|General background: Independence from the UK
was approved in 1960 with constitutional guarantees by
the Greek Cypriot majority to the Turkish Cypriot minority.
In 1974, a Greek-sponsored attempt to seize the government
was met by military intervention from Turkey, which soon
controlled almost 40% of the island. In 1983, the Turkish-held
area declared itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern
Cyprus", but it is recognized only by Turkey. UN-led
talks on the status of Cyprus resumed in December 1999
to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading
to a comprehensive settlement.
About 0.6 times the size of Connecticut
Temperate; Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and
Terrain: Central plain with
mountains to north and south; scattered but significant
plains along southern coast.
Population: 767,314 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Greek 85.2%, Turkish 11.6%, other
Religions: Greek Orthodox 78%, Muslim 18%, Maronite,
Armenian Apostolic, and other 4%
Language: Greek, Turkish, English
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Based on common law, with civil
Economic overview: Economic affairs are affected
by the division of the country. The Greek Cypriot economy
is prosperous but highly susceptible to external shocks.
Erratic growth rates in the 1990s reflect the economy's
vulnerability to swings in tourist arrivals, caused
by political instability in the region and fluctuations
in economic conditions in Western Europe. Economic policy
is focused on meeting the criteria for admission to
the EU. As in the Turkish sector, water shortages are
a perennial problem; a few desalination plants are now
online. The Turkish Cypriot economy has less than one-half
the per capita GDP of the south. Because it is recognized
only by Turkey, it has had much difficulty arranging
foreign financing, and foreign firms have hesitated
to invest there. It remains heavily dependent on agriculture
and government service, which together employ about
half of the work force. To compensate for the economy's
weakness, Turkey provides substantial direct and indirect
aid to tourism, education, industry, etc.
Communication/Telephone system: Excellent in
both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot areas.
Places of interest: Crusader castles rub shoulders
with ancient vineyards, frescoed monasteries overlook
citrus orchards, and sandy, sun-soaked feet tread Roman
Travel tips: If you could sneak your way past
the UN guards and local toughs patrolling the Green
Line, Cyprus would be two countries for the price of
one. Unfortunately, this really is a country divided
- since 1974, visitors have had to choose between the
Turkish experience of the north and the Greek experience
of the south.