A former British colony, Cyprus became independent in 1960, following years of resistance to British rule. Tensions between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority came to a head in December 1963, when violence broke out in the capital Nicosia. Despite the deployment of the UN peacekeepers in 1964, sporadic intercommunal violence continued forcing most Turkish Cypriots into enclaves throughout the island. In 1974, a Greek government sponsored attempt to seize control of Cyprus, was met by military intervention from Turkey, which soon controlled more than a third of the island.
The island was effectively partitioned with the northern third inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots. A "Green Line" - dividing the two parts from Morphou, through Nicosia to Famagusta - is patrolled by United Nations troops.
The UN drew up the Green Line as a ceasefire demarcation line in 1963 after intervening to end communal tension. It became impassable after the Turkish invasion of 1974, except for designated crossing points.
In 1983 the Turkish held area declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The status of northern Cyprus as a separate entity is recognised only by Turkey, which keeps 30,000 troops in the north of the island.
The prospect of EU enlargement concentrated minds in the search for a settlement. UN-sponsored negotiations continued throughout 2002 and a peace plan was tabled. Soon afterwards the EU invited Cyprus to become a member.
But hopes that the island could join united, were dashed when leaders of the Turkish and Greek communities failed to agree to the UN plan by the March 2003 deadline.
In the months that followed, travel restrictions were eased, enabling people to cross the border for the first time in nearly 30 years, raising hopes that progress might be on the way.
As EU entry approached, a revised UN reunification plan was put to both communities in twin referendums in April 2004.
The plan was endorsed by the Turkish Cypriots - though not by their then leader Rauf Denktash - but overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots. Because both sides had to approve the proposals, the island remained divided as it joined the EU in May 2004. EU laws and benefits apply only to the Greek Cypriot community.
More than 2 years later, hopes of progress were rekindled at UN-sponsored talks between Cypriot president Tassos Papadopolous and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. The two agreed on a series of confidence building measures and contacts between the communities.
Hopes were given further impetus by the election of Demetris Christofias as president in February 2008. He immediately began talks with Mehmet Ali Talat on reuniting the country as a bizonal federal state.
However, the initial optimism faded, as talks made slow progress through 2008, and hopes for a deal were dealt a blow by the victory of the right wing nationalists at parliamentary elections in northern Cyprus in April 2009.
Talks stalled through 2009, and the nationalists consolidated their dominance of the northern Cyprus by winning the presidential election there in April 2012.
Turkey has a particular interest in seeing the situation resolved as its own EU aspirations are linked to the island's future.
There are still many people missing from both communities following the events of the 1960's and 1970's. Progress is being made by the Committee for Missing Persons in Cyprus in the recovery and identification of missing persons.
The 'TRNC' is not internationally recognised, except by Turkey.
Area: 9,251 sq. km. (3,572 sq. mi.) of which 3,355 sq. km. are in the occupied area.
Cities: Capital--Nicosia (pop. 253,000, 2013 est.). 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, winters.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, situated 60 km south of Turkey and 300 km north of Egypt. It has two mountain ranges - Pentadaktylos range (max height 1,042 m) along the north coast and the Troodos massif (Mt Olympus 1,953m ) in the central and south-western part of the island. Between the two ranges, lies the Messaoria (central plain).
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Cypriot(s).
Population: 1,155,403 (2013 est.). Government-controlled area 894,959 (2013 est); area administered by Turkish Cypriots 260,444 (2013 est.).
Annual population growth rate: Government-controlled area 1.52% (2013 est.)area administered by Turkish Cypriots 4.1% (2007 est.).
Ethnic groups (1960 census): Greek (77%), Turkish (18%), Maronite and Armenian (1%), and other (4%).
Religions: Greek Orthodox (78%), Muslim (18%), Maronite, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox (combined 4%).
Languages: Greek, Turkish, English.
Education: Years compulsory--6 in elementary; 6 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 (2008), 379,100: agriculture and mining--7.5%; industry and construction--20.4%; and services--72.1%. Turkish Cypriot-administered area (2007), 89,787: agriculture and mining--3.6%; industry and construction-20.5%; and services-75.9%.
Membership of International groups/organisations: UN Council of Europe, Commonwealth, OSCE, European Union, IAEA, IBRD, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol.
Type: Presidential Republic.
Independence: August 16, 1960.
Constitution: August 16, 1960.
Branches: Executive--President elected to 5-yr. term, and exercises executive power through a council of ministers appointed by him.
Legislative--unicameral House of Representatives, members elected to 5-yr. terms. The legislature comprises of one 80 member House of Representatives (24 seats are reserved for Turkish Cypriot MP's which are currently vacant). Judicial--Supreme Court; six district courts.
Administrative subdivisions: Six.
Major political parties: Greek Cypriots--Progressive Party of Working People or Anorthotikon Komma Ergazomenou Laou--AKEL (communist); Democratic Party or Dimokratikon Komma--DIKO (centre-right); Democratic Rally or Dimokratikos Synagermos-
DISY (right); Movement for Social Democracy or Eleftheron Dimokratikon--EDEK (socialist); United Democrats or Enomeni
Democrats--ED (centre-left). Turkish Cypriots--National Unity Party or Ulusal Birlik Partisi--UBP (right); Democrat Party or
Democrat Partisi--DP (centre-right); Republican Turkish Party or Cumhuriyetci Turk Partisi--CTP (centre-left); Freedom and
Reform Party or Free Party--Ozgurluk ve Reform Partisi--OP (centre-right); Communal Democracy Party or Toplumcu Demokrasi Partisi--TDP.
Suffrage: Universal at age 18.
The area of the Republic of Cyprus under government, control has a market economy dominated by the service sector, which accounts for four-fifths of GDP. Tourism, financial services, and real estate are the most important sectors. Erratic growth rates over the past decade reflect the economy's reliance on tourism, the profitability of which can fluctuate with political instability in the region and economic conditions in Western Europe. Nevertheless, the economy in the area under government control has grown at a rate well above the EU average since 2000. Cyprus joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM2) in May 2005 and adopted the euro as its national currency on 1 January 2008. An aggressive austerity programme in the preceding years, aimed at paving the way for the euro, helped turn a soaring fiscal deficit (6.3% in 2003) into a surplus of 1.2% in 2008, and reduced inflation to 4.7%. This prosperity came under pressure in 2009, as construction and tourism slowed in the face of reduced foreign demand triggered by the ongoing global financial crisis. Although Cyprus lagged behind its EU peers in showing signs of stress from the global crisis, the economy tipped into recession in 2009, contracting by 1.7%, and has been slow to bounce back since, posting anemic growth in 2010-11 before contracting again by 2.3% in 2012. Serious problems surfaced in the Cypriot financial sector in early 2011, as the Greek fiscal crisis and euro zone debt crisis deepened. Cyprus's borrowing costs have risen steadily because of its exposure to Greek debt. Two of Cyprus's biggest banks are among the largest holders of Greek bonds in Europe and have a substantial presence in Greece through bank branches and subsidiaries. Cyprus experienced numerous downgrades of its credit rating in 2012 and has been cut off from international money markets. The Cypriot economy contracted in 2012 following the writedown of Greek bonds. A liquidity squeeze is choking the financial sector and the real economy, as many global investors are uncertain the Cypriot economy can weather the EU crisis. The budget deficit rose to 7.4% of GDP in 2011, a violation of the EU's budget deficit criteria - no more than 3% of GDP. In response to the country's deteriorating finances and serious risk of contagion from the Greek debt crisis, Nicosia implemented measures to cut the cost of the state payroll, curb tax evasion, and revamp social benefits, and trimmed the deficit to 4.2% of GDP in 2012. In July, Nicosia became the fifth euro zone government to request an economic bailout programme from the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund - known collectively as the "Troika". Negotiations over the final details of the plan are ongoing.
GDP: $23.01 billion (est. 2012)
Annual GDP real growth rate (2013): Government-controlled area -2.4%.
Per capita GDP income: Greek Cypriots (2013)--$27,500; Turkish Cypriots (2012)--$11,700
Agriculture and natural resources (2013): 2.4% 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 (2013): 16.7% of GDP. Types--food and beverage processing, cement and gypsum production, ship repair and refurbishment, textiles, light chemicals, metal products, wood, paper, stone and clay products.
Services and tourism (2013): 80.9% of GDP. Trade, restaurants, and hotels ; transport ; finance, real estate, and business ; government, education, and health ; community and other services .
Trade: Exports--$2.679 billion (2012 est): citrus, grapes, wine, potatoes, pharmaceuticals, clothing, and footwear. Major markets--EU (especially Greece and the U.K.), Middle East, Russia.
Imports--$7.093 billion: consumer goods, petroleum and lubricants, machinery and transport equipment. Major suppliers--Greece, Israel, Italy, Germany, UK, Netherlands, France and China.
* Section refers to the government-controlled area unless otherwise specified
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 publicly supported universities.
Human settlement on Cyprus stretches back nearly eight millennia and by 3700 BC, the island was 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 Heart) 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, however, left for Turkey during the 1920s. 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 subsequently fled south while almost all Turkish Cypriots moved to the 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.
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. Nicosia continues to be the only divided capital city in Europe.
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"). Only Turkey recognizes the "TRNC."
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.
Presidential elections last took place in February 2013. Nicos Anastasiades was elected as president.
Dervis Eroglu was elected in April 2010 as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community (as the so-called "President of the TRNC"), replacing Mehmet Ali Talat.
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. In general, Turkish Cypriots focus on bizonality, security guarantees, and political equality between the two communities, envisioning a weak federation with strong powers reserved for the two constituent states. Greek Cypriots, on the other hand, emphasize the rights of movement, property, settlement, and the return of territory, and envision a stronger, more integrated federal government. Numerous UN-sponsored negotiation rounds have faltered owing to the sides’ differing aims and wants, the last major failure being the 2004 “Annan Plan,” which in simultaneous referenda in the two communities won the support of two-thirds of Turkish Cypriots but only one-fourth of Greek Cypriots.
For two years following the Annan Plan defeat, the island saw little progress toward reunification until a visiting high-level UN official in July 2006 secured both sides support for a framework agreement aimed at restarting settlement discussions. The sides tackled procedural issues over the ensuing 18 months but mainly avoided substance. A breakthrough of sorts occurred with the February 2008 election of Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, who immediately pledged to renew settlement efforts under UN auspices. Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat met four times between March and July 2008, with their chief negotiators and technical experts supporting their efforts via more frequent gatherings. On July 25, the two leaders announced the decision to proceed to full-fledged negotiations, which began on September 3.
Over the next 16 months, Christofias and Talat met more than 60 times, tackling the core negotiation issues of governance and power sharing, property, the economy, EU matters, security and guarantees, territorial arrangements, and migration issues. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon paid an official visit to Cyprus January 31-February 2, 2010. He congratulated the sides for progress to date and emphasized that courage and determination would be needed to bring the talks to a successful conclusion.
Bi-Communal Contact, Crossing Procedures
In April 2003, then-leader of the Turkish Cypriots Rauf 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 over 16.5 million 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 of 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 they encounter difficulties 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.
Principal Government Officials
President of the Republic--Nicos Anastasiades
Foreign Minister--Ioannis Kasoulides
Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism--Georgios Lakkotrypis
Minister of Finance--Haris Georgiades
Minister of Interior--Socratis Hasikos
Minister of Defense--Fotis Fotiou
Minister of Communications and Works--Tasos Mitsopoulos
Minister of Justice and Public Order--Ioanas Nicolaou
Minister of Health--Petros Petrides
Minister for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment -- Nicos Kouyialis
Minister of Education and Culture -- Kyriakos Kenevezos
Minister for Labour and Social Insurance -- Georgia Emilianidou
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. Cyprus adopted the Euro on January 1, 2008.
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 favourable constitutional and territorial settlement possible. This campaign has been pursued primarily through international forums such as the United Nations. (See Political Conditions.) Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
The Republic of Cyprus enjoys close relations with many countries, including Greece, Russia, China, France, Cuba, 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).