The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled Turkey must compensate Cyprus for its 1974 invasion of the island state. The $123 million ruling marks the largest charge ever declared under the auspices of the ECHR.
The court ruled $41 million should be directed towards relatives still declared as missing due to the invasion. The rest of the cash is slated for the Greek Cypriots who have been cut off from the rest of their compatriots, living in the Karpas peninsula, which is surrounded by the Turkish-occupied north of the country.
Since 1974, the state of Cyprus has been divided between a Greek Cypriot territory and a Turkish-occupied North. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus declared independence in 1983. However, no country in the world but Turkey recognizes the entity as having a rightful claim to Cyprus.
In July 1974, Turkish forces invaded Cyprus following a brief Greek Cypriot coup in favor of reunifying with Greece. Two months later, Turkish forces had occupied 40% of the island state. Many of the Greek Cypriots, who constituted 80% of the population, were forcibly expelled from the north.
Nikos Christodoulides, a Cyprus government spokesman, was thrilled with the ruling. “Despite the fact that the persecution and hardship that they have endured cannot be measured in money, the Cyprus government welcomes the fact that the court again condemns in this way Turkey’s policy of violating the human rights of the enclaved,” he said.
Some believe the ECHR court judgement will have international ramifications, specifically dealing with the ongoing Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. “It’s a strong signal that the passage of time will not diminish the consequences or costs of illegal occupation. It has obvious relevance to the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are occupied parts of Georgia, and Crimea, which is occupied Ukraine. I would imagine it opens the door to claims arising from that kind of occupation. It signals that the court will not back off on issues like this over time,” said Philippe Sands, an international law professor in London.
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu claimed the ruling would mess up the peace process between the two contesting parties. “Just when talks within the framework of comprehensive peace have gained serious momentum in Cyprus, when a new process has begun, led by Turkey… such a decision is not right,” he said. The United Nations has over the years continuously called for Turkey to renounce its rights to the island, but they have steadily refused.
United States Vice President Joe Biden is expected to visit Cyprus between May 21-23 to help the opposing parties with negotiations over the island.