History of Cyprus: Setting the scene of the island divide in 1963
Three years after the independence of Cyprus, President Makarios informed the Greek, Turkish and British Governments that he intended to amend certain provisions of the Cyprus Constitution.
President Makarios called a meeting between the Ambassadors of Greece, Turkey and Britain to inform them of his intentions, in order to avoid disputes between the two communities. The Greek Ambassador already conveyed Makarios’ plan to the Foreign Ministry in Athens as well as the Athens news agency, stating that the plan was of an ‘informative nature’ since their Government supported that this issue is strongly an internal matter for Cyprus and no one else should take action.
The Foreign Minister of Cyprus flew to Athens before visiting Paris for the Council of Europe session, to talk with the Greek Government regarding the matter. During his stay in Paris, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus also attended the annual meeting of the Committee of Foreign Ministers of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey as it was provided in the Treaty of Alliance.
According to the Greek Press, Turkey applied to the US for permission to send troops and arms to Cyprus. Turkey denied these allegations, and asserted that their policy is based on the principle of ‘peace at home, peace in the world’ and that they were an advocate for good neighbourly relations.
Later in the year, the Government ordered a general mobilisation of the Police and they were also issued with firearms to prevent any new flare-ups of disturbances since the night before, because of some intercommunal violence incidents, in which two were killed. That day, the shops and offices in the walled city remained closed since the Greek and Turkish civil servants did not show up to their offices, even the Greek Law Courts situated in the Turkish sector, since the Greek Judges and Advocates failed to report for duty!
As a result of the recent events, an urgent meeting between the President, Vice President, the Interior Minister and the three Turkish Ministers, took place at the Presidential Palace. During the meeting, news reached the Presidential Palace about a taxi with Turkish occupants, including children, which were fired at, near Nicosia in Lakatamia. The President and the Vice President immediately drove towards the scene, as they stopped to get informed by the police station responsible for that area.
A couple of days later, President Makarios and the vice President Dr Kuchuk, released a direct broadcast appeal to the people of Cyprus, Greeks and Turks alike, to put an end to the violence and bloodshed and look at each other as citizens of the same State. Nicosia was quiet later that night and the Government had hopes that everything would go back to normal soon.
Unfortunately the Governments’ requests for peace was not heard by the people, and in the early morning the sound of firing indicated that there were already new casualties. There were reports of Turkish snipers shooting from minarets, as incidents were taking place in the suburbs of Nicosia as well. The battle lasted for several hours and caused heavy casualties for the entire island of Cyprus.
As the fights continued, the city was deserted as shops and offices were closed. Due to the continuous fighting, the President, Interior Minister, three Turkish Ministers and the head of the Police force, met at the Paphos police headquarters to find a solution, saying that the events of the recent days were only detrimental and a benefit to no-one.
The UK joined Greece and Turkey, approaching President Makarios, urging him and his Government to do everything in their power to ease the tension. Christmas was approaching and the Pope sent a message of love and peace to Cyprus and its residents hoping Christmas will find them united, with no more pain caused to human souls.