The Greek settlement of Cyprus began during the Iron Age in the
2nd millennium BC with the establishment of city-states by the
Mycenaeans and Achaeans. Greek culture established itself on the
island and was able to withstand the vicissitudes of subsequent foreign
domination by the Assyrians (8th-6th centuries BC), the Egyptians
(560-540 BC) and the Persians (540-332 BC). Alexander the Great put
an end to Persian rule of the island in 330 BC. Cyprus was ruled by
Alexander’s Ptolemy descendant dynasty from 323 to 30 BC and then
became a province of the Roman Empire from 30 BC to 330 AD.
Cyprus was converted to Christianity by Saints Paul and Barnabas
around 45 AD. Cyprus was also a province of the Greek speaking
Byzantine Empire. The Ottoman Empire captured Cyprus
from the Venetians in 1571. The Hellenic awareness of the people of
Cyprus can be attested to by their identification with and support for
the Greek War of Independence during which the Archbishop of Cyprus
was executed for supporting Hellenic independence.
In 1878, the Ottoman Empire ceded Cyprus to Great Britain so that
Russian ambitions in the Mediterranean could be checked. During
World War one, Cyprus was formally annexed by Great Britain as
a result of the Ottoman Empire's decision to become an ally of
Germany. In 1923, British rule over Cyprus was formalized by
the Treaty of Lausanne while Turkey formally renounced all
claims to Cyprus.
During the early 1930's, the people of Cyprus (most of whom
were Greek) and the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church
of Cyprus expressed their desire for "enosis" between Cyprus and
Greece. The movement for "enosis" ceased until the 1950's as a result
of British hostility and repression. In 1955, Archbishop Makarios and
then Col. George Grivas (founder of EOKA, National
Organization of Cypriot fighters) led a national movement resisting
British repression and Turkish hostility in an effort to achieve union
between Cyprus and Greece.
In 1959, political intrigue by Britain and Turkey made "enosis"
unlikely and Cyprus was established as an independent Republic.
Tensions created when the British encouraged Turkish Cypriots
to fight Greeks during the 1950's resurfaced with intercommunal
fighting during the 1960's. In 1974, a coup inspired by the Ioannides
dictatorship in Athens led to the overthrow of President
Makarios in Cyprus. As a result, a pretext was given for the Turkish
invasions of Cyprus on July 20 and August 14, 1974.
Subsequently, over 200,000 Greek Cypriots were ethnically
cleansed and over 5,000 were killed during the Turkish invasions.
Over 1,600 Greek Cypriots are missing today while thirty-seven
percent of Cyprus remains under Turkish occupation. The Turkish
invasions have been condemned by the United Nations and have
been steadily and firmly denounced by legal decisions emanating
from the European Court on Human Rights as well.
Ethnic cleansing in Cyprus is still being carried out as a
result of Turkish settlers being imported into the occupied
territories, the destruction of Churches and Monasteries, and the
theft of priceless mosaics by Turkish occupation authorities, and
by the murders of Greek Cypriots by Turkish extremists in the
occupied territories which still occur.
In 1998, the Cypriot government succumbed to pressure and
did not install anti-aircraft missiles for defensive purposes as was
its right. At the present time, Cyprus is looking to become
a member of the European Union. Membership in the European
Union under conditions that fully recognize that there is only one
legitimate government in Cyprus is an important goal. Turkish
threats must not be allowed to undermine the right of Cyprus
to enter the European Union.