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Cyprus News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-02-16

Cyprus News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>


  • [01] President returns from state visit to India
  • [02] 1974 UNFICYP commander on Cyprus

  • 1340 :CYPPRESS:01

    [01] President returns from state visit to India

    Nicosia, Feb 16 (CNA) -- President Glafcos Clerides returned today from a six-day state visit to India during which he held meetings with his Indian counterpart Shanker Dayal Sharma and Premier H.D. Deve Gowda.

    In a statement to Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation before leaving India, the President said India backs more intensive efforts to help settle the protracted Cyprus question and opposes any solution resulting in the abolition of the Republic of Cyprus or in the creation of two separate states.

    The President also said Sharma showed keen interest in the issue of missing persons (since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus) and described it a tragedy which must be dealt with.

    Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides and Government Spokesman Yiannakis Cassoulides who accompanied the President to India are also back in Cyprus.

    CNA MM/KN/1997
    1600 CYPPRESS:02

    [02] 1974 UNFICYP commander on Cyprus

    by Maria Chrysanthou

    Nicosia, Feb 16 (CNA) -- World powers can assist UN efforts to settle international conflicts through political and economic leverage, former Commander of the UN Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), General Prem Chand pointed out in an interview with CNA, in New Delhi, India.

    "It is not through the exercise of pressure, but through political and economic leverage that world powers can help the UN to get people to arrive at settlements, rather than resort to violence," the Indian General, who served on the island during the crucial years 1969-1976, said.

    Today, the retired General, who was a protagonist in an incident in 1974 at Nicosia International Airport during which UNFICYP came very close to direct confrontation with the Turkish invading forces, continues to follow developments in Cyprus, but refrains from making any predictions about the future, saying, he is not "directly in touch with these matters."

    He does however, express hope that the new UN Secretary General, a personal acquaintance of his, whom he "respects greatly" and describes as a person with "new ideas", will help move things forward.

    Chand believes that a report by the Commander of the British UN Contingent, Francis Henn, in 1974 to the effect that "an initiative taken by UNFICYP with a view of consolidating an agreed but precarious ceasefire came dangerously close to having an altogether contrary and unforeseen consequence, a fight between the UN force and mainland Turkish forces," reflects "one hundred per cent what had happened at the time."

    The report says Turkey had three prime objectives during the first phase of its invasion of Cyprus, launched on July 20, 1974 using as a pretext a coup d'etat engineered by the Greek military dictatorship in Athens against the legitimate Cyprus government.

    These objectives were "to capture the port of Kyrenia, to effect a link- up over the Kyrenia mountain pass between it and the main enclave, and to seize Nicosia airport."

    Despite Turkish anticipations, Henn argues, Turkey failed to reach all its objectives due to "a lack of drive on the part of their troops (Turkish), the courageous resistance of inferior National Guard forces, equipped generally with a hotch-potch of obsolescent weapons and without air support of any kind" and UNFICYP's "unexpected pre-emptive intervention at the airport."

    On July 22, the Turkish army defied a ceasefire agreement reached between Turkey and Cyprus and advanced towards Nicosia International Airport. Commenting on the ceasefire, Henn points out that despite General Chand's "determined efforts", no ceasefire conditions were signed by the two sides because of Turkey's refusal.

    "The airport was under UNFICYP's control following a ceasefire agreement, but if the Turks had attacked, we would have confronted them", General Chand said.

    "We took all the world press with us to show them that we were holding the airport and that any attack on the airport would be an attack on UN troops," he added.

    He said he was under orders "to hold the airport" and to fend off any attack in self-defence.

    General Chand had already dealt with a similar situation in the Congo in 1962, where he also served as a UN Commander. "There was a stage when we had to take defensive action against the gendarmerie and we took that action," he said.

    The retired Indian General also endorsed Commander Henn's observations concerning the behaviour of the British forces at the time. "That was the exact situation at the time," he said.

    Despite the right granted to Britain by the Treaty of Establishment of the Cyprus Republic "to exercise exclusive control (of the airport) in emergency," Henn notes that "to the astonishment of those members of UNFICYP who witnessed it, all the male servicemen of Royal Airforce (RAF), led by their Station Commander, abandoned their station and joined the women and children in the UN-escorted evacuation convoy."

    Neither General Chand nor Commander Henn were "consulted, warned or even informed" about the flight of RAF servicemen.

    Contemplating on the period between the first (July 1974) and second (August 1974) phase of the Turkish invasion and the break-up of the ceasefire, General Chand, referred to Lord Callaghan's (then British Foreign Secretary) report, who argues that this (the violation of the ceasefire) was the result of inadequate communication between the US and the UN, due to internal problems faced by the former, namely the Watergate scandal.

    The Indian General also referred to UNFICYP's efforts to prevent intercommunal violence during the period of the Turkish invasion, noting that in this the UN peace-keeping force had been successful.

    "We were having our posts and patrols a great deal intensified to try and stop any violence between the Cypriots, Greeks and Turks. Naturally we were very much on the vigilance side to make sure that it did not happen, to prevent it", he told CNA.

    Commenting on the five days between the coup and the invasion, Chand said there was a "great deal of tension on the green line."

    It is very easy for a spark to grow into a fire, the Indian General said, referring to the tragic events last year in Cyprus which resulted in the brutal murder of four unarmed Greek Cypriots (one soldier and three civilians) by Turkish occupation forces, and noted that UNFICYP's role is to prevent such incidents.

    CNA MCH/MM/1997

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