A Brief History of Cyprus’ Recent Past
The recent history of Cyprus provides an important insight into why the island is divided today and how the Turkish Cypriot people came to live under embargoes.
For thousands of years, Cyprus has been the home of diverse nations, conquered by many foreign rulers. Today, although the island remains geographically and ethnically divided into Turkish North and Greek South Cyprus, on both sides one still finds evidence of a mosaic of influences, including British, French, Italian, Lebanese and Persian, that reflects the island’s rich cultural heritage.
Below is a brief summary of the recent key dates, from the Ottoman conquest of the island to the outbreak of the Cyprus conflict that raged from the 1950s to the war of 1974, together with important events up to the present day.
- The Ottomans defeated the Venetians to take the island in 1571, supported by the Greek Orthodox population of Cyprus who were now free of Catholic rule. The Turkish and Greek Cypriots, who were the two main ethnically distinct communities on the island, both flourished under Ottoman rule.
- In 1878 the Ottoman Government handed over the administration of Cyprus to Britain, whilst retaining its sovereignty of the island. This period saw the first major British involvement in the affairs of Cyprus.
- With the Ottoman Empire crumbling, the British annexed the island in 1914. This period was marked by a major agitation by Greek Cypriots for Enosis (the union of Cyprus with Greece), resulting in tensions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
- On 1 April 1955, the Greek Cypriots started a guerrilla war against British colonial rule, waged through a terrorist group called EOKA (National Organisation of Cypriot Combatants). Britain responded by forming a paramilitary police force of Turkish Cypriots.
- Between 1955 and 1959, inter-communal conflict erupts across the island as EOKA pushes for Enosis led by their leader Archbishop Makarios who is subsequently deported from Cyprus in 1956 in a bid to quell the troubles.
- Relations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots break down, with the Turkish side demanding TAKSIM (partition) for their own safety.
- At its height, more than 30,000 British troops are deployed to deal with EOKA, who were targeting all opponents including other Greek Cypriots. Up to 1,000 people were killed during the trouble of the 1950s and double this injured, predominantly through EOKA attacks.
- In 1959, Britain pulls together an agreement that has the backing of the two mother nations, Greece and Turkey. Under the Treaties of Guarantee and Independence, colonial rule would end. However, Britain would maintain sovereignty over its military bases and all three countries would act as Guarantors to ensure the rights and well-being of both communities on the island are preserved. The Treaties also set out a power-sharing formula that would allow the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities to govern the island jointly as political equals.
- In 1960, Cyprus became an independent republic. Its Constitution set out governance between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, as well as safeguards to preserve the cultural rights of each ethnic group. For example the right for each community to govern separately their own educational, religious and sporting affairs, and for Greek and Turkish to become official languages of the new State.
- Evidence emerged that the Greek Cypriots were determined to overthrow the newly independent Republic of Cyprus from the very outset. On 21 December 1963, the Greek Cypriots implemented the infamous Akritas plan, resulting in a series of co-ordinated violent attacks on Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia, which quickly escalated to the rest of the island. The aim of the plan was to force the collapse of the infant Republic by terrorising Turkish Cypriots into accepting minority status, allowing Greek Cypriots to become the sole legitimate authority on the island.
- The savage onslaught against Turkish Cypriots lasted for 11 years, with sporadic and severe pogroms throughout.
- The international community, in a frantic effort to send a United Nations peace force to prevent the persecution of Turkish Cypriots passed UN Resolution 186 on 4 March 1964. In it, the UN refers to working with the “Government of Cyprus” to solve the problem. At this time, the Cypriot government was composed solely of Greek Cypriots, which went against both the Treaty of Guarantee and Cyprus’ Constitution. By treating Greek Cypriots as the ‘legitimate government’ of the Republic of Cyprus at the expense of Turkish Cypriot rights, the UN inadvertently sealed the power struggle on the island, which continues until this very day.
- 1964 and 1967 resulted in some of the worst atrocities perpetrated against Turkish Cypriots – many commentators described the actions of the Greek Cypriot authorities as attempted genocide. Backed by a covert Greek military presence, Greek Cypriots ethnically cleansed Turkish Cypriots from 103 villages, making 25,000 Turkish Cypriots refugees in their own country. In 1960 Turkish Cypriots owned 33% of the land; by 1974 a quarter the Turkish Cypriot population had become refugees, condemned to live in enclaves covering just 5% of Cyprus. Hundreds were killed and buried in mass graves. More than 800 people were forcibly taken from their homes and workplaces by Greek Cypriot gunmen, never to be seen again.
- On 15 July 1974, the Greek Cypriot Government led by Archbishop Makarios was deposed by a terrorist organisation, EOKA-B, and the Greek army, who declared Enosis (Union with Greece). During this period, they began to attack and kill Turkish Cypriots with a renewed vigour, while the Greek invasion also led to the deaths of hundreds of Greek Cypriots who opposed the coup.
- The deposed Archbishop Makarios arrived in New York declaring that Cyprus had been invaded by the “fascist military junta of Greece” and pleaded at the UN on 19 July for the other two Guarantor Powers to rescue Cyprus and its people, as required by The 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. Britain refused to act, but Turkey intervened on 20 July 1974.
- Even after Turkey’s arrival, there were other acts of genocide against Turkish Cypriots. On 14 August, 84 Turkish Cypriots were seized from the village of Tochni, in the Larnaca district, and executed by Greek Cypriot irregulars. In three other villages, Aloa, Maratha and Sandalari, where all the adult men had been taken away to prisoner-of-war camps in Limassol, the remaining villagers – from babies to the elderly – were found murdered and dumped in mass graves [this tragedy has been captured in a documentary called Voice of Blood II by Greek Cypriot director Antonis Angastiniotis].
- Within 30 days of arriving, Turkey’s action had stopped all the bloodshed on the island – a feat the UN had not been able to achieve in 10 years it had been on the island. A safe haven was created for the Turkish Cypriots in the north of the island, allowing them to feel safe for first time since 1963.
- Greek Cypriots also suffered enormous trauma during the war of 1974 and its aftermath. In a series of retaliatory actions, many Greek Cypriots were killed or disappeared, never to be seen again, while a third of their population were displaced following the island’s split into two ethnic zones.
- Under the terms of the 1975 Population Exchange Treaty agreed between the two sides, Greek Cypriots in North Cyprus were forced to leave their homes and became refugees, as did thousands of Turkish Cypriots from South Cyprus.
- Total displacements 1963-74 amounted to nearly one half of the Turkish Cypriot and a third of Greek Cypriot populations.
- After the events of 1974, the two communities tried to negotiate a political settlement, applying the principles of the 1960 Constitution to the new realities on the island. In the High Level Agreements of 1977 and 1979, both sides agreed to work towards creating a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal Cyprus.
- The failure of numerous UN-sponsored talks between the two sides eventually led to the declaration of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983. Yet this did not resolve the Cyprus situation as only the Greek Cypriot state in South Cyprus continued to receive international recognition, while Turkish Cypriots remained politically, socially and economically isolated.
- From 2001 the United Nations, under the auspices of Secretary General Kofi Annan, began more intensely to address the Cyprus Conflict. The two leaders at the time were TRNC President Denktas and South Cyprus President Klerides, who were subsequently replaced by Mr Talat and Mr Papadopoulos.
- On 21 April 2003, the Turkish side announced it would open its side of the Ledra Palace checkpoint in the capital Nicosia, prompting the Greek side to agree to the same. On 23 April, the borders came down for the first time in thirty years, allowing Cypriots to cross freely into the other zone.
- The new UN initiative culminated in the Annan Plan, which was formulated after protracted negotiations with both sides as well as with Greece and Turkey. Two separate and simultaneous referenda were held on 24 April 2004, with the plan approved by 65% of Turkish Cypriots, whereas 76% of Greek Cypriots rejected it.
- South Cyprus had been guaranteed entry into the European Union on 1 May 2004, regardless of the result of the Annan Plan referendum. Many commentators now believe this was a major tactical error by the international community, as well as a serious breach of EU protocol to give membership to a divided country.
- In February 2008, Demetrius Christofias was elected leader of South Cyprus on a mandate to solve the Cyprus Problem, even though he and his AKEL party were part of the ‘No’ camp in the run up to the Annan Plan referendum.
- Following the Presidential elections in South Cyprus, the TRNC President Talat wanted direct negotiations to start immediately with a fixed deadline to settle the dispute, but his counterpart Christofias was against this. It wasn’t until 3 September 2008 that fully fledged negotiations started. In July of the same year, the UN appointed Alexander Downer, the former Australian Foreign Minister, as the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor, to help facilitate the talks.
- Following the 2004 referendum, world leaders pledged to end the isolation of North Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots are still waiting for these promises to be fulfilled.
World leaders made many pledges to end the isolation of North Cyprus following Turkish Cypriots’ vote in favour of the Annan Plan during the referenda of 24 April 2004 (click here to read our World Promises report). To date, there have been no international remedies to the barriers that have denied Turkish Cypriots direct trade links to other world markets, a situation they have endured for over four decades.
The European Union has tried to improve trade between the two sides on the island with its Green Line Directive, passed on 29 April 2004. The current level of trade between the two sides remains low in comparison to their other trade parties, averaging at €500,000 per month.
Even with the lifting of the border restrictions between North & South Cyprus in 2003, the Greek Cypriot authorities continue to prevent non-EU visitors to the North from buying goods, including souvenirs, and bringing them back into South Cyprus. Anyone caught is fined and the goods confiscated.
Bully Boy Tactics
Many brands and organisations are targeted not to trade with North Cyprus, often with false information and unlawful threats made. Some examples of this are given below.
- In June 2009, Holland America Lines (HAL), a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation – the largest cruise operator in the world – included Famagusta as one of its ports of call for its 2010 European cruise season. The company, which carries 700,000 passengers a year on its 14 cruise liners, aimed to “offer unique experiences”, fusing pleasure with ancient civilisations. Famagusta was to provide a single day stopover for its new European routes, allowing travellers to explore the famous Salamis ruins, Othello’s Tower and Magusa’s beautiful beaches.As soon as the news broke, the South Cyprus authorities started their usual bullying tactics to prevent the Carnival Corporation from docking in North Cyprus, claiming Famagusta was ‘barred to international crafts”. This is a total falsehood, which the European Commission has repeatedly stated; the TRNC’s ports are lawful points of entry and there are no embargoes or laws preventing access to international vessels. Sadly Carnival Corporation, which operates a total of 11 cruise brands including the respected British companies P&O Cruises and Cunard Line, failed to stand up to this and less than a week after HAL’s announcement, the Greek Cyprus Ports Authority proudly declared it had forced Famagusta off HAL’s cruise schedule, with Limassol the new Cyprus stopover destination instead.
- Turkish Cypriots targeted Italy as a key market for potential new tourists to the TRNC. Flying via Turkey to Ercan or direct through Larnaca, the TRNC saw an important increase influx from Italy during the first part of 2009, while over the border, South Cyprus reported a 30% drop in Italian tourists.The Greek Cypriots mounted a major campaign to combat this, sending 9,000 protest letters to Italian tour operators offering holidays to North Cyprus, including threatening letters from the Greek Cypriot embassy in Rome claiming those arriving in Ercan could be “fined”. In addition, South Cyprus Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides announced he was considering removing Italy from their incentive (subsidy) scheme and taking legal action against the Italian tour operators working with the TRNC.Italian MP Marco Perduca described these actions as an “intimidation campaign”. While they initially worked, resulting in a visitor figures from Italy dipping for the second part of 2009, the TRNC tourism sector and their Italian counterparts refused to be bullied into submission. To prevent intimidation of tourists arriving in South Cyprus first, the tour operators will also now carry all Italian tourists into North Cyprus via Ercan for 2010.On 27 July 2005, a private Azerbaijan airline, Imair, became the fourth airline to break these inhumane embargoes and fly direct to North Cyprus. However, due to Greek Cypriot threats to block their EU flights, Imair was forced to stop its scheduled flights to the TRNC.
- An international summit on Iraq due to be held in North Cyprus in March 2009 was cancelled at the last minute following intense pressure from the Greek and Greek Cypriot authorities. Planned in conjunction with Iraq’s Transport Ministry to generate vital investment for the rebuilding of the country’s entire transport infrastructure, the British partnered Iraqi summit organiser Multaqa Al Iraq was forced to cancel the two-day conference at the 11th hour following bullying tactics to prevent keynote Iraqi speakers from travelling to North Cyprus.In a dramatic development, after boarding their flight from Baghdad to Istanbul on 4 March, the Iraqi Transport Minister and his nine staff received a last-minute call from the Iraqi Foreign Affairs Ministry instructing them to abort their visit, even though the summit had the complete agreement and backing of the Government of Iraq. As many as 150 delegates had been expected at the event in Kyrenia, including representatives from the world’s leading multi-national groups such as Rolls Royce, Volvo, Arcelor Mittl, Maersk and EADF.
- The Greek Cypriot High Commissioner in London repeatedly issues threatening letters to UK businesses involved in travel and real estate (property exhibition organisers, estate agents, etc.) advising them not to promote the sale of properties in North Cyprus or they could be faced with law suits. These letters not only exceed the bounds of diplomatic protocol, but also hamper legitimate business practice.
- In 2007, the TRNC and Syria commenced a ferryboat service linking Gazimagusa and sailed to Syria’s Latakia. The Greek Cypriot authorities have mounted an intense campaign ever since to have the service stopped, claiming that Famagusta is ‘barred to international vessels’, even though this is totally at odds to what international law actually says about sea ports in North Cyprus. In January 2008, Olli Rehn, EU Enlargement Commissioner, responding to a question from Greek Cypriot MEP Marios Matsakis about the Syria-North Cyprus ferry service, said, “Based on the general principles of international law, entry and exit of vessels from sea ports in the northern part of Cyprus is not prohibited”. The South Cyprus authorities, led by their President Demetrius Christofias, continue to press for the service to stop.
- On 5 July 1994, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) gave judgement in proceedings initiated by the Greek Cypriots (Case C-432/92) in the English courts. The Court held that member states of the EU could only import fruits and vegetables carrying certificates of origin from the Republic of Cyprus. Countries then came under Greek Cypriot pressure to stop their imports of North Cyprus citrus and other agricultural products.
- Norwegian company Trygve Tonjum Import AS had, for some time, been importing potatoes from North Cyprus. Until 1997, the Norwegian agricultural authorities accepted certificates issued by the Turkish Cypriot authorities. However, as a result of this ECJ case and strong protests from the Greek Cypriot authorities, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a letter dated 9 April 1997, told its Ministry of Agriculture that only health certificates issued only by the Republic of Cyprus would be accepted for imports from Cyprus. Acting upon the request of their Foreign Ministry, the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture circulated an instruction (Circular M-18/97) on 23 April 1997 that from 1 October 1997 certificates issued by the Turkish Cypriot authorities would no longer be valid to Norway.
Beating the Ban
- Global brands are targeted not to operate in the TRNC, but many have refused to kow-tow the bully-boys in South Cyprus. Here are a few of the multi-nationals operating in North Cyprus
- HSBC – Following its takeover of Turkish bank Demirbank in 2002, HSBC became the first major international bank to open branches in the North. It prompted an aggressive reaction from the Greek Cypriot administration. As soon as the details of HSBC’s involvement in North Cyprus was made public, the Greek Cypriot authorities began to campaign for their withdrawal. A senior manager from the Greek Cypriot Central Bank went to London to pressure the British Financial Services Authority to stop HSBC’s operations in the North. HSBC did not baulk and while they are listed under Turkey (other), there are now four HSBC branches in the TRNC.
- Burger King – when one of North Cyprus’ biggest companies obtained a franchise of this super-brand, there were vociferous objections by the franchisees in South Cyprus, who claimed to own the rights to the brand for the entire island. As a result, the names of the branches in the North were changed to Burger City” instead of “Burger King”.
- Other global brands trading as normal in North Cyprus include Benetton, BMW, Gloria Coffee Jeans, Philips, Whirlpool, and all the major alcoholic beverages (Absolute, Johnny Walker, Smirnoffs) and cigarette brands (Benson & Hedges, Dunhill, Malboro, etc).
- On 25 August 2009, the Akgunler Maritime Company extended its TRNC-Syrian ferryboat service to also include the Lebanon. The boat now travels on from Latakia to Tripoli. The Greek Cypriot authorities have tried to stop it, claiming the Lebanese should not allow transport links with an ‘unrecognised State’, but as it is via Syria, the Lebanese Government are happy to allow the service to continue.
- In February 2005, Transport for London (TfL) decided to ban all tourism adverts from North Cyprus following a call for this from London Assembly member Brian Coleman, a known Greek Cypriot sympathiser. The move outraged UK Turkish Cypriots and hundreds complained, as did British tour operators and travel agents involved with North Cyprus tourism. When TfL refused to alter its stance, a legal challenge was mounted by the North Cyprus Tourism Board in London and Cyprus Paradise, the UK’s leading tour operator to the TRNC, which was heard at the High Court in June 2005. A month later, the High Court overturned TfL’s ban on North Cyprus adverts. Justice Newman’s ruling made it clear that discrimination against Turkish Cypriots and North Cyprus was not lawful.
Trade Not Aid!
We, the undersigned European Turkish Cypriot Civil Society Organisations, want to see the Direct Trade Regulation promised to Turkish Cypriots by the European Council in 2004 finally enacted. We find the objections to direct trade with North Cyprus incomprehensible and invite you to support our call on the European Union to stop discriminating against Turkish Cypriots and keep its promise by removing the unjust trade barriers.
On 24 April 2004, Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of a united Cyprus and to be part of the European Union. Six years on, they are still Europe’s excluded citizens, contrary to the pledge made by the European Council on 26 April 2004: “to put an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community. The Council invited the Commission to bring forward comprehensive proposals to this end, with particular emphasis on the economic integration of the island and on improving contact between the two communities and with the EU”.
Yet we have the extraordinary situation where a divided island was allowed into the EU on 01 May 2004 and one part (Greek South Cyprus) has been permitted to maintain embargoes and pursue a policy of discrimination against the other (Turkish North Cyprus), with the support of the other member states. This is contrary to the EU’s commitment to democracy and human rights.
We are not asking for privileges. All we want are our basic rights as EU citizens to trade freely and directly with all parts of the European Union.
- The Direct Trade Regulation (DTR) will increase the chances of a comprehensive Cyprus settlement – a major concern in South Cyprus is bearing the economic burden of unification:
- Currently Turkish Cypriots earn half the per capita GDP of Greek Cypriots and their economy is one tenth the size of South Cyprus
- DTR will dramatically improve North Cyprus’ economy, making it more competitive and sustainable
- This will reduce the enormous gap between the two sides in Cyprus and make North Cyprus less dependent on Turkey, which annually provides over $400 million in aid to Turkish Cypriots
- The DTR will bring Turkish Cypriots closer to the EU – in 2004, 90% trusted in Europe, but the EU’s failure to fulfil its promises, including the implementation of the DTR, has seen this plummet to 35% in 2010
- Historically, North Cyprus enjoyed a special trade agreement with Europe – in the 1980s and early 1990s, 77% of all its exports were destined for the EU. In 1994, the European Court of Justice ruled against this killing off a vital market:
- After 1994, goods originating from North Cyprus were subject to higher customs duties and tariffs. Exports to the EU dropped to below 15%, multiple sectors collapsed and Turkish Cypriots experienced mass unemployment
- Even with the 2004 Green Line Regulation (GLR), exports to the EU only account for 20% of North Cyprus’ total
- The GRL has not been successful because Greek Cypriots are still encouraged by their administration to boycott all North Cyprus goods. Greek Cypriot media refuse to carry adverts promoting Turkish Cypriot produce and businesses complain of many obstacles to doing trade in South Cyprus.
- It is a myth to believe there is only one power in Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots are political equals with the right to manage their own affairs in education, trade, sports and religion, as enshrined in Cyprus’ Constitution following independence in 1960. The principle of political equality is reiterated by the United Nations, most recently in the Secretary General’s 20 May 2010 report on Cyprus.
- Another myth is that direct trade will elevate North Cyprus’s international status. The GLR bypasses Government agencies and works directly with the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce (KTTO), which issues the necessary certification. There is no reason why the DTR cannot follow the same principles.
- The situation with North Cyprus is not unique, as the EU has special trade rules with other territories, such as Taiwan:
- In line with its “One China” policy, the EU does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state and has no formal political relations with Taiwan
- The EU does, however, support Taiwan’s practical participation in international organizations where this does not require statehood
- The EU also enjoys solid economic and trade relations with Taiwan – it is the EU’s 4th largest trading partner in Asia and the EU is Taiwan’s 4th largest market
- If the EU adopts the DTR and direct flights from Ercan to European destinations commence, Turkey has promised to simultaneously open its sea and air ports to Greek Cypriot vessels, helping to normalise relations between these two sides, as well as removing the obstacles affecting Turkey’s EU accession talks
- The UN’s 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development states that “the right to development is an inalienable human right…all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realised”.
Instead of EU aid, give North Cyprus the chance to trade freely and enjoy the same economic rights and opportunities as South Cyprus. We therefore ask the EU to keep its promise to Turkish Cypriots by approving the Direct Trade Regulation immediately and without preconditions.
- ATCA [Association of Turkish Cypriots Abroad]
- Limassol Turkish Association
- Pro-Cancer Research Fund
- Southwark Turkish Cypriot Association
- VROISHA/Yamuralan Association
- Turkish Cypriot Engineering Association
- TCHRF [Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation]
- UK CTCC [Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Commerce]
Life Under Embargoes
Today in Cyprus the quality of your life and the ability to exercise your basic human rights depends on which side of the border you live. If you live in South Cyprus, you have the opportunities to enjoy normal trade, political, and social relations with people around the world. In contrast, people living in North Cyprus have had to endure internationally-imposed embargoes that have denied them the right to engage in any political, economic, social or cultural activities, leaving them completely isolated from the rest of the world. This situation has existed for over forty years.
It is important to note that the embargoes imposed on North Cyprus do not have the authority of any UN Security Council Resolution under Article 41 of the UN Charter. However, the Greek Cypriots have sought to leverage the badly worded UN Resolution 186, passed on 4 March 1964, to legitimise their status as the ‘sole recognised authority’ on the island of Cyprus and sadly deny Turkish Cypriots their legal, political and basic human rights.
As you will see below, because of extensive lobbying by Greek Cypriots, a comprehensive set of embargoes have been applied to North Cyprus that are adhered to worldwide (bar Turkey). The impact is therefore as comprehensive as any UN sanctioned embargo.
- UN Resolution 186
- Ban on Representation
- Ban on Academia
- Ban on Culture
- Ban on Direct Communication
- Ban on Economic Development and International Aid
- Ban on Sporting Events
- Ban on Direct Travel
UN Resolution 186
- UN Resolution 186 was passed on 4 March 1964 as part of the UN’s commitment to end the violence in Cyprus instigated by the Greek Cypriots during their bloody coup in December 1963.
- Unfortunately, this badly worded Resolution referred to working with the “Government of Cyprus”, which at that time was 100% staffed by Greek Cypriots.
- Greek Cypriots have used this to assert themselves as the sole “legitimate” authority on the island, even though this contradicts with the 1960 Constitution of Cyprus where both Turkish and Greek Cypriots are politically equal.
- The passing of this Resolution marked the start of four decades of embargoes on Turkish Cypriots who refused to accept their constitutional rights being usurped.
- Click here to read UN Resolution 186
Ban on Representation
- As founding partners of the Republic of Cyprus that was established in 1960, Turkish Cypriots are politically equal to the Greek Cypriots. They have the power of veto and many separate legal and political rights, which were enshrined in the Cyprus Constitution.
- This state of affairs was destroyed by the Greek Cypriots when they launched a sustained attack on Turkish Cypriots in December 1963, which lasted until the Turkish intervention in 1974. During this time, the Greek Cypriot leader Archbishop Makarios unilaterally and illegally repealed the Cyprus Constitution as part of his campaign to eliminate the constitutional rights of the Turkish Cypriot people and relegate them to a minority.
- After twenty years of failed negotiations to reunite the island, Turkish Cypriots exercised their rights to self-determination and on 15 November 1985 declared their own state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
- The Greek Cypriot authorities’ maintain the TRNC is “illegitimate” and lobby the international community to refuse to recognise or deal with the Turkish Cypriot people and their elected representatives. As a result, Turkish Cypriots have continued to be denied the right of representation in any international forum for the past forty years.
- Greek Cypriots even object to Turkish Cypriot politicians having their own room or dedicated space to work from in the European Parliament.
Ban on Academia
- Although both peoples in Cyprus have always had rights to separate educational systems under the 1960 Constitution, to ensure their distinct ethnic, religious and cultural identities are maintained, the Greek Cypriots consistently fail to honour this. As shown below, even academic institutions are prone to Greek Cypriot pressure.
- North Cyprus is home to seven universities teaching in the English language which annually provide education to over 50,000 students. Yet these institutions, their students and scholars constantly face academic embargoes.
- In 2005, North Cyprus’ largest institution, the Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) applied to join the European University Association and tried to obtain Erasmus University Charter status and related funding. Both were refused. EMU scholars’ requests for international research grants have also been blocked, while efforts by an EMU based Palestinian student to access the international scheme International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE) resulted in a particularly distressing response when he was accused of committing a “criminal act” for “residing in the occupied area”.
Ban on Culture
- Led by the racist Cyprus Action Network of America, Greek Cypriots launched a massive campaign to prevent American singer and actress from coming to perform at the private opening of a new luxury hotel in North Cyprus in July 2010. Sadly, the star chose to capitulate to this racist pressure and cancelled her appearance at Cratos.
- For years, Turkish Cypriots have been prevented from taking part in cultural activities such as the Eurovision Song Contest. In recent years, Turkish Cypriots have been permitted to apply to the Greek Cypriot authorities to represent ‘Cyprus’. However, as only those with South Cyprus telephone numbers can vote to select the island’s representative, the odds of a Turkish Cypriot ever succeeding nonexistent.
Ban on Direct Communication
- To date, North Cyprus’ postal administration has been denied any status within the Universal Postal Union and Turkish Cypriots do not have internationally recognised addresses or telephone numbers. All mail and calls to and from North Cyprus must go via Turkey.
- It is common for Greek Cypriots to lobby telecommunications companies not to display calls are to North Cyprus on itemised bills, even though due to re-routing through Turkey, call costs are significantly higher to North Cyprus than South Cyprus.
- As a result, the entire 265,100 citizens of North Cyprus are relegated to a PO Box, with all mail to and from North Cyprus having to go via Mersin 10, Turkey.
- Mail often goes missing. A recent test undertaken by the British Residents’ Society in the TRNC saw 82 pieces of mail sent from the UK, yet only 17 ever arrived. Those that did took between 5 and 8 days. The missing items, along with countless others, have never been found.
Ban on economic development and international aid
- Having been admitted in 2008, two years later YAGA – North Cyprus’ development agency – was expelled from the World Association of Investment Promotion (WAIPA) through the relentless pressure of Greek Cypriots.
- Foreign investors have been discouraged from entering Turkish Cypriot territory for years through a combination of unwarranted legal threats and a continuous barrage of Greek Cypriot propaganda, resulting in minimal international capital flowing into North Cyprus. As a result, there is a massive difference between the two economies on the island: the national revenue in the Republic of Cyprus accounted for $22 billion in 2007, while revenues in North Cyprus were only $2 billion in the same period.
- Embargoes have meant North Cyprus cannot be recognised as a candidate for loans by the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.
- In 2004, the EU pledged a €259 million (£176m) aid package for Turkish Cypriots to help bolster their weakened economy. This aid has been consistently blocked by Greek Cypriots who continue to benefit as one of the most subsidised countries in the world, receiving massive aid through bilateral & international negotiations for those living in South Cyprus.
Ban on Sporting Events
- Turkish Cypriots are not allowed to participate or host international teams, or sporting events. The extent of these embargoes are vast; no teams or individuals from North Cyprus have participated in any of the following since December 1963, Olympic and Commonwealth Games, World and European sporting tournaments such as athletics championships or football competitions.
- In 2004, Greek Cypriots prevented the Olympic torch from travelling into North Cyprus as part of its global journey before reaching Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games.
- Even friendly football matches are banned!
- FIFA fined a German soccer team, Bad Lippspinge, 20,000 US dollars in September 1998 for playing a football match with the Turkish Cypriot team Çetinkaya.
- In April 2005, the (Greek) Cyprus Football Association prevented an English team, Huddersfield Town AFC, from playing a friendly football match in North Cyprus. This was in spite of the English Football Association having no objection to this game and overlooks the historical right of Turkish Cypriots to their own football federation, which dates back to 1955.
- There was almost a breakthrough in the summer of 2007. Çetinkaya SK was due to play Luton Town FC in North Nicosia. It would have been the first time a professional British football team would have played in the TRNC. While the English Football Association authorised the match, the [Greek] Cypriot Football Association refused permission. It was backed by the usual threats to punish Luton with severe FIFA sanctions if they disobeyed the ‘local FA’ and played the match. The English FA tried to resolve the match right until kick off with both sets of players waiting in the tunnel waiting to come on to the pitch. But sadly the Greek Cypriot FA refused to drop its objection, resulting in only Luton Town players appearing to play a practice session amongst themselves.
Ban on Direct Travel
- Greek Cypriots insist the world must obtain permission from them to use any ports in North Cyprus and refuse permission for use of any port not under their direct control. As a result, ports and airports in North Cyprus have been closed to direct international trade and travel since 1974. Travel to North Cyprus can only take place via Turkey.
- The requirement of a stopover in Turkey increases the time, financial cost and environmental impact of travel, discouraging both visitors and potential businesspeople from entering North Cyprus.
- Many countries do not recognise a passport issued by the TRNC, forcing Turkish Cypriots to obtain this document from either Turkey or from the Republic of Cyprus so they can travel around the world. This adds cost and time, as well as a loss of identity.
- Greek Cypriots use the number of Turkish Cypriots holding Republic of Cyprus passports as a tool to claim they are the only legitimate authority on the island – they fail to add that it is through the Greek Cypriot imposed embargoes that Turkish Cypriots are forced to apply for these documents.
Impact of Embargoes
Impact of embargoes on North Cyprus
Below are some basic facts about the quality of life you can enjoy in Cyprus depending on which side of the border you live on. Greek Cypriots enjoy full economic, political, and cultural rights, while Turkish Cypriots are forced to live under apartheid conditions, treated as second-class citizens in their own homeland.
|North (Turkish) Cyprus – 265,100 population1||South (Greek) Cyprus – 796,740 population2|
|1. Political and legal rights and representation||The Turkish Cypriot people are denied their constitutional right to be political equals in their homeland of Cyprus. Without these rights their position in law is relegated to a “minority”, left without any political representation in any international location and institution.||Greek Cypriots, through history and UN Resolution 186, are elevated to a new status of ‘sole recognised authority in Cyprus’ with full diplomatic presence all over the world, which is at odds with all of the 1960 Cyprus treaties.|
|2. Ability to trade internationally||Only with Turkey. Restrictions & embargoes apply throughout the rest of the world.||Can trade direct globally.|
|3. Ability to communicate internationally||Only via Turkey:
* Mail can only reach North Cyprus via a PO Box – Mersin 10 – in Turkey.
* All telecommunications with the rest of the world – including the internet – are via Turkey.
|Can communicate directly with the rest of the world.|
|4. Ability to travel worldwide||* TRNC passport not recognised in most countries.
* All international travel can only be made via Turkey, because of the embargoes on North Cyprus’ air or sea ports
|Can travel anywhere in the world directly with their own passport.
All ports open to international air and sea traffic.
|5. Participation in international social & sporting events||No representation allowed in any international events, such as the Olympics, the Eurovision Song Contest, or the World Cup – even friendly football matches with Turkish Cypriot teams are banned.||Can represent the whole island in any international social, sporting or cultural activity.|
|6. GNP per capita||On average, $11,700 per person per year3||On average, $21,300 per person per year4|
|7. Purchasing power||$1.83 billion||$22.76 billion|
|8. Exports||$68.1 million||$1.91 billion|
|9. Real Growth||-2% annually||3.7% annually|
|10. Time & cost to fly to from UK||Flight to Ercan, Nicosia: 6 hours (all flights must make a compulsory touch-down in Turkey). Average cost £270 ($483) per adult||Direct flight to Larnaca: 4.5 hours. Average cost £140 ($250) per adult|
|11. Time taken for UK posted letter to arrive||1-2 weeks from countries other than Turkey (all international mail has to go via Mersin in Turkey)||3-5 days5|
|12. Number of airlines flying to Cyprus||4 (all via stopover in Turkey)||More than 40|
|13. Number of tourists per year||Approx. 1 million people, of which 650,000 are from Turkey6||Approx 2.63 million people, of which about half came from the UK7|
|14. Number of embassies & consular offices||1 embassy (Turkey); 5 consular offices (Australia, France, Germany, UK, USA)8||48 (various countries)9|
1 From the TRNC 2006 Census website, http://nufussayimi.devplan.org/Main_ind.html
2 Last census in South Cyprus was 2001. This figure is the estimated population taken from The CIA World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cy.html
3 Statistics for North Cyprus given under points 6, 7, 8, and 9 are all from 2007 and are taken from The CIA World Factbook, ibid
4 Statistics for South Cyprus given under points 6, 7, 8, and 9 are all from 2008 and are taken from The CIA World Factbook, ibid
5 Airmail estimated delivery time as given by the UK’s Royal Mail, http://www.royalmail.com/portal/rm/jump1?catId=400023&mediaId=400033
6 Statistics are from 2008 reports from the TRNC Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, http://www.turizmcevrekultur.org/upload/pdf/2009.05.07_09-13-52Tablo-1-7-gelis-gidisler-hava-deniz-trafigi-2008.pdf
7 Statistics are from 2008 from the South Cyprus trade site, http://media.visitcyprus.com/media/b2b/Publications/CTO_statistics_2008.pdf
8 Details from http://www.korinia.com/north-cyprus-embassies.php
9 Details from http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-in/Cyprus
One of the most pressing problems in Cyprus is the Property Issue. The Cyprus conflict ran between December 1963 and August 1974. The conflict and the subsequent Population Exchange, agreed in 1975 by the leaders of both sides, left one third of Greek Cypriots and half of all Turkish Cypriots homeless.
As a matter of necessity, homes and land left by refugees were taken over by each territory’s Government – the Turkish Cypriots in the North, the Greek Cypriots in South Cyprus. While a few remain vacant, most have been used to either re-house refugees or to build vital community and infrastructure projects, from schools to roads and airports. Turkish Cypriots have viewed this exchange as permanent, as much of the land now in North Cyprus would remain under Turkish control in a bi-communal, bi-zonal federal solution. In the South, the authorities viewed this as a temporary arrangement.
Although the conflict ended more than thirty years ago, there is still no comprehensive political settlement. Refugees on both sides however want closure and legal certainty about their property rights, so they can utilise their current and/or former properties and dispose of them (sell, pass on to family, etc) as they choose. A number of test cases have been heard in courts in Cyprus, Britain and at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). These include Hesperides Hotels vs Turkish Aegean Holidays, Loizidou vs Turkey, Xenides-Arestis vs Turkey, and Apostolides vs Orams – the judgments from these important property cases are listed under Property Issue in Key Documents of the Resources section of this website.
These court cases have resulted in important legal precedents being set in relation to the property conundrum in Cyprus, most notably the ECHR’s Demopoulos Ruling of 4 March 2010. This stated that the North’s Immovable Property Commission (IPC) was a valid legal remedy for Greek Cypriot refugees. It also said they do not have an automatic right of return, as current occupiers of the property also have rights. While this ruling gives clarity in how to resolve property matters in the North, much confusion continues over property rights in South Cyprus.
The Greek Cypriot authorities have yet to create their own IPC or to administer the legal principles set down by the ECHR for all Cypriot refugees. In fact many people – both Greek and Turkish Cypriot – complain their rights to a fair legal remedy are being obstructed in the South, resulting in a new batch of test cases before the ECHR.
A case involving Turkish Cypriot Nezire Sofi against the Republic of Cyprus was settled out of court in 2010 with the Greek Cypriot authorities paying her €500,000 in compensation and signing a declaration they will adjust their Guardian Law so it is in line with European laws. This has still not happened and Greek Cypriot Michael Tymvios is now going back to the ECHR to force the Greek Cypriot government to uphold a court ruling relating to the exchange of his land. In 2008, the ECHR upheld the land swap deal struck between Mr Tmyvios and the current Turkish Cypriot occupiers of his land in North Cyprus as valid. The Turkish Cypriots have land in Larnaca which has had two schools, residences and businesses built on it. The deal is worth €25 million, but South Cyprus refuses to recognise it.
Along with historical property issues, a huge number of problems have arisen from new properties constructed on both sides of the border. Thousands of people who have followed the relevant property laws in their respective Cypriot territories have been left with a multitude of problems, such as a failure to obtain their title deeds, poorly constructed and/or uninhabitable buildings, mis-selling or double-selling of properties, or finding their properties have been used as collateral for loans and mortgages by builders that have not been paid back, leaving their assets vulnerable to claims by the banks.
Innocent property buyers have provided extensive evidence about their plight and violation of their rights to politicians and courts in Cyprus, but neither the Greek nor Turkish Cypriot authorities seem willing to address the at best negligent, and at worst, corrupt practices among Cypriot builders, lawyers and banks. Nor do they seem interested in apprehending those who have committed these frauds.
Embargoed! wants to see a fair solution to all property problems in Cyprus, both historical and current. While it is not our core focus, we will continue to lend support to the campaigns for property justice on both sides of the Green Line, irrespective of the ethnicity or nationality of those affected, to ensure the rights of all parties are respected and the laws are applied consistently. Where possible, we will lobby Cypriot authorities to act against those guilty of criminal actions and if required, to reform their domestic laws to prevent such incidents arising again.