Cyprus – A Brief Historical Review

A Brief Historical Review

Cyprus was a British colony from 1925 to 1959. Cypriots fought alongside the allies against Fascism and Nazism during World War II. The British, however, refused to give the island the right of self determination when the war was over. From 1955-59 a Liberation Struggle was fought against the colonial master, and resulted in the granting of independence to the island on the basis of the Zurich and London Agreements of February 1959.

In the early 1950s Turkey started to show an interest in Cyprus, through its Turkish minority in Cyprus (approximately 18% of the population). This interest was supported by Britain, which aimed in this way to counter-balance the attempts by the Greeks of Cyprus to gain their freedom and unite with Greece. Despite the creation of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, Turkey continued with its plans. In 1963 Turkish extremists rebelled against the Republic of Cyprus and much of the Turkish Cypriot population retreated into enclaves.

On 20 July 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus militarily claiming to the international community the undertaking of a “peace operation”. As its excuse to invade, it used the Greek Junta coup against Archbishop Makarios. When the UN Security Council intervened, negotiations on the situation began in Geneva among Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and the UK, Turkey tried to impose its views and also gain time for a second military operation. On 14 August 1974, and while the talks in Geneva were still going on, another advance of Turkish troops occurred which resulted in the occupation of 37% of Cyprus. Two hundred thousand Greek Cypriots were forced to abandon their homes and properties.

Later, the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus was created in the occupied part of Cyprus, and in 1983, it unilaterally declared itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. More than 150,000 Turkish settlers have been brought to the island and there are approximately 35,000 Turkish troops.

Immediately after the invasion and Turkish occupation, the Government of Cyprus chose to seek a solution by peaceful means, through talks held under the auspices of the UN. The issue, despite efforts to solve it, remains virtually frozen since 1974 and the occupation of Cyprus territory by the Turkish army still continues.

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