Cyprus: An Island Divided

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Cyprus: An Island Divided

The Conflict

Christian, Greek-ethnic Cyprus was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1571 until 1914, during which time many Muslim Turks moved to Cyprus. Following independence in 1959 (and earlier under British rule), tensions arose between the majority Greek Cypriots and the minority Turkish Cypriots, resulting in the division of the small island and the occupation of half of the island by Turkish troops.


  • Greek Cypriots resented the disproportionate influence of the Turkish Cypriots in the government. Many Greek Cypriots supported union of Cyprus with Greece.
  • Turkish Cypriots fear that their rights will be trampled by the majority Greek Cypriots, especially if Cyprus unifies with Greece. They look to Turkey for protection and support.


• Turkey and Greece both feel obligated to their ethnic brothers in Cyprus. Turkey has troops in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to protect the Turkish Cypriots and deter union with Greece.


  • Turkey, Greece, the Republic of Cyprus, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are under considerable pressure to resolve the conflict in order to join the European Union, with the resulting trade benefits.
  • The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus cannot export goods to the European Union member states.

The island of Cyprus, roughly two-thirds the size of the state of Connecticut or the Bahamas, has long assumed an importance out of proportion to its size and population because of its strategic location and its impact on the national interests of other nations. Since the earliest days of maritime history the island's location in the eastern Mediterranean Sea has made it easily accessible from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Cyprus lies about 480 miles southeast of Greece, forty miles south of Turkey, and sixty miles west of Syria. Consequently, Cyprus has often been at the center of power struggles of some of the world's great civilizations and subject to foreign domination of its land and people.

Cyprus gained its independence in 1960 but since the Turkish invasion of 1974 has remained a partitioned island, divided along a line running east-west and through Nicosia, its capitol. The Greek Cypriot community to the south, known as the Republic of Cyprus, is internationally considered the official island government. The northern area, the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, makes up thirty-seven percent of the island and is home to the smaller Turkish Cypriot community. A tortured history of ethnic intolerance keeps the island divided in the year 2000. A quarter century of ongoing negotiations sponsored by the United Nations have yet to produce a solution. At the beginning of the twenty-first century hopes run high that a shrinking, electronically communicating world and the need to establish commercial connections will push Cyprus toward reunification.

Historical Background

Early History

From ancient times, Cyprus' tumultuous history has been a story of invasion and domination. Human habitation dates back from before 6000 b. c. After 1400 b. c. traders from the Peloponnesus began regular visits. Mass immigration of the Greek-speaking peoples from Peloponnese occurred between 1100 and 700 b. c.

With this migration, the island's culture became distinctively Hellenistic, or Greek dominated, and present day Greek Cypriots point to this period in arguing for their culture's dominance of the island. About 800 b. c. Phoenicians (present-day Middle East) settled on the island and lent a distinctive eastern influence. Three thousand years later some Turks and Turkish Cypriots look to this settlement as proof of early eastern cultural influence.

About 700 b. c., Cyprus came under Assyrian (present-day Iraq) rule followed by successive Egyptian, Persian, Greek, and, in 58 b. c., Roman domination. The most important event during Roman rule was the introduction of Christianity in 45 a. d.when the apostle Paul landed on Cyprus accompanied by native Cypriot Barnabus. In 395

a. d. when the Roman Empire divided, Cyprus remained part of the eastern half of the Roman Empire, known as the Byzantine Empire. The island's history was part of that empire for the next eight hundred years, a period when Cyprus developed its strong Greek-Christian character reflected in the present-day Greek Cypriot community. After a brief possession by Richard the Lion-Hearted in approximately 1191, Cyprus fell into the hands of Guy de Lusignan, a dispossessed king of Jerusalem. The Lusignan dynasty established a Western feudal system in Cyprus. (Feudalism is a system whereby someone can hold a piece of land given to them by a lord in exchange for their service.)

In 1473 Cyprus came under Venetian control and was formally annexed by Venice in 1489. This annexation marked the end of the three hundred year Lusignan rule. Through those three centuries and in the subsequent eighty-two years of Venetian rule, Greek Cypriot serfs and laborers, who made up the majority of the population, managed to retain their native culture, language, and religion.

Ottoman Rule

Throughout the eight decades of Venetian rule, the Ottoman Turks relentlessly raided and pillaged Cyprus' communities. In 1539 the Turkish fleet destroyed the harbor town of Limassol. Although the Venetians fortified Nicosia, Kyrenia, and Famagusta, the other towns and villages proved easy prey for the aggressive Turks. The raids fore-shadowed the full scale Turkish invasion in 1570. On July 2, 1570, sixty thousand troops landed near Limassol then immediately proceeded to Nicosia. Two months later on September 9, 1570, the city fell to the Turks who in victorious plundering put to death twenty thousand Nicosians and looted every church and public building. Kyrenia fell without a shot being fired. However, the Turks were not able to wrest control of Famagusta, which put up a determined defense, until August of 1571. The fall of Famagusta marked the beginning of three centuries of Ottoman rule.

The Greek Cypriots who survived the invasion yet again had new foreign rulers. However, some of the early decisions of the Ottoman rule brought welcomed changes. First, the feudal system was abolished allowing the freed Greek serfs to acquire and work their own land plus retain hereditary rights to the land. The end of serfdom profoundly improved the lot of the ordinary people.

Secondly, with the imposition of Ottoman rule, the Greek Cypriots, who were Orthodox Christians, began to develop a strong sense of cohesiveness. The Ottoman practice of ruling the empire through millets, or religious communities, prompted this development. The vast Ottoman Empire had many different ethnic religious communities. Rather than attempting to suppress individual religious communities, the Turks generally granted them a great deal of authority as long as they met the demands of the sultan, by collecting and paying taxes. Governing through millets reestablished the authority of the Church of Cyprus. The heads of the church became the leaders of the Greek Cypriots. The structured hierarchy of the church gave even remote villages easy access to a central authority. The leaders were responsible for overseeing the political and routine administrative activities of their communities and to collect taxes. Both the Ottoman Turks and the Greek Cypriots benefited from this arrangement. The empire received revenues from the collected taxes without the nuisance of daily administration. Greek Cypriots saw their Orthodox Church regain a measure of authority in the Greek communities, thereby reinforcing the cohesion of the ethnic Greek population.

One of the more significant consequences of Ottoman conquest was the resettling of Turkish Muslims on Cyprus. Land was granted to the thousands of Turkish soldiers and peasants who settled on the island and established the first Turkish Cypriot communities.

Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Cyprus became a poor undeveloped backwater of the Ottoman Empire. The island's economy declined, due both to the empire's commercial incompetence and because the most important commercial trade routes shifted from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.

The rule of Cyprus by the Ottomans was sometimes indifferent, occasionally oppressive, and always inefficient and corrupt, ever susceptible to the whims of the various sultans. High taxes were demanded from both Greek and Turkish peasants. Uprisings both by Greek Cypriots and, occasionally, by Turkish Cypriots against Turkish misrule proved futile. In 1821 during the Greek mainland War of Independence, Ottoman rulers feared the Greek Cypriots would again rebel. The Ottomans rounded up and murdered the archbishops, bishops, and hundreds of priests and important laymen of the Church of Cyprus. These massacres caused considerable resentment against the Turks and furthered nationalist feelings among the Greeks.

Various Cypriot movements in the 1820s and 1830s continued in an effort to gain greater self-government. Three centuries of neglect by the Turks, coupled with the unending tax collections that left most of the people in poverty, served to fuel Greek nationalism. The Ottoman Turks were clearly the enemy in the eyes of Greek Cypriots. The Church of Cyprus remained the most important Greek institution and openly supported Greek nationalism. Years of domination had not destroyed the Greek Cypriots language, culture, and religion that bound them to the rest of the Greek world. By the middle of the nineteenth century, enosis—union, or the idea of reuniting all Greek lands with the now independent Greek mainland—had taken root.

British Rule

The mid-1850s found the Ottoman Empire in serious decline. As the Ottoman Empire weakened, Russia, to the north, increased in strength and aggressively pushed southward attempting to expand the czar's empire to warm water ports. Desiring a base in the eastern Mediterranean, Britain agreed with Turkey in 1878 at the Cyprus Convention to administer Cyprus and protect the Ottoman Empire against Russian expansion. Initially believing the British would facilitate the unification of Cyprus with Greece as the British had done with the Ionian Islands, the Greek population welcomed them.

From the very beginning of their administration, the British were confronted with the Greek Cypriot's desire for enosis. The initial welcoming of the association with Britain quickly turned problematic due to the "Cyprus Tribute," payment to the sultan of island revenues above what was needed by the British to administer Cyprus' affairs. In reality the payments ended up in the Bank of England. The annual tribute became an unending source of agitation and synonymous with British oppression.

Additionally, the British appeared to turn a deaf ear to the Greek Cypriot demand for enosis. The Turkish Cypriots who had been living on the island since the Ottoman invasion in 1571, were adamantly opposed to living as a minority under Greek rule. Few Turkish Cypriots objected to British rule and the British used them in the island's political structure to block Greek Cypriot efforts for enosis. For example, due to the way the Legislative Council was set up, voting generally resulted in a stalemate between the representatives of the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Only the British high commissioner, who usually favored the Turkish Cypriots, could break the stalemate.

British Annexation

With the advent of World War I, Turkey joined with Germany in 1914 in open hostility toward Britain and its allies. Britain annulled the Cyprus Convention and annexed Cyprus. Britain in 1915 actually offered the island to Greece hoping to induce Greece to enter the war on its side. Ironically, in light of the Greek Cypriot's fervent desire for enosis, King Constantine of Greece turned down the offer and held to a policy of neutrality.

Turkey formally recognized the British annexation in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and Cyprus officially became a crown colony in 1925. Although formal British rule brought improved efficiency in administration of Cyprus, there was little progress toward reconciliation of the most contentious issues. enosis continued to be a focal point for many Greek Cypriots. The enlarged Legislative Council still produced the same stalemate. The British government continued to rebuff pleas from Cypriots to make amends for the large sums of revenues placed in British coffers.

Contrarily, the British government proposed raising Cypriot taxes at the beginning of the 1930s to help meet deficits brought on by worsening world economic conditions. This proposal provoked mass protests and a violent riot that resulted in deaths, injuries, and the burning of the British Government House in Nicosia. Rebellious incidents occurred in a third of the island's almost six hundred villages. The British reacted with harsh measures. Particularly objectionable to the Greek Cypriots were British actions against the church. Several bishops were exiled and when the archbishop died in 1933 a standoff between the British officials and remaining church authorities kept the office vacant until 1947. The British downplayed the rule of the clergy in nationalist movements, enacted laws governing the internal affairs of the church, and prohibiting Cypriots to form any nationalist groups.

Post-World War II

In spite of the unpopular British rule, Cypriots firmly supported the Allied cause in World War II. More than 30,000 had served in various locations under British command by the war's end. Cyprus was left physically untouched by World War II, except for an occasional air raid. Yet, despite the show of patriotism against a common enemy, the vision of enosis remained in the minds of Greek Cypriots. During the entire war, supporters of enosis remained active, especially in London where they hoped to influence friends and lawmakers.

In October of 1947 Makarios II, the fiery bishop of Kyrenia, was elected archbishop of the Church of Cyprus. He refused to support any British policy that did not actively support enosis. None of Britain's post-war proposals for greater Cypriot self-government came close to fulfilling Greek Cypriot's ambitious expectations. The slogan of "enosis and only enosis " became popular within the Greek Cypriot communities.

In January of 1950, a ninety-six percent favorable vote for enosis was recorded. Makarios II died in June, and was succeeded by Makarios III, the bishop of Kition who at age thirty-seven was the youngest archbishop ever elected to the Church of Cyprus. Pledging at his inauguration to not rest until Cyprus was united with "Mother Greece," Makarios III proved to be a charismatic religious and political leader. He appeared before the United Nations (U.N.) in New York in 1951 to denounce the British policies. However, Britain insisted the Cyprus problem was an internal issue not subject to U.N. intervention.

At the same time Colonel George Grivas, a Cypriot native who had served in the mainland Greek army, began a determined effort to achieve enosis. Grivas, an avowed extremist, met with Markarios. But Makarios preferred to continue diplomatic efforts as opposed to instigating guerrilla uprisings. Grivas was disappointed with the archbishop's more moderate approach and the uneasy feeling between the two never dissipated.

Intensification and Estrangement

In August of 1954 Greece's representative at the United Nations formally petitioned that self-determination for the people of Cyprus be put on the agenda of the next session of the General Assembly. Archbishop Makarios seconded that request. The British position maintained the entire problem was an internal issue and Turkey steadfastly rejected the idea of union between Cyprus and Greece. The Turkish Cypriot community, whose minority status and identity had been protected under British rule, had previously refrained from direct action although they staunchly opposed enosis.

The official attitude of the Cyprus Turkish Minority Association, completely ignoring the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne in which Turkey gave up all rights to Cyprus, was that Cyprus would simply fall back under Turkish rule if the British ever withdrew. However, the increasing violence of the Greek Cypriot enosist movement of the 1950s concerned the smaller community and a Turkish Cypriot nationalism intensified to the point of rivaling the Greek Cypriot's passionate espousals. Some Turkish Cypriots began to advocate taksim, partition of the island, as a way of preventing them from becoming a minority in a Greek state.

The progressively widening division of Cyprus' Greek and Turkish communities was new to the island. The two groups had lived in mixed villages or in separate villages close to each other for centuries since the first Turk settlers arrived in 1571. Inter-communal relations were harmonious. Though intermarriage was rare, the two groups lived in congenial compatibility with inter-ethnic violence unheard of.

Mounting pressure for enosis during the twentieth century was the major reason for an increasing rift between the communities. The number of mixed villages declined while the first instances of inter-communal violence occurred. Underlying complexities included the British colonial policy of "divide and rule" as exhibited in legislature stalemates. The two communities' interests were pitted against each other with the British high commissioners casting a deciding vote. This served to maintain London's hold on Cyprus and fostered inter-communal animosity and distrust. Scholars have often noted that failure of British rule to engender a sense of Cypriot nationalism unifying all of Cyprus' population left a fateful legacy that doomed the Republic of Cyprus from the start.

Yet another underlying cause of the increased estrangement between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots was the practice in schools of the two communities using textbooks from their respective motherlands. The books were full of examples of cruelty, greed, deceitfulness, and atrocities committed during centuries of conflict between the two traditional enemies, Greeks and the Turkish empire.

As a result of these various factors the stage was set for inter-communal violence that erupted in the winter of 1954-55. In December the U.N. General Assembly considered the Cyprus issue and announced a decision to not take any action on the problem. Greek Cypriots reacted swiftly and violently with the worst riots since 1931. Makarios returned to Nicosia from the United Nations in New York on January 10, 1955. The more rabid Colonel Grivas had also returned to Cyprus. Makarios agreed with Grivas to form the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (Ethnic Organosis Kyprion Agoniston-EOKA). EOKA quickly became widely known.

Under the leadership of Grivas, EOKA launched a four-year revolutionary struggle. A campaign of violence against British rule targeted government installations in Nicosia, Famagusta, Larnaca, and Limassol. Turkish Cypriots were asked to stand clear and refrain from opposing the violence against the British.

A meeting in London between Britain, Greece, and Turkey in August of 1955 accomplished nothing and only served to polarize the nations' positions. Greece was disturbed that self-determination, now a keyword for enosis, was not offered; and the Turks were disturbed because it was not forbidden. For Turkey an insurmountable barrier toenosis was that it meant Greek forces would be on an island only forty miles from its shore. Turkey found this completely unacceptable. Shortly, Greece withdrew its representatives from the NATO headquarters in Turkey and relations between the two NATO countries became severely strained.

Britain attempted to follow a get-tough policy in Cyprus against EOKA. In January of 1954 Makrarios was arrested, charged with complicity in violence, and along with the bishop of Kyrenia and two other priests exiled to Seychelles. This action only served to leave the less moderate Grivas in charge of EOKA. Meanwhile, the Turkish Cypriots formed an underground organization known as Volkan (Volcano). Volkan established in 1957 the Turkish Resistance Organization (TMT). TMT vowed to fight for Turkish Cypriot interests.

By early 1958 inter-communal strife plagued the two communities on the island. Grivas tried to enforce an island-wide boycott of British goods and EOKA carried out sabotage attacks. In response to the crisis, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan proposed the Macmillan Plan. This plan would devise a seven-year scheme of separate communal legislative bodies and separate municipalities. Greece and Greek Cypriots rejected it, saying the plan in essence put taksim in place, partitioning the island as desired by many Turkish Cypriots. Although not accepted, the Macmillan Plan spurred further talks.

In Zurich in February of 1959 talks between Greece and Turkey yielded a compromise agreement supporting Cyprus as an independent state. Greece, although still supporting enosis, realized the compromise avoided partition and Turkey avoided having yet another island off its coast under Greek control. Britain had preferred a more gradual end to its rule. But given the armed violence in the second half of the 1950s it looked at the creation of an independent Cypriot republic as the only way out of a difficult situation. Britain's eastern Mediterranean military needs would be met by allowing two British military bases on the island's southern coast.

Representatives of the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots along with Markarios who had since left the Seychelles convened with officials from Greece and Turkey in London. When Greek authorities failed to back Makarios' objections to the proposals, he accepted the agreements as a pragmatic course to follow. Ratified by all parties, the Zurich-London agreements became the foundation for the independent Cyprus constitution of 1960. Three provisions were the Treaty of Guarantee, the Treaty of Alliance, and the Treaty of Establishment. The "emergency" was declared over on December 4, 1959.

Independence—the Republic of Cyprus

The Greek Cypriots regarded the London agreement for independence as unsatisfactory but an acceptable alternative. The goal for which they had fought so hard during the emergency years was not reached. Cyprus would not be united with Greece but their worst fear, partition, would also not come about. The Turkish Cypriots, having faired well in the negotiations, readily accepted the agreements.

The Treaty of Guarantee ensured that Greece, Turkey, and Britain would guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the republic of Cyprus. Cyprus would not unite with any other state or be subject to partition. The signers of the agreements were pledged to uphold the "state of affairs." According to Article IV of the treaty, if the "state of affairs" was in danger or violated, Greece, Turkey, and Britain must act together to restore it. If joint actions were impossible, these states could act independently.

The Treaty of Alliance established tripartite headquarters (Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey) on the island and permitted Greece and Turkey to station 950 and 650 military personnel, respectively, to protect the island and help train its own army. The Treaty of Establishment allowed Britain sovereignty over 256 square kilometers of land on the southern coast for two military bases, Akrotiri and Dhekelia. Between the signing of the agreements in early 1959 and independence on August 16, 1960, further negotiations produced a long and detailed constitution that included extensive protections for the rights of the Turkish Cypriot minority.

Immediately preceding the August 16 date, elections were held in accordance with the constitutional arrangements. Among other requirements, Cyprus was to elect a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice president, both having veto power over the other. Makarios returned to Cyprus on March 1, 1959, and was elected president. Fazil Kücük, leader of the Turkish Cypriots was elected vice president. A fifty-member House of Representatives was to have thirty-five seats allotted to Greek Cypriots and fifteen to Turkish Cypriots. At the head of the judicial system would be the Supreme Constitutional Court with one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish Cypriot and presided over by a judge from a neutral country. Rather than having a combined government, perpetuation of the separation of the two communities continued with the strongly bi-communal structure and function of the new government. In September of 1959 the new republic became a member of the United Nations, and in 1961 of the European Commonwealth, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

Independence and peace proved not to be synonymous. From the outset, governing the island became a difficult, contentious challenge. Serious problems with the constitution arose immediately. Greek Cypriot's were disgruntled over the Turkish Cypiots having a larger share of government than would be dictated by the size of their population. Formation of a Cypriot army composed of both ethnic groups, posed another problem. Makarios insisted on completely integrated forces, while Kücük favored segregated companies. Plans for the national army ceased. These difficulties reflected the now sharp division between the two communities. Acrimony made a spirit of cooperation impossible.

Violent Outbreaks of the 1960s

Both the EOKA and TMT reorganized in 1961-62, began training, and smuggled in weapons from their respective countries, Greece and Turkey. Growing contingents of Greek and Turkish soldiers from the mainland, far in excess of the Treaty of Alliance numbers, arrived and joined with their respective ethnic organization. Friction rose, each side accused the other of constitutional violations and the courts were unable to decide disputes. Many Cypriots believed the government under the complicated terms of the 1960 constitution could not function.

In late 1963 Markarios decided only a bold move could save his country. He proposed a thirteen point series of constitutional changes to remove the impediments to a properly functioning government. The proposals, abhorrent to the Turkish community, considerably lessened the political rights and powers of the Turkish Cypriots. The tense atmosphere on the island exploded into serious inter-communal violence. In March of 1964 the U.N. Secretary General U Thant ordered the first members of the United Nation Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) to the island. By May 6, five hundred troops were in Cyprus. Although authorized for only a three-month period, a considerable contingent remained in 2000.

As the worst fighting subsided, Turkish Cypriots, some voluntarily and others forced by the TMT, began moving from their isolated rural homes and mixed villages to Turkish enclaves, predominately in Nicosia, where they hastily erected tents and built shacks. Many who did not move into Nicosia gave up their farms for the protection of other Turkish enclaves. Fear of further Greek Cypriot violence precipitated the moves.

In June of 1964 the House of Representatives with only its Greek Cypriot members participating established a National Guard with Grivas returning to Cyprus as its commander. Turkish Cypriots and mainland Turkey charged that large numbers of Greek regular army troops were being added to the National Guard. Only a harshly worded warning from the U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson to the prime minister of Turkey thwarted an invasion of the island by Turkey.

Inter-communal violence again erupted in 1967 when Grivas and the National Guard initiated patrols into Turkish Cypriot enclaves. Fighting broke out and ultimately twenty-six Turkish Cypriots were killed. The incident left Turkey and Greece on the brink of war. President Johnson again intervened by sending Cyrus R. Vance to Ankara to begin negotiations. After ten days Greece and Turkey withdrew troops back to the 1960 treaty levels, and Grivas resigned his command post and left Cyprus. The crisis passed. However, in a move which would come back to haunt him in 1974, Makarios did not disband the National Guard.

Markarios Maintains Rule

In 1967 a coup d'état entrenched a military dictatorship in Athens, Greece, that lasted until 1974. Many in the Athens regime pushed for enosis for Cyprus and were even willing to cede parts of Cyprus to Turkey in exchange for uniting the rest of the island with Greece. Greek pro-enosists and rightwing Greek Cypriots pressured Makarios with their demands. But in 1968 Makarios who had been reelected president of Cyprus in an overwhelming victory, saw the victory as a strong endorsement of his leadership and of an independent Cyprus. President Makarios stated that the Cyprus problem could not be solved with force but only worked out under the auspices of the United Nations

Inter-communal talks in the United Nations began in 1968 with Turkish Cypriots emphasizing the importance of local government in each community instead of the central government. Taking a directly opposite position, Greek Cypriot teams stressed central governing authorities over local administrations. In essence the Turks demanded a bizonal federation with a weak central government—a plan the Greeks rejected. The talks would stretch until 1974 with no real agreements reached. Meanwhile, Cyprus was in fact operating as a partitioned country. Makarios was president but his command did not reach into the Turkish enclaves. Moreover, the House of Representatives was functioning only with the thirty-five Greek Cypriot representatives. The reality of Cyprus was that the partition sought for years by Turks and Turkish Cypriots existed. Inter-communal strife continued unabated.

Sometime in mid-1971 Grivas, who had called Makarios a traitor to enosis in an Athens newspaper, secretly returned to Cyprus. He began to rebuild EOKA, now called EOKA B, with funds from the Athens junta (rulers). EOKA B's goal was to overthrow Makarios. Although Makarios had once been a strong leader in the campaign for enosis, he was now seen by many mainland Greeks and Greek Cypriots to be content with Cyprus independence. Those angered with Makarios are assumed to have been behind an assassination attempt in 1970 on Makarios' life. Once EOKA B was in place, Grivas directed terrorist attacks and propaganda campaigns against Makarios. In 1972 three bishops of the Church of Cyprus demanded Makarios resign. Makarios, totally embroiled in the struggle for power within the Greek nationalist community, was in a perilous position. Even though mass demonstrations proved that most people of Cyprus remained behind him, Makarios did bow somewhat to Greek pressure and reshuffled his cabinet. His overall fame and popularity in both Greece and Cyprus prevented his removal. Suddenly in 1974 Grivas died of a heart attack, but terrorism continued as one hundred thousand mourners vowed to continue his pursuit of enosis.


Another coup d'état in Athens in November of 1973 made General Dimitrios Ioannides leader of the junta in Greece. Ioannides was convinced Makarios should be removed from office. In July of 1974 the military junta in Athens sponsored a coup to overthrow Makarios and take control of the island. The Cypriot National Guard, infiltrated with over six hundred Greek officers and led by extremist Greek Cypriots hostile to Makarios for his perceived abandonment of enosis, carried out the coup.

Makarios barely escaped with his life and fled to London. The EOKA terrorist Nicos Sampson replaced Makarios as provisional president. Obvious to Turkey that Athens was behind the rightist coup, on July 20, 1974, Turkish forces invaded Cyprus. The Turkish government cited the terms of Article IV of the Treaty of Guarantee to justify the invasion. Turkey pointed out Britain's reluctance to use military force and the impossibility of joint action with Greece. Therefore, they uni-laterally had to restore the "state of affairs" established by the 1960 treaties. Within three days, the Greek junta collapsed in Athens and Sampson resigned in Nicosia. Glafkos Clerides, the then-president of the Cypriot House of Representatives automatically became head of state replacing the short-tenured Sampson. The Turkish army remained on Cyprus and mounted a second brief campaign in mid-August.

Meanwhile, the three guarantor powers, Britain, Greece, and Turkey, met as required by the Treaty of Guarantee in Geneva but were unable to halt the Turkish advance until August 16. By that time Turkey had occupied the northern portion of Cyprus, 37 percent of the entire island.

The consequence of the Turkish invasion, or "military action" as the Turks preferred to call it, was a de facto partition of Cyprus. At the cessation of fighting, about 7,000 people were dead or unaccounted for. Each side suffered enormously. As many as 165,000 Greeks fled from the north side of the island to the south leaving behind their property and possessions. Many lived for months in crudely erected camps in southern Cyprus. To escape bloody reprisals of Greek nationalists, approximately fifty-five thousand Turkish Cypriots fled to the north. In all approximately one third of the island's population had been forced to leave their places of birth. The island's economy was left in shambles.

Inter-Communal Talks Resume

The 1974 military action left Cyprus partitioned along a line, called the "Attila line," running from Morphou Bay in the northwest to Famagusta in the east. With the Turkish Cypriots to the north and the Greek Cypriots south of the line, each ethnic community rebuilt their government and economy entirely separately. Both communities undertook efforts to remedy the effects of the catastrophe. They built housing for the refugees and integrated them into their rebounding economies. Both soon developed stable political systems.

Makarios returned to southern Greek Cyprus as president. The Greek Cyprus government in the south was internationally recognized as the official, legal government of Cyprus and the southern region continued the title of Republic of Cyprus. In February of 1975 the Turkish Cypriots declared the northern occupied territory a self-governing region to be called the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus. A provisional government was set into place with Rauf Denktash elected president in July of 1975.

Inter-communal talks to bring the two communities together again resumed in Vienna in January of 1975. The Makarios government met with Denktash. Both declared support for an independent Cyprus but serious differences existed over the form of government, size of the area to be retained by the Turkish Cypriots, return of refugees with compensation for property loses, and the withdrawal of Turkish troops.

After intensive U.N. efforts, Makarios and Denktash met again in early 1977. On February 12 the two men agreed on several substantive guidelines. The most important was that Cyprus would be a bi-communal federal republic, a bi-zonal country where the two communities would live in two separate zones with separate governments, while a weak central government would be established for administrative purposes and to safeguard the unity of the country. The agreement raised hopes of Cyprus' foreign friends that a settlement could be reached. The hopes came crashing down when Makarios, long the central figure in the Greek Cypriot community, died of a heart attack in August of 1977. Although he had just agreed to a bi-zonal Cyprus, personally Makarios had expressed extreme regret over his long support of enosis that he believed ultimately led to the partitioning of Cyprus. In his own words, partitioning had "destroyed Cyprus" and he died a tragic figure. The overriding issue of all talks through the end of the twentieth century would be how to deal with the partition of the island.

Spyros Kyprianou, Makarios' successor, pledged to follow the positions he believed Makarios would have taken. But it quickly became apparent he did not have the political skills and maneuverability of Makarios. In early 1979 President Kyprianou met with Denktash and the two leaders agreed on several points calling for resumption of talks on all territorial and constitutional issues. Although the points were a tactical means to secure further negotiations, no substantive issues were resolved.

With the continuing stalemate in negotiations, on November 15, 1983, Denktash declared Turkish Cypriot statehood. Citing the United States Declaration of Independence, he declared the establishment of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNIC). Denktash insisted the move was not intended to block progress toward creating the bi-zonal republic. Rather, it was an assertion of political identity and equality of the Turkish Cypriots that would enhance prospects for a new relationship with the Greek Cypriots. The people of TRNC approved a new constitution in a referendum in 1985 and elected Denktash as their president. Only Turkey recognizes the self-proclaimed state, and no other countries established diplomatic relations with the North Cyprus state.

In February of 1988 the Greek Cypriots elected George Vassiliou as president. Vassiliou had campaigned on a pledge to solve the Cyprus problem with new energy and ideas. The United Nations arranged for meetings between Vassiliou and Denktash in 1988 and 1989. Regretfully, the secretary general reported the gap remained wide. Talks collapsed in early 1990 and, entering the last decade of the twentieth century, Cyprus remained partitioned.

1990s—A Land Divided

At the end of the twentieth century approximately two thousand members of the United Nations Peace-Keeping Force (UNFICYP) patrolled the buffer zone surrounding the so-called "green line" which divides the Republic of Cyprus from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The U.N.-monitored divide extends east-west across the island and through Nicosia. Turkish and Greek Cypriot troops face each other across this buffer zone. On the Turkish side is the Turkish Cypriot Security Force supported by an estimated thirty thousand soldiers of the mainland Turkey army. On the Greek side, the Cypriot National Guard maintains a force of approximately thirteen thousand active troops. Except for a violent clash in 1996 leaving two demonstrators dead, no violent conflict has occurred since 1974. There is virtually no movement of people, goods, or services across the line.

The official population of the entire island in 1997 was estimated at 838,000. The Greek area held 655,000 and the Turkish area 183,000. Greek Cypriots made up seventy-eight percent of the population, Turkish Cypriots eighteen percent, and Maronites, Armenians, Greeks, and other Europeans contribute four percent. Ethnic nationalism permeates the two regions further entrenching the divide. Turkish flags fly above many buildings in the north, just as the Greek cross of St. Andrew appears on all church and public buildings in the south. The Turkish Cypriots speak Turkish, practice the Islamic religion, and clearly look to the Turkish mainland for support. The Greek Cypriots speak Greek, practice the Greek Orthodox religion of the Church of Cyprus, and orient toward Athens and Europe. Linguistic and cultural barriers increase as time passes. The only Turkish Cypriots who speak Greek are a few older people who worked in Greek businesses before 1974. Most young adult Greek Cypriots have never even seen a Turkish Cypriot and vice versa.

The economic disparity between the Greek south and Turkish north is significant. The economy of the south is extremely prosperous, while the northern Turkish economy is much smaller and poorer. The flourishing Greek Cypriot economy creates a standard of living in the south superior to some western European nations. This achievement was made possible by a flexible and skilled work-force, a well entrenched entrepreneurial class, a sophisticated program of government planning including economic incentives and wise investments, and a highly successful tourist industry that welcomed over a million tourists, mostly from Western Europe by the early 1970s. The service industry employs 60 percent of the labor force. Most services are directly related to tourism, the mainstay of the economy. Greek Cypriot per capita income was $13,000 in 1997. Prosperity has permitted an expansion of the educational system. Although students must travel abroad for university studies, the Republic of Cyprus has one of the highest rates of university graduates.

The Turkish Cypriot economy also operates on a free market basis but has grown much slower. Economic obstacles include lack of private and government investment, a lesser trained work force, rampant inflation and devaluation of the Turkish lira, and a Greek Cypriot economic blockade. The Turkish Cypriot per capita income is $3,600. The largest economic hurdle making foreign connections difficult is the state's lack of international recognition. In 1994 the European Court of Justice ruled that European Union member countries could only import produce from Cyprus which bore the official Government of Cyprus certificate of origin, meaning produce from the south or Republic of Cyprus. Turkey is the TRNC's primary trading partner supplying fifty-five percent of imports and absorbing forty-eight percent of exports. Economic assistance from Turkey is the Turkish Cypriot economic mainstay. However, tourism has been expanding to upwards of 360,000 tourists yearly, mainly from Turkey and the Arab world.

The Republic of Cyprus and the TRNC both have entirely separate stable republic forms of government. The Greek Cypriots elected Glafkos Clerides, a seasoned politician, as president in 1993 and again in 1998. Clerides' party, the Democratic Rally (DISY), believes membership in the European Union could help bring a peaceful solution to the problem of partition.

Rauf Denktash, the only person to have ever been elected president of the TRNC, was reelected in 1995 for a third term. He is highly trusted by Turkish Cypriots and seen as the best person to find a fair solution to the problems of partition.

1990s Inter-Communal Negotiations

World leaders continue to consider the status quo of Cyprus as unacceptable and view U.N.-led inter-communal negotiations as the best means to achieve a fair and permanent settlement. Over the years, negotiations have consistently faced the same major stumbling blocks. Number one is the lack of consensus between the two communities over how to govern and administer the island. The Turkish Cypriot's focus is on bi-zonality, political equality between the two communities, and security guarantees. They envision a loose federation of two nearly autonomous societies and governments that have limited contact. They want both to be recognized internationally as separate entities. The Greek Cypriots seek more integration and a more powerful central authority that, by virtue of their greater numbers, they would probably control. Greek Cypriots worry that international recognition of the north as a separate "nation" would legitimize the 1974 "invasion" and perhaps lead to the secession of northern Cyprus or to its union with Turkey. The Greek Cypriots seek a right of movement within the federation so Greek Cypriots would be able to return to their homes in the north, property settlements, and the return of a portion of territory lost in 1974. Turkish Cypriots reject these demands, fearing they could quickly become a minority in their own sector. Greek Cypriots also demand a timetable for withdrawal of Turkish forces from the island. Turkish Cypriots want the Turkish military to remain to guarantee their security and political rights. One further problem involves the approximately eighty thousand Turkish settlers who arrived from mainland Turkey after 1974. The Greek Cypriots do not recognize them and there is swelling resentment against them from the Turkish Cypriots as well.

Inter-communal negotiations sponsored by the United Nations in 1992 worked with a set of ideas that included many hard-won compromises from earlier negotiations on the difficult issues. Optimism was greater than usual that these talks between Greek Cypriot President Vassiliou and Turkish Cypriot President Denktash would yield a settlement. Yet, hung up on the same major points, they ended unsuccessfully in November of 1992.

Face to face meetings occurred again between the two communities' leaders, Greek Cypriots President Clerides and Mr. Denktash in 1997 and 1998. U.N. mediation by American and Russian negotiators failed to end the stalemate. Illustrating how difficult and complex the issues are, Clerides and Denktash, longtime friends and London-trained lawyers with detailed knowledge of the problem, were unable to come to an acceptable solution.

Recent History and the Future

Next Big Push for Peace—2000

Under heavy pressure from Washington, European leaders, and the United Nations, Clerides and Denktash scheduled "proximity talks" (where a diplomat moves between two separate meeting rooms) in Geneva in January of 2000. Optimism ran high spawned by a remarkable thaw in relations between Greece and Turkey that perhaps would trickle down to the divided Cyprus.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century an outbreak of peace and goodwill seemed to be spreading across the Aegean. A series of recent incidents plus major national interests were driving the cooperation between the ancient enemies. First in February of 1999, Athens was embarrassed when the Greek Embassy in Kenya sheltered Abdullah Ocalan, head of the P.K.K., the Kurdish rebel movement responsible for terrorism in Turkey. An outcry in Greece forced the hardline nationalist Foreign Minister Theodore Pangalos, known to refer to Turks as "rapists and thieves," to resign. He was replaced by George Papandreou who wasted no time in finding common ground with Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem. In early 2000 each visited the other country—remarkable in that a Greek foreign prime minister had not visited Ankara in forty years.

Second, in August of 1999, a massive earthquake struck Turkey killing seventeen thousand people leading to an outpouring of sympathy and aid from Greece for the victims. Then, when an earthquake shook Greece a month later, a similar response came from the Turks. Conceptions that the two peoples were permanently incompatible tumbled.

National interests were also driving the cooperation. Greece, to keep pace with Turkey, could no longer afford to spend a high proportion of its budget on defense. Greek businessmen were clamoring for access to the large untapped Turkish market. For their part, Turkey was eager to become part of the European Union (E.U.), a powerful organization of fifteen European countries promoting cooperation in economics, politics, and foreign policy issues. Greece had been a member since 1981. In December of 1999 Greece agreed to Turkey finally becoming a candidate member of the European Union. To become a full member, the European Union said Turkey must push to settle its disputes with Greece including the ethnic standoff in Cyprus.

Amid this conciliatory spirit of at least the mainland countries and with hopes the two Cyprus leaders would be creative in their approaches, Clerides and Denktash met in January and again in early July of 2000. The latest rounds produced nothing except agreement to meet again. The two disagreed on the same sorts of issues that they had disagreed on for decades: a central government, or a "confederation" as Dentash now called it, of two independent states; how to make the Turkish Cypriot minority feel secure; the return of land to the Greek Cypriots. The European Union also entered the picture. Greek Cypriots had been making progress in an effort to join the European Union on behalf of all islanders. Looking for membership, the Greek Cypriots had been steadily investing in upgraded air and seaports, improved banking systems, and telecommunications. Denktash had steadfastly refused to take part in the E.U. talks saying Turkish Cypriots could have no part of European Union until Turkey joined. However, now not only was Turkey's full membership imminent but it appeared Cyprus could be let into the Union within five years if the fifteen countries of European Union would agree to accept a divided island. Denktash seemed to be less strident in dismissing the European Union. The next talks between Clerides and Denktash were scheduled for July 24, 2000.

Meanwhile, even if the warming relations in the Aegean had not reached the hearts and minds of the two elderly leaders, it had reached the people of Cyprus. Flustered by years of deadlock, people were no longer waiting for settlement to come from politicians and outside powers. Recently, low profile meetings between people of both sides were thawing relations considerably. The Internet had become an invaluable tool for contact. Young people who felt no animosity against those they had never met, kept in touch across the Green Line through electronic mail. While the old men negotiated in Geneva, the young people organized a bi-communal picnic at a neutral site near Pergamos within territory administered by one of the British military bases that straddles the dividing line in the southeast of the island. Not only did the young people meet but they brought together Greek and Turkish Cypriots who used to live together in mixed villages before the 1974 violence. Hundreds managed to attend the event. Many Turkish Cypriots brought photographs of the villages the Greek Cypriots were forced to leave twenty-five years earlier. It was reported that all got along well, they had no problems and most were at a loss to explain what had gone so wrong. It appeared the reunification of Cyprus might not lie with the leaders but with a grassroots groundswell of ordinary people communicating via electronic mail and lamb kebabs.


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Richard C.Hanes


1100-700 b. c. Mass migration of Greek-speaking people to Cyprus.

800 b. c. Phoenicians from the present-day Middle East migrate to Cyprus.

1571-1914 a. d. The Ottoman Empire rule Cyprus. Turkish Muslims move to Cyprus.

1850s With the Ottoman Empire in decline, the British agree to administer Cyprus on behalf of the Ottomans. Greek Cypriots seek unification with Greece.

1914 When Turkey (the seat of the Ottoman Empire) joins with Germany in World War I, Britain annexes Cyprus.

1915 Britain offers Cyprus to Greece in return for support during the war. Greece turns Britain down and remains neutral.

1954-55 Following a United Nations' decision not to take action on the issue of Cypriot self-determination, Greek Cypriots riot. The National Organization of Cypriot Fighters, or EOKA, is formed and fights against the British.

1959 The Republic of Cyprus is formed and the Treaty of Alliance permits small numbers of Greek and Turkish troops to be stationed on Cyprus.

1963 The Cypriot president Markarios proposes changes to the constitution that enflames the Turkish Cypriot community. Inter-ethnic warfare continues and the Turkish Cypriot community begins moving north of the island and the Greek Cypriot community begins moving to the south.

1974 Following a Greek-sponsored coup d'état in Cyprus, Turkey invades the island, ultimately occupying the northern part of the island.

1983 Northern Cyprus declares statehood as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, though they are recognized only by Turkey.

2000 After years of unsuccessful negotiations, talks continue, with renewed signs of progress.