Cyprus, officially called the Republic of Cyprus, is an island country in the northeastern Mediterranean basin, the farthest east of the Mediterranean islands. The island has been formally split since Turkish troops occupied its northern third in 1974. Cyprus is divided between a Greek-Cypriot south and a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus recognised only by Turkey. Relations between the two countries are tense. Reunification schemes have come and gone, most recently in 2004, when the Greek-Cypriot majority rejected a plan devised by Kofi Annan, then UN secretary-general.

Size: Cyprus is the Mediterranean’s third largest island.

In 1960 Cyprus became a republic, independent of Britain. Greeks were meant to share power with the 18% Turkish minority, with Archbishop Makarios as president. In 1963 violence between Greek and Turkish Cypriots begins. In 1974 Greek Cypriot right-wingers, sponsored by the junta then ruling in Athens, who wanted to unite Cyprus with Greece, staged a short-lived coup aimed at making the island part of Greece. Turkey invaded to stop this. Turkish troops overran the northern third of the island, and created a separate zone in the north. A stalemate and a UN buffer zone have persisted ever since. Thousands of Greek-Cypriot refugees fled south as Turkey seized the island’s northern third, while Turkish Cypriots headed north.

Following the death of the Greek Cypriots’ spiritual leader, Archbishop Makarios, in 1977, mutual antagonism between Greece and Turkey became firmly entrenched. UN-sponsored talks between the Greek Cypriot president, Glafcos Clerides, and the leader of the Turkish-occupied north, Rauf Denktash, in the 1980s and 90s collapsed, with neither capable of persuading their people to compromise. The north, only recognised by Turkey, slid into poverty and corruption and became a mecca for British criminals and refugees from Turkey. Tourism and offshore banking brought prosperity to the south. In 1983, a983 After ten years of fruitless negotiations the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is proclaimed, but recognised only by Ankara.

In 1994 Cyprus applied to join the EU – although the Nicosia government has no control over the Turkish Cypriots. In 2001 Cyprus fulfilled EU membership criteria.

In 2002 the UN launched a Reunification Plan under secretary general Kofi Annan, suggesting a two-part federation with a rotating presidency. Turkish Cypriots were in favour, but Greek Cypriots massively rejected the plan, in a referendum in April 2004 at the urging of the hardline Greek-Cypriot leader, Tassos Papadopoulos. Greek-Cypriot “no” voters felt that the plan failed to guarantee adequate restitution for 160,000 or more people forced south by the 1974 invasion, and let too many Turkish troops (6,000, as opposed to the present 30,000) remain on the island, under a withdrawal plan whose execution was not guaranteed. To many Turkish-Cypriots, it seemed as if their neighbours were selfishly digging in their heels, refusing to share power and money, when their bit of the island was on the brink of raking in all the benefits of EU entry. Cyprus remained split, with the north recognised by only one country, Turkey. This disappointed EU officials, who had agreed to allow Cyprus to join that year partly in the hope it would encourage a solution to the Cyprus problem. Despite joining the European Union in 2004 Cyprus did so as a divided island, so only the Greek-Cypriot republic enjoys international recognition. This hampers EU-NATO co-operation and the EU’s relationship with Turkey.

Under the provisions of Cyprus’s 1960 independence settlement, Turkey, along with Greece and Britain, maintains a right to military intervention if the island’s constitutional order is threatened.


‘Charlemagne–Please Mr Edogan,’ The Economist 28th January 2017, p.23