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Monday, July 20, 1998 Published at 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK

World: Analysis

Cyprus: a bitter history

Basic Facts

Area: 9, The Greek area controlled by the Cypriot government takes up 59% of the island, the Turkish-Cypriot area comprises 37%, and the UN buffer zone that separates the two halves takes up 4% of the island.

Population (1996): 744,600.

Ethnic Groups): Greeks 78% (99.5% of the Greeks live in the Greek area), Turks 18% (98.7% of the Turks live in the Turkish area), others 4% (99.2% of the others live in the Greek area).

Religion: Greek Orthodox Christian 78%; Sunni Muslim 18%; Maronite, Armenian Apostolic and other 4%

Capital: The capital Nicosia is divided, with the Greek Cypriots calling it Lefkosia, and the Turkish Cypriots, Lefkosa.

Geography: Cyprus lies approximately 75km south of Turkey

The division of the island

In 1878 Cyprus was leased from Ottoman Turkey to Britain and was annexed to the British Empire after the First World War.

Greek Cypriots began a guerrilla war against British rule in 1955. The guerrilla movement, the National Organisation of Cypriot Combatants (EOKA), wanted unification with Greece.

Cyprus became a Republic in 1960, and its constitution was established by the Zurich Agreement (1960). Britain, Greece and Turkey are the guarantors of this Agreement.

Relations between the two main communities of the island (the Greek-Cypriots and the Turkish-Cypriots) became increasingly tense.

On July 15, 1974 the then military regime in Athens - intent on uniting the island with Greece - staged a coup to overthrow the Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios.

An invasion by Turkish troops followed effectively partitioning the island with the northern third inhabited by Turkish-Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots.

The "Green Line" dividing the two parts from Morphou through Nicosia to Famagusta is patrolled by United Nations troops.

In February 1975, the Turks announced the establishment of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus, of which their leader Rauf Denktash became president.

In 1983 the Turkish Cypriots declared their independence. The self proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Turkey.

Peace talks

[ image: UN troops keep the Turks and Greeks apart]
UN troops keep the Turks and Greeks apart
The United Nations has been sponsoring a series of peace talks between the two communities since 1980.

The United States has appointed Richard Holbrooke, architect of the Dayton Peace Accord, which ended the war in Bosnia, as a special envoy to help broker the talks.

But attempts to persuade the Turkish Cypriots to join Cyprus negotiations for accession to the European Union have failed

And despite several rounds of separate talks with both communities, Mr Holbrooke has failed to bring the two sides together.

At stake is not only the security of the island, but the larger geo-political interests of Turkey, Greece, the EU and the US. Turkey and Greece are both Nato members.

Greece has threatened to veto EU accession of the Central European countries if Cyprus is not admitted. The EU has confirmed that Cyprus' right to join is not dependent on resolving the division of the island.

The Turkish Cypriots say that if Cyprus is admitted before a peace agreement is reached, they will complete economic and military integration with Turkey.

Turkey's own relations with the EU have reached a new low as a result of the rejection of its own application for EU membership.

[ image: Turkey sent tanks into Northern Cyprus]
Turkey sent tanks into Northern Cyprus
Recently the situation became tenser as both Greece and Turkey engaged in provocative military manoeuvres in and around Cyprus.

Greece and Cyprus reached a defence agreement that places Cyprus under the Greek defence umbrella.

The Greek Cypriots have been building up their military defences.

In January 1997 they signed a contract to buy the Russian-made surface-to-air missiles S-300 which are expected to be delivered by the end of the year.

Turkey has said these missiles would threaten its airspace and territory and have threatened with "appropriate" action if the deployment goes ahead.

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