Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean with a long history whose origins go back nine thousand years. Its geographical position and its natural resources have always made it a target for conquerors. The Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Arabs, the Frankish dynasty of the Lusignans, the Venetians, Ottoman Turks and the British, all conquered Cyprus in turn.
The settlement of Mycenaeans on the island in the 12th century B.C. gave the island its Greek character, which was maintained despite the influences and subjugations it went through during its chequered history.
The transfer of power in 1878 from Turkish to British rule allowed the national movement in Cyprus to grow, culminating in the 1931 uprising and the 1955-59 liberation movement. In 1960 Cyprus was declared an independent Republic as a result of the Zurich-London agreements.
The 1960 constitution contained functional shortcomings, which led to deadlocks and to the intercommunal clashes of 1963/64. The Coup of 15 July of 1974 perpetrated against the legal government of the Republic of Cyprus by the military junta ruling Greece at the time, gave Turkey the long-awaited pretext to invade the island on 20 July 1974 in violation of the UN Charter and all the principles of international law.
The Republic of Cyprus has since 1960 been a member of the United Nations and over the years has become a member of practically all of its specialized organizations. it is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth, the Council of Europe and the Organisation on Security and Co-operation in Europe. In 1990 the Cyprus government applied for full membership of the European Union, with which it had customs union agreement since 1972. Cyprus' accession process was reaffirmed with the start of accession negotiations on 31 March 1998. Moreover, according to the Helsinki European Council decision (10-11 December 1999, the solution of the Cyprus problem prior to the completion of the accession negotiations is not a precondition for EU membership. The republic of Cyprus is due to become full member of the EU in May 2004.
Results of the Turkish invasion and occupation:
37% of the Territory of the Republic of Cyprus - i.e. the northern part of the island, where 70% of the natural resources were concentrated - is under Turkish occupation.
200.000 Greek Cypriots - one third of the population - have been displaced from the occupied northern part 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 the missing persons is still pending.
Less than 500 people out of an original 20,000 at the end of 1974 remain enclaved in their occupied villages living under conditions of oppression, harassment and deprivation.
35,000 Turkish soldiers, armed with the latest weapons and supported by land and sea, are stationed in the occupied area, making it, according to the UN Secretary-General, one of the most militarized regions of the world.
More than 100,000 Turks have been brought over from Turkey to colonize the occupied area with the aim of changing the demography of the island and controlling 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 throughout their country.
In an effort to consolidate the de facto situation, the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" was unilaterally declared in 1983 in the occupied area, a pseudostate recognized only by Turkey and entirely dependent on it which was condemned right away by the Security Council in its resolution 541 of 1983.
According to Turkish-Cypriot newspapers, about 50.000 Turkish Cypriots emigrated from the occupied area between 1974-1995 because of the economic, social and moral deprivation which prevails there. As a result the Turkish Cypriots who are left are today outnumbered by the Turkish troops together with the colonists.
The illegal regime in the occupied area is deliberately and methodically trying to eradicate every trace of a 9.000 year old cultural and historical heritage. All Greek toponymes 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.
An end to occupation
The Cyprus problem is not an intercommunal 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. As it was evidenced in the latest talks under the aegis of the UN at The Hague, the Turkish side lacks the necessary political will to solve the problem.
The Cyprus government is firmly committed to finding a just and viable solution through negotiations based on UN resolutions - a solution that would safeguard the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, which would ensure the withdrawal of Turkish troops and colonists, would secure the human rights and basic freedoms of all Cypriots, would offer both internal security and security from foreign dangers and would safeguard the future of the Cypriot people as a whole in conditions of peace, prosperity and progress, in a united, federal and demilitarized state within the European Union.