Page last updated at 10:06 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2004 11:06 UK

Cyprus: How the crisis unfolded

By Tom Housden
BBC News Online

The years following Cyprus's independence from British rule in 1960 saw constitutional wrangling and rising tension between the island's Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities.

This escalated into clashes between rival paramilitary factions.

Archbishop Makarios
Archbishop Makarios fled to Britain in 1974

Greece and Turkey became increasingly embroiled in the situation. Greece sent 20,000 troops to the island, while Turkey responded to attacks on Turkish Cypriot areas with air strikes.

In 1964 the United Nations sent in peacekeeping troops to support British soldiers manning the so-called "Green Line", set up to divide the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sectors of Nicosia.

For a time the situation on the ground improved, but repeated attempts to achieve a long-term political solution made little headway.

In 1967 a military junta seized power in Greece, and seemed determined to resolve the deadlock by force.

Relations between the junta and the Cypriot President, Archbishop Makarios, became increasingly strained.


The situation came to a head on 15 July 1974 when the Athens regime instigated a coup by Greek army officers in Cyprus, seeking to achieve 'enosis' - or union with Greece.

Makarios was overthrown and fled to Britain.

A united Cyprus run as two Swiss-style cantons
Right of return for Greek Cypriots
Symbolic, alternating presidency

Five days later, Turkey - concerned at the imminent possibility of a unified Greece and Cyprus - sent in troops with the aim of protecting the Turkish Cypriot community.

The island was effectively partitioned. Turkish Cypriots occupied the northern third, while the Greek Cypriot community held the southern sector.

The Greek Cypriots angrily condemned Turkey's action as an illegal occupation but the Turkish Cypriot population welcomed the protection offered by the trooops.

The coup quickly dissolved and Greece's military junta collapsed.

A ceasefire was agreed on 23 July. In the absence of Archbishop Makarios, the then-President of the House of Representatives and Greek Cypriot negotiator Glafcos Clerides was installed as acting president.

Tripartite talks that month between Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain saw attempts to find a diplomatic solution.

But events moved quickly as both sides sought to capitalise on the situation. Turkish troops extended their positions, matching similar expansion into Turkish Cypriot areas by Greek forces.

Divisions framed

The talks in Geneva ended with an agreement that a Turkish withdrawal from the island should be linked to the establishment of a "just and lasting settlement acceptable to all parties".

I will never surrender my country smaller than what it is
Glafcos Clerides

However, the declaration also spoke of "two autonomous administrations" - and at a second conference on 9 August divisions began to emerge over the island's future government.

Turkey pressed for a federal arrangement, which was strongly opposed by the Greeks.

On 13 August, Turkish Foreign Minister Turan Gunes presented an amended plan calling for the respective enclaves to be divided into cantons, and demanded an immediate response.

The Greeks, British and Americans saw this as unreasonable, but the next day Turkish forces advanced, extending their control over 36% of the island.


Fighting broke out and about 160,000 Greek Cypriots fled to the south. About 50,000 Turkish Cypriots moved north a year later.

The island was divided along a line stretching from Morphou in the west through Nicosia to Farmagusta.

This buffer zone remains mined and patrolled by UN peacekeepers.

In February 1975, the Turks announced the establishment of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus, with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash becoming president.

Eight years later the Turkish Cypriots declared their independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus - but only Turkey recognised their state.

The UN has sponsored a series of peace talks between the two communities since 1980, but there has been little progress.

However the question of Cyprus' eligibility for EU membership has provided fresh impetus to the latest round of talks due to open in Nicosia on Wednesday.

While a full settlement seems to remain some way off, there is real optimism that an end to over 30 years of deadlock is in sight.

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