent European state: that of Turkey against Cyprus, 48 years ago, which was more than an invasion; it is an ongoing occupation.
The events of the present inevitably recall those of July and August 1974, and stir images of the 40,000 Turkish soldiers occupying the northern part of Cyprus today and enforcing the division of the island.
With the passage of time and the repeated failed attempts to resolve the Cyprus issue, the discussion has become so distorted that the country which did the invading openly states that the best solution would be dividing the island into two separate and independent states. In short, it is seeking the legitimization of its invasion and occupation.
The Greek side is well positioned to remind the international community of this reality now that the entire world’s attention is so intensely focused on the Russian invasion.
The arguments are well known and well documented and do not need to be hammered home for risk of losing their power and usefulness.
But what Greek politicians and diplomats can do is tactfully bring up in bilateral meetings and international fora the fact that Hellenism knows what is going on in Ukraine better than most because a part of it, Cyprus, was invaded by a neighboring country a few decades ago and brought pain and destruction, as all military attacks do.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s planned address to the Greek Parliament next week will be a very good opportunity for some smart messaging to the rest of the world along these lines.
As for the people who support Moscow and its actions, they cannot possibly look at Russia’s invasion of a smaller and weaker neighbor without being reminded of 1974 and what Turkey did to Cyprus.
A lot can be said – and is being said – about the West’s role in how the Ukraine crisis unfolded. There is a lot of blame to go around. An objective analysis of developments includes serious criticism of unfortunate statements, excessive promises and mistaken moves that exacerbated the situation.
Be that as it may, there is absolutely no excuse for what Russia has done – just as there is no excuse for Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus.