The Republic of Cyprus is an Eastern European state that not many academics outside of the Middle East really know much (or frankly care) about.
Greece and Turkey have been contending over the third most populous and third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea for decades. Athens and Ankara fought a war in the second half of the 20th century and after a bilateral ceasefire Nicosia has been divided into two, with the Hellenic Republic controlling half and the heirs of the Ottoman Empire the other. However, hostilities have never been missing.
Cyprus was the site of early Phoenician and Greek colonies. For centuries its rule passed through many hands. It fell to the Turks in 1571, and a large Turkish colony settled on the island.
In World War I, at the outbreak of hostilities with Turkey, Britain annexed the island. It was declared a Crown colony in 1925. The Greek population, which regarded Greece as its mother country, sought self-determination and union (enosis) with Greece. In 1955, a guerrilla war against British rule was launched by the National Organization of Cypriot Combatants (EOKA). In 1958, Greek Cypriot nationalist leader Archbishop Makarios began calling for Cypriot independence rather than union with Greece. During this period, Turkish Cypriots began demanding that the island be partitioned between the Greek and Turkish populations.
Cyprus became an independent nation on Aug. 16, 1960, after Greek and Turkish Cypriots agreed on a constitution, which excluded both the possibility of partition as well as of union with Greece. Makarios became the country’s first president.
Fighting between Greek and Turkish Cypriots flared up in the early 1960s, and a UN peacekeeping force was sent to the island in 1965. On July 15, 1974, Archbishop Makarios was overthrown in a military coup led by the Cypriot National Guard. On July 20, Turkey invaded Cyprus, asserting its right to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority. Turkey gained control of 30% of northern Cyprus and displaced some 180,000 Greek Cypriots. A UN-sponsored cease-fire was established on July 22, and Turkish troops were permitted to remain in the north. In Dec. 1974, Makarios again assumed the presidency. The following year, the island was partitioned into Greek and Turkish territories separated by a UN-occupied buffer zone.
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 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.
Over the decades, there have been many attempts by a number of Western nations to find a solution to the hostilities in the island country, especially because both Greece and Turkey are members of NATO and this has created many embarrassments in Washington D.C., but so far most have “gone the way of the dodo”.
The main reason for bringing up the Republic of Cyprus is that there is yet another endeavor by diplomacy to unify the island and stop the ethnic hatred which led to the division of the country.
Espen Barth Eide said Friday that this intensified phase of the negotiations aims to “seek mutually beneficial solutions” on issues where differences remain.
Cyprus was divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup aiming at union with Greece.
Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have met 10 times since talks resumed in May after a months-long pause.
The two have made progress on economic matters, governance and power-sharing under an envisioned federal state, and on property lost during the war.
I lived in Cyprus back in the 1980’s and what I can affirm out of my experience on site is that, in those days, there were many locals that would fight at the drop of a hat. It is certainly good news that the two factions are conversing on several controversial points but I believe that there is still a lot of animosities between the two sides for an all-encompassing deal. Of course, I could be wrong, and I truly hope I am.
All that is being written about the peace process is encouraging but that was yesterday and tomorrow is always another day, especially when it involves Cyprus…