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Divided island Cyprus to host Turkish, Greek leaders on critical date

Divided island Cyprus to host Turkish, Greek leaders on critical date
Divided island Cyprus to host Turkish, Greek leaders on critical date


As they seek to thaw their lukewarm relations, Trkiye and Greece could clash again on July 20. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be the first sitting Greek leader to attend an anti-occupation event on the island of Cyprus while President Recep Tayyip Erdoan will participate in a military parade and celebration on the Turkish Cypriot side on the same day of the island, according to media reports.

This date, celebrated as Peace and Freedom Day by Turkish Cypriots, is a memorial day for Greek Cypriots. On July 20, 1974, Trkiye launched the Cyprus peace operation after a coup attempt by Greek Cypriots on the island south of Trkiye. The operation, which ultimately prevented the incorporation of Cyprus into Greece, paved the way for strengthening the security of the Turkish Cypriot community. After two days, Trkiye suspended the operation and called on the United Kingdom and Greece to come to the negotiating table. Eventually, the Guarantor States signed the Geneva Declaration on July 30, 1974. Trkiye restarted the military operation on August 14 and two days later a ceasefire was declared, successfully closing the operation. But tragedy followed: withdrawing Greek Cypriot troops committed massacres in Turkish villages on their way back. Mass graves were discovered after the end of the peace operation. The Turkish army lost 498 soldiers during the operation, while 70 “mcahits” (Turkish Cypriot volunteer fighters) were killed during the operation.

About two months after the operation, the Turkish Cypriots declared their autonomy, and a year later announced the creation of the Turkish Cypriot federal state. In 1983, its name was changed to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Greek media reported that Mitsotakis would participate in anti-occupation events at the invitation of the head of the Greek Cypriot administration Nikos Christodoulides and would deliver a speech at an event on the evening of July 20.

Erdoan is expected to address the Turkish Cypriot Parliament and attend a military parade the same day. The Turkish leaders' schedule has not yet been confirmed, but he is expected to be accompanied to the island by the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Zgr Zel. The bitter rivals held rare talks after municipal elections in March and Erdoan invited him to Cyprus for Peace and Freedom Day events.

Although they will be in separate entities on the divided island, Erdoan and Mitsotakis are expected to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the NATO summit in the United States which begins on July 9. They will assess the progress of the rapprochement between the two countries. , two months after Mitsotakis was received by Erdoan in Ankara.

After a long period of tension marked by disputes over irregular immigration, the Cyprus dispute, energy exploration and territorial sovereignty in the Aegean Sea, Trkiye and Greece took confidence-building measures towards a fragile normalization of their relationships, which have entered a new chapter. with the historic visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdoan to Athens in December.

During the visit, both sides announced a declaration of friendship, visa facilitation for Turkish citizens for 10 Greek islands in the northern Aegean Sea for up to seven days and a decrease in the flow of irregular migrants to the Greece.

Although officials from both sides have expressed commitment to maintaining a positive climate, the problems are long-standing and deep-rooted, and neither side expects the process to proceed without turbulence, particularly in the Aegean Sea. where Turkish and Greek planes often clashed until very recently.

In early January, Ankara and Athens reached respective deals with Washington over fighter jets, raising concerns about further skirmishes in the region.

Ankara has repeatedly warned its neighbor against an arms race with Trkiye, particularly regarding the building of a military presence on the disputed Aegean islands since the 1960s, in violation of treaties under -war.

Greece's purchase of F-35 fighter jets from the United States and increased defense budgets aim to thwart the protection of Turkish interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece says it must defend the islands against a possible attack from Trkiye, but Turkish officials have said continued militarization of the islands could lead Ankara to question their ownership.

After their meeting in Ankara, Erdoan said there were no insoluble problems between the two countries, and both leaders praised the state of relations while pledging to further strengthen bilateral relations. “We had a constructive and positive meeting and discussed the problems in Greek-Greek relations. We will resolve the problems through dialogue,” Erdoan said at a joint press conference with Mitsotakis at the time. Erdoan said Ankara and Athens are committed to resolving issues through “cordial dialogue, good neighborly relations and international law”, as outlined in last year's Athens Declaration on Friendly Relations and good neighborliness.

However, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Dendias leveled accusations against Trkiye while asserting calm in relations in an interview published on Sunday. Speaking to the Kathimerini newspaper, Dendias claimed that Trkiye had adhered to revisionist views on several occasions and continued to “harass” ships and aircraft in Greek territorial waters and airspace. He also expressed doubts about full rapprochement and called on Ankara to take a courageous stance by accepting international laws on maritime borders. He also bluntly blamed Trkiye for blocking the resolution of the Cyprus issue due to his negative attitude.

The Sabah Daily News Bulletin

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