Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
Teaser Image

Cyprus

The island of Cyprus is situated in the eastern Mediterranean Sea about 40 miles south of Turkey and 60 miles west of Syria. Inhabited by both Greeks and Turks, it covers a land mass of 3,572 square miles and in 1945 had a population of some 460,000 people, 80 percent of them Greek.

The Turks conquered Cyprus and a large, separate Turkish community developed there. In 1878 at the Congress of Berlin, the Ottoman Empire placed Cyprus under British administration in return for British support against Russia. In 1914 Britain annexed Cyprus outright, and in 1925 it became a Crown colony. Until 1960, Cyprus was under British rule and was an important strategic base for defense of the Suez Canal in both world wars. During the Cold War the West used the island to monitor Soviet activities in the Middle East. Britain launched its 1956 abortive Suez invasion from Cyprus.

Under British rule, the movement for enosis, or union of the island with Greece, spread among the majority Greek population. The island's Turkish population, supported by the Turkish government, vowed to resist any such step. At first the Greek agitation was aimed at ending British control. Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarios III became the leader in this effort, condoning terrorism and reprisals against the British. General Georgios Grivas led the terrorist campaign to expel the British. Born in Cyprus, Grivas had fought against both the Germans in World War II and the communists in the Greek Civil War. Beginning in 1955, his National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA) launched widespread terrorist attacks against the British. The terrorist activity expanded, especially after 1956 when British authorities exiled Makarios to the Seychelle Islands in the Indian Ocean. Negotiations in 1955 between Britain, Greece, and Turkey broke down completely, abetted by Ankara's demands for partition of the island.

Finally, in the Zurich Agreement of 1959, a settlement was reached for a new constitution for Cyprus. On 16 August 1960, the island became the Republic of Cyprus, an independent state with two distinct ethnic entities. Britain, Greece, and Turkey retained limited rights to intervene in Cypriot affairs in order to guarantee the basic rights of both ethnic communities.

Archbishop Makarios became the first president of Cyprus, and in 1961 the island state became a member of the United Nations (UN). The 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 five-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 1962 and 1963, Greek and Turkish leaders held a series of meetings but were unable to resolve their differences in terms of taxation, municipal councils, and local government. In 1963, the Green Line was established in the capital city of Nicosia to separate the Greeks and Turks. In November 1963, Makarios proposed a series of constitutional amendments designed to restrict the rights of the Turkish community. The Turkish Cypriots opposed these changes, and consequently, widespread intercommunal fighting began in December 1963. Turkish Cypriot participation in the central government ceased, and the Turkish parliament voted in favor of occupying Cyprus in 1964.

Turkey could not find support for its occupation plans from either the UN or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson warned Turkish premier Ismet Inönü that his country would resist a Turkish occupation. Turkey did not make good on its threat. In March 1964 the UN Security Council established the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) to ward off potential trouble, although fighting continued between the Greeks and Turks. Following another outbreak of intercommunal violence in 1967–1968, a Turkish Cypriot provisional administration was formed, and by the early 1970s Makarios had resigned himself to a separate Cypriot state not directly tied to Greece, which infuriated many Greek Cypriots.

On 15 July 1974, a coup fomented by disaffected Greeks overthrew Makarios. A puppet regime, under control of the junta in Greece, was imposed under Nicos Sampson, a former EOKA fighter. Rauf Denktaş, the Turkish Cypriot leader, called for joint military action by the United Kingdom and Turkey as a way to prevent the unification of Cyprus with Greece. Although Turkey agreed to intervene, Britain could not be persuaded to follow suit, so on 20 July 1974 Turkey landed 40,000 troops on the northern coast of Cyprus.

The Turkish force occupied 37 percent of the island in the north. To date some 30,000 troops remain in northern Cyprus. Turkey described its occupation as a "peace operation" to restore constitutional order and protect the Turkish Cypriot community. The ensuing UN-led talks failed to resolve matters, and the Turks continued to control the northern parts of the island, forming a de facto Turkish Cypriot state there.

The area occupied by the Turkish Army proclaimed its independence in 1975 under the name of the Turkish Federated State of Northern Cyprus. Denktaş became its leader. Some 20,000 people, mainly subsistence farmers from mainland Turkey, were brought in to settle and work the under-populated land. Those who stayed more than five years were granted citizenship in the Turkish Federated State. In the Karpaz region, located on the Turkish side of Cyprus, a Greek-speaking minority remains under UN supervision.

In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was established to replace the Federated State. But it was only recognized as a legitimate independent state by Turkey and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. In the period since the Turkish invasion, the northern third of Cyprus has become almost exclusively Turkish while the southern two-thirds is almost exclusively Greek, so the territories are now sometimes referred to as the "Greek part" and the "Turkish part" of Cyprus. Except for occasional demonstrations and infrequent confrontations between border soldiers, few violent conflicts took place after 1974.

In 1975, the Cyprus issue caused the U.S. Congress to impose an embargo on the sale of military equipment to Turkey, which badly strained Turkish-U.S. relations. The embargo lasted until 1978 and was lifted by President Jimmy Carter. In November 1993, Greek Cypriots formed a Joint Defense Pact with Greece following the election of Cypriot President Glavkos Klerides. Turkish Cypriots responded by entering into a joint defense and foreign policy program with Turkey. In May 2004, the Greek two-thirds of the island became a member of the European Union as the Republic of Cyprus.

Cem Karadeli


Further Reading
Evriviades, Marios. "Greece after Dictatorship." Current History 78 (November 1979): 161–166.; Joseph, Joseph S. Cyprus: Ethnic Conflict and International Politics: From Independence to the Threshold of the European Union. New York: St. Martin's, 1997.; Vaner, Semih, Andreas Mavroyiannis, et al. Türk-Yunan Uyuşmazliği [Turco-Greek Dispute]. Istanbul: Metis Yayinlari, 1989.
 

©2011 ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved.

  About the Author/Editor
  Introduction
  Essays
  A
  B
  C
  D
  E
  F
  G
  H
  I
  J
  K
  L
  M
  N
  O
  P
  Q
  R
  S
  T
  U
  V
  W
  Y
  Z
  Z
  Documents
  Images
ABC-cLIO Footer