The Green Line in Cyprus

The Events of 1974

At the end of August 1971, General Grivas secretly returned to Cyprus in a final attempt to win 'enosis'.....union with Greece.

He formed a terror organisation named EOKA-B and called for Makarios to resign as President. When this demand was ignored, Grivas and EOKA-B resorted to violence.



Attacks were carried out against police stations, pro-government newspapers and individuals/businesses that were known Makarios supporters.

In the first half of 1973 over 100 incidents involving explosives were recorded including attacks on 59 police stations.



On the 28th July 1973 a bomb damaged the Police HQ in Limassol injuring sixteen

Although this violence was not intercommunal, it created great uncertainty and anxiety in the Turkish Cypriot community.

On the 28th January 1974 General George Grivas died and was buried in front of a large crowd in Limassol which included Nikos Sampson.
He promised to keep alive the dream of 'enosis' and cried, "We will avenge you, Dighenis."



Large crowds gather at the funeral and Nikos Sampson addresses the crowd

Unfortunately, in this period, the number of more serious intercommunal disputes began to increase. One such incident involved the mixed village Agia Eirini (Ayia Irini) north of Morphou (Pop. 1973....556 Turkish & 126 Greek Cypriots). Young Greek Cypriots from outside the area began to drive through the village shouting insults at the Turkish Cypriot residents. Matters came to a head when a column of 150 Greek National Guard soldiers, marching to a nearby camp, halted in the Turkish Cypriot part of the village. Further provocations, each side blaming the other, were defused by Finnish UN troops who then maintained a standing patrol in the village.



The location of the National Guard camp on the coast and the mixed village of Agia Eirini

Back in the capital Nicosia, President Makarios was becoming more and more incensed by the behaviour of the mainland Greek officers within the Cyprus National Guard. These officers were members of ELDYK (Ελληνική Δύναμη Κύπρου....Hellenic Forces in Cyprus) who were on the island as part of the Cyprus independence agreements.
President Makarios complained to Athens about, "the subversive intrigues of the Greek officers" and went on to accuse these same officers of "active support for EOKA-B with the backing of Athens."



Mainland ELDYK Officers taking the salute at a military parade in Cyprus

On the morning of the 15th July 1974 there was a coup against President Makarios perpetrated by the Greek Junta in Athens involving ELDYK forces, elements of the National Guard and EOKA-B members/sympathisers.



The badly damaged Presidential Palace, the burning Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation buildings and coupist tanks outside the Lykavitos police station


Initial reports that Makarios was dead were untrue; the President had escaped and made a radio broadcast from Paphos telling his supporters that "It is I, Makarios, I am not dead."



The handwritten script that Makarios delivered from the 'Free Radio' station in Paphos

Back in Nicosia, the coup plotters had to settle for their fourth choice of new President (the others had refused the position or were absent from home). The man who finally accepted was Nikos Sampson whose background was well known, especially by the Turkish Cypriots.
During an interview by Nikos Sampson with the Sunday Times in July 1974 he reported that he was given a list of four names and when none of these were available he was asked to become President.



EOKA gunman Nikos Sampson arrested in 1957, in Omorfita 1963 and President Sampson in 1974

On the 20th July 1974 a Turkish invasion fleet was reported approaching the north coast of Cyprus and was expected to arrive at first light.



The Turkish codename for the invasion was "Operation Attila" with the map showing the main events including the unexpected change of direction of the invasion fleet

Just before 0600hrs, 27 transport planes dropped around 1000 paratroopers north of Nicosia with a further 7 dropping supplies and ammunition.
The widely spread drop of paratroops was remedied by local Turkish Cypriots giving them guidance and support.
An hour later, further troops were brought in by helicopter until the enclave north of Nicosia held over 5000 Turkish troops.
The northern Greek Cypriot suburbs of Neapolis and Trakhones (south of the 1964 Green Line) were occupied by Turkish/Turkish Cypriot forces.



Turkish troops arrive by sea, are dropped by parachute and  are reinforced by helicopter sorties

The seaborne invasion also experienced some navigational difficulties and the first wave of assault troops did not land until 0700hrs.
Throughout the day there was a slow build up of men, tanks, guns, vehicles and stores which was assisted by complete Turkish air superiority.

Opposing the invasion was a weakened National Guard. ​Many pro-Government members of this force had been imprisoned following the coup and were quickly released following the invasion. However, it proved difficult to provide them with suitable weapons and organise them into a coherent defensive force. The same was true for the mobilisation of Reservists who, in discussions with the author, told of confusion and a lack of resources. One Reservist Lieutenant eventually managed to find a Martini rifle (outdated even in WW1) and twenty rounds of ammunition. Luckily he wasn't called upon to use the rifle as it didn’t work.



Turkish F100s return from Cyprus, National Guard T-34s destroyed from the air and a F-104 in the skies above Nicosia

Unease grew in Ankara as reports reached them of constant attacks by the National Guard upon their outnumbered forces.
Many Turkish commanders prayed for daylight and their air power to save them and, as one Greek officer remarked, "the day is theirs, but the night is ours."



Turkish pilots are driven to their aircraft which are being made ready for fresh missions over Cyprus

Despite fierce and determined resistance by the National Guard, Turkish forces expanded their bridgehead and, by the time of the ceasefire (22nd July), had crossed the mountains and linked up with the Turkish Cypriot enclave north of Nicosia.
However, they failed in their objective to take control of the international airport.



Turkish forces cross the mountains and race towards the northern suburbs of Nicosia

After much fierce fighting by the invasion forces and equally stubborn resistance, the United Nations finally managed to negotiate a ceasefire on the 22nd July 1974.
This was to be followed by peace talks at an agreed venue.

The first round of peace talks took place in Geneva between the 25th and 30th of July 1974 where, according to the BBC News, the participants, "signed a peace agreement to settle the Cyprus crisis."



The first edition of the Cyprus Mail since the coup.....dated 1st August 1974

Significantly, the agreement prevented Turkish troops from making further advances and a UN-patrolled buffer zone (author....not a line) was to be established to keep warring Greek and Turkish factions apart.
Representatives from Greece, Turkey, the UK and the UN would determine the precise location and size of the buffer zone according to the positions of the opposing forces at 2000hrs GMT on the 30th July 1974.

A second round of talks was planned for the 14th August 1974.

However, on the 14th August, the Turkish forces broke out from their earlier positions and began a second phase of their invasion.
Turkish forces advanced to take control of Lefke in the west and reached the Turkish quarter of Famagusta in the east.



Joyful residents of Lefke welcome the Turkish tanks and Turkish troops reach the walled city of Famagusta (Mağusa)

The tourist section of Famagusta, Varosha, was attacked from the air and the residents abandoned the city to seek refuge in the British Sovereign Base areas.
Turkish troops joined forces with the Turkish Cypriot residents of the old city and Varosha was sealed off with no access allowed.



The population of the popular tourist resort find refuge in the British Bases

The large Turkish village of Louroujina was reached creating a narrow salient of controlled territory and Turkish forces pushed right up to the boundary of the Eastern Sovereign Base.
By the time of the 'final push', Turkey occupied 36.3% of the island.



This map shows the areas occupied at each stage during the invasion right up to the final push towards isolated villages after the final ceasefire

Click this link for a larger version (which opens in a new window)

Throughout the summer of 1974 the fighting along the Green Line through Nicosia was a barometer to the level of fighting elsewhere on the island.
From the earliest days of the invasion the UN had attempted to limit the fighting which immediately erupted all along the Green Line. As a result of their efforts there was no significant movement in the position of the line and no very heavy weapons were used. Without UN efforts there would have been Turkish air-strikes on this densely populated area, the results of which would have been devastating.



UNFICYP and Turkish forces in Ledra Street discussing Green Line issues
Interestingly, a shopkeeper had decided to make some capital out of his shop's position on the Green Line


The Green Line today is not a line drawn through Nicosia but a buffer zone between two states, the Turkish Cypriot north and Greek Cypriot south.
It is described as a demilitarized zone where........"its northern and southern limits are the lines where the belligerents stood following the ceasefire of 16 August 1974, as recorded by UNFICYP."
This zone (including the Kokkina enclave) is over 180kms long. It is 7.4 km at its widest and 3.3 m at its narrowest point. 



The Green Line/Buffer Zone occupies 346 square kilometres or 3.7% of the total area of Cyprus