President unveils Noratlas aircraft, in honour of Greek commandos killed during the 1974 Turkish invasion (2) [VIDEO]

An aircraft, similar to the Noratlas transport plane which was shot down by friendly fire during the 1974 Turkish invasion, was unveiled here today by Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, in a somber ceremony marking the 44th anniversary of Turkey’s offensive against Cyprus.

In an address President Anastasiades said the new Noratlas, dedicated to the Greek commandos and crew of the fatal Noratlas, killed during operation NIKI 4, in the early hours of Monday, 22nd of July, 1974 and a memorial, dedicated to the mother of the missing, which was unveiled yesterday evening, constitute a reminder of the state’s debt to present and future generations to reach a just and viable solution of the Cyprus problem and to find out what has become of each and every missing person.

The President unveiled the plane in the presence of the Ministers of Defence of Cyprus and Greece, as well as the Chief of the National Guard and the Chief of the Airforce. The unveiling of the Noratlas followed a memorial service for army officers and soldiers killed during the invasion which took place at Makedonitissa Tomb in Nicosia, in the presence of President Nicos Anastasiades, political party leaders and representatives, the religious and military leadership and other officials. Wreaths were laid in honour of all those who perished.

Greece was represented at todays ceremony by National Defence Minister Panos Kamenos, Georgios Varemenos, Second Deputy Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, as well as representatives of Greek fighters’ associations and relatives of the crew on board the fatal flight to Nicosia.

We will continue their fight in defence of the Republic of Cyprus. We shall strive to reach a just, functional and viable solution of the Cyprus problem, Anastasiades pledged, noting that this promise is to pay tribute and honour the sacrifice of those killed defending the country and in memory of missing persons.

He assured that the government will continue its effort to put an end to the unacceptable stance of Turkey and establish what had happened to each missing person on the basis of specific proof.

At the same time, he promised that we will continue trying without giving in to reach a solution which will guarantee the territorial integrity and the full sovereignty of our country. A solution, he added, which will fully respect international law and the acquis communautaire, will rid the country of occupation troops and anachronistic guarantees and guarantee to all its lawful residents conditions of security and prosperity.

He expressed the Cypriot people’s gratitude for Greece’s longstanding support in the effort to end occupation and to reunify our country.

Kammenos referred to the example of the small Greek military unit based on the island of Ro, near Kastellorizo, close to the Turkish coast, and said that soldiers serving on the island promised him, during a visit there, that the Greek flag will never be lowered while they are still alive.

He also spoke of the Greek air force’s interceptions of Turkish fighter jets within Greece’s air space, noting that this happens on a daily basis and adding that Greek airmen have vowed they would be the last ones to land.

This, Kammenos said, means that every time the country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is threatened, the Greek air force is ready to respond accordingly.

In his address, retired Chief Officer and commander of the NIKI 9 Andreas Stravopodis also addressed the Noratlas crew and commandos who perished, saying that the unveiling of Noratlas aircraft here is the minimum homage which can be attributed to you. It reminds everybody of the courage of the Greek commandos and shows everyone that freedom is earned with sacrifices and makes everybody ponder on the mistakes of the past, he added.

He said that the effort continues today in a different way, adding that all the bloodshed and sacrifices of those who perished were not in vain. The Republic of Cyprus is an equal EU member and all is missing now is the reunification and the healing of the wounds of the past, he noted.

Noratlas, along with other Greek transport planes, set off in an operation code named Victory, to transport a battalion of Greek commandos from Souda, Crete, to Nicosia, to help in the heavy fighting that took place at Nicosia International Airport. Greek aircraft however, were caught in friendly fire, which resulted in the loss of 31 men and the destruction of three aircraft.

Sixteen of the commandos, whose bodies were located at the site of the crash, were buried in Lakatamia military cemetery, a Nicosia suburb. One commando, Thanasis Zafiriou, survived the crash. He died in September 2016. The remaining commandos and crew were found inside the Noratlas plane when it was recently unearthed. The remains of 13 of them were identified and returned to their families. Three commandos are still missing.

Source: Cyprus News Agency