Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras concluded his visit to Cyprus earlier today, the first official visit abroad since he took office on Monday, January 26, following the Greek snap elections. He already departed for Italy, the second destination of his European tour, in an attempt to gain political support for his government’s attempt to reach a new agreement with Greece’s partners regarding the country’s debt.
Prior to his departure from Cyprus, Tsipras visited the Tomb of Makedonitissa, a war memorial and military cemetery, where Greek soldiers and officers who died defending Cyprus during the 1974 Turkish military invasion are buried. Addressing the relatives of missing persons, Tsipras pledged that the Greek government is ready to do its utmost in order to contribute to the solution of the long-standing problem of missing persons in Cyprus. Tsipras highlighted that Greece will take action both at an international and European level, since it is a matter of dignity and human rights.
During his visit to the historic Tomb of Makedonitissa, where one Greek carrier aircraft was shot down by friendly fire on July 22, 1974, during Operation “Niki,” killing 26 Greek commandos and four airmen, the Greek Premier was accompanied by Cypriot Defense Minister Christoforos Fokaides. In addition, he laid a wreath to the memorial while a Cypriot National Guard contingent and a Military Band paid tribute.
Earlier during his visit in Nicosia, in a joint press conference with the President of the Repubic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, Tsipras stressed that Athens and Nicosia will join forces toward a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem. “My presence here symbolizes the particular significance we lay on Cyprus, on your struggle for justice. We are seeking the closest possible cooperation with Nicosia to tackle the big challenges ahead of us that have to do with a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus,” he said, adding that Greece and Cyprus “exist in a triangle of instability, which includes Ukraine, Syria and Libya. Nonetheless, we provide stability and security, and this is an advantage we have in our attempt to maintain stability, security, cooperation and claim all that we deserve within Europe.”
Cyprus, which is a part of the European Union since 2004, has been violently divided since 1974, after a brutal Turkish invasion and the following occupation of its northern lands or 37% of its territory. On its part, Turkey has repeatedly denied to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, despite numerous calls by international institutions and the European Union, which Ankara aims to join. At the same time, numerous United Nations-backed negotiations to reunite the island under a federal government have failed. In October 2014, Cypriot President Anastasiades suspended his participation in the peace talks following a NAVTEX (Navigational Telex) issued by Turkey for the conduction of hydrocarbons research in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by seismic vessel “Barbaros,” escorted by a number of Turkish Navy ships.