The Cambridge Cyprus Campaign


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What is the Cyprus problem?

Cyprus is the third island in the Mediterranean and has a population of approximately 750,000 (the ethnic composition, according to US State Department figures, consists of: Greek-Cypriots 78%, Turkish-Cypriots 18%, Armenian, Maronite and Latin-Cypriots 4%). Greek and Turkish Cypriots lived together on the island for almost five centuries. Being dispersed all over the island, people lived and worked together; mosques and churches can still be found side by side.

The Republic of Cyprus gained its independence from British colonial rule in 1960. The Zurich and London Agreements which granted the island its independence also bequeathed an ill conceived constitutional structure which made power sharing between the two communities difficult, and sowed the seeds for many of the conflicts which arose later. For instance, the President's attempts to amend the constitution in 1963 were greeted with alarm by the Turkish Cypriots who saw this as an attempt to curtail their power. This sparked the inter communal violence of 1963-4. The Turkish Cypriots retreated into enclaves and a UN peace keeping force was deployed to prevent a further escalation of violence.

In 1974, the government was overthrown by a coup d' etat engineered by the Colonel's regime in Greece, threatening to bring unification of the island with Greece. Turkey responded with a massive military operation, acting as a guarantor of the constitution. However, in practice this brought about the division of the island along the green line ever since. Refugees have been unable to return to their homes, the whereabouts of the missing are still unknown, and despite various attempts little progress has been made towards reunifying the island.

In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was declared but is only recognized  as such by Turkey. The UN Security Council in Resolution 939/1994 "reiterates that the maintenance of the status quo is unacceptable" and "reaffirms its position that a Cyprus settlement must be based on a State of Cyprus with a single sovereignty and international personality and a single citizenship". It recommends that this state should comprise "two politically equal communities... in a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation, and such a settlement must exclude union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession". Peace talks are continuing and the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are set to reconvene proximity talks in May in New York.

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