Cyprus marks 46th ‘dark anniversary’ of Greek coup

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Sirens screeched across Cyprus Wednesday to mark the dark events of July 15, 1974, when a Greek army engineered coup toppled the government in Nicosia leading to the Turkish invasion five days later.

At the exact time, the coup took place to oust democratically elected President late Archbishop Makarios III sirens wailed at 0820 when tanks rolled into Nicosia as planned by the Greek military junta.

Events condemning the coup and the subsequent Turkish invasion are taking place in Cyprus and where there is a strong Cypriot diaspora.

A memorial service took place in Nicosia in the presence of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades,  political party leaders, government officials and other dignitaries.

“Today is a day to honour those who sacrificed their lives but also a day of reflection on the consequences of the betrayal,” said Anastasiades.

The President will also attend a special session of the House of Representatives, to denounce the coup and the Turkish invasion and honour those who sacrificed their life to defend democracy.

Wreaths were laid at the tombs of those killed defending the Republic.

In 1967, a military junta seized power in Greece.

The relationship between that regime and President Makarios was tense from the outset and became increasingly strained.

Makarios was convinced that the Athens junta was involved in efforts to undermine his authority and policies through extremist underground organizations in Cyprus conspiring against him.

Under the slogan “Alexander has entered the hospital,” the head of Greek military forces in Cyprus Brigadier Michael Georgitsis announced to the leadership of the Greek junta, in the morning of July 15, 1974, the start of the coup against President Makarios.

Makarios had just returned to the Presidential Palace in Nicosia from his weekend retreat at Troodos.

As the coup was unfolding in central Nicosia, the President was meeting with a group of Greek children from Egypt.

As shooting became heavy as the Presidential Palace came under attacked by the National Guard, Makarios escaped from an unguarded passage in the west side of the Palace.

While the state radio announced his death, Makarios addressed the people from a local radio station in Paphos, saying “You know this voice… I am Makarios and I am alive…“, encouraging them to resist the coup.

Makarios, the first President of the Republic, fled the country.

He boarded a British military aircraft and went to London via Malta, where on July 17 he met with British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Foreign Secretary James Callaghan.

The United States called for support for the independence of Cyprus and urged all states to do likewise, while Secretary of State Henry Kissinger rejected a proposal to support the ousted Makarios.

From London Makarios went to New York to address the United Nations, urging the international community to help restore legality on the island of Cyprus.

The coup provided Turkey with a pretext to launch an invasion on July 20 landing on a Kyrenia beach head – only  75 kilometres from the Turkish mainland.

In a two-phase military intervention in July and August, and despite calls from the UN Security Council for the quick restoration of constitutional order, Turkish troops advanced and occupied 36.2% of Cyprus, creating 200,000 refugees.

Cyprus remains divided 46 years later.