Legendarily the birthplace of the ancient Greek goddess of love Aphrodite, Cyprus’ modern history has, by contrast, been dominated by tensions between its Greek and Turkish inhabitants.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the north in response to a military coup on the island backed by the Greek government.
The island was effectively divided, with the northern third ruled by a Turkish Cypriot government and the southern two-thirds by the internationally recognized government led by Greek Cypriots.
United Nations troops patrol the “Green Line” that separates the two sides, and reunification talks are progressing slowly.
Cyprus has successfully diversified its predominantly agrarian economy into one based on services – including a large tourism sector – and light industry.
More recently, it has also become an important financial center, particularly for investors from Russia and Eastern Europe.
REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS: FACTS
- Capital: Nicosia
- Area: 9,251 km² (combined)
- Population: 1.2 million (combined)
- LANGUAGES : Greek, Turkish
- Life expectancy: 79 years (men) 83 years (women)
President: Nikos Christodoulides
Nikos Christodoulides is the island’s first leader born in an independent Cyprus.
Supported by centrist and right-wing parties, Christodoulides served as foreign minister until early 2022. He won 52% of the vote against his main rival, the left-backed Andreas Mavroyiannis, in the runoff election. presidential election in February 2023.
He said his main goal as president was to find a solution to the Cyprus problem, following earlier similar statements he made as foreign minister.
Turkish Cypriot leader: Ersin Tatar
Ersin Tatar won a narrow victory in the second round of the October 2020 elections, defeating incumbent President Mustafa Akıncı. The vote was scheduled for April 2020 but was delayed by six months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mustafa Akıncı had campaigned for a federal solution to the Cyprus conflict, and Ersin Tatar, then prime minister, had campaigned for a two-state solution.
Five days before the first round of voting, Tatar announced a partial reopening of the ghost town of Varosha. Varosha had been sealed off since the 1974 conflict and the flight of its Greek Cypriot population. The announcement sparked international criticism and the fall of his cabinet after the junior coalition partner withdrew from the government.
In September 2021, after a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and then-President Nicos Anastasiades, Tatar said that negotiations on the future of Cyprus would not begin without taking into consideration “equality sovereignty and international status of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.
Northern Cyprus’ status as a separate political entity is recognized only by Turkey.
Cypriot media reflect the political division of the island, with the Turkish-controlled northern area having its own press and broadcasters.
There were 1.1 million internet users in Cyprus in January 2022, or 97% of the population, and 1.2 million Facebook users (Internetworldstats.com).
Some key dates in the history of Cyprus:
1914 – Cyprus annexed by Great Britain, after more than 300 years of Ottoman domination. Britain had occupied the island in 1878, although it remained nominally under Ottoman sovereignty.
1955 – Greek Cypriots begin guerrilla warfare against British rule. The guerrilla movement, the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA), wants enosis (unification) with Greece.
1960 – Britain grants independence to Cyprus under a power-sharing constitution between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, holding intervention rights on the island alongside Turkey and Greece.
1963 – President Makarios raises Turkey’s fears by proposing constitutional changes that would repeal power-sharing agreements. Intercommunal violence breaks out. The Turkish side withdraws from power sharing.
1974 – The Greek military junta supports the coup against President Makarios, leading to the Turkish invasion and occupation of a third of the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are fleeing in opposite directions.
1983 – Rauf Denktas declares a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey.
2001 – The UN Security Council renews its decades-long mission. Some 2,400 peacekeepers patrol the buffer zone between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
2003 – Turkish and Greek Cypriots cross the island’s ‘green line’ for the first time in 30 years after Turkish Cypriot authorities eased border restrictions.
2004 – Cyprus joins the EU, but as a divided island.
2008 – Cyprus adopts the euro. The symbolic passage of Ledra Street, between the Turkish and Greek sectors of Nicosia, is reopened for the first time since 1964.
2013 – Cyprus negotiates a deal to get its financial sector out of the eurozone debt crisis.
2018 – The first new buffer zone crossings are opened in eight years at Deryneia in the east and at Lefke in the west.