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The Cyprus issue, also known as the “Cyprus problem” or the “Cyprus dispute” has been through multiple phases throughout the years, and as such, its nature has evolved under different circumstances.
Before 1960, when Cyprus gained independence from Britain, the Cyprus issue was mainly a question of autonomy and decolonisation.
In the period between Cyprus’ independence from Britain in 1960 and the Turkish invasion in 1974, the Cyprus problem was essentially an issue related to the relation between the two ethnic communities on the island: the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.
Since 1974 and until today, the Cyprus problem has evolved into an international issue where there has been a violation of international law and the UN Charter. The key issues are:
- The military invasion and occupation of Cyprus – a UN and EU member state – by Turkey.
- The infringement of human rights.
- The illegal and unilateral declaration of an independent Turkish Cypriot state in 1983 on the occupied area of the island.
- The possibility of reunification and co-existence of two communities within a state entity in the form of a functional and viable bi-zone, bi-communal federation, within a structure that secures single sovereignty, territorial integrity and respect for the rights of citizens.
The Turkish invasion and continuing occupation have been internationally condemned through a series of UN resolutions that call upon the two Cypriot communities to negotiate a comprehensive settlement of the issue.
How it Affects Every Day Life
The Cyprus Issue is the single most important issue to the people of Cyprus. It has been and still is the number one topic in the media since 1974 and the overwhelming majority of political activity is centered around this one subject – the resolution of the Cyprus Issue.
As a visitor to Cyprus, there are a few things you need to understand and be aware of.
First of all, the tragic events of the invasion and occupation are still very alive in people’s memories. In 1974, people were living peacefully in Cyprus and where not expecting a full scale war from one day to the next. When the Turkish troops started advancing, it was very hard for people to believe that it wasn’t just a military exercise or something that would end quickly without bloodshed. It was a big shock when they realized what was really happening and that they had to leave their homes and be pushed to the southern part of the island, where they would be refugees.
From one day to the next, 80% of Greek Cypriots became homeless, refugees in their own country and in many cases able to see their homes from across the Green Line. Most of these people are still alive and even though the checkpoints have been open since 2003, many of them still refuse to go to the north as a matter of principle – they don’t want to be visitors in their own homes.
On the other hand, there have been heartwarming stories of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot friends reuniting and socializing again on both sides of the Green Line, something that is now common and encouraging, as it indicates that the two communities can co-exist as they have in the past.
Still, the Cyprus Issue is a very sensitive subject and there are lots of views, opinions and philosophies as to the approach of its resolution and the desired outcomes.
As a visitor and an outsider, when engaging in a conversation about this subject with Cypriots, it is best to mostly listen. People are extremely sensitive about the Cyprus Issue and can get very emotional when talking about it.
Especially if you are an American or a Briton, it is good to keep in mind the political involvement of the US and Great Britain in the events leading up to the invasion of 1974 and realize that Cypriots attribute a lot of the blame for today’s situation to these two nations. Fortunately, people in Cyprus are not politically ignorant and are sophisticated enough to realize that the people are not to blame, so you need not worry about them maintaining any hostile feelings towards Americans and Britons. In fact, many Cypriots are fascinated with the lifestyle in the US and Britain as they grew up watching American movies and British TV shows.
To summarize, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with Cyprus’ modern history and the current situation before you visit and to remember that you should keep an open mind and understand the sensitivities of the people.