1959 saw the end of British colonial rule for Cyprus and, following the Zurich and London Agreements signed in February of the same year (by representatives of Britain, Greece, Turkey and the Greek and Turkish communities of the island), for the first time in the long history of Cyprus a single, independent and sovereign State was established on August 16, 1960: the Republic of Cyprus.
The constitution drafted for the Republic though, which was in fact imposed on the Cypriot people, contained divisive provisions that encouraged confrontation and dissent between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots (80% and 18% of the population respectively). In addition, the rights granted to Britain, Greece and Turkey embroiled the young state in the antagonisms among the great powers and in the clashes between various economic and strategic interests in the region.
Turkey, with a view to promoting its own expansionist and partitionist plans, found ways to mobilize Turkish Cypriot extremists to prevent the smooth functioning of the state. This inevitably led to the inter-communal clashes of 1963-64 and 1967.
The inter-communal talks which began in 1968 under the auspices of the UN and which continued over the following eight years were marked by slow but steady progress.
The coup against the legal Cyprus government on 15 July 1974, which was organized by the military junta ruling Greece at the time, gave Turkey the much longed for excuse to invade the Republic of Cyprus, which it did on 20 July 1974 in contravention of the UN Charter and all principles and norms of International Law.
As a result of the illegal Turkish invasion and continued occupation:
• 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus- i.e. the northern part of the island, where 70% or the natural resources were concentrated – is still today under Turkish military occupation.
• 200.000 Greek Cypriots refugees– one third of the population – have been displaced from the occupied northern sector where they had constituted 80% of the inhabitants. At the same time the Turkish Cypriots who lived in the free areas were forced by their leaders to move to the occupied area.
• The ascertainment of the fate of over 1,500 missing persons is still pending.
• More than 30.000 Turkish soldiers, fully armed and supported by land and sea, are stationed in the occupied area, making it, according to the UN Secretary-General, one of the most heavily militarised regions of the world.
• Over 100,000 settlers have been brought over from Turkey to colonise the occupied area with the aim of changing the demography of the island and to control the political situation.
• The hermetically sealed “Attila line” (“Operation Attila” was the code-name Turkey gave to the invasion of Cyprus) artificially divides the island and its people and prevents Cypriots from moving freely within their own country.
• The so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” was unilaterally proclaimed in 1983 in the occupied area (a pseudostate recognized only by Turkey and entirely dependent on it) in an effort to consolidate the de facto situation,
• According to the Turkish Cypriot press, more than 50.000 Turkish Cypriots have emigrated since 1974 as a result of the economic, social and moral deprivation that prevails in the occupied area. As a result the Turkish Cypriots who are left are today outnumbered by the Turkish troops and settlers.
• The illegal regime in the occupied area is deliberately and methodically trying to eradicated every trace of a 9000-year-old cultural and historical heritage. All Greek place-names have been replaced by Turkish ones. Churches, monuments, cemeteries and archaeological sites have been destroyed, desecrated or looted. Priceless religious and archaeological treasures, part of the world’s cultural heritage, are being stolen and smuggled abroad, and illegal excavations and dealings in antiquities are taking place.
The Cyprus problem is not an inter-communal dispute. It is a question of invasion and continuing occupation. Turkey continues unpunished to show contempt for the calls of the international community, as expressed in dozens of UN resolutions and continues to maintain the occupation and artificial division of the island.
For more detailed information on any aspect of the Cyprus Question as well as recent developments, please visit the relevant section of the Website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.