Greek Cypriots

Turkish Cypriots







North Cyprus


The island of Cyprus was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1573. In the 1878 it was leased to Britain to administer. Britain annexed it as a Crown colony in 1914.

For centuries the inhabitants have included Greek speakers and Turkish speakers, living in all parts of the island, often in mixed villages. The Greeks adhered to the Orthodox Church; the Turks were Muslim.

The Island got independence from the British in 1960 with a constitution giving guarantees to minorities (mainly the Turks). But the Greek majority abolished these guarantees. In 1974 when a military coup in the name of union with Greece took place the Turkish army invaded and partitioned the island - following a long period of communal violence and killings on both sides. Since then there has been a UN peace keeping force to prevent the two parts fighting each other. For the most part this force has maintained the peace but for most of the period there have been no contacts between the two sides. The Turkish republic has not been recognised by any other state than Turkey.

In February 2002 talks began for the first time for many years between the leaders of the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus and the (Turkish) Republic of North Cyprus. These talks are preparatory to the agreed membership of the European Union by the Republic of Cyprus. A condition of membership was supposed to be a resolution of the dispute and the formation of a federation between the two states. Can it be achieved after all this time? One fact is that the two leaders - Glafcos Clerides, of the Greek Republic; and Rauf Denktash of the Turkish Republic were friends when they were young and practiced law in the British colony. But this means that that may have been the last chance.

In April 2005 the election of a pro-EU president in north Cyprus seemed to point to a resolution of the problems and a reunifiction.

In 2005 Cyprus (south) joined the European Union, but the southerners voted against the reunification agreement, though the northerners voted "yes" . The status of the North remains undetermined, but the border is open.

War now seems unlikely.

Last revised 18/02/10


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