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History of the North Cyprus

Historical Background

The Island of Cyprus lies at the crossroads between East and West. Due to its strategic location, it was ruled by many civilisations throughout history, namely the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Knights Templar, Lusignans, Venetians, Ottomans and the British.

During the rule of the Ottoman Empire between 1571 and 1878, the Greek Orthodox faith was restored and the Archbishop was acknowledged as the leader of the Greek Orthodox community, which attained the right to administer its own affairs under the millet system of the Ottomans. Hence, the Ottoman rule for over three centuries was characterized by the peaceful coexistence of the communities on the Island.

The Greek War of Independence in 1821 gave rise to Greek nationalism in Cyprus, resulting in the revival of Hellenistic megali idea that also paved the way for the Greek Cypriot demand for enosis – union with Greece.

In 1878, the Britain assumed the administration of the Island, although it remained de jure part of the Ottoman Empire until World War I. In 1914, however, Cyprus was annexed to Britain and was formally declared a Crown Colony later in 1925.

Pursuant to their demand for enosis, the Greek Cypriots started rioting against the British presence on the Island, which culminated in the burning of the British Governor’s House in 1931. To this end, the Greek Orthodox Church organised a plebiscite in 1950. On 1 April 1955, the Greek Cypriot terrorist organisation, EOKA, was founded with the aim of advancing enosis through armed struggle and annexing Cyprus to Greece.

The Turkish Cypriots, as co-inhabitants of the Island, refused the annexation of the Island to Greece and rightfully sought equal say over the future of Cyprus. Unfortunately, the Greek Cypriot armed attacks against the British were also directed toward Turkish Cypriots, which, as a result, led to the deterioration of relations between the two communities. By 1959, the situation on the Island became intolerable to both Turkish Cypriots and the British administration.

In 1959, a compromise was reached by Turkey, Greece and Britain through the London and Zurich agreements, and the Republic of Cyprus was established in 1960 as a bi-communal state based on partnership between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. Through this compromise, Cyprus gained its independence, while Britain retained two military bases on the Island.

The 1960 Republic of Cyprus recognized the political equality of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots as the co-founding partners of the new republic. The Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus was designed, in effect, as a functional federation. Communal affairs, such as birth, death, marriage, education, culture, sporting foundations and associations, some municipal duties as well as taxes, were managed separately by the respective administrations of each community. At the international level, the Republic of Cyprus became a member of the United Nations and maintained one legal personality.

The 1960 partnership, however, lasted only three years. With a view to initiating the Akritas Plan, which put forward a deliberate campaign for changing the state of affairs created by the Constitution and ultimately realizing the ideal for enosis, the Greek Cypriots proposed amendments to the Constitution, known as the Thirteen Points that entailed usurping the rights of Turkish Cypriots and degrading their equal co-founder status to that of a minority on the Island.

The disagreements between the two communities pertaining to the Constitution and other inter-communal matters consequently led to the tragic events of 1963 during which many Turkish Cypriot civilians lost their lives. At this point, the Greek Cypriots forcibly seized the partnership Republic of Cyprus, ejected all Turkish Cypriots from state organs and unilaterally amended the fundamental articles of the Constitution.

In the wake of inter-communal havoc, Turkish Cypriots were forced to live in small and confined enclaves corresponding to only 3% of the territory, which consequently led to the physical separation of the populations in the capital city of Lefkoşa/Nicosia by the demarcation of the Green Line.

As a result of the acceleration of the inter-communal conflict, the situation on the Island was debated at the UN Security Council, leading to the adoption of resolution 186 dated 4 March 1964, which called for the creation of a UN Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

After their expulsion from the partnership republic of 1960, the Turkish Cypriots established administrative mechanisms to regulate day-to-day affairs. Initially, they formed a General Committee that functioned until 27 December 1967. Subsequently, a new administration was established, the Provisional Cyprus Turkish Administration, which was renamed as the Cyprus Turkish Administration on 21 December 1971.Regardless of these developments, the period between 1963 and 1974 was marked by deprivation, isolation, inaccessibility, fear and insecurity for Turkish Cypriots.

On 15 July 1974, the Greek military junta, in collaboration with EOKA, staged a coup d’état to achieve enosis. Even Archbishop Makarios, in his address to the UN Security Council on 19 July 1974, defined the Greek coup as “an invasion which violated the independence and sovereignty of the Republic.” With the imminent danger of further bloodshed on the Island, Turkey militarily intervened on 20 July 1974 under Article IV of the Treaty of Guarantee of 1960, removing the threat of further violence and even greater loss of life on the Island. At the inter-communal talks held on 2 August 1975 in Vienna, the Voluntary Exchange of Populations was agreed, and Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots were respectively transferred to the north and the south of the Island with the assistance of the UN.

On 15 November 1983, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was proclaimed. At the same time, the founding parliament of the TRNC unanimously passed the Declaration of Independence which emphasized that the Turkish Cypriot side “firmly adhered to the view that the two peoples of Cyprus were destined to co-exist side by side and could and should find a peaceful, just and durable solution through negotiations on the basis of equality”, confirming that the proclamation of the TRNC aimed at facilitating the re-establishment of a new partnership on the Island between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots and resolving the Cyprus problem through comprehensive negotiations.