Country profile: Cyprus
By legend the birthplace of
the ancient Greek goddess of love Aphrodite, Cyprus's modern history
has, in contrast, been dominated by enmity between its Greek and
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when
Turkey invaded the north in response to a military coup on the island
which was backed by the Athens government.
In 1974 the island was effectively partitioned with the northern
third inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by
A "Green Line" - dividing the two parts from Morphou through Nicosia to Famagusta - is patrolled by United Nations troops.
UN drew up the Green Line as a ceasefire demarcation line in 1963 after
intervening to end communal tension. It became impassable after the
Turkish invasion of 1974, except for designated crossing points.
The island's partition has been in place since 1974
In 1983 the Turkish-held area declared itself the Turkish Republic
of Northern Cyprus. The status of Northern Cyprus as a separate entity
is recognised only by Turkey, which keeps around 30,000 troops in the
north of the island.
The prospect of EU enlargement
concentrated minds in the search for a settlement. UN-sponsored
negotiations continued throughout 2002 and a peace plan was tabled.
Soon afterwards the EU invited Cyprus to become a member.
hopes that the island could join united were dashed when leaders of the
Turkish and Greek communities failed to agree to the UN plan by the
March 2003 deadline.
In the months that followed travel
restrictions were eased, enabling people to cross the border for the
first time in nearly 30 years, raising hopes that progress might be on
As EU entry approached, a revised UN reunification plan was put to both communities in twin referendums in April 2004.
plan was endorsed by Turkish Cypriots - though not by their then leader
Rauf Denktash - but overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots. Because
both sides had to approve the proposals, the island remained divided as
it joined the EU in May. EU laws and benefits apply only to the Greek
More than two years later, hopes of progress
were rekindled at UN-sponsored talks between Cypriot President Tassos
Papadopolous and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. The two
agreed on a series of confidence-building measures and contacts between
Hopes were given further impetus by the
election of Demetris Christophas as president in February 2008. He
immediately began talks with Mehmet Ali Talat on reuniting the country
as a bizonal federal state.
However, the initial optimism faded
as talks made only slow progress through 2008, and hopes for a deal
were dealt a blow by the victory of right-wing nationalists at
parliamentary elections in northern Cyprus in April 2009.
Turkey has a particular interest in seeing the situation resolved as its own EU aspirations are linked to the island's future.
- Full name: Republic of Cyprus
- Population: 871,000 (combined) (UN, 2009)
- Capital: Nicosia (Lefkosia to Greek Cypriots, Lefkosa to Turkish Cypriots
- Area (combined): 9,251 sq km (3,572 sq miles)
- Major languages: Greek, Turkish
- Major religions: Christianity, Islam
- Life expectancy: 77 years (men), 82 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: Euro from 1 January 2008; Turkish lira used in north
- Main exports: Clothing, potatoes, cigarettes, pharmaceuticals
- GNI per capita: US $22,950 (World Bank, 2008)
- Internet domain: .cy
- International dialling code: +357
Cypriot president: Demetris Christofias
Communist Party leader Demetris Christofias won the presidential election of February 2008 by a big margin.
President Demetris Christofias
Ending the 34-year-old division of the island was the main campaign
theme of Mr Christofias, a builder's son from a village now in
Turkish-held Northern Cyprus.
His election gave new impetus to
talks aimed at reunifying the island as part of the EU, but hoped-for
early progress turned out to be elusive.
Mr Christofias was
educated in the Soviet Union and is a fluent Russian-speaker. He joined
the communist-rooted AKEL party at the age of 14 and rose through its
ranks to become leader in 1988. He has a penchant for wearing Che
Mr Christofias was elected president of the Cypriot House of Representatives in 2001 and won re-election in 2006.
Turkish Cypriot leader: Mehmet Ali Talat
Mehmet Ali Talat favours reunification
Mehmet Ali Talat of the centre-left Republican Turkish Party won a
convincing victory in presidential elections in the self-declared
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in April 2005.
veteran predecessor, Rauf Denktash who retired after leading the
Turkish Cypriot community for three decades, he would like to see
reunification and membership of the EU for the whole island.
campaigned strongly in favour of the UN reunification plan which was
put to a referendum in 2004 when the Turkish Cypriot community gave it
In 2008, he began talks on reunification with the new left-wing Greek Cypriot leader, Demetris Christofias.
frustration over the slow progress helped the nationalist National
Unity Party, which favours unification with Turkey, win parliamentary
elections in April 2009, effectively tying Mr Talat's hands in the
Mr Talat was born in 1952. He has a degree in electrical engineering from Ankara University and speaks fluent English.
The Cypriot media mirror the island's political division, with the
Turkish-controlled zone in the north operating its own press and
State-run radio and TV compete with private
operators, and relays of Greek and Turkish stations are on air across
the island. Nicosia officials say the switch from analogue to digital
TV broadcasting will be made in 2011.
Obstacles to the free
flow of news across across the divide weigh heavily on journalists,
Reporters Without Borders said in its last account of media freedom on
the island (2006).
There were around 325,000 internet users by March 2008 (Internetworldstats).