Operation Atilla

Atilla was the code-name given to the Turkish military invasion of the island of Cyprus in July1974, in response to a Greek-inspired coup d'état which sought to unite the island with Greece.


Turkey justified the invasion on the grounds that its actions were mandated under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, which stipulates that either Greece, Turkey, or the United Kingdom had to ensure the independence of the Republic of Cyprus.

Given the animosity that had existed between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots since December 1963, the Turkish claimed that had the coup succeeded and union of the island with Greece succeeded, the Turkish Cypriots would have faced mass eviction, forced assimilation, or even death at the hands of the Greeks. It is because of this that the invasion is known by the Turks as the '1974 Peace Operation'.


On 20 July 1974, the initial invasion secured the port city of Kyrenia/Girne, and by the 22nd, a road access to the Cypriot capital city of Nicosia, which secured the northern (Turkish) sector. The second stage of the operation (three weeks later) extended Turkish control out to cover the north-eastern two-thirds of the island, stretching from Kokkina/Erenköy in the west to Cape Apostolos Andreas in the east, then south to Louroujina/Akincilar. This latter move was justified by the Turkish forces on the grounds that as the Turkish Cypriots had ownership of 31% of the island before 1963 - and were forced off into enclaves of just 4% of the land in the wake of the intercommunal violence, taking control of over 30% of the north was seen as redressing those land losses. As this move forced the eviction of Greek Cypriots to the southern sector of Cyprus, this has been seen as ethnic cleansing by the Greek Cypriot government. Today, only a few enclaved Greek Cypriots remain in the north.


Thanks in part to the invasion, the attempted coup d'etat collapsed eight days later, and provided the catalyst for the removal of power of the military junta then controlling Greece. Still, Turkish forces did not withdraw, and ended up consolidating their hold on Northern Cyprus, stating that any withdrawal would end up putting the Turkish Cypriot populace in danger. This failure to for the Turkish forces to withdraw after the coup failed is regarded internationally as a violation of the Treaty of Guarantee.

The result of the invasion was that the island was partitioned into a Turkish-controlled north (which in 1983, unilaterally declared its independence), and the remaining two-thirds under the control of the Greek Cypriots. Regardless of the legalities, the Turks argue that the partition has prevented a resumption of the inter-communal violence, despite occasional flare-ups along the Green Line, most notably in 1996. The demarcation line is also known as 'The Atilla Line' after the code-name.

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