Cyprus Geopolitics

By | December 15, 2021

Cyprus still represents today the emblem of a disputed territory within the European continent. Due to its peculiar position, Cyprus historically represents the crossroads between the Middle East and Europe. A former colonial possession of the British Empire, Cyprus became independent in 1960, following the signing of the Treaty of Zurich and London. The treaty, in addition to sanctioning the birth of a free and independent presidential republic, gave Greece, the United Kingdom and Turkey the possibility of intervening in the event of a unilateral change in the coexistence regime of the Greek and Turkish communities residing on the island. In 1974, after years of clashes and discrimination against the Turkish community, Ankara sent the army to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority after the coup led by the Greek majority which called for the union of the island to Greece, at that time under the regime of the colonels. The Turkish military intervention, in addition to guaranteeing the Turkish Cypriot minority a wider territory than that on which it previously lived, marked the beginning of a stalemate that still persists today. Cyprus is divided into two separate parts: the Republic of Cyprus, with a Greek Cypriot majority and recognized internationally as the island’s only legitimate government, and, in the northern part, the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (Kktc), which benefits from the only recognition of Ankara. The so-called ‘green line’, presided over by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (Unificyp), divides the two entities. The Cypriot question was the subject of contention between Greece and Turkey during the second half of the 20th centuryit has repeatedly brought the two NATO member countries to the threshold of armed confrontation. If the risk seems to be averted by the progressive rapprochement between Athens and Ankara, the repercussions of the Cypriot question continue to weigh on the functioning of the main Euro-Atlantic cooperation mechanisms, the European Union (Eu) and NATO in primis.. On 1 May 2004, the Republic of Cyprus became a member of the EU and thereby obtained veto power on relevant issues concerning the future structure of the Union and its external projection, in particular on the negotiations for the entry of Turkey.. The Cypriot veto on the opening of new negotiating chapters between Turkey and the EU, first of all that on energy, risks damaging the broader strategic interests of the EU. Furthermore, in a game of crossed vetoes, the Turkish-Cypriot dispute also hinders the full interoperability of the EU and NATO forces. The rules of the 1960 Constitution are still in place for the Republic of Cyprus, except for the power-sharing mechanisms between the two communities. Cyprus is a presidential republic, with a unicameral parliament (the House of Representatives) made up of 80 members, elected by a proportional system and by universal suffrage every five years. The 24 seats reserved for Turkish Cypriot representatives remain vacant. The president is also elected for a five-year term, through a double-shift majority system, and has quite extensive powers. Since 28 February 2013, the government has been led by Nicos Anastasiades, leader of the conservative Disy party, who emerged as the winner in the presidential elections. Although Anastasiades was elected with a large majority, support for him dropped significantly following the financial crisis that erupted in 2013, just a month after his inauguration. For more than thirty years the internal political debate has centered on the question of unification. In February 2014, the negotiations between the Cypriot government led by Anastasiades and Turkey began again to try to reach a common solution, in the light of the common interests that have emerged in recent months. Turkey is interested in the substantial revenues from natural gas reserves discovered off the coast of Cyprus. For Cyprus political system, please check

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (Kktc) is the de facto state entity , following the proclamation of independence of 15 November 1983, in the northern part of the island, which was militarily occupied by the Turkish armed forces in 1974. The Kktc is recognized only by Turkey, but enjoys observer status at the Organization of the Islamic Conference and operates a number of representative offices in numerous countries – including major Europeans, the United States and China. The Kktc also participates in the work of the Economic Cooperation Organization, made up of Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and the Central Asian republics – with the exception of Turkmenistan. The Constitution, approved by referendum in May 1985, establishes a semi-presidential system. The president, head of state, is directly elected for a five-year term, like the unicameral parliament, consisting of 50 members. The political life of the North Cypriot entity was dominated for almost thirty years by the figure of Rauf Denktaş, president of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus from 1976 to 1983 and subsequently president of the Kktc until 2005, the year in which he gave up running for a further mandate.

After the phase dominated by the socialist Mehmet Ali Talat, thanks to which it seemed that negotiations for the reunification of the island could be successfully restarted, in 2010 a nationalist was re-elected, Dervis Eroglu, leader of the National Unity Party, conservative formation and traditionally in favor of partitioning the island. According to the 2011 census, the Kktc is inhabited by about 290,000 residents of Turkish origin, of which, according to the official statistics of the Republic of Cyprus, about 160,000 are said to have immigrated from Turkey and defined as ‘illegal settlers’ by the Greek Cypriots; the information provided by the Kktc shows the same total figure, but the data on citizens born in Cyprus differ, which would be almost 150,000. Turkey’s support is of paramount importance to both security policies and the North Cypriot economy. The Kktc has a declared GDP of 3.7 billion dollars (2010) and is predominantly based on the services sector, which contribute to the economy for about 70% of the total. Industry represents about 22% of GDP, while the remaining 8% is made up of agriculture. The currency that circulates in the Kktc, further proof of the influence of Turkey, is the Turkish lira, but the euro is now widespread. Similarly, the Kktc economy is heavily dependent on aid provided by Ankara, since, on a commercial level, there is a blockage by other international actors, due to the lack of diplomatic recognition. Turkey supplies around 60% of imported products and absorbs over 40% of exports. In addition to being a problem from a political and diplomatic point of view, this situation also represents an objective brake on the development and economic growth of Cyprus and the entire Eastern Mediterranean region. A source of income that has increased tourist income in recent years comes from gambling for the Kktc. Although there are no official statistics on this, it is believed that this has contributed to the increase in tourist flow to the Kktc, which has reached an annual level of nearly 400,000 visitors. One of the major and still unresolved disputes between the Republic of Cyprus and the Kktc concerns the property issue, which involves some 200,000 Cypriots, mostly Greek Cypriots. Failure to agree on the terms and conditions for the restitution of property to refugees (compensation or re-occupancy of housing) constitutes one of the main obstacles to reaching an agreement. Although the Kktc has its own conscript strength, the security of the North Cypriot entity is guaranteed by the stationing on its territory of Turkish troops, the size of which is estimated by Unficyp at 43,000 units.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus