Island in the Mediterranean Sea, off the south coast of Turkey and west coast of Syria.
Government Cyprus has two governments: an internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus government, controlled by Greek Cypriots; and a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), controlled by Turkish Cypriots and covering the northern third of the island. Initially, under the 1960 constitution, power was shared between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. However, in 1963 the Turks ceased participating and in 1964 set up a separate community in northern Cyprus, refusing to acknowledge the Greek government in the south. In 1974, Turkish troops invaded northern Cyprus and have since continued to occupy the area. The Greek Cypriot government claims to be the government of all Cyprus and is generally accepted as such, except by the Turkish community. Each of the two republics has its own president, council of ministers, legislature, and judicial system. The ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (TRNC) has its own representatives overseas.
Under its 1960 constitution, the president of the Republic of Cyprus (Greek Cyprus) is directly elected for a five-year term and serves as head of state and government. The post of vice-president is vacant, as it is reserved, under the 1960 constitution, for a Turkish Cypriot. There is a single-chamber legislature, the 80-member house of representatives, which comprises 56 Greek Cypriot members elected for five years by proportional representation (using a preferential vote system), three observer members (representing the Maronite, Roman Catholic, and Armenian minorities) and 24 seats allocated to the Turkish Cypriot community, but these 24 seats have remained vacant since 1964. The president appoints and heads a council of ministers. Voting in elections is compulsory.
Under the separate constitution adopted by the TRNC in 1985, there is a president, directly elected for a five-year term, a prime minister and council of ministers, and a 50-member assembly of the republic (legislature) similar to that in the south. Turkey is the only country to have recognized this government.
History The strategic position of Cyprus has long made it a coveted territory, and from the 15th century BC it was colonized by a succession of peoples from the mainland. In the 8th century it was within the Assyrian empire, then the Babylonian, Egyptian, and Persian. As part of Ptolemaic Egypt, it was seized by Rome in 58 BC. From AD 395 it was ruled by Byzantium, until taken in 1191 by King Richard I of England during the Third Crusade, and it became a Frankish kingdom in 1193. In 1489 it was annexed by Venice, and in 1571 after a long siege of Nicosia, which claimed the lives of over 20,000 Greek Cypriots, it became part of the Ottoman Empire. Under the Ottomans there was an influx of Turks, changing the population mix, especially in the north. Periodic uprisings by Greek Cypriots against the Ottoman Turk rule were suppressed. The island came under British administration in 1878 as a protectorate, under an agreement by Britain to support the Ottoman Empire in the Russian–Turkish war. Cyprus became a strategic naval outpost for the British Empire and was annexed by the UK in 1914 when Turkey became allied with Germany, and it became a British crown colony in 1925.
Enosis During World Wars I and II many Cypriots fought in the British Army and expected that after the wars were over the UK would accede to Greek Cypriots' desires for enosis, or unification with Greece. These wishes were not fulfilled and in 1955 a guerrilla war against British rule was begun by Greek Cypriots seeking enosis. The chief organization in this campaign was the National Organization of Cypriot Combatants (EOKA), and its political and military leaders were the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, and Gen Grivas. In 1956 Makarios and other enosis leaders were deported by the UK government. After years of negotiation, Makarios was allowed to return in 1960 to become president of a new, independent Greek-Turkish Cyprus, retaining UK military and naval bases. He was re-elected in 1968 and 1973. The constitution stipulated a 70%:30% ratio of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in the public services and provided for a Turkish Cypriot vice-president and veto on tax legislation. The Turkish Cypriots comprised a fifth of the population.
Greek-Turkish conflict In November 1963 President Makarios proposed amendments to the constitution, which the Turkish Cypriots rejected as removing key protections for their community. In December 1963 the Turkish Cypriots withdrew from power-sharing, and began an insurrection, setting up military enclaves in parts of the island where they predominated. In 1964, a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force was set up to keep the two sides apart. After a prolonged period of mutual hostility, and further fighting in 1967–68, relations improved and talks were resumed, with the Turks arguing for a federal state and the Greeks wanting a unitary one.
In 1971 Gen Grivas returned to the island and began a guerrilla campaign against the Makarios government, which he believed had failed the Greek community. Three years later he died, and his supporters were purged by Makarios. In July 1974, Makarios was himself deposed by a right-wing military coup by Greek officers of the Cypriot National Guard, which was supported by Greece's military government. The enosis extremist, Nicos Sampson, became president and Makarios fled to the UK.
At the request of the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş, Turkey sent troops to the island in July 1974, taking control of the north and dividing Cyprus along what became known as the Attila Line, cutting off about a third of the total territory. Sampson resigned, the military regime that had appointed him collapsed, and Makarios returned in December 1974. The Turkish Cypriots established an independent government for what they called the ‘Turkish Federated State of Cyprus’ (TFSC), with Denktaş as president. Around 200,000 Greek Cypriots and 60,000 Turkish Cypriots were displaced by these events, moving south and north respectively.
Peace talks In August 1977 Makarios died and was succeeded by Spyros Kyprianou of the Democratic Party (DIKO), who had been president of the house of representatives. In 1980 UN-sponsored peace talks were resumed. The Turkish Cypriots offered to hand back about 4% of the 35% of the territory they controlled and to resettle 40,000 of the 200,000 refugees who had fled to the north, but stalemate was reached on a constitutional settlement.
The Turks wanted equal status for the two communities, equal representation in government, and firm links with Turkey. The Greeks, on the other hand, favoured an alternating presidency, strong central government, and representation in the legislature on a proportional basis.
Seeking a solution Between 1982 and 1985 several attempts by the Greek government in Athens and the UN to find a solution failed. In November 1983, Turkish Cypriots formally declared the creation of a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), with Denktaş, leader of the right-wing nationalist National Unity Party (UBP), as president. It was recognized only by Turkey, and the UN Security Council, under Resolution 541, declared the action illegal and called for the withdrawal of Turkish troops.
In 1985 a meeting between Denktaş and Kyprianou failed to reach agreement, and the UN secretary-general drew up proposals for a two-zone federal Cyprus, with a Greek president and a Turkish vice-president, but this was not found acceptable. Meanwhile, both Kyprianou and Denktaş had been re-elected.
In 1988 Georgios Vassiliou was elected president of the Greek part of Cyprus, and in September talks began between him and Denktaş, but these were abandoned in September 1989. They were resumed in August 1992 under UN auspices but collapsed again in November 1992.
Lack of progress on peace talks Glafkos Clerides, leader of the Democratic Rally (DISI), narrowly won the second round of the Greek Cypriot presidential election in February 1993 to replace Vassiliou and was narrowly re-elected in February 1998. He had campaigned for the island's reunification and during his presidencies UN-sponsored peace negotiations resumed, but no progress was achieved. A 1994 UN report blamed the collapse of the talks on the Turkish Cypriot side, and in July 1994 the European Court of Justice ruled that all direct trade between northern Cyprus and the European Union was illegal. Further UN-mediated peace talks between Clerides and the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş failed in 1997, and in April 1998 US mediator Richard Holbrooke declared his mission to Cyprus a failure. Denktaş proposed, in August 1998, a confederation with the island's Greek south. Greece and Greek Cyprus rejected the idea.
In May 2001 legislature elections, the communist Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL) won 35% of the vote, narrowly ahead of President Clerides' DISI. In December 2001, Clerides and Denktaş held their first direct talks in four years.
Entry into the EU Clerides was keen on Cyprus joining the European Union (EU) and in 1997 the republic of Cyprus made an application. In October 1998, the EU agreed to include Cyprus in the list of six potential members and, as accession talks got underway, Clerides formed an all-party national government.
In subsequent years, a driving force behind negotiations to end the separation of the island's Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities was the prospect of joining the EU with both the backing of Greece and Turkey. During 2002, UN-sponsored talks continued between Clerides and Denktaş and in December 2002 the EU formally invited Cyprus to join in 2004. The EU insisted that membership would apply to the whole island.
In February 2003, Clerides was defeated in the presidential election by Tassos Papadopoulos of the centre-right DIKO, who was considered a more hard-line nationalist on the issue of reunification. In April 2004, a referendum was held on the UN-supported Annan Plan, named after the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which aimed to reunify the island before EU accession on the basis of a federation of two largely autonomous states. Turkish Cypriots voted in favour, but Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected the plan, which Papadoupoulos had criticized.
Cyprus became a member of the EU on 1 May 2004, but as a partitioned state. In practice, EU membership applied only to the parts of the island governed by the Republic of Cyprus, but Turkish Cypriots enjoyed personal rights as EU citizens. In January 2008, the euro replaced the Cypriot pound as the country's official currency.
By 2007, although a UN Mission remained deployed on the island – as it had for four decades – there were signs of progress in reconciliation between its two communities, with demolition of parts of the wall along the boundary of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides in the capital city, Nicosia. But the trade embargo on northern Cyprus remained in place and Turkey still blocked Greek Cypriot air traffic and shipping from its territory.
Communist AKEL wins power In the February 2008 presidential elections, the incumbent, Papadopoulos, was eliminated in the first round, with 32% of the vote, finishing narrowly behind Ioannis Kasoulidis of the right-wing DISI and Dimitris Christofias (Dhimitrios Khristofias) of the far-left AKEL, who each won 33% of the vote. Christofias went on to win the run-off, by a 53% to 47% margin, to become the EU's only communist head of state.
The 61-year-old Christofias had studied history at Moscow's Academy of Social Sciences 1969–74 and had been AKEL leader since 1988. He was born in what is now Turkish-held Northern Cyprus. On becoming president he re-opened talks with the TRNC's Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in March 2008, and re-opened a key crossing, the Lokmaci Border Gate, in the divided capital, Nicosia. UN-sponsored negotiations on the island's future restarted in September 2008. The EU responded by lifting, in June 2008, a number of commercial restrictions on the TRNC, which suffered from high inflation and relied on financial support from and trade with Turkey. However, the victory of right-wing nationalist UBP in the TRNC's April 2009 parliamentary elections and of the UBP's Dervis Eroglu in the April 2010 presidential elections led to talks stalling.
President Christofias pursued a pro-market economic policy, but Cyprus was affected, along with other EU states, by the world financial crisis in 2008–09 and the government was forced to provide financial support to the banking sector. The economy experienced recession in 2009 and grew by only 1% in 2010.
The Christofias government was weakened in May 2011 when the right-of-centre opposition Democratic Rally (DISY) narrowly finished ahead of AKEL in the parliamentary elections, winning 34% to 33% of the vote. It was weakened further in July 2011 when there a massive explosion of weapons, which had been seized in 2009 from a ship heading to Syria and were being stored at a naval base at Zygi. The disaster claimed 13 lives, cost the economy $3 billion and, with the president being criticized for not disposing of the dangerous material earlier, his defence and foreign ministers and army chief resigned, while the centre-right DIKO withdrew from the governing coalition.
Financial crisis and swing to the right Heavy exposure to the recession-hit economy of Greece plunged the banking sector in Cyprus into a crisis in 2012. The Christofias government first sought aid from Russia but then turned to negotiations with the EU, agreeing ‘in principle’, in November 2012, a bailout deal with the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But the February 2013 presidential run-off election saw the AKEL candidate, Stavros Malas, lose by a large margin (of 43% to 57%) to the conservative DISI candidate, Nicos Anastasiades. On becoming president, Anastasiades moved quickly and in March 2013 signed a 10 billion euros bank bailout deal with the EU and IMF, which involved the winding down of the country's second biggest bank, Laiki Bank.
President Anastasiades pledged to bring Cyprus closer to Europe, including seeking membership of the NATO-affiliated Partnership for Peace. However, in February 2015 he agreed to allow the Russian navy access to Cypriot ports.
Reunification talks In May 2015 Anastasiades reopened UN-sponsored talks with the TRNC. This followed the victory in the April 2015 TRNC presidential elections of Mustafa Akinci, a social democrat from the Communal Democratic Party (TDP) who favoured reunification and greater policy distance between northern Cyprus and Turkey. Akinci defeated the nationalist incumbent Dervis Eroglu. In January 2017 direct talks on reunification in a federal structure began at the UN in Geneva between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders.
The January 2018 assembly elections in the TRNC saw a swing to Turkish nationalist parties, including the UBP. However, in February 2018 a four-party centre-left coalition government was formed with Tufan Erhürman of the pro-reunification Republican Turkish Party (CTP) as the TRNC's new prime minister.
In February 2018 Anastasiades was re-elected president, defeating Malas by a 56% to 44% of the vote margin.
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