For centuries the Greek population, regarding Greece as its mother country, has sought self-determination and union with Greece (enosis). The resulting quarrel with Turkey threatened NATO. Cyprus became an independent nation on Aug. 16, 1960, with Britain, Greece, and Turkey as guarantor powers.
Archbishop Makarios, President since independence in August 1960, was overthrown on July 15, 1974, by a military coup led by the Cypriot National Guard. The new regime named Nikos Giorgiades Sampson as president and Bishop Gennadios as head of the Cypriot Church to replace Makarios. Diplomacy failed to resolve the crisis. Turkey invaded Cyprus by sea and air on July 20, 1974, asserting its right to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority. Talks in Geneva involving Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the two Cypriot factions failed in mid-August, and the Turks subsequently moved to gain control of 37% of the island's territory. Upwards of 200,000 Cypriots were uprooted, with Greek Cypriots forced to flee from the Turkish-occupied north and Turkish Cypriots displaced from the south. Greece made no armed response to the superior Turkish force but bitterly suspended military participation in the NATO alliance. The tension continued after Makarios returned to become president on Dec. 7, 1974. He offered self-government to the Turkish minority, but rejected any solution “involving transfer of populations and amounting to partition of Cyprus.”
Turkish Cypriots proclaimed a separate state under Rauf Denktash in the northern part of the island on Nov. 15, 1983, naming it the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.” The UN Security Council, in its Resolution 541 of Nov. 18, 1983, declared this action illegal and called for withdrawal. No country except Turkey has recognized this illegal entity.
In 1988, George Vassiliou, a conservative and critic of UN proposals to reunify Cyprus, became president. The purchase of missiles capable of reaching the Turkish coast evoked threats of retaliation from Turkey in 1997, and Cyprus's plans to deploy more missiles in Aug. 1999 again raised Turkey's ire.
The continued strife between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots threatened Cyprus's potential EU membership—it had met all the economic standards—and provided a great incentive to both sides to resolve their differences. UN-sponsored talks between the Greek and Turkish leaders, Kleridas and Denktash, continued intensively in 2002, but without resolution. In Dec. 2002, the EU invited Cyprus to join in 2004, provided the UN plan was accepted by February 2003. Without reunification, only Greek Cyprus was to be welcomed into the EU. But just weeks before the UN deadline, Kleridas was defeated by right-wing candidate Tassos Papadopoulos in presidential elections. Papadopoulos had a reputation as a hard-liner on reunification and had rejected all previous UN attempts to reunify Cyprus. The UN deadline passed, and by mid-March, the UN declared that the talks had failed. In April 2004, dual referendums were held, with the Greek side overwhelmingly rejecting the most recent UN reunification plan, and the Turkish side voting in favor. In May, Greek Cyprus alone became a part of the EU.
In April 2005, Turkish Cyprus elected Mehmet Ali Talat as their president, ousting long-time leader Rauf Denktash, who staunchly opposed reunification. Talat purportedly supports reunification.
After independence Cyprus became a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement despite all three guarantor powers (Greece, Turkey and the UK) being NATO members. Cyprus left the Non-Aligned Movement in 2004 to join the EU.
Following the independence of Cyprus from the UK, the Greek Cypriots held three referendums on the issue of whether they wanted to be annexed by Greece. On all three occasions there was a nine to one vote in favour of annexation but Greece has agreed not to merge with Cyrpus under the terms of the independence treaty and Greek Prime Minister Kostantinos Karamanlis did not seek to do so in reponse to the referendum results.
Politics of Cyprus
Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided de facto into the government-controlled southern two-thirds of the island and the Turkish-Cypriot northern one-third. The Government of the Republic of Cyprus has continued as the internationally recognized authority; in practice, its power extends only to the Greek Cypriot-controlled areas.
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 House of Representatives was elected on the basis of separate voters' rolls, but since 1974, the Turkish seats in the House have been vacant. Originally, there were two Communal Chambers, but the Greek Cypriot Chamber was abolished in the 1960s.
In 1974, following a coup by the Greek backed National Guard and the arrival of Turkish troops (claiming their authority was as one of the 3 international guarantors of Cyprus), the Turkish Cypriots formally set up their own institutions with a popularly 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). In 1985, they adopted a constitution and held elections--an arrangement recognized only by Turkey.
In February 1998, Greek Cypriots narrowly re-elected Glafcos Clerides, a seasoned politician from the conservative Democratic Rally Party, as president of the Republic of Cyprus.
Following his re-election, Clerides formed a government of national unity, with open invitations for participation of all political parties. His cabinet includes six ministers from Clerides' Democratic Rally party, two ministers from the EDEK (socialist) party, three from the Democratic Party (who broke ranks with party leader Spyros Kyprianou) and one from the United Democrats. 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 are also a potent political force, along with the independent Orthodox Church of Cyprus, which has some influence in temporal as well as ecclesiastical matters.
Turkish Cypriots held multi-party parliamentary elections in 1993, removing the long-ruling National Unity Party in favour of a coalition of the Democratic and Republican Turkish parties. However, in August 1996, a new coalition was formed between the two main rightist parties, the National Unity Party and the Democratic Party. The next parliamentary elections will take place in the fall of 1998. TRNC President Rauf Denktash won re-election in 1995 after an unprecedented second round of voting. He defeated the incumbent Prime Minister, Dr. Dervis Eroglu. Mehmet Ali Talat is new president of TRNC after Rauf Denktaş's retirement in 2005.
UN-sponsored negotiations to develop institutional arrangements acceptable to both communities began in 1968; several sets of negotiations and other initiatives followed. Turkish Cypriots focus on bi-zonality, security guarantees, and political equality between the two communities. Greek Cypriots emphasize the rights of movement, property, settlement, and the return of territory. Turkish Cypriots favour a federation of two nearly autonomous societies living side by side with limited contact, while Greek Cypriots envision a more integrated structure.
In June 1997, the UN Secretary General invited Presidents Clerides and. Denktash to hold face-to-face meetings. The two leaders met 9 July-13, 1997, in Troutbeck, New York, to resume discussions to resolve intercommunal strife and reunite the island. They met for a second round in Switzerland, 11 August-15, 1997. The U.S. also brokered two direct meetings between the two leaders, including one meeting in September 1997 to discuss security issues and a second meeting in November 1997 under the auspices of U.S. Special Presidential Emissary Richard C. Holbrooke to review informally the core issues of a settlement agreement. International efforts to promote a settlement to the Cyprus dispute began again in earnest following the February 1998 presidential election.