A united Cyprus gained independence from British rule in August 1960, after both Greek and Turkish Cypriots agreed to respectively abandon plans for enosis (union with Greece) and taksim (Turkish for ‘partition’).
The agreement involved Cyprus being governed under a constitution which apportioned Cabinet posts, parliamentary seats and civil service jobs on an agreed ratio between the two communities. Within three years, tensions between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in administrative affairs began to show.
In particular, disputes over separate municipalities and taxation created a deadlock in government. In 1963 President Makarios proposed unilateral changes to the constitution, via 13 amendments. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots rejected the proposed amendments as an attempt to settle constitutional disputes in favour of the Greek Cypriots and as a means of demoting Turkish status from co-founders of the state to one of minority status removing their constitutional safeguards in the process. Turkish Cypriots filed a lawsuit against the 13 amendments in the Supreme Constitutional Court of Cyprus (SCCC). Makarios announced that he would not comply with whatever the decision of the SCCC would be, and defended his amendments as being necessary “to resolve constitutional deadlocks” as opposed to the stance of the SCCC. On the 25 April 1963, the SCCC decided that Makarios’ 13 amendments were illegal. On 21 May, the president of the SCCC resigned due to the Makarios’ stance. On 15 July, Makarios ignored the decision of the SCCC. After the resignation of the president of the SCCC, the SCCC ceased to exist. The Supreme Court of Cyprus (SCC) was formed by merging the SCCC and the High Court of Cyprus and undertook the jurisdiction and powers of the SCCC and HCC. On the 30th of November, Makarios legalized the 13 proposals.
In 1963, the Greek Cypriot wing of the government created the Akritas plan which outlined a policy that would remove Turkish Cypriots from the government and ultimately lead to union with Greece. The plan stated that if the Turkish Cypriots objected then they should be “violently subjugated before foreign powers could intervene”. On the 21st of December 1963, a Turkish Cypriot crowd clashed with the plainclothes special constables of Yorgadjis. Almost immediately, intercommunal violence broke out with a major Greek Cypriot paramilitary attack upon Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia and Larnaca. Though the TMT — a Turkish resistance group created in 1959 to promote a policy of taksim (division or partition of Cyprus), in opposition to the Greek Cypriot nationalist group EOKA and its advocacy of enosis (union of Cyprus with Greece) — committed a number of acts of retaliation, historian of the Cyprus conflict Keith Kyle noted that “there is no doubt that the main victims of the numerous incidents that took place during the next few months were Turks.” Seven hundred Turkish hostages, including women and children, were taken from the northern suburbs of Nicosia. Nikos Sampson, a nationalist and future coup leader, led a group of Greek Cypriot irregulars into the mixed suburb of Omorphita and attacked the Turkish Cypriot population. By 1964, 193 Turkish Cypriots and 133 Greek Cypriots had been killed, with a further 209 Turks and 41 Greeks missing and presumed dead.
Turkish Cypriot members of the government had by now withdrawn, creating an essentially Greek Cypriot administration in control of all institutions of the state. Widespread looting of Turkish Cypriot villages prompted 20,000 refugees to retreat into armed enclaves, where they remained for the next 11 years, relying on food and medical supplies from Turkey to survive. Turkish Cypriots formed paramilitary groups to defend the enclaves, leading to a gradual division of the island’s communities into two hostile camps. The violence had also seen thousands of Turkish Cypriots attempt to escape the violence by emigrating to Britain, Australia and Turkey.
The Cyprus Supreme Court’s ruling found that Makarios had violated the constitution by failing to fully implement its measures and that Turkish Cypriots had not been allowed to return to their positions in government without first accepting the proposed constitutional amendments. Also, Turkish Cypriots did not self-segregate themselves: then–United Nations Secretary General, U Thant’s S/5950 (10 September 1964) report (paragraph 180) UNFICYP carried out a detailed survey of all damage to properties throughout the island during the disturbances; it shows that in 109 villages, most of them Turkish-Cypriot or mixed villages, 527 houses have been destroyed while 2,000 others have suffered damage from looting. As a result, the Turkish Cypriot Provisional Administration was founded on 28 December 1967.
The Turkish Cypriots’ withdrawal from the government and their retreat into enclaves was a voluntary action, prompted by their desire to form a state of their own; the then–United Nations Secretary General, U Thant, in 1965 stated that Turkish Cypriots had furthered a policy of “self-segregation” and taken a “rigid stand” against policies which might have involved recognizing the government’s authority.
On 15 July 1974, the Greek military junta of 1967-1974 backed a Greek Cypriot military coup d’état in Cyprus. President Makarios was removed from office and Nikos Sampson took his place. The Greek Cypriot coupists proclaimed the establishment of the “Hellenic Republic of Cyprus”. Turkey claimed that under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, the coup was sufficient reason for military action to protect the Turkish Cypriot populace, and thus Turkey invaded Cyprus on 20 July. Turkish forces proceeded to take over the northern four-elevenths of the island (about 37% of Cyprus’s total area). The coup caused a civil war filled with ethnic violence, after which it collapsed and Makarios returned to power.
During the 1974 hostilities, around 160,000 Greek Cypriots, a third of the Greek Cypriot population at the time, were forced from their homes in the areas occupied by Turkey and fled south. At the same time 45,000 Turkish Cypriots, making up about 40% of the Turkish Cypriot population at the time, left the south for the relative safety of the north. Some population transfers were subsequently made in accordance with the Population Exchange Agreement between Turkish and Greek Cypriots under the auspices of United Nations on 2 August 1975. Some Greek Cypriots, such as those in Rizokarpaso, agreed to live under Turkish Cypriot administration and remained in Northern Cyprus. Approximately 1,500 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots remain missing.
In 1975, the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus (Kibris Türk Federe Devleti) was declared as a first step towards a future federated Cypriot state, but was rejected by the Republic of Cyprus, the UN and the international community. After eight years of failed negotiations with the leadership of the Greek Cypriot community, the north declared its independence on 15 November 1983 under the name of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.This unilateral declaration of independence was rejected by the UN and the Republic of Cyprus.Greek Cypriots rejected the proposal by 76%, while 65% of the Turkish Cypriots accepted it.
In recent years, the politics of reunification has dominated the island’s affairs. The European Union decided in 2000 to accept Cyprus as a member, even if it was divided. This was due to their view of Rauf Denktash, the pro-independence Turkish Cypriot President, as the main stumbling block, but also due to Greece threatening to block eastern EU expansion. It was hoped that Cyprus’s planned accession into the European Union would act as a catalyst towards a settlement. In the time leading up to Cyprus becoming a member, a new government was elected in Turkey and Rauf Denktash lost political power in Cyprus. In 2004 a United Nations–brokered peace settlement was presented in a referendum to both sides. The proposed settlement was opposed by both the president of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, and Turkish Cypriot president Rauf Denktas; in the referendum, a majority of Turkish Cypriots accepted the proposal, but Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected it. As a result, Cyprus entered the European Union divided, with the effects of membership suspended for Northern Cyprus.
Denktas resigned in the wake of the vote, ushering in the pro-solutionist Mehmet Ali Talat as his successor. However, the pro-solutionist side and Mehmet Ali Talat lost momentum due to the ongoing embargo and isolation, despite promises from the European Union that these would be eased. As a result, the Turkish Cypriot electorate became frustrated. This led ultimately to the pro-independence side winning the general elections in 2009 and its candidate, former Prime Minister Dervis Eroglu, winning the presidential elections in 2010. Although Eroglu and his National Unity Party favours the independence of Northern Cyprus rather than reunification with the Republic of Cyprus, he is negotiating with the Greek Cypriot side towards a settlement for reunification. There is peace in both parts of Cyprus now and it is very open for tourists and students.