While much of the U.S., and some parts of the world, were engrossed in the saga and unfolding scandal of Watergate during the week of July 15-24, 1974, another saga and scandal was erupting. The Mediterranean island-nation of Cyprus was subject of a military coup – replacing one democratically elected leader with one installed by a regime, and setting the stage for an international incident and yet another potential Cold War showdown.
The aim of the coup was an annexation of Cyprus by Greece, who themselves had been the subject of an extremist Military takeover in 1973 – the military regime had wanted to claim Cypus, citing a national policy of Enosis, a movement of various Greek communities living outside of Greece, for incorporation into the Greek state, which was a point of contention since the 1950s Independence movement. The island achieved independence in 1960, but was split between Turkish nationals and Greek nationals coexisting on the island. The elected President of Cyprus was Archbishop Makarios III who had been under pressure from Athens as far back as 1964 to adhere to Greek influence. The new far-right Military junta, fearing Makarios was leaning towards Moscow, and with rumors of the possibility of a “Cuba in the Mediterranean”, staged a coup by Greek officers of the Cypriot National Guard on July 15.
Junta leader Dimitrios Ioannidis, along with a military contingent Greek officers and tanks from the Cypriot National Guard, stormed the Presidential Palace in Nicosia on the morning of July 15th. President Makarios narrowly escaped. It was first reported on Radio Cyprus that Markarios had been killed and Nikos Sampson had been appointed leader. But hours later, Makarios spoke over Radio Free Cyrpus, saying the island had been taken over by a junta and those in charge were rebels and traitors. Fighting then broke out and the drama continued to unfold.
Here are various reports, from July 15-24, including a United Nations appeal from Makarios to aid in restoring peace to the Island, and U.S. response to the crisis.
All in a week in July in 1974 – while Watergate grabbed all the headlines.