Ryan Botsford

PS 472/ S98

Professor Raymond Tanter



Why did Turkey invade Cyprus in 1974? Why has Turkey maintained control, by the imposition of occupational forces, of the northern part of the island, the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, despite resolutions by the United Nations condemning the action, and sanctions imposed by the European Union on the occupied northern part?


In order to resolve the puzzle, the history of the island and of the influences of outside powers must be presented. Although my intent is not to present a detailed historical account of the islands past, a description of the intricate events leading up to the 1974 invasion is necessary. As a result of its geographical position, Cyprus has had, to say the least, an eventful past. The introduction of the Greek language and culture to the island by the Mycenean Greeks took place in the 13th century BC. The Greek language has been retained by the Greek Cypriots living on the island today, and its slight variations from the Greek language used in Greece today is said to exist because of its greater similarity to the ancient Greek language.

After becoming part of the kingdom of Alexander the Great, Cyprus became a province of the Great Roman Empire until the 4th century AD when it was included in the eastern part of the Roman Empire which eventually became the Byzantine empire. In the 12th century AD during the Crusades, King Richard Coeur de Lion, conquered the island briefly before it came under the rule of the Lusignan family. In 1489 Cyprus became part of the republic of Venice and in 1571 it was conquered by the Ottomans which ruled the island and Greece until the 19th century.

As a result of these events Cyprus is populated by both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, with a majority of 81,7% being Greek Cypriot and a minority of 18,3% being Turkish Cypriot. Although the two populations have demonstrated their ability to live together in harmony, this population mixture has partially contributed to the situation at present. The most decisive factors determining the present state though, are the events that followed the occupation of Cyprus by the Ottomans, which can be analyzed using prospect theory.

In 1878, following the expansionary policy pursued by Tsarist Russia and Turkey’s subsequent defeat in the 1877 and 1878 Russo-Turkish war, Turkey induced the British to administer Cyprus in a move serving as a warning to Russia that any attempt to expand toward the Dardanelles would conflict directly with British interest. This did not put Turkey in a direct domain of losses. Turkey retained nominal tittle of Cyprus while receiving approximately $500,000 annually in rent from the British who received complete control of the island.

The first instance that could have put Turkey in the domain of losses, with regards to Cyprus, would have been the approval of the petition for enosis (Greek, "union") put forth in 1879 by the archbishop and the Greek community. The political amalgamation of Cyprus and the, then, Kingdom of Greece was denied. The first instance that actually put Turkey in the domain of losses, was its decision to join the Central Powers in WWI. This decision gave reason for Britain to nullify the agreement. After annexing Cyprus, the British offered it to Greece under the condition that they joined the war on the Allied side. The offer was withdrawn though after Greece failed to make a decision before the one-week deadline. Cyprus became an official crown colony two years after the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). Under the terms of the treaty Turkey formally recognized British possession of Cyprus.

Although Cyprus was not united with Greece during WWI, the fact that Britain was considering such an agreement, probably due to the previous petition for enosis, may have been the beginning of a build up of an unmotivated bias on the part of Turkey with regards to her threat perception of Greece. It must have become clear at that point to Turkey that renormalization, from the Turkish point of view, of the status quo that preceded the consents of the Russo-Turkish war was not so much dependent on the British, since they could be considered an imperial power that would sustain control as long as there was an economic profit involved. Such control can easily be view as temporary and negotiable. The real threat to Turkey’s eyes was, and is, Greece. The ethnic ties involved between Greece and Cyprus would yield a much stronger grip on the island. Such a union must be avoided at all costs if there is to be any chance for Turkey to regain control over Cyprus. Any further movements for enosis will increase the influence of bias on threat perception.

In 1931, following growing resentment over government measures, serious riots resulted in the British abolishing the legislative council and banning all political parties. These events buried the enosis issue until after WWII ended. In 1946, after the issue began to create tension, Britain proposed constitutional reforms leading to self-government on Cyprus. Turkish unmotivated bias begun building up again as a communist-controlled Cypriot organization, AKEL (Anorthotikon Komma Ergazomenou Laou), that strongly supported the enosis movement, was attracting considerable following. The tension heightens though when in 1948 the bishop of Cyprus, Mihail Mouskos, later Makarios III, began to organize support for enosis through the Church of Cyprus to exclude Communist influence and to restore the temporal power of the church.

The effect that an organization combining Christian Orthodoxy and enosis has on the interests of Muslim Turkey is much more deep-rooted than that of a communist party. Actually, a communist party would have had a much tougher time promoting enosis since it would have to challenge the anti-Communist interests of the British and of the soon to be, after the five year civil war between supporters of communism and democracy, democratic Greece. Thus the enosis movement by Mouskos was a stronger, ethnically and politically ideological. In January 1950, even though a church hierarchy polled the Greek community and found 95.7% favoring it, the British refused a request by Mouskos for a plebiscite on enosis. In October of that year, Bishop Mouskos is elected archbishop primate of Cyprus, with the title Makarios III, and becomes the recognized leader of the enosis movement. There is now a leader representing the religious and political interests of the majority of the population in Cyprus.

In the years following Makarios’ election an underground organization known as the National Organization of Cypriot Struggle (EOKA) instituted a sabotage campaign against the British following an announcement that the strategic position of Cyprus made it impossible to discuss any change in the political status of the island. The result of the turmoil was an unsuccessful attempt by Greece to bring the question of Cyprus before the United Nations General Assembly in August 1954. Turkey took advantage of the subsequent UN discussion, to announce its opposition to the union of Cyprus with Greece and to declare that if Great Britain withdrew from Cyprus, the island should revert to Turkey. This announcement clearly shows to the international community the expansionary interests Turkey has.

Turmoil increased, and British attempts to end the dispute by conference with the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey in 1955 failed. The Greek Orthodox enosis movement renewed its strength with the release of Makarios in 1957, after violent reaction, which forced the British to declare a state of emergency, took place following his exile in 1956 on the ground that the church leaders were responsible for enosis demonstrations. Although released, negotiations with Makarios took place without permitting him to return to Cyprus. In 1958 the British put into effect a modified version of a plan to maintain status quo for seven years but establish representative government and communal autonomy. The original was rejected by both the Greek and Turkish governments.

In 1959 talks among the various parties led to an agreement on the general features of a constitution for an independent republic of Cyprus. The constitution was written without the consultation of the Cypriot people thus violating Article 1 of the United Nations (UN Charter). The constitution included a Treaty of Guarantee, which gave the three guarantor powers Britain Greece and Turkey the right to interfere in the internal affairs of Cyprus which put the constitution in violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the UN Charter (UN Charter). Great Britain, Greece, and Turkey guaranteed the status of the republic. Great Britain retained sovereignty over two military bases. Archbishop Makarios, who returned to Cyprus on March 1, was elected president on December 13; Fazil Küchük, a Turkish Cypriot, became vice president. Independence was proclaimed on August 16, 1960. Cyprus was admitted to the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations (Encarta).

Under the constitution it was deemed that those who were Muslim in faith were to be considered as Turkish Cypriots and the rest of the population mostly Christian Orthodox, were to be known as Greek Cypriots. Such a declaration was a clear separation of the populations ready to be exploited by foreign powers. In addition, the Turkish Cypriot minority was given the right to veto decisions made by the majority of Greek Cypriots. Although this seems as a noble clause for the protection of minority rights, Turkey readily exploited it in vetoing many important decisions, creating problems even in the formation of a budget. This lead Makarios in December 1963 to propose 13 amendments to be added to the constitution, but Turkey insisted on its right to veto, technically a violation Article 2 of the UN Charter.

Meanwhile, the first instances of inter-communal violence began to take place. The actions of the Turkish Terrorist Organization T.M.T. were made public on 12 June 1958 as reported by the findings of the "Commission of Inquiry into the Incidents at Geunyeli" (appointed by the British colonial administration), which were also included in the official report of Sir Paget Bourke, Chief Justice of Cyprus:

"for some days prior to 12 June, in fact from 7 June, inter-communal feeling was running very high in the island and there had been many instances of attacks by Turks, particularly in Nicosia, upon members of the Greek community and upon Greek property".

Further acts of aggression in 1963 can also be attributed to the T.M.T. since they were found in possession of vast quantities of arms. Moreover, the involvement of Turkey in these destabilizing acts is evident due to the "Deniz" incident, when the Turkish ship full of arms was sent to Cyprus in 1959. A quote from the "New York Times" of 27.12.1963 characterizes the happenings of that period:

"Most of the fighting centered on a police station occupied by Turks in Nicosia, and on family apartments in the suburb of Omorphita. These were overrun and occupied by Turks who chased off Greek families. They were reported to have killed an unspecified number of women and children".

The actions of Turkey show the influence of its unmotivated bias in its perception of loosing power over issues in Cyprus. A peaceful Cyprus with a majority of Greek Cypriots would most likely pursue unification with Greece, as is evident from the previous enosis movements. Thus Turkey perceived it to be in her best interest to promote instability in view of sure loss of Cyprus.

The result was widespread fighting over the island, with the Turkish Cypriots demanding partition while the Greek Cypriots insisted on a unitary state with minority rights safeguarded. This was the first opportunity for Greece and Turkey to intervene militarily. Civil war was forestalled by British troops and the UN appointed a mediator and organized a peace force to patrol the island. Acceptance of a UN resolution calling for a cease-fire on August 10, 1964, ended sharp fighting between factions.:

Unfortunately, all efforts brought forth by the UN to produce a settlement did not succeed. Matters were bound to get worse. Increasing bitterness between Greece and Turkey was about to turn into military conflict. As the day dawned on April 21, 1967, people in Greece were deprived of their freedom as the military junta gained control of the country. The junta along with members of the Cypriot national guard who opposed Makarios’ reluctance to unite with the dictatorship staged a military coup on July 15, 1974, ousting the president from office and forcing him into exile. The coup collapsed eight days later, but that was enough time for Turkey to invade the northern part of Cyprus. The scale of the invasion was so large that it seems to have been planned well in advance. Defying a series of cease-fires Turkey was able to capture 38% of the island. Turkey justifies the military invasion under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee.

All talks following the invasion were suspended when in November of 1983 after Rauf R. Dektash proclaimed the northern occupied territory an independent republic called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). No other nation but Turkey has recognized the republic. The stance of the United Nations is declared in UN Resolution 37/253 (1983): "[The UN] demands the immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces from the Republic of Cyprus;" . As for the recognition of the republic the UN "Reaffirms the call upon all States not to recognise the purported state of the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" set up by secessionist acts and calls upon them not to facilitate or in any way assist this the aforesaid secessionist entity;" UN Resolution 550 (1984).

In 1994 the European Union, dedicated to a unified Cyprus, ruled that all exports from Cyprus must have authorization from the official government, in effect banning trade with the TRNC (Encarta). Later that year, the Turkish Cypriots passed two resolutions calling for the TRNC to coordinate its defense and foreign policy with that of Turkey and to demand political equality and additional autonomy from Greek Cyprus.

In June 1994 the Corfu European Council stated that Cyprus would be included in negotiations for the next enlargement. This decision was confirmed by the Essen European Council in December 1994.. This excludes the occupied northern part of Cyprus.

Turkey invaded Cyprus because it realized the possibility of a complete loss. Turkey, influenced by its unmotivated bias built up throughout this century risked severe military conflict in order to regain control of Cyprus. The coup in 1974 was reason enough for Turkey to invade, and according to prospect theory, the endowment effect and the justification effect are reasons it still maintains 40,000 troops there. Since the effort was put forth to gain control and it now has possession, the losses suffered by the economic sanctions of the European Union and the international discredit it faces by defying UN resolutions, is calculated to have a lower value than the gain of occupation. In addition, Turkey now has a motivated bias that influences its perception of threat in retreating form the occupied territory. Turkey has created fears of retaliation against the Turkish Cypriots after the troops have withdrawn. Thus it has come to see what it wants to see when entering negotiations. Furthermore, it is in Turkey’s interest to claim that there are only Turkish Cypriots and Turks that have emigrated from Anatolia living in the occupied territory in order to invoke the creation of an independent republic based on population homogeneity. Past grievances and fears may also be hindering the negotiations, as explained by John Ungerleider in his article on 28/11/97 but one think is for sure, time is on Turkey’s side.






"Cyprus,"Microsoft® Encarta® 97 Encyclopedia.

Tanter, Raymond. Rogue Regimes. St. Martin's Press: New York, NY., 1998.

Information on the stance of the USA