By Stefanos Evripidou
OVER 2,100 Turkish Cypriots crossed the Limnitis checkpoint on Friday in the northwest of the island to attend a ceremony marking the battle of Tylliria over the small enclave of Kokkina 50 years ago.
Head of the committee responsible for the opening of checkpoints, Andreas Karos, said everything went smoothly, as the Turkish Cypriots were transported in 116 buses.
The buses were escorted throughout the route from Kato Pyrgos to Mansoura by Cyprus Republic police cars and UN vehicles based in the region.
According to state broadcaster CyBC, two Turkish warships participated in the ceremony at Kokkina, a Turkish military outpost enveloped by the government-controlled areas, along with a minesweeper, four sailboats, two coastguard vessels and three navy dinghies. The vessels departed from the occupied Kyrenia harbour to reach the enclave.
Turkish Cypriot officials, including former leader Mehmet Ali Talat, arrived by helicopter while the rest travelled via bus across the checkpoint.
Standing in for Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu who is currently abroad, the breakaway regime’s ‘house speaker’ Sibel Siber addressed the controversial event, speaking of the need for peace in the world.
According to reports, Siber said world peace needed leaders with values.
“In Cyprus, we experienced war. We do not want war either in Cyprus or elsewhere” she said, adding, “today, international organisations were unable to stop the bloodshed among civilians.”
The community leader of Kato Pyrgos Costas Michaelides condemned the formal celebrations in Kokkina, describing them as a “disgrace”.
“The memories are alive because the victims, those who survived, are here. The crosses (on the graves) are here. However many years pass, 50 or 150, we will see this in our daily lives, because they remind us of this cowardly attack against the unarmed people of Tylliria,” he said.
Greens MP Giorgos Perdikis, who visited the area, described the Kokkina event as a “celebration of hate” and called for a new checkpoint to be opened in Kokkina, which would allow local residents to cross through without having to take a lengthy detour.
Following the inter-communal violence which erupted in December 1963, Turkish Cypriots established a bridgehead at Kokkina in 1964, providing them with arms, volunteers and materials from Turkey.
Seeing this incursion of foreign weapons and troops as a major threat, the Cypriot government called on EOKA leader George Grivas to return from Greece and launch an attack on the bridgehead. Turkey retaliated by dispatching its fighter jets to bomb Greek positions.
For three days in August, Turkish warplanes bombed the Tylliria area with napalm, hitting residential areas and a hospital. Over 50 people were killed, including 19 civilians.
The threat of a Turkish military escalation and a resolution of the United Nations Security Council calling for a ceasefire ended the standoff on August 10, 1964.