NICOSIA — With a celebratory parade on one side and somber memorial services on the other, the two sides of divided Cyprus on July 20 marked the 40th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion that cleaved the island along ethnic lines.
The contrasting commemorations have become emblematic of the country’s division as renewed negotiations strive to reunify the country under an envisioned federation. Many other rounds of talks over four decades have failed.
In the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south, the chilling shriek of air raid sirens sounded at dawn, the exact moment the invasion unfolded. Turkey invaded after a coup that aimed to unite the island with Greece in 1974. State radio hosted callers reminiscing about lost homes, desperate battles and forgotten heroes.
Cyprus is now split into a Turkish-speaking north and Greek-speaking south. Turkish Cypriots declared independence in 1983, but only Turkey, which keeps some 35,000 troops in the north, recognizes it.
Following a memorial at a cemetery where the remains of hundreds of soldiers are interred, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said 40 years is too long for the island to remain divided. He urged Turkish Cypriots to move beyond pronouncements of good will and embrace a future of unity.
In the breakaway north, Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu told crowds at a military parade that the invasion had ensured a place where his people can live in peace.
He said a peace accord can never leave Turkish Cypriots under the thumb of the majority Greek Cypriots and that Turkey’s military protection must remain.
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, who observed the parade, said a peace deal is possible based on the realities on the ground.