On 20 July 1974 the course of history changed for Cypriots as sirens broke the stillness of the day.
Thousands of Turkish troops invaded northern Cyprus after a deadlock in talks in Athens. Tension had been mounting since a military coup on 15 July 1974 when Archbishop Makarios, the Greek Cypriot president since 1959, had been deposed. Archbishop Makarios had become the countries first elected president only after agreeing to give up plans for union with Greece.
With his deposition, the Turkish Cypriot community feared that Greek military rulers would press for unification with Cyprus – ‘enosis’ – and that their rights would be ignored.
A Turkish armada landed on the northern coast of the island consisting of 33 ships and at least 30 tanks and a small landing craft.
The Greek fleet was put to sea from the island of Salamis.
Greek Cypriot forces on the island had been defending the northern coast around Kyrenia while there were reports of clashes between Greek and Turkish warships in the south-west, near Paphos.
Nicosia, saw most of the fighting as Turkish troops battled for control of the airport but met with Greek resistance.
Traffic jams were noted around the city as residents tried to flee, while more than 4,500 Britons and other foreign nationals were moved to army bases.
Turks state that they will not stop until Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Sampson is removed.
US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger took the credit for persuading both sides to agree to a ceasefire on 22 July, and it was agreed that negotiations on the islands future would begin immediately. On 25 July consultations on the island’s future restarted with the foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and Britain, the island’s former colonial ruler, meeting in Geneva.
Talks broke down, as did a second conference in August when Turkish forces advanced, taking control of 40 per cent of the island.
160,000 Greek Cypriots fled to the south or were expelled.
Since then talks have failed.