The modern history of Cyprus has been
characterized by contradictions between the island's two
major ethnic groups: Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In
1974, a Greek-initiated coup led to Turkey invading the
northern part of the island, and in practice Cyprus was
divided into a northern, Turkish Cypriot part and a
Greek Cypriot south. Since then, tough negotiations for
reconciliation have been going on without any real
On August 16, 1960, Cyprus became independent from
the colonial power of Great Britain. The new state got a
Greek Cypriot, Archbishop Makarios III, as president,
and a Turkish Cypriot, Fazıl Küçük, as vice president.
All decisions could be stopped by veto by the president
or vice president.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Cyprus. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Disagreement quickly arose about the army. According
to Makarios, it would be integrated, while Küçük wanted
the two peoples to be divided into separate groups. New
conflicts followed. In 1963, serious unrest broke out
between the groups. The Turkish Cypriot ministers
stopped participating in government work and thus the
Greek Cypriots felt they had resigned. Since then, the
two groups have not been represented in the same
government. The Turkish Cypriots also left their seats
in Parliament. In 1964, the UN brought an international
peace force to Cyprus: UNFICYP (UN
Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus). It included a battalion
In 1968, the government of Makarios began
negotiations with the Turkish Cypriots. They would last
until 1974, with no real results.
Elections in the south and in the north
UN resolutions on Cyprus required the country to be a
single state with a single government and a single
citizenship. That model, without specific legislation
for ethnic groups, was supported by the Greek Cypriots,
who would constitute the majority in such a state.
In 1970, the first parliamentary elections were held
since independence. Among the Greek Cypriots, the
Conservatives and the Communist Party enjoyed success,
while those who advocated enosis (Cyprus's association
with Greece) suffered defeat. The Turkish Cypriots held
separate elections that were not recognized by the Greek
Cypriots but won by a moderate party led by Rauf Denktaş
(Denktash with English spelling). He demanded that
Cyprus become a federation between two "equal" peoples,
with extensive regional autonomy for each peoples group.
While the interest in uniting the island with Greece
had diminished in Cyprus, it had increased in Greece,
where a military junta took power in 1967. With the
support of the junta in Athens, the Greek Cypriot Eoka
guerrilla was revived under the new name Eoka-B.
It targeted its terror against leading Greek Cypriot
politicians, including President Makarios, who was
believed to stand in the way of enosis.
On July 15, 1974, the Athens junta, in collaboration
with Eoka-B, staged a coup d'état against Makarios,
which was forced to flee. In response, Turkey occupied
the area around the city of Kyrenia and a corridor down
to Nicosia. The risk of war between Greece and Turkey
The split a fact
A few days after the invasion of Turkey, the junta
fell in Athens and thus its puppet government in Cyprus,
but the Turkish army did not withdraw. Within a month,
Turkey had extended its occupation to more than a third
of Cyprus. The UN troops were quite powerless when
atrocities were committed on both sides with thousands
of dead as a result. One third of the island's
inhabitants fled their homes.
When Makarios returned to Cyprus in December 1974,
the island's division was a fact. In February 1975, the
Turkish Cypriots declared their territory to the north
as a federal "state". Makarios died in 1977. The
successor Spiros Kiprianou continued the fruitless
negotiations with the north side.
The Turkish Cypriots demanded that a political
solution be reached before the Turkish troops could
leave the island, while the soldiers' retreat was a
prerequisite for a solution according to the Greek
In May 1983, the Turkish Cypriots interrupted
negotiations, after the United Nations General Assembly,
with a large majority, declared that all foreign
occupation forces would leave Cyprus. In November of
that year, Turkish Cypriots declared Northern Cyprus an
independent state, Northern Cyprus's Turkish
Republic, with Rauf Denktaş as president.
Northern Cyprus was recognized immediately by Turkey but
not by any other country, and the declaration of
independence was stamped by the UN Security Council as
illegal. Some Turkish Cypriots, including the Leftist
Republican Turkish Party (CTP), also
feared that the Declaration of Independence would make
it more difficult to resolve the Cyprus issue.
Application to the EC
In southern Cyprus, businessman Giorgos Vasiliou was
elected president in 1988, with informal support from
the Communist Party Akel. In 1990, the Greek Cypriot
government applied for Cypriot membership in the EC (EU
from 1 November 1993). The application undermined the
contradictions both within and between the two ethnic
groups. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership
opposed a rapprochement between southern Cyprus and the
In the 1993 Greek Cypriot presidential election,
political veteran Glafkos Kliridis won by a marginal
margin over Vasiliou. Kliridis led the Conservative
Party Democratic Assembly (Disy).
He was keen to link Cyprus to the EU and wanted Western
Europe to help resolve the Cypriot conflict. In 1997,
Kliridis resigned as leader of Disy, but he still
managed to win the presidential election in 1998 with
barely a margin.
In Northern Cyprus, President Denktaş had already
left his party UBP when a growing dissatisfaction forced
it away from the government for a few years from 1994.
In his fifth presidential election, in 1995, Denktaş had
to fight a second round of elections for the first time
before he could declare himself victorious. At the next
presidential election in the north of spring 2000, the
election results showed declining support for both
Denktaş and the challenger, the Prime Minister and UBP
leader Derviş Eroğlu. Denktaş remained as president,
while Eroğlu continued as prime minister.
In the Greek Cypriot presidential election in
February 2003, the then 83-year-old Kliridis failed to
be re-elected for a third (curtailed) period. Instead,
the new president became Tassos Papadopoulos from the
center Diko. In April 2003, the Greek Cypriot leaders
signed a treaty with the EU that Cyprus would become an
EU member the following year.
In April 2003, Turkish Cypriots opened the border
between Northern and Southern Cyprus for Cypriots who
wanted to make short visits to the opposite side,
something that had not been allowed since 1974. It was
widely believed that it was the new government in Turkey
that had persuaded Denktaş to do so.
A week later, the Greek Cypriots eased somewhat on
the economic blockade against Northern Cyprus that a
European Court of Justice introduced a decade earlier.
All native Turkish Cypriots were granted the right to
apply for a passport with the Greek Cypriot authorities.
However, the Greek Cypriots emphasized that the reforms
did not mean recognizing the "illegal regime" in the
After a parliamentary election in the north in
December 2003, Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the CTP,
became the new Turkish Cypriot prime minister. The talk
was positive for a reunification of Cyprus and it was
clear that more and more Turkish Cypriots were heartily
tired of all Turkish soldiers and settlers and the fact
that the standard of living in the north was lower than
in the south. The Turkish Cypriots were also worried
about being sidelined by a Cypriot entry into the EU.
The Greek Cypriots, who had previously been mainly
those who wanted a reunion, had for their part begun to
get used to the island being divided.
UN plan rejected
In the winter of 2004, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi
Annan worked hard to get both peoples to agree on a plan
for the reunification of Cyprus, according to which the
country would be governed by the Swiss model as a state
with two cantons and with rotating presidencies. The
president should have only representative powers.
In April 2004, each side held a referendum on the
plan. The outside world encouraged the Turkish Cypriots
to vote yes. That the Greek Cypriots would vote yes was
almost for granted, and the EU had even promised Cyprus
membership without first awaiting the outcome of the
referendum. But the Greek Cypriots' distrust of the
Turkish side gained new nourishment as Turkey at the
last moment pushed through changes to the Annan plan.
The changes approved the occupation and the Turkish
settlements in practice. Similarly, the Greek Cypriots
'ability to regain property in the north was limited as
they left in 1974. Greek Cypriots' newly elected
President Tassos Papadopoulos urged residents of the
South to vote no.
The result was that the Turkish Cypriots voted in
favor of reunification, while the Greek Cypriots said
President Papadopoulos received harsh criticism from
the outside world for calling for a no. Kofi Annan
accused him of failing to explain the contents of the UN
peace plan to his people before the vote.
Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Talat had appealed to
all Cypriots, both north and south, to vote yes. He was
rewarded for being invited as the first Turkish Cypriot
leader to the United States. After pledging to work for
a reunification of the island, Talat was elected Turkish
Cypriot president in April 2005. Rauf Denktaş did not
stand because, according to himself, he did not feel
supported by the Turkish government.
The backlash in the referendum meant that Cyprus was
still divided when the country (in practice the southern
part) joined the EU on 1 May 2004. It would take until
2008 before the hope of a reunion was awakened again,
now in connection with Dimitris Christofias from the
left party Akel won the Greek Cypriot presidential
election. Both Christofias and Akel had good relations
with the governing in the north, but the negotiations
for a reunion that got started led nowhere.
One reason was the shift in power in northern 2009
when UBP defeated the ruling CTP, whose electoral loss
was interpreted as the voters' penalty for failing to
break northern Cyprus's isolation. It was also possible
to interpret the votes at UBP as the dream of a reunion
of the island had begun to fade. The election results
indicated disappointment with CTP's economic policies,
which were criticized for mismanagement, corruption and
delaying necessary reforms.
The hope of fruitful negotiations was further
weakened when Derviş Eroğlu in 2010 was elected
president of the north. In June 2013, the UBP government
was forced to resign after losing a vote of confidence
in Parliament. In the parliamentary elections a month
later, CTP received the most votes and formed government
together with DP.
From 2011, an economic crisis in the Greek Cypriot
part led to the reorganization of the negotiations to a
large extent. In the summer of 2012, the government in
the south was forced to ask the EU for an emergency loan
to save the country's banks, which made huge losses on
lending to the crisis-hit Greece.
Economic crisis in the south
The Greek Cypriot parliamentary elections in May 2011
gave a scarce majority to the conservative Disy, which
was supposed to make it harder for President Christofias
to get through government policy. A year later,
Christofias announced that he, as the first Greek
Cypriot president, would not seek re-election. He
justified the decision to halt the reunification
negotiations, which he blamed for Turkey and the Turkish
When Cyprus took over the EU presidency on July 1,
2012, this was completely overshadowed by the country's
acute economic crisis. Following Christofia's departure
in early 2013, an investigative commission appointed him
and his government responsible for the crisis as they
unchallenged warnings about the country's deteriorating
economy. Christofia's unwillingness to implement
privatizations of state-owned enterprises and public
austerity were considered to have slowed down a
settlement agreement with the EU and the International
Monetary Fund (IMF).