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Invasion anniversary: a day of grim remembrance
The Republic of Cyprus yesterday remembered those who fell during the 1974 Turkish invasion, as air raid sirens sounded across the island at 5.30 in the morning to mark its 38th anniversary.
The official memorial service was held at Panagia Faneromeni Church in Nicosia, under Archbishop Chrysostomos.
President Demetris Christofias, the Greek and Cypriot House speakers, ministers, military chiefs, the police leadership and party leaders were among those who attended.
Speaking during the service, former Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides said 38 years after the betrayal of the coup and barbaric invasion, Greek Cypriots continued to refuse to accept the consequences of the invasion, fighting for it to be reversed.
“This day of historic remembrance and mourning must be used to serve unity and not become an opportunity to regurgitate divisive passions of the past, which led us to the invasion and occupation,” said Ioannides.
He said Greek Cypriots should unite and fight as one for a better tomorrow and a free country.
“Today is a day of recollection and reflection,” said Ioannides, calling on the international community to exercise pressure on Ankara to change its stance, which he said was leading negotiations for a solution to a dead end.
“We don’t have delusions and we won’t stand for fake dilemmas,” he added. “We are ready for a solution but prepared to wait. And we will wait until we find a solution that combines a correct foreign policy, defensive shield and current circumstances.”
After the speech, wreaths were placed for those who fell during the invasion.
A memorial service was also held in Athens yesterday, in memory of the Greek soldiers who were killed in the invasion.
In a speech on Thursday night, President Christofias said people who didn’t take into account history, were condemned to making the same mistakes and as a country, we don’t have any more margins.
He said standing up for the historical truth was a precondition to achieve vindication for the people.
“Vindication can only happen with the end of the Turkish occupation and settling, and the reunification of the state and its people,” said Christofias. He referred to the Cyprus problem, the stance of Turkey and Ankara’s effort to impose partition.
“If there is partition in Cyprus, this will be a victory of our country’s enemies,” said Christofias.
Main opposition DISY leader and presidential candidate Nicos Anastasiades was in Ireland discussing the economy yesterday, when he commented on the anniversary.
“I am saddened by the fact that on the ill-fated day of the invasion, I am far from our country,” said Anastasiades.
He said collective action was demanded to deal with the “Turkish intransigence” and find a solution that represents the concerns, but also the expectations, of the Greek Cypriots.
EDEK leader and House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou called on the Turkish Cypriot to return the ghost town of Famagusta to its legal residents, which would consist “a first significant step in creating a positive climate to feed efforts to achieve a final solution”.
Just across the Green Line, just metres away, there was a different sense of feeling in the air. Turkish Cypriots’ take on the July 20 anniversary is on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Referring to the day as the “Peace Operation”, hundreds of Turkish Cypriots gathered to celebrate and hear the addresses of many a public figure.
Even members of the foreign press were invited to attend “the celebrations”.
Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu said that while Cypriots continued to dream of returning to a pre-1974 period, there would never be settlement to the Cyprus problem.
He said Greek Cypriots should “use common sense” and work towards finding a solution.
He added that his community was running out of patience and that steps to take their place in the world would be “taken as needed”.
Referring to the 20th of July as a “milestone” for the Turkish Cypriot people, Eroglu said that if there was no “peace operation”, they would not have their state today.
Referring to the pre-1974 era as “dark days”, Eroglu called on the United Nations to inform the Turkish Cypriot people on the real reasons why negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem had been interrupted.
“With revelation of the reality, peace can be constructed on the island,” he said, before criticising the EU for “not keeping its promises and punishing the Turkish Cypriots” and relaying the north’s “outrage” at this.