Greece on Cyprus Derynia killings (1996)

Suggested Citation: Neophytos G. Loizides, Greek-Turkish Negotiations and Crises 1983-2003 Dataset , Queen's University Belfast (available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentrefortheStudyofEthnicConflict/TeachingResearch/Datasets/Greek-TurkishNegotiationsandCrises1983-2003/#d.en.173636)

Two Greek Cypriots are killed during demonstrations in the Green line in August 1996. Tassos Isaac is clubbed to death by Turkish counter-demonstrators and policemen when he becomes entangled in barbed wire in the buffer zone, while Solomos Solomou is shot while climbing a pole to remove a Turkish flag. UN peacekeepers say Turkish and Turkish Cypriot military personnel fire indiscriminately into the buffer zone, resulting in Solomou's death. Turkish troops, according to the UN, fire 25 to 50 rounds of ammunition into the crowd, a scene witnessed by the UN force commander. Greece 's foreign minister, Theodoros Pangalos, denounces the killings, while his Turkish counterpart, Tansu Çiller, declares: ‘Where we come from, no one lays a finger on the flag. If anybody has the nerve to do that, we will break their hands.’ [i] For the period 8/15/19969/15/1996, Lexis/Nexis provides 31 results for terms “Greece,” “Cyprus,” “ Turkey ,” and “crisis” (full text search under European News Sources).

Case Study Features:

Indistinguishability of Offensive vs. Defensive Action: 0

The demonstrators are unarmed and the pose very little threat to Turkey or its soldiers in Cyprus . The Turkish government itself sees its actions as defensive, but third parties see very few defensive motives in the killings of the Greek Cypriots. For instance, in an unusually strong response to the Turkish PM’s justification of violence, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns argues, “Protection of a flag cannot excuse the horrible events of Aug. 14. Human life and the sanctity of human life are ultimately more important than protecting a piece of cloth.”[ii]

Effectiveness of offense versus the defense :  0

Greece can do very little militarily (especially in Cyprus ). 

Domestic Challenge :

The incidents take place only weeks before general elections in Greece . PM Simitis is facing his first elections as a leader of socialist Pasok. International media describe Simitis as a “political dwarf.” [iii] Simitis wins the September 22, 1996 elections with a narrow majority.[iv]

Enduring Ethnic Rivalries : 1

There are enduring rivalries with Turkey, resulting from the crises in Cyprus, Thrace, and the Aegean.

Confrontational Policies: 0

Despite early warnings, there is no confrontational response from Greece . While there are some riots against the Turkish consulates in Komotini and Rhodes, the Greek government allegedly apologizes for these events. [v]


[i] Mike Theodolou and Ed Vulliamy, “ Cyprus in Crisis: Divided island at breaking point”, The Observer, August 18, 1996

[ii] George Gedda, “US Assails Statement by Turkish Diplomat”, The Associated Press, August 08, 1996.

[iii] Lloyd's List , September 24, 1996 , p.2.

[iv] Facts on File (World News Digest) , October 10, 1996, p.745. 

[v] “Greeks riot in protests at Cyprus crisis”, Agence France-Presse, August 16, 1996.

[vi] Mike Theodolou and Ed Vulliamy, “ Cyprus in Crisis: Divided island at breaking point”, The Observer, August 18, 1996

There is also a warning from a senior Greek Cypriot official who announces that “any move by the Turks to the south will immediately mean war with Greece .” [vi] However, this warning is not confirmed by Greek officials. The diversionary theory of war expects confrontational policies and therefore is not confirmed by the Simitis’ government reaction.