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History, Independence from Britain

Nikos Sampson, Archbishop Makarios, unitary state, Makarios, Greek Cypriots

In June 1958 the British announced a plan to maintain the international status quo of Cyprus for seven years but to establish representative government and communal autonomy. Archbishop Makarios and the Greek and Turkish governments rejected the British plan, but on October 1 the British put a modified version of it into effect. Talks held in 1959 among the various parties led to an agreement on the general features of a constitution for an independent republic of Cyprus. The status of the republic was guaranteed by Britain, Turkey, and Greece. Britain retained sovereignty over two military bases. Archbishop Makarios, who returned to Cyprus on March 1, was elected president on December 13; Faz?l Kuchuk, a Turkish Cypriot, became vice president. Independence was proclaimed on August 16, 1960. Cyprus was admitted to the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations.

In December 1963 Greek and Turkish Cypriots clashed after Makarios proposed constitutional changes, including abolition of the Turkish minority’s power to veto laws in the legislature. Fighting spread over the island, with the Turkish Cypriots demanding partition while the Greek Cypriots insisted on a unitary state with minority rights safeguarded. After both Greece and Turkey threatened to intervene, full-scale civil war was forestalled by British troops; the UN appointed a mediator and organized a peace force to patrol the island.

Acceptance of a UN resolution calling for a cease-fire on August 10, 1964, ended sharp fighting between the factions. Subsequent UN efforts to bring about a settlement failed, and bitterness between Greece and Turkey continued to increase. Makarios was reelected president in 1968 and 1973. Renewed tension in the early 1970s culminated on July 15, 1974, when Makarios was ousted from office and forced into exile by members of the Cypriot national guard who opposed his reluctance to unite the island with Greece. The national guard, which had close ties with the Greek government, installed Nikos Sampson, a newspaper publisher, as president, but he was replaced on July 23 by Glafkos Clerides, president of the Cyprus House of Representatives, after Turkish forces landed on the island. By late August, following fighting that left many people homeless, the Turks controlled the northern third of the island. In December Makarios returned to Cyprus and assumed the presidency.

On February 13, 1975, a semi-independent Turkish Cypriot state was proclaimed in the Turkish-held sector. In April 1975 intermittent talks began under UN auspices to create a federal system with Greek and Turkish zones. The talks continued after Makarios died in 1977 and was succeeded by Spyros Kyprianou, who was reelected in February 1983. In November 1983 Rauf R. Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot president, proclaimed his community an independent republic called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), suspending all talks. Only Turkey has recognized this republic.

George Vassiliou defeated Clerides and Kyprianou in the 1988 presidential elections. UN-sponsored talks resumed on an intermittent basis in 1988. In 1991 the UN passed a resolution urging the creation of a federal state made up of two politically equal communities. In the 1993 elections Vassiliou lost his presidential seat to Clerides, the candidate of the right-wing party Democratic Rally. In 1994 the European Union (EU), dedicated to a unified Cyprus, ruled that all exports from Cyprus must have authorization from the official government, in effect banning direct trade with the TRNC. Later that year, the Turkish Cypriots passed two resolutions calling for the TRNC to coordinate its defense and foreign policy with that of Turkey and to demand political equality and additional autonomy from Greek Cyprus.

In 1995 negotiations regarding Cyprus’s entrance into the EU were under way. The TRNC opposed this process, claiming that it was pursued unilaterally by the Greek Cypriot government. Nevertheless, the EU officially invited Cyprus to join in December 1997. In February 1998 Clerides was re-elected to a second term by an extremely narrow margin. Turkish Cypriots took no part in the election. EU accession talks began in April. Meanwhile, UN efforts aimed at reunifying Cyprus continued with little progress.

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