KYRENIA–Cyprus (Reuters)–Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit–speaking 25 years after Turkish troops stormed northern Cyprus at his command–said on Tuesday there could be no return to full unity on the Mediterranean island.
Greece–meanwhile–called on Tuesday for the international community to end the division of Cyprus–saying Ankara’s continued military presence on the Mediterranean island was a sign that Turkey was not a modern state.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas–speaking on the 25th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of the northern part of Cyprus–told reporters it was time for the world to act.
"Twenty-five years of the occupation of Cyprus are too many for the international community to bear," he said. "Facing and resolving the Cyprus problem is now urgent."
Reppas criticized such attitudes as reflecting badly on Ankara.
"Turkey cannot pretend to be a modern state when…it torpedoes every effort to resolve the problem," he said.
Ecevit’s words–at a rally under baking sunshine in northern Cyprus–were clearly intended not only for Turkish Cypriots wary of any deal with Greek Cyprus–but also for Washington as it steps up efforts to forge a solution of the "Cyprus Problem."
After a march past including units of the 30,000-strong Turkish force on the island–Ecevit told a crowd to cheers that the security of northern Cyprus was vital to Ankara.
"Nobody should try to test the strength of the (Turkish) army again. Nobody should test the resistance of the Turkish nation to pressure."
Troops marched through the Turkish sector of Nicosia–the capital divided by a concrete and barbed wire wall and patrolled by the United Nations. Wreaths were laid on the beaches where the landings began.
Veteran Ecevit–who was prime minister in 1974–ordered troops into Cyprus after a coup by militant Greek Cypriots backed by an Athens junta. Turkish Cypriots–an 18 percent minority–feared attacks and swift moves to "Enosis’ –a Greek nationalist dream of union with Greece.
After seizing a bridgehead–the forces fanned out to occupy a third of the island. Turkish Cypriots now inhabit that third while Greeks–whose government is the only internationally recognized administration–are confined to the south.
Ecevit–74–said he had had no choice but to send troops. "Turkish Cypriots would have been annihilated…It would have been the biggest genocide since the second world war. Greece and Cyprus would have achieved Enosis."
He said the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus–which only Ankara recognizes as a state–could survive all world sanctions it now suffers. The only path to any settlement lay in a loose confederation of Greek and Turkish Cypriot states.
"Our desire is for the Greek Cypriot community to put aside delusions of returning to the past and focus on living side by side as neighbors–as two separate independent states."
Across the Green Line in Nicosia–air raid sirens rang out around dawn–marking the hour the invasion began. There were memorial services for 5,000 Greek Cypriots believed killed.
"We need to push aside political differences and we must struggle to free every corner of our enslaved country," said Archbishop Chrysostomos–head of the Greek Orthodox church of Cyprus.
Turkey rejects Greek Cypriot notions of reintegrating the island’s communities under strong central government.
"As long as the Greek Cypriots live under the impression that there will be a return to the pre-July 1974 era–coming to an agreement and achieving anything is difficult," Ecevit told a news conference in the north of Nicosia.
The United States will tackle Cyprus–a major source of tension between NATO partners Turkey and Greece–when Ecevit visits Washington in September. Diplomats hope a way can be found to bring Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides to talks without either losing face.
"If (a confederation) doesn’t happen–there are two options," Ecevit said. "The first is that the situation becomes permanent. The second–if pressures increase–is that ties between Turkey and TRNC are consolidated to…whatever degree is necessary."