Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC ) on Wednesday marked the 48th anniversary of the Cyprus Peace Operation, which ended the oppression by Greek groups' against the Turkish population of the island and has brought peace and stability to the region.
The 48th anniversary events started with the laying of wreaths at the Atatürk Monument by TRNC President Ersin Tatar and Turkey's Vice President Fuat Oktay in the Turkish Cypriot capital Lefkoşa (Nicosia).
After a moment of silence, the singing of the National Anthem and the hoisting of the flags, both Tatar and Oktay signed the memorial book.
"Great Leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, while your principles, thoughts and struggles continue to shed light and guide the Turkish Cypriot people, I would like to emphasize that we will continue our struggle with determination until we carry our cause for rights, justice and freedom to victory in the international arena. We promise once again in your presence on the 48th anniversary of the 20 July Peace Operation, in which the great struggle of the Turkish Cypriot people and the resistance they continued with the great support of their motherland Turkey ended in victory. We will never give up our state, independence and sovereignty. We remember you with mercy, respect and appreciation," Tatar said in his speech.
"Dear Atatürk, today we are commemorating the 48th anniversary of the Cyprus Peace Operation, which guaranteed the existence and future of our Turkish Cypriot brothers. The Republic of Turkey, as the motherland and guarantor country, will continue to be the guarantor of the sovereign rights of the Turkish Cypriot people, as well as fulfill its historical and contractual responsibilities. On this happy anniversary, we commemorate your cherished memory with respect and mercy," Oktay also said.
Speaking at the main ceremony later in the day, Tatar said they are proud and happy to celebrate the 48th anniversary of the July 20, 1974 Peace Operation, which "brought the Turkish Cypriot people to enlightenment, freedom and independence," with great enthusiasm and excitement this year.
"The TRNC is at least as sovereign and legitimate as the Greek Cypriot state. A solution based on sovereign equality and equal international status will bring cooperation, prosperity and stability to our island and region," he added.
Oktay, for his part, reiterated that Turkey does not keep the rights and laws of Turkish Cypriot people separate from the mainland and warned those who challenge the rights and interests of the TRNC and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims made by European Union members Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the TRNC. Both sides cite a range of decades-old treaties and international agreements to support their conflicting territorial claims.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations. Instead of opting to solve problems with Ankara through dialogue, Athens has, on several occasions, refused to sit at the negotiation table and has opted to rally Brussels to take a tougher stance against Turkey.
"On the 48th anniversary of the operation, we commemorate our martyrs and veterans who fought heroically to put a stop to the systematic destruction policies applied to the Turkish Cypriots and ensured the independence of Cyprus with mercy and gratitude," Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun also said in a social media message.
Turkey's Defense Ministry also celebrated the day with a message saying: "On the 48th anniversary of the Cyprus Peace Operation that stopped the inhuman massacres of the Greek Cypriots against the Turkish Cypriots, we commemorate our martyrs and veterans who passed away with mercy, and wish our veterans a healthy and happy long life. We did not and will not leave any of our kinsmen alone in Cyprus, which is the Turkish homeland."
Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong dispute between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the United Nations to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.
In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece's annexation led to Turkey's military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the TRNC was founded in 1983.
It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom.
The Greek Cypriot administration entered the European Union in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted the United Nations' Annan Plan to end the longstanding dispute.
Today, the Turkish side supports a solution based on the equal sovereignty of the two states on the island. On the other hand, the Greek side wants a federal solution based on the hegemony of the Greeks.