This is one of a series of articles from our new feature ‘Background briefing: The Divided Island‘. It is a comprehensive interactive information guide on the Cyprus problem.
1955 – 1959
The campaign has mass Greek Cypriot support and is backed by wide-scale civil disobedience. Many Greek Cypriots leave the police force, either in solidarity with Eoka or because of intimidation.
The British colonial authorities replace them with recruits from the smaller Turkish Cypriot community, which is opposed to enosis and prefers to stay under British rule. Britain also says Turkey should have a say in Cyprus’ future. There are periodic outbreaks of inter-communal violence and the Turkish Cypriots begin to pursue taksim (partition) and union with Turkey.
With Turkish support, they form an underground guerrilla organisation, the Turkish Resistance Movement (TMT), whose declared aim is to prevent union with Greece.
Cyprus’ geostrategic importance to Britain soars after the loss of Suez in 1956. But London comes to believe that its strategic interests can be met by having military bases on the island rather than having the island as a base. It veers towards a policy of independence for Cyprus while offloading the problem on the “motherlands” – Greece and Turkey, which draft the independence agreements.
Cyprus gains independence from Britain on 16 August. Britain, Turkey and Greece become guarantor powers of the island’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity under the terms of Cyprus’ constitution. Britain retains sovereignty over two military bases covering 98 square miles. Archbishop Makarios is the first president of an independent Cyprus and Dr Fazil Kucuk, the Turkish Cypriot leader, is vice-president. Cyprus becomes a member of the United Nations.
There is an outbreak of inter-communal fighting on December 21, 1963. A precarious ceasefire is agreed on Christmas Day. A “green line” is drawn through Nicosia on 30 December to mark ceasefire lines. The Turkish Cypriots withdraw from the Cyprus Republic.
autonomous administration. The Greek Cypriots alone are now represented in the government, which is recognised internationally as the island’s only legitimate authority. Turkish Cypriots say they were forced out; Greek Cypriots say they left to set up their own administration. The Greek Cypriots re-introduce the demand for Enosis.
A multinational United Nations peacekeeping force, Unficyp, is established in March but struggles to contain inter-communal violence. Turkey has been preparing for a military invasion, which is averted in early June only by a robust warning from the US president, Lyndon Johnson. He fears such Turkish action would lead to war between Turkey and Greece – the US’s allies in Nato – and so weaken the alliance’s south-eastern flank.
The Greek Cypriots establish a National Guard, introducing compulsory military service in June. Makarios starts making overtures to the Soviet Union.
Greece sends an army division of some 10,000 troops to Cyprus on the grounds that it will protect the island, but Athens is also concerned that Cyprus is coming under the influence of the Soviet Union.
At US president Lyndon Johnson’s initiative, there are talks between Greece and Turkey for a Cyprus solution, with a former US secretary of state, Dean Acheson, serving as mediator. The “Acheson Plan” envisages the union of Cyprus and Greece, while up to three cantons would be established for the Turkish Cypriots, over which they would have full administrative control.
There is heavy fighting in August when the National Guard – now commanded by the former Eoka leader General George Grivas – attacks the fortified Turkish Cypriot enclave of Kokkina-Mansoura on the northwest coast, which is being used to smuggle in arms from Turkey.
In response, Turkish jets attack two Cypriot patrol boats and bomb National Guard positions and Greek Cypriot villages in the area. Fifty-three Greek Cypriots are killed, including 28 civilians. After these incidents, Acheson abandons his initiative.
The ‘Kofinou Crisis’ in mid-November brings Greece and Turkey to the brink of war. It erupts when a large National Guard force attacks Turkish Cypriot positions in and around the mixed village of Ayios Theodoros – where Turkish Cypriot fighters had prevented Greek Cypriot police patrols – and the nearby Turkish Cypriot village of Kofinou. These villages are considered strategically important because they are located at the junction of the main roads from Nicosia and Larnaca to Limassol.
The Greek Cypriots fear the Turkish Cypriots are trying to create a new enclave in the area. Twenty-seven Turkish Cypriots die in the fighting. Turkey threatens military intervention and its fighter jets fly over Nicosia. Greece is persuaded to withdraw several thousand troops from Cyprus along with Grivas, the National Guard commander.
Seeking a fresh mandate, Makarios calls elections to be held in February 1968 and secures 95.45 per cent of the vote, trouncing his only rival who ran on a platform for enosis.
Makarios appoints Glafcos Clerides, president of the House of Representatives, to hold UN-sponsored talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash which open in Beirut in June.
On July 3 Makarios publicly accuses the junta of using Greek officers in the National Guard to subvert his government and demands that Athens withdraw 650 of them immediately.
Instead, on 15 July, Greek officers in the National Guard, directed from Athens, launch a coup against Makarios aimed at enosis. He escapes to London. Nicos Sampson, a notorious ex-Eoka gunman feared by Turkish Cypriots, is installed as president. Makarios accuses Greece at the UN Security Council of invading Cyprus.
On July 20 Turkey invades, invoking the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee.
The coup collapses on 23 July. The military junta in Greece falls; civilian rule returns. Sampson is forced to step down and Glafcos Clerides becomes acting president.
Turkey launches the second phase of its invasion on August 14 with its forces advancing rapidly to seize 36.2 per cent of Cyprus. Ceasefire lines established on August 16 have not since changed. Between them marks the UN-controlled buffer zone.
165,000 Greek Cypriots are displaced from northern Cyprus while 45,000 Turkish Cypriots move north within a year.
Makarios returns from London in December.
Turkish Cypriots declare the “Turkish Federated State of Cyprus” with Denktash as its leader.
Makarios dies in August and is succeeded by Spyros Kyprianou.
Clerides and Greece’s prime minister, Andreas Papandreou, declare a ‘Unified Defence Dogma’. Joint military exercises begin.
The European Court of Human Rights, reinforcing its decision in 1996, orders Turkey to pay compensation to a Greek Cypriot refugee, Titina Loizidou, for barring her access to her property in Kyrenia. Turkey fears the landmark ruling – which does not forfeit her rights to the property – will open the floodgates for countless refugees to file lawsuits. In December 2003, Turkey pays Loizidou more than $1m compensation.
Clerides appoints Vassiliou as chief negotiator for EU accession negotiations, which are initiated in April. Turkish Cypriots reject an offer by Clerides that they join the negotiating team.
Proximity talks begin between Clerides and Denktash. The aim is that Cyprus will be reunited before it joins the EU.
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, presents a comprehensive peace plan in November to reunite Cyprus as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal republic with a single sovereignty.
A December EU summit in Copenhagen invites Cyprus to join the bloc in 2004.
Concerned they could miss out on EU entry, Turkish Cypriots demonstrate in huge numbers in late 2002 and early 2003, demanding that Denktash must either accept the Annan Plan or resign.
Annan invites Papadopoulos and Denktash to the Hague in March to ask whether they accept his reunification plan. Papadopoulos says he does but under certain conditions, while Denktash rejects it in its entirety and the talks collapse.
Denktash unexpectedly allows access to ordinary Cypriots across the “green line” for first time in 29 years. Tens of thousands of Greek and Turkish Cypriots cross: there are scenes of high emotion and remarkable goodwill.
Papadopoulos and Denktash agree at a February meeting in New York to a new procedure aimed at putting the Annan Plan to twin referendums before Cyprus joins the EU on May 1.
Tassos Papadopoulos loses presidential elections in February and is replaced by Demetris Christofias, the Akel leader.
Talks begin between Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who succeeded Denktash in April 2005. Talat’s CTP party has close links with Akel. It is the first time that leaders who are ideologically close are negotiating an end to the Cyprus problem.
The crossing on Ledra Street, a symbol of the island’s division, re-opens in April for the first time since 1964.
Talat is ousted in Turkish Cypriot ‘presidential’ elections by Dervis Eroglu, a hardliner.
Anastasiades suspends reunification talks with Eroglu in October after Turkey sends a research vessel and warships into Cyprus’ EEZ.
On Dec 1 Anastasiades and Akinci agree to resume negotiations in Nicosia and to meet in Geneva on January 9. Two days later they are to present maps on their respective proposals for the internal boundaries of a future federation.
The call had come out of the blue from Greece’s Foreign Minister Nicos Kotzias who requested a break of 10 days so that a technical group with representatives of the guarantor powers could address the issues relating to security and guarantees.
In its wake, the already wobbly talks broke off in mid-February, when parliament in the south voted to introduce an annual commemoration in public schools of the January 1950 ‘Enosis’ (union with Greece) referendum. An angered Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said he would not resume negotiations until Greek Cypriots took “corrective action”.
Around the same time, Anastasiades, who rejected Akinci’s demand, also drew a new line in the sand – the issue of the four freedoms in Cyprus for Turkish nationals, which was raised publicly by a Turkish government official.
Cut to April, and Ankara issued the first stinging warning on Cyprus’ upcoming hydrocarbons activities. In the same month Turkey reserved parts of the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for seismic surveys.
On April 2 the two leaders came together for a dinner for the first time since the process stalled in mid-February. They were to subsequently hold four meetings.
In the meantime, one report after another surfaced blaming UN special adviser Espen Barth Eide for siding with the Turkish side – with commentators speculating that this information was being fed to the media directly from Anastasiades’ circles.
All this against a backdrop of whispers that the UN had set July as the cut-off for a breakthrough in the talks. The pressure was on.
In May, Anastasiades unveiled a proposal on discussing security and guarantees first at a new Geneva conference as a means to avoid deadlock. Eide then sprung his manoeuvre, bringing the two leaders together in New York for a meeting with the UN chief Antonio Guterres, on June 4.
There, it was agreed that the Conference on Cyprus would reconvene in Switzerland on June 28 at the political level. Eide would meantime engage with all participants in the preparation of a common document to guide the discussions in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. The document was delivered to the two sides but before the conference even began, issues arose as to its content.
June 2017: Speculation early in June ahead of the proposed June 28 talks, centered on a text prepared by the United Nations that was to set the tone in Crans-Montana for which the Greek Cypriot side submitted to the UN a significant number of comments and suggestions.
Both sides appeared uncompromising even before the conference began. A common document that President Nicos Anastasiades had made a condition to attend was prepared by UN Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide and included what was recorded at the meetings of technocrats, the positions of each side, as well as the proposal of the UN mainly with regard to the discussion of the chapter of security and guarantees.
The UN had to dismiss as “groundless” reports that it was proposing a new treaty of establishment that would abolish the Republic of Cyprus, while Turkey insisted its guarantee could not be abolished. The ‘common document’ was in the end scrapped by the UN the day before the conference.
Still, with hopes high, the conference began, little knowing that this pre-talks hiccup was just the bog-standard for what was to come over the next ten days and the gigantic failure that lay ahead on the night of July 6, 2017 at the now infamous ‘last supper’ which ended in the early hours of July 7 with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling it a day during a 3.5-minute news conference at the Swiss resort.
After ten days in Crans-Montana and around 15 hours of non-stop negotiations on ‘Day 9’ involving bilateral, trilateral and group meetings in the presence Guterres, the Conference on Cyprus ended when the tired and downcast UN chief finally called a halt at 2am Swiss time after a four-hour dinner that was marred by yelling and drama. The talks had broken down on the issue of security and guarantees despite the high-level attendance by not only the UN but the guarantor powers Turkey, Greece and Britain, plus the participation during the last day of the EU’s High Representative for Security, Federica Mogherini. Guterres in his brief words said the sides needed time to reflect, signalling the end of any process for the foreseeable future.
The day after the talks ended, Cavusoglu said the failure showed the impossibility of reaching a settlement within the parameters of the UN’s Good Offices Mission and there was “No use in insisting on them”.
At home, man opposition Akel and Diko both criticised the president, the former saying he seemed to have failed to capitalise on the opportunities in Switzerland, while the latter said Anastasiades had made a “huge mistake” by revealing the Greek Cypriot side’s hand and allowing Turkey to gain everything while conceding nothing.
A week later, Anastasiades criticised Eide for lack of preparation and said the envoy, although acting in good faith was “living in an illusion that almost everything was solved”, and was not clearly conveying the messages being received from Ankara.
Two days later, Eide sent a stern message to all sides to quit the blame game, saying Crans-Montana had been a collective failure. “There’s more than enough of that going around, it seems that everybody has the view that everybody but themselves did everything wrong and they were the only one doing it right,” Eide said.
Eide’s view was subsequently reflected in Guterres’ report on September 30, 2017 where he said that despite a positive mood and constructive statements made during the opening day of the Cyprus Conference, real progress quickly became hampered by the reluctance of parties at one table to make compromises unless demonstrated progress had been made at the other table, and vice versa.
He said the potential of the agreed upon engagement and the high level of support available in Crans-Montana “was not always utilised to the fullest and, on several occasions, was hampered by internally created delays and other challenges”.
“Upon closing the Conference on Cyprus, I encouraged the sides to reflect on the way forward. Even if all the core enablers are in place, as they appeared to be in Crans-Montana in late June, I am convinced that the prospects of finally pushing this process ‘over the finishing line’ will remain elusive without the strongest of political will, courage and determination, mutual trust and a readiness on the part of all parties to take calculated risks in the last and most difficult mile of the negotiations,” Guterres concluded.
One of the most interesting aspects of 2018 was watching the creeping u-turns made by President Nicos Anastasiades on the Cyprus issue over the 12-month period but more so in the second half of the year.
When Anastasiades was re-elected in February, the Cyprob was on ice in the wake of the Crans-Montana failure in 2017, but there was no whiff during the presidential election campaign of what might have been going on behind the scenes.
Post-election analysis appeared to show that voters wanted continuity and entrusted Anastasiades for the second time to carry on Cyprus talks on the agreed basis of a bizonal bicommunal federation.
The president spent the best part of the first six months of the year engaging in doublespeak and confusing the issue over who said what to whom in Switzerland, and obfuscating on timelines until the whole issue faded back into oblivion for another while, despite his obvious disingenuity that was contradicted by UN accounts.
Nevertheless, the UN managed to cajole the leaders back… to the dinner table at least… on April 16 which aimed at seeing how Cyprus talks could be resumed. Afterwards, Akinci said there had been no change in the stance of either side since Crans-Montana. He said the days of talking, debating and going endlessly around in circles had ended. Akinci’s comments echoed those of Anastasiades when he returned to the presidential palace after the dinner saying the positions of both sides were still the same. Both leaders said however that they would not object to the appointment of a UN envoy to see how they could move forward.
Enter UN envoy Jane Holl Lute, who came to the island in July and there was no longer any excuse to carry on as if the talks would be in the deep freeze indefinitely on the grounds of the fall-back ‘Turkish intransigence’ as true as that might be for the most part. Lute’s mandate was to help the leaders come up with “terms of reference” for new talks.
The UN wanted to know if there were prospects and Lute was sent to find out.
Before she filed her assessment at HQ, the two leaders met separately with UN chief Antonio Guterres in September in New York prior to his October report on Cyprus where he reached the conclusion that prospects remained alive.
The report appeared to nudge the leaders into a meeting on October 26 where they agreed to open two new crossings in November at Dherynia and Lefka, which happened on November 12.
After that, Anastasiades suddenly started talking of a ‘decentralised’ or ‘loose’ federation but seemed to be unable to say exactly what that meant. Despite this, he was insisting he wanted the talks to go ahead where they left off although there was mounting pressure on him to come clean and be honest with people on what he was really seeking.
He did address the nation in mid-November saying that he had pitched his proposal of a decentralised federation to address the concerns of both communities and push for a functional and viable solution to the Cyprus problem.
With zero progress on the resumption of talks, the first half of 2019 was marked by infighting and an ongoing feud between Anastasiades and opposition Akel, which continuously accused the president of not wanting a solution. An added concern for the Greek Cypriot side was the worry that due to a new US policy, there was a danger of Unficyp being withdrawn given the lack of political movement. The government had to lobby quite hard before the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the peacekeeping force for another six months at the end of January.
Any prospect for a resumption of talks before June was also put on ice early in the year due to the European elections slated for the end of May, and elections in Turkey.
President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met at the residence of UN Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar on February 26 to discuss the terms of reference but nothing substantial came from the meeting other than a feeble attempt to make it look like they were achieving something. They managed to dig up a confidence-building measure they agreed in 2015 but never implemented related to linking mobile telephony across the divide. Other than that it was clear both sides were sticking to their entrenched positions as regards security and guarantees, and in relation to hydrocarbons.
A couple of weeks prior to the meeting, Anastasiades had tried to explain away an issue that had dogged him since Crans-Montana that involved some obfuscation over whether the Guterres framework for a resumption of talks was based on a June 30 document submitted by the UN chief or as the president claimed, a mysterious ‘document’ allegedly submitted by Guterres on July 4, which Anastasiades’ detractors say did not exist, and which became a running joke.
During an event in Nicosia on February 13, Anastasiades explained away the document and downgraded it to ‘minutes’. “There is no document for the 4th of July but there are clarifications on the ambiguities or the omissions the informal document Eide gave us contained.” He added that there were “definitely minutes” kept. However the minutes have yet to show up even though he has asked Jane Holl Lute to look for them.
The rhetoric between the leaders also worsened in April just two days after a visit by Lute.
This was just prior to the latest Good Offices Mission report by the UN Secretary-General, which clearly noted the negative situation. “During the reporting period, public debate on substantive issues related to the negotiations and on the ongoing consultations took place, shaped to a large degree by the duelling narratives of official statements from the two sides.
As a result, the debate did not improve the climate surrounding the political process, capitalise on the continued desire in both communities for a settlement, or counter the apprehension regarding the implications of a prolonged status quo,” Antonio Guterres noted. In May the UN Security Council underlined the “urgent need for a settlement in Cyprus” after being briefed by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on his latest report.
Since then, most of the back and forth has focused on Turkish activities in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) where Ankara sent its drillship in May to a non-licensed maritime area off the west coast of the island. Cyprus managed to secure the public support of the EU and US in backing its sovereignty within the EEZ. Anastasiades has insisted talks cannot go head as long as Turkey continues its activities. On the Turkish Cypriot side, a new element regarding the possible lifting of the decades-old US arms embargo on Cyprus prompted Akinci in June to state that it would hamper any peace process if the US Congress lifted the embargo.
What Was Happening in the Rest of the World
1955 British Army withdraw from Belfast
1956 Britain abolishes the death penalty
1957 Israeli troops leave Egypt
1958 Seven members of the Manchester United football die in plane crash
1959 Cuban President Batista resigns and flees (Jan. 1). Fidel Castro assumes power
1960 Communist China and Soviet Union split in conflict over Communist ideology
1962 The Cuban missile crisis
1963 Washington-to-Moscow “hot line” communications link opens, designed to reduce risk of accidental war
1964 Nelson Mandela sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa
1967 The “Six Day” Arab-Israeli War
1973 The “October” Arab-Israeli War
1974 India successfully tests an atomic device, becoming the world’s sixth nuclear power
1975 The city of Saigon is surrendered and remaining Americans are evacuated, ending the Vietnam War
1982 The Falklands War & the Israeli invasion of Lebanon
1980-88 The Iran-Iraq War
1989 The Berlin Wall falls
1990 Nelson Mandela is released from prison
1991 The 1st Gulf War – US-led coalition liberates Kuwait from Iraqi occupation
1992-95 The Bosnian War
1998-99 The Kosovo War
2000 Palestinian and Israeli violence explodes into the “intifada”
2001 On September 11, terrorists attack the World Trade Center in New York
2003 The 2nd Gulf War – Anglo-American invasion of Iraq
2004 Train bombings in Madrid kill nearly 200
2005 Hurricane Katrina floods New Orleans
2006 Sadam Hussein is executed
2007 The subprime mortgage collapse begins as prices for homes collapse
2008 Barack Obama Elected As U.S President
2010 Haiti is struck by a devastating earthquake
2011 The death of Osama bin Laden
2014 NATO ends combat operations in Afghanistan
2015 US and Cuba restore diplomatic relations
2016 The world was shocked to hear news that the United Kingdom had voted to leave the EU
2017 Between March and June 2017, London and Manchester saw four terrorist attacks that shook the world
2018 The United States Leaves the Iran Nuclear Deal