Cyprus Table of Contents
Soldiers of the National Guard
Courtesy Embassy of Cyprus, Washington
Under the provisions of the constitution of 1960, a 2,000- member bicommunal force, the Cyprus Army, composed of 60 percent Greek Cypriots and 40 percent Turkish Cypriots, was to be the primary security arm of the Republic of Cyprus. This force was never brought into being because of disagreement about its organization, and since 1964 the National Guard--composed mainly of Greek Cypriot draftees--had served as the main armed body in the southern part of the island. In addition, a Greek Army regiment of 950 men was present on the island in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Alliance.
During the decade after its formation by Archbishop Makarios, the National Guard became increasingly oriented toward a pro-Greek junta, anticommunist, and, ironically, ultimately anti-Makarios position that culminated in the 1974 coup. The fall of the military from power in Greece led to the recall of the most avid right-wing Greek officers and their replacement by officers of more moderate views. By the late 1970s, the National Guard was no longer identified with any political faction and exercised no political influence. Although it had not been regarded by Western analysts as a very effective professional military force because of its earlier intense politicization, the National Guard performed credibly in 1974 in resisting the initial landing of overwhelmingly superior Turkish forces.
Although it had undertaken a major strengthening and modernization program in the late 1980s, the National Guard had only a limited ability to deter a major Turkish offensive or to mount counterattacks. According to a statement by Minister of Defense Andreas Aloneftis in 1990, the National Guard buildup was strictly defensive in purpose. Aloneftis acknowledged that the Greek Cypriots would like to "liberate" the land in the north but said this was impossible in light of existing realities. He said that he was seeking to build a reliable deterrent force against a Turkish effort to occupy the whole island. The objective, he asserted, was to be able to delay the Turkish advance for two to three weeks until the UN Security Council could intervene.
Data as of January 1991