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Cyprus rel 80.JPG
Flag of Cyprus.jpg
Capital Nicosia

President Nicos Christodoulides
Population 1,210,000 (2020)
Currency Euro

Cyprus is an island nation in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its capital is Nicosia. The southern part of the island is controlled by the Republic of Cyprus, which is recognized by the majority of the world and is a member of the European Union and the United Nations. The northern part has been controlled by Turkish military forces since 1974, and has been known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus since 1983. However, only Turkey officially recognizes this. [1] Cyprus is the only member state of the EU with a Communist leader.

With the election of President Demetris Christofias in the Republic of Cyprus, relations between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have thawed somewhat, and peace talks between the divided people are due to commence in June 2008 with the ultimate aim or reuniting the island. [2]

Cyprus is a popular holiday destination, particularly for the British, with many resorts in the coastal areas. English is widely spoken by the native population, and there is a large population of British ex-patriots on the island. In fact, nearly 13% of the island's population are foreign residents. [3]

Cyprus is mentioned in Acts 13 of the Bible, which records Paul as having traveled there on one of his missionary journeys. [4]


  • Area: 9,251 km2. (3,572 sq. mi.); about the size of Connecticut.
  • Cities: Capital—Nicosia (pop. 197,800, 2000 fig.). Other cities—Limassol, Larnaca, Famagusta, Paphos, Kyrenia, Morphou.
  • Terrain: Central plain with mountain ranges to the north and south.
  • Climate: Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters.


Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided de facto into the government-controlled two-thirds of the island and the remaining one-third of the island, which is administered by Turkish Cypriots. Greek and Turkish Cypriots share many customs but maintain distinct identities based on religion, language, and close ties with their respective "motherlands." Greek is predominantly spoken in the south, Turkish in the north. English is widely used. Cyprus has a well-developed system of primary and secondary education. The majority of Cypriots earn their higher education at Greek, Turkish, British, and other European or American universities. Both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities have developed private colleges and state-supported universities.

  • Population (2006 est.): government-controlled area 778,700; area administered by Turkish Cypriots 264,172.
  • Annual population growth rate (2006 est.) government-controlled area: 1.6%; area administered by Turkish Cypriots: 0.98%
  • Ethnic groups (1960 census): Greek (77%), Turkish (18%), Armenian and other (4%).
  • Religions: Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Maronite, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox.
  • Languages: Greek, Turkish, English.
  • Education: Years compulsory—6 in elementary; 3 in high school. Attendance—almost 100%. Literacy—about 99%.
  • Health: Infant mortality rate—7.04/1,000. Life expectancy—77 yrs.; males 75 yrs.; females 80 years.
  • Work force: Government-controlled area (2006), 373,000: agriculture and mining—7.4%; industry—38.2%; and services—54.4%. Turkish Cypriot-administered area (2005), 95,000: agriculture—14.5%; industry—29%; and services—56.5%.


Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided de facto into the government-controlled two-thirds of the island and the Turkish Cypriot-administered one-third. The Government of the Republic of Cyprus has continued to be the only internationally recognized authority; in practice, its authority extends only to the government-controlled area.

The 1960 Cypriot constitution provided for a presidential system of government with independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as a complex system of checks and balances, including a weighted power-sharing ratio designed to protect the interests of the Turkish Cypriots. The executive, for example, was headed by a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice president, elected by their respective communities for 5-year terms, and each possessing a right of veto over certain types of legislation and executive decisions. The Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus retains most elements of the presidential system of government expressed in the constitution, although it has cited the Turkish Cypriots' "withdrawal from government" and the "law of necessity" to enact structural changes that allow "effective governance."

Following the 1974 hostilities, the Turkish Cypriots set up their own institutions in the area they administered with an elected "president" and a "prime minister" responsible to the "National Assembly" exercising joint executive powers. In 1983, the Turkish Cypriots declared an independent "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TRNC"). The United States does not recognize the "TRNC," nor does any country other than Turkey.

Political Conditions

Historically, none of the Greek Cypriot parties has been able to elect a president by itself or dominate the 56-seat House of Representatives. The 165,000 Greek Cypriot refugees from the area now administered by Turkish Cypriots are a potent political force, along with the independent Orthodox Church of Cyprus, which has some influence in secular as well as religious matters. In February 2008, Demetris Christofias defeated incumbent Tassos Papadopoulos and challenger Ioannis Kassoulides in two rounds of voting to become the first AKEL president of the Republic of Cyprus. All major parties hold seats in the National Council, the top advisory board to the president on Cyprus settlement issues, although opposition DISY withdrew from the body in February 2006.

Parliamentary elections last took place in May 2006. AKEL emerged the leading party, garnering 31% of votes cast, with DISY a close second with 30%; each is represented in parliament by 18 MPs. Until the party's withdrawal from government, AKEL led a legislative coalition that depended on DIKO (11 seats) and EDEK (5) support, while DISY heads the opposition.

Mehmet Ali Talat was elected in April 2005 as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community (as the so-called "President of the TRNC"), replacing long-time nationalist leader Rauf Denktash. Talat's political rise was due largely to his support of the UN Settlement Plan for Cyprus (the "Annan Plan"), which Rauf Denktash opposed, but which was supported by a majority of Turkish Cypriots in a 2004 referendum. Talat's political allies in the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) currently hold 25 of the 50 seats in the "TRNC National Assembly," and have had to establish a series of coalitions to form a stable "government." In January 2004, the CTP teamed up with the Democrat Party (DP) of Serdar Denktash, a coalition which continued in various forms—first with Talat as "Prime Minister" and then, after Talat's election as "President," under the leadership of CTP leader Ferdi Sabit Soyer—until September 2006. At that time, CTP formed a new coalition with the newly formed Freedom and Reform Party (Free Party, OP), with Soyer retaining his post as "PM" and OP party leader Turgay Avci replacing Serdar Denktash as "Deputy Prime Minister" and "Foreign Minister."

Attempts To Achieve a Cyprus Settlement

The first UN-sponsored negotiations to develop institutional arrangements acceptable to both communities began in 1968; several sets of negotiations and other initiatives followed. Turkish Cypriots focus on bizonality, security guarantees, and political equality between the two communities. Greek Cypriots emphasize the rights of movement, property, settlement, and the return of territory. Turkish Cypriots favor a loose grouping of two nearly autonomous societies living side by side with limited contact. Greek Cypriots envision a more integrated structure.

The last major UN-led effort to deliver a Cyprus solution commenced in January 2002 with Secretary General Kofi Annan orchestrating direct talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot community leaders. Nine months later Annan released a comprehensive settlement proposal, informally called "the Annan Plan". Intensive efforts were made to gain both sides' support for the plan prior to the December 2002 European Union (EU) Summit in Copenhagen, where member states would determine the island's future status vis-a-vis the union. Neither side agreed to the Annan Plan before the summit.

UN-sponsored talks continued following Copenhagen. In February 2003, Tassos Papadopoulos was elected president of the Republic of Cyprus. A year later, President Papadopoulos and then-Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash resumed negotiations on the Annan Plan. A comprehensive settlement package was put to both sides in simultaneous referenda on April 24, 2004. Sixty-five percent of Turkish Cypriots endorsed the Annan Plan, but a larger majority of Greek Cypriots (76%) voted "no." The Secretary General later suspended his Good Offices Mission. Nonetheless, the EU invited the Republic of Cyprus (with Cyprus still divided) to join; the Republic of Cyprus became a full member on May 1, 2004, with the EU's acquis communautaire suspended in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.

For two years following the Annan Plan referenda, the island saw little progress toward reunification. However, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari, in his July 2006 visit to Cyprus, succeeded in securing commitment from both sides to commence exploratory talks, and on July 8, community leaders President Papadopoulos and Mr. Talat and met for the first time since 2004. They agreed to a UN-brokered negotiating framework that envisioned the establishment of technical committees to tackle everyday life issues and expert working groups to discuss substantive matters. A March 27, 2007 UN Security Council press statement urged the two communities to quickly begin implementing the July 8, 2006 agreement. While negotiators continue meeting frequently under the auspices of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Cyprus, the committees and working groups have yet to convene, and the July 8 agreement's anniversary passed without significant movement on negotiations. On September 5, 2007 President Papadopoulos and Mr. Talat met for the first time in 14 months. No agreement was reached to implement the July 8, 2006 agreement but, according to a UN press release, both "agreed on the need for the earliest start of the process, and discussed other issues, leading to a comprehensive settlement." Newly elected President Demetris Christofias pledged to renew settlement efforts through UN auspices.

Bi-Communal Contact, Crossing Procedures

In April 2003, then-leader of the Turkish Cypriots Denktash relaxed many restrictions on individuals crossing between the two communities, leading to relatively unimpeded bi-communal contact for the first time since 1974. Since the relaxation, there have been nearly 12,000,000 buffer zone crossings in both directions. Under the current regulations, Greek Cypriots must present identity documents to cross to the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, something many are reluctant to do. They are able to drive their personal vehicles in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, provided they first obtain a policy from a Turkish Cypriot insurance provider. Turkish Cypriots are permitted to cross into the government-controlled area upon presentation of a Turkish Cypriot ID card or other identity documentation acceptable to Republic of Cyprus authorities. They must also obtain car insurance from an insurer in the government-controlled area to drive their personal vehicles there.

Until recently, visitors choosing to arrive at non-designated airports and seaports in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots were not allowed to cross the United Nations-patrolled "green line" to the government-controlled area. In June 2004, however, Cypriot authorities implemented new EU-related crossing regulations that allowed Americans (and citizens of most other countries) to cross freely regardless of their port of entry into Cyprus. Visitors arriving in the government-controlled area are normally able to cross the green line without hindrance, although on occasion difficulties are encountered at both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot checkpoints. The Government of Cyprus considers ports in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots to be illegal. Policy and procedures regarding such travel are subject to change. More information on current procedures may be obtained at the UN "Buffer Zone" Ledra Palace checkpoint in Nicosia or by referral to the U.S. State Department's Country Specific Information sheet on Cyprus at:

Principal Government Officials

  • President of the Republic—Nicos Anastasiades
  • Foreign Minister—Markos Kyprianou
  • Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism—Antonis Paschalades
  • Minister of Finance—Charilaos Stavrakis
  • Minister of Interior—Neoclis Sylikiotis
  • Minister of Defense—Costas Papacostas
  • Minister of Communications and Works—Maria Nicos Nicolaides
  • Minister of Justice and Public Order—Kypros Chrysostomides
  • Minister of Health—Christos Patsalides
  • Permanent Representative to the United Nations—Andreas Mavroyiannis

Foreign Relations

The Republic of Cyprus aligns itself with European positions within the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. Cyprus has long identified with the West in its cultural affinities and trade patterns, and maintains close relations with Greece. Since 1974, the foreign policy of the Republic of Cyprus has sought the withdrawal of Turkish forces and the most favorable constitutional and territorial settlement possible. This campaign has been pursued primarily through international forums such as the United Nations. Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.

The Republic of Cyprus enjoys close relations with many countries, including Greece, Russia, China, France, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, and other countries in the region. Cyprus is a member of the United Nations and most of its agencies, as well as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Council of Europe and the British Commonwealth. In addition, the government has signed the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency Agreement (MIGA).


Cyprus has an open, free-market, services-based economy with some light manufacturing. Cyprus' accession as a full member to the European Union as of May 1, 2004, has been an important milestone in its recent economic development. The Cypriots are among the most prosperous people in the Mediterranean region. Internationally, Cyprus promotes its geographical location as a "bridge" between three continents, along with its educated English-speaking population, moderate local costs, good airline connections, and telecommunications.

  • GDP (2007): $20.98 billion.
  • Annual GDP real growth rate (2007): government-controlled area: 3.8%.
  • Per capita GDP income: Greek Cypriots (2006)--$23,672; Turkish Cypriots (2006)--$11,802.
  • Agriculture and natural resources (2006): 3.2% of GDP. Products—potatoes and other vegetables, citrus fruits, olives, grapes, wheat, carob seeds. Resources—pyrites, copper, asbestos, gypsum, lumber, salt, marble, clay, earth pigment.
  • Industry and construction (2006): 19.2% of GDP. Types—mining, cement, construction, utilities, manufacturing, chemicals, non-electric machinery, textiles, footwear, food, beverages, tobacco.
  • Services and tourism (2006): 77.6% of GDP. Trade, restaurants, and hotels 19.5%; transport 8.2%; finance, real estate, and business 24.9%; government, education, and health 20.5%; and community and other services 4.6%.
  • Trade (2006): Exports--$1,619 billion: citrus, grapes, wine, potatoes, pharmaceuticals, clothing, and footwear. Major markets—EU (especially the U.K. and Greece), Middle East, Russia. Imports--$6,345 billion: consumer goods, raw materials for industry, petroleum and lubricants, food and feed grains. Major suppliers—Greece, Italy, Germany, U.K. (U.S. trade surplus—for 2006: $100.6 million.)

In the past 20 years, the economy has shifted from agriculture to light manufacturing and services. Currently, agriculture makes up only 3.2% of the GDP and employs 7.1% of the labor force. Industry and construction contribute 19.2% and employ 20.8% of the labor force. The services sector, including tourism, contributes 77.6% to the GDP and employs 72.1% of the labor force. As in recent years, the services sector, and tourism in particular, provided the main impetus for growth. Manufactured goods account for 58.3% of domestic exports, while potatoes and citrus constitute the principal export crops. The island has few proven natural resources. This may change, however, as in March 2007, the Government of Cyprus launched a licensing round to explore for possible offshore oil and gas reserves off its southern coast. Trade is vital to the Cypriot economy and most goods are imported. The trade deficit increased in 2006, reaching $5.7 billion. Cyprus must import fuels, food, most raw materials, heavy machinery, and transportation equipment. More than 68% of its trade in goods is with the European Union, particularly with Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom, compared to less than 2% with the United States

GNP growth rates have gradually begun to decline as the Cypriot economy has matured over the years. The average rate of growth went from 6.1% in the 1980s, to 4.4% in the 1990s, to 3.5% from 2000 to 2007. In the last couple of years (2006 and 2007) growth has remained fairly strong at around 3.8% and is forecast to remain so for 2008. Cyprus also managed to keep its inflation in check at 2.2% in 2007, while having the third-lowest unemployment rate in the EU-27 at around 4.8%. Public finances have also improved considerably in recent years. The fiscal deficit, which had peaked at 6.3% of GDP in 2003, was eliminated by 2007. A fiscal surplus of 1.5% of GDP took its place in 2007, likely to be followed by a 0.5% surplus in 2008. Concurrently, the public debt declined to around 60% of GDP in 2007, from 65.2% the year before.

These developments have helped pave the way for the Euro, which replaced the Cyprus pound as Cyprus' national currency as of January 1, 2008. Joining the Eurozone was a major accomplishment for the Cypriot economy, promising to result in such benefits as a higher degree of price stability, lower interest rates, reduction of currency conversion costs and exchange rate risk, and increased competition through greater price transparency. Cyprus was to allow both the Euro and the Cyprus pound to circulate on the island for a period of one month after January 1, 2008. Commercial banks will exchange Cyprus pound banknotes and coins free of charge until June 30, 2008. The Central Bank will exchange national coins free of charge until the end of 2009 and national banknotes until the end of 2017. Dual pricing in Cypriot pounds and Euros will be mandatory from September 1, 2006 until July 31, 2008. The final conversion exchange rate between the Cypriot pound and the Euro was one Euro per 0.585274 Cyprus pounds.

Investment Climate

In the run-up to EU accession (May 1, 2004), Cyprus dismantled most investment restrictions, attracting increased flows of foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly from the EU. Cyprus has good business and financial services, modern telecommunications, an educated labor force, good airline connections, a sound legal system, and a low crime rate. Cyprus' geographic location, tax incentives and modern infrastructure also make it a natural hub for companies looking to do business with the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, the European Union, and North Africa. As a result, Cyprus has developed into an important regional and international business center. According to the latest United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) "World Investment Report 2006," Cyprus ranks among the world's leading countries per capita in terms of attracting FDI. Non-EU investors (both natural and legal persons) may now invest freely in Cyprus in most sectors, either directly or indirectly (including all types of portfolio investment in the Cyprus Stock Exchange). The only exceptions concern primarily the acquisition of property and, to a lesser extent, restrictions on investment in the sectors of tertiary education, banking, and mass media.

In 2006, the inflow of FDI reached U.S. $1.50 billion, compared with U.S. $1.18 billion in 2005. The geographic origin of new investment in 2006 was the EU 27.6%; non-EU countries in Europe 23.2%; and Asia 35.1%. In terms of sectoral allocation, incoming FDI in 2006 went to the following sectors: mining and quarrying 1.7%; construction 3.9%; trade and repairs 17.1%; financial intermediation 14.6%; real estate and business activities 35.0%; and other services 27.7%.

The flow of U.S. investment in Cyprus reached U.S. $51.9 million in 2006 or 3.4% of Cyprus' total inward FDI. The stock of U.S. investment in the island was U.S. $298.9 million at the end of 2006. U.S. investment in 2006 was focused in real estate and business activities (U.S. $27.9 million) as well as mining and quarrying (U.S. $22.2 million). Projects involving U.S. investment in recent years have included a well-known U.S. coffee retailing franchise, a university, an information technology firm, an equestrian center, a hair products manufacturing unit, a firm trading in health and natural foodstuffs, and a financial services company. U.S. investors may benefit from Cyprus's abolition of EU-origin investment restrictions, provided they operate through EU subsidiaries.

European Union (EU)

Along with the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia, the Republic of Cyprus entered the EU on May 1, 2004. The EU acquis communautaire is suspended in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots pending a Cyprus settlement.

Export Opportunities

Best prospects for U.S. firms generally lie in services, high technology sectors, such as computer equipment and data processing services, financial services, environmental protection technology, medical and telecommunications equipment, desalination and water purification equipment and services, and tourism development projects such as casinos, marinas, and golf courses. Moreover, alternative energy sources and the energy sector in general, are attracting an increasing amount of attention, while the possible existence of natural gas and petroleum reserves off the southern and eastern coast of Cyprus opens up new prospects. U.S. food franchises and apparel licensors are also finding fertile ground for expansion in Cyprus.

The Government of Cyprus, through the Ministry of Commerce, announced its plans to license 11 offshore blocks for exploration and exploitation of oil and natural gas within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In August 2007 bidding opened for exploration of 11 offshore blocks, primarily to the south and southeast of Cyprus. Only two groups bid on three blocks: a consortium comprised of small U.K., Norwegian, and U.A.E. companies, and Noble Energy of Houston. Negotiations between the Cypriot Ministry of Commerce and the bidders were expected to begin in late December 2007, but due to the elections and political difficulties relating to the import of natural gas, negotiations were delayed until after the February 2008 presidential elections.

Trade Between Cyprus and the United States

The U.S. Embassy in Nicosia sponsors a popular pavilion for American products at the annual Cyprus International State Fair and organizes other events to promote U.S. products throughout the year. The U.S. runs a significant trade surplus with Cyprus, on the order of $100.6 million in 2006 (exports of $111.0 million versus imports of $10.5 million—according to Republic of Cyprus statistics).

Principal U.S. goods exports to Cyprus include office machines and data processing equipment; electrical appliances; optical, measuring, and medical equipment; tobacco and cigarettes; passenger cars; and wheat. Principal U.S. imports from Cyprus consist of dairy products, fresh fish, and mineral substances.

Bilateral business ties also encompass a healthy exchange in services. In 2006, the inflow of services (from the United States to Cyprus) was $552.8 million, against an outflow (from Cyprus to the United States) of $335.9 million, according to Republic of Cyprus statistics.

Turkish Cypriot Economy

The economy of the Turkish Cypriot-administered area is dominated by the services sector including the public sector, trade, tourism and education, with smaller agriculture and light manufacturing sectors. The economy operates on a free-market basis, although it continues to be handicapped by the political isolation of Turkish Cypriots, the lack of private and public investment, high freight costs, and shortages of skilled labor. Despite these constraints, the Turkish Cypriot economy turned in an impressive performance from 2003 to 2006, with estimated growth rates of 7.8% in 2006, 10.6% in 2005, 15.4% in 2004, and 11.4% in 2003. Over the same period, GDP per capita more than doubled; according to unofficial Turkish Cypriot statistics it reached $11,802 by the end of 2006. This growth has been buoyed by the relative stability of the Turkish Lira, the employment of around 5,000 Turkish Cypriots in the Greek Cypriot economy where wages are significantly higher, and by a boom in the education and construction sectors. In 2006, the services sector accounted for nearly two-thirds of GDP, industry and construction accounted for 22.5% of GDP, and agriculture 8.4%, according to Turkish Cypriot statistics. The partial lifting of travel restrictions between the two parts of the island in April 2003 has allowed movement of persons—over 12 million crossings to date—between the two parts of the island with no significant interethnic incidents.

Turkey remains, by far, the main trading partner of the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, supplying 65% of imports and absorbing around 50% of exports. In a landmark case, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on July 5, 1994 against the British practice of importing produce from the area based on certificates of origin and phytosanitary certificates granted by "TRNC" authorities. The ECJ decision resulted in a considerable decrease of Turkish Cypriot exports to the EU—from $36.4 million (or 66.7% of total Turkish Cypriot exports) in 1993 to $13.8 million in 2003 (or 28% of total exports). In August 2004, new EU rules allowed goods produced or substantially transformed in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots to be sold duty-free to consumers in the government-controlled area and through that area to the rest of the EU. To qualify, goods must also meet EU sanitary/phytosanitary requirements. Animal products are excluded from this arrangement. In May 2005, Turkish Cypriot authorities adopted a new regulation "mirroring" the EU rules and allowing certain goods produced in the government-controlled areas to be sold in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. (However, suppliers cannot legally transport imported products over the green line in either direction.) Despite these efforts, direct trade between the two communities remains limited.

The EU continues to be the second-largest trading partner of the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, with a 22% share of total imports and 27% share of total exports. Total imports increased to $1.3 billion in 2006, while total exports decreased slightly to $65 million. Imports from the U.S. reached $9.3 million in 2006, while exports to the U.S. were less than $70,000.

Assistance from Turkey is crucial to the Turkish Cypriot economy. Under the latest economic protocol (signed in 2006), Turkey undertakes to provide Turkish Cypriots financial assistance totaling 1.875 billion New Turkish Lira (YTL—roughly $1.34 billion) over a three-year period (600 million YTL in 2007, 625 million YTL in 2008 and 650 million YTL in 2009). Turkey also provides millions of dollars annually in the form of low-interest loans to mostly Turkish entrepreneurs in support of export-oriented industrial production and tourism. Total Turkish assistance to Turkish Cypriots since 1974 is estimated to have exceeded $4 billion.


After the financial crisis in Greece, Cyprus became a crisis too. The euro zone gave Cyprus a $13 billion bailout and the Cypriots start to pull their money from the banks.[1]


Cypriot culture is among the oldest in the Mediterranean. By 3700 BC, the island was well inhabited, a crossroads between East and West. The island fell successively under Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, and Roman domination. For 800 years, beginning in 364 AD, Cyprus was ruled by Byzantium. After brief possession by King Richard I (the Lion-Hearted) of England during the Crusades, the island came under Frankish control in the late 12th century. It was ceded to the Venetian Republic in 1489 and conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1571. The Ottomans applied the millet system to Cyprus, which allowed religious authorities to govern their own non-Muslim minorities. This system reinforced the position of the Orthodox Church and the cohesion of the ethnic Greek population. Most of the Turks who settled on the island during the three centuries of Ottoman rule remained when control of Cyprus—although not sovereignty—was ceded to Great Britain in 1878. Many left for Turkey during the 1920s, however. The island was annexed formally by the United Kingdom in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I and became a crown colony in 1925.

Cyprus gained its independence from the United Kingdom and established a constitutional republic in 1960, after an anti-British campaign by the Greek Cypriot EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters), a guerrilla group that desired political union, or enosis, with Greece. Archbishop Makarios, a charismatic religious and political leader, was elected president.

Shortly after the founding of the republic, serious differences arose between the two communities about the implementation and interpretation of the constitution. The Greek Cypriots argued that the complex mechanisms introduced to protect Turkish Cypriot interests were obstacles to efficient government. In November 1963, President Makarios advanced a series of constitutional amendments designed to eliminate some of these special provisions. The Turkish Cypriots opposed such changes. The confrontation prompted widespread intercommunal fighting in December 1963, after which Turkish Cypriots ceased to participate in the government. Following the outbreak of intercommunal violence, many Turkish Cypriots (and some Greek Cypriots) living in mixed villages began to move into enclaved villages or elsewhere. UN peacekeepers were deployed on the island in 1964. Following another outbreak of intercommunal violence in 1967-68, a Turkish Cypriot provisional administration was formed.

In July 1974, the military junta in Athens sponsored a coup led by extremist Greek Cypriots against the government of President Makarios, citing his alleged pro-communist leanings and his perceived abandonment of enosis. Turkey, citing the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, intervened militarily to protect Turkish Cypriots.

In a two-stage offensive, Turkish troops took control of 38% of the island. Almost all Greek Cypriots fled south while almost all Turkish Cypriots fled north. Since the events of 1974, UN peacekeeping forces have maintained a buffer zone between the two sides. Except for occasional demonstrations or infrequent incidents between soldiers in the buffer zone, the island was free of violent conflict from 1974 until August 1996, when violent clashes led to the death of two demonstrators and escalated tension. The situation has been quiet since 1996.


  • Approximately 78% of Cypriot citizens identify as members of the Greek Orthodox Church.
  • The Euro replaced the Cypriotic Pound in 2008
  • Due to its history as a British colony, motor vehicles drive on the left side of the road and British-style power sockets are used.


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License: Some texual work for this article is in the Public Domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the U.S. Code
Source: File available from the United States Federal Government [5].