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Turkey: Greece and Cyprus
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > External Security Concerns > Greece and Cyprus

GREECE AND CYPRUS


In their first foreign combat operations since the Korean War, Turkish troops intervened in Cyprus in 1974 with the professed aim of protecting the Turkish minority population after a Greek-inspired coup brought a threat of union of the island with Greece. Against determined resistance by the lightly armed Greek Cypriot National Guard, the Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island. The Turkish intervention force, which consisted of about 40,000 soldiers and 200 tanks, subsequently was reduced to a garrison of 30,000 troops. It greatly outnumbers the contingent of Greek national forces on the island, which is supplemented by the Greek Cypriot National Guard. Air reinforcement of the Turkish troops can be effected, if necessary, within hours.

Ankara does not consider Cyprus one of its most pressing security issues because of Turkey's military superiority over Greece and the more serious strategic problems posed in the east. Nevertheless, the unresolved dispute over Cyprus complicates Turkish participation in NATO and remains an obstacle to NATO's effectiveness in the region. In addition, the question of the rights of 120,000 Muslims of Turkish ancestry in Grecian Thrace arouses Turkish sympathies, contributing to long-standing distrust between Greece and Turkey.

Other differences between the two NATO members contribute to contention. Greece, basing its claim on the Convention on the Law of the Sea passed by the UN in November 1994, which extends territorial waters from six to twelve nautical miles, seeks to claim this limit around each of the more than 2,000 Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. Such a claim, if implemented, would give Greece about 70 percent of the Aegean Sea. Greece also claims a ten-nautical-mile airspace around each island. Turkish military aircraft and ships do not respect these claims. In addition, Turkey claims an Exclusive Economic Zone that is disputed by Greece.

Turkey maintains the Aegean Army, a force separate from its NATO-committed troops, ostensibly to defend the southwestern coastal areas. The force is a response to Greece's militarization of its islands close to the Turkish coast, which Turkey asserts violates the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that set Turkey's present borders. The Aegean Army is considered a largely symbolic force; most of the troops assigned to it are kept in training status.

Data as of January 1995




Last Updated: January 1995


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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