Athens, Greece (CNSNews.com) - As the 26th anniversary of Turkey's invasion of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus was marked Thursday, the issue of whether or not the United States could have stopped the attack has resurfaced.
The conservative Athens daily newspaper Eleftheros Typos (Free Press) carried an exclusive interview with jailed former dictator Dimitris Ioannidis, who claimed the CIA had assured him that Turkish forces would not land on Cyprus in 1974.
The US ambassador to Athens then persuaded the Greek general staff to pull back forces heading to defend the island from the imminent Turkish attack, Ioannidis said in the newspaper article.
Ioannidis is serving a lifelong jail sentence for his part in the brutal military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974.
The US frequently has been accused in Greece of financially supporting that seven-year military dictatorship.
The downfall of the junta occurred in 1974 after Ioannidis decided to overthrow Archbishop Makarios, president of Cyprus, and install a client regime with aims of uniting Cyprus with Greece. The move by Ioannidis led to the Turkish invasion and the continued occupation of the northern portion of the island.
The division has been a source of conflict between Greece and Turkey ever since.
The Turkish-Cypriots hold onto the northern 37 per cent of the island and the Greek-Cypriots the southern remainder. Some 180,000 Greek Cypriots became refugees after the invasion.
Only Turkey recognizes the breakaway state, which is protected by 35,000 Turkish troops. The Turks have ignored repeated UN Security Council resolutions calling for its troops to withdraw.
The capital of Nicosia was split after the invasion, and a UN peacekeeping force mans the border of what is today Europe's only divided city
As expected, the anniversary this week was marked with jubilation and a military parade on the northern side as the Turkish-Cypriots credited mother Turkey for saving them. In the south, the Greek-Cypriots were in mourning for the hundreds killed during the invasion and hundreds still listed as missing. Church bells tolled and flags flew at half-mast.
A solution to the bitter crisis seems as elusive as ever despite 26 years of mediation attempts by the international community. The UN is currently conducting proximity talks with the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders, scheduled to resume in Geneva on Monday.
The US has also tried to get the two sides to find a solution, and the American ambassador to Athens, Nicholas Burns, said it remained committed to that end.
"A united Cyprus inside the European Union will be good and positive for all Cyprus," he said in a recent speech. "In fact, Cyprus' membership process and Turkey's EU candidacy offer real hope to break the impasse that has for too long prevailed."
"I hope the international community, particularly the countries that are in a position to exert their influence on Turkey, will succeed this time in persuading Ankara to acquire the political will necessary to resolve the Cyprus problem," Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides said in a recent televised address.
Clerides is in favor of the reunification of the island.
For his part, Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash called on Greek Cypriots to accept his state. "Join us, and we will establish bridges of friendship," he said in a message to the other side.
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis warned that good relations between Greece and Turkey depend on "an overall, just, permanent, viable and functional solution" to the Cyprus issue.
"It is natural that the violent and tragic division of the island should harm our relations with Turkey, despite some recent steps toward progress," Simitis said in a statement.
The Greek Communist Party issued a statement criticizing the US, the UN, Turkey and the European Union for the continuing occupation of northern Cyprus. It accused the US and NATO of supporting the Turkish invasion in 1974.