Nicosia skies were pierced by the thunder of two Turkish fighter jets at noon Thursday, marking celebrations in the north while drawing condemnation in the south.
Following the Nicosia flyby of two Greek fighter jets a month and a half ago, marking the independence of the Republic of Cyprus during a military parade on October 1, Turkish F-16 jets flew over a parade that took place in north Nicosia.
Cheers in the north
Shortly after 12 noon, two Turkish jets flew over a military parade that was drawing to a close, marking the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) of what is known as “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC), a state that is not recognised by any country in the world except Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu took to Twitter to congratulate Turkish Cypriots and proclaim his country’s support to the breakaway regime.
“Turkey stands by the Turkish Cypriots on this happy day when the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was proclaimed and will always continue to do so. Happy 35th anniversary, #TRNC!” Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.
Jeers in the south
But in the south, there were condemnations from the government, politicians, and activist groups including students from high schools and colleges.
Government Spokesperson Prodromos Prodromou said in a written statement that the Greek Cypriot side continues its efforts to reach an acceptable and viable solution for the reunification of the island.
While expressing hope that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots will show the necessary political will to resume negotiations for a settlement, Prodromou also criticised the flyby in the north, calling the celebrations a symbol of division.
“The illegal UDI was condemned 35 years ago by the international community and declared void by the United Nations, however the Turkish side continues to celebrate the anniversary and promote the pseudostate and the concept of division,” the spokesperson said.
Greek Cypriot youth protest
Student organisations also held protests in Nicosia at Ledra Palace checkpoint as well as other locations in other cities, condemning what they called “an illegal declaration” despite the UN condemning the UDI in 1983.
A number of high school and college student unions issued statements saying the Cyprus problem was caused by an “invasion and ongoing occupation by Turkish troops” while other groups reiterated their commitment in a free island without foreign armies.
The former Turkish Cypriot leader, the late Rauf Denktash, had argued in 1983 that Turkish Cypriots sought independence following what he believed was the reluctance by Greek Cypriots to share the island equally.
But Greek Cypriots have maintained that they were open to reunification as long as the solution would be viable. A breakthrough has been hard to come by ever since, especially during intensified UN-backed peace talks in recent years.
The Republic of Cyprus in the south remains the only official authority on the island nation, which became a member state of the European Union in 2004.
Cyprus has been divided by ethnic conflict for over half a century. It was further divided in July 1974 when Turkey intervened by invading the northern third part of the island, several days following a short-lived military coup engineered by Athens.