Cypriots Mark Turkish Invasion

Greek Cypriots prayed for the reunification of Cyprus while Turkish Cypriots rejoiced with nationalist fervor Tuesday, the 25th anniversary of the Turkish invasion that divided the island.

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who ordered the 1974 invasion, promised steadfast support to residents in the breakaway republic Turkey helped establish in northern Cyprus.

Â"No one should try and test the strength of the Turkish army,Â" Ecevit said in a speech to kick off the daylong celebrations.

Hundreds of ethnic Turks, including children in military uniforms, waved Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags to welcome Ecevit, the guest of honor.

Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash hailed the invasion as a Â"salvation day.Â"

Â"Freedom was raining from the skies,Â" he said, referring to Turkish paratroopers who led the invasion. Â"We are celebrating that day as our birthday,Â" he said.

There were no festivities in the south, where air raid sirens wailed in the main Greek Cypriot towns and tolling church bells summoned people to church.

Worshippers at St. John's cathedral in Nicosia remembered the 5,000 people who died in the invasion, and prayed for reunification and the return of 200,000 refugees who fled or were expelled from the north.

Â"Almighty and beneficent God, help us to return to our enslaved towns and villages and to pray again in the churches vandalized by the barbarian invaders,Â" said Archbishop Chrysostoms, the prelate of the Greek Orthodox church.

In a radio broadcast Sunday, President Glafcos Clerides of the internationally recognized Greek Cyprus appealed to Turkish Cypriots to help search for a settlement that would Â"heal the wounds of the past.Â"

He also urged the world to put pressure on Turkey to respect U.N. Security Council resolutions that call for the reunification of the island, the withdrawal of an estimated 35,000 Turkish troops and settlers from the north and the return of the refugees.

U.N.-sponsored talks on reunification are deadlocked over Turkish demands for the recognition of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north, which is only recognized by Ankara.

Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974, days after an abortive coup by supporters of the island's union with Greece. The coup attempt followed riots in Cyprus in 1963-64 and 1967 among the minority Muslim Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Orthodox Cypriots.

Written by Alex Efty
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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