Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Quick Survey of Northern Cyprus

Northern Cyprus is another one of those disputed areas of sovereignty that we said we would cover this week on the blog. It has only one state outside of itself that recognizes, Turkey. The rest of the world considers Northern Cyprus to be an occupied territory within the Republic of Cyprus. The question we want to get to the bottom is what is all the kerfuffle about?

It started long ago and with many of our other disputed states this week it has to do with ethnic and religious tensions. In the case of Northern Cyprus we are talking about the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots. The Greek Cypriots occupy most of the island while the Turkish Cypriots live in the Northeastern part of the island called Northern Cyprus. The island of Cyprus has an extensive history, one we're not going to cover on this blog post. So, we'll start with the most recent tensions that began shortly after 1960 when the island became independent from England.

There were two competing thoughts on what to do with the islands new found independence. Many Turkish Cypriots wanted to adopt "takism", the Turkish word for partition. This theory of self-rule wanted to split the island into two sections and possibly two distinct states, one for the Greeks and one for the Turks. Many Greek Cypriots however wanted to adopt the policy of "enosis", the Greek word for union. Under this plan Cyprus would become part of Greece. But, in 1960 delegates from both sides agreed to scrap both policies to make Cyprus its own state. The peace however did not last.

In 1963 the Akritas Plan was enacted that was designed to weaken the position of the Turkish Cypriots in the government and ultimately link Cyprus back with Greece. Violence broke out between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots with the Turks getting the worse end of the violence. Looting of Turkish villages within the island nation caused thousands to either withdraw into what would over time become Northern Cyprus or to emigrate to places like Britain, Australia or Turkey proper. The Turkish Cypriot government withdrew from all official government activities and Turkish paramilitary groups began to form that in effect created the partition of the island that constitutes it today.

The 1970's saw some serious action on the island. In 1974 the military junta of Greece decided to directly involve themselves in Cypriot politics and backed a couple of Greek Cypriot groups to host a coup d'état party. They ousted the presiding president, Makarios III, the president that had basically unilaterally acted back in the early 60's to get the tensions snowballing into the spiral as they did. But, Turkey saw this military intervention by Greece as a reason to send in their own troops. The Turkish Army came in shortly after the coup and established the border between Cyprus proper and Northern Cyprus.

A year later, in 1975 the Turkish Cypriots formed the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus. This however displeased the Republic of Cyprus and no one in the international community outside of Turkey recognized this new designation. The hopeful and nascent Turkish Federated State of Cyprus tried to negotiate with the UN and the leaders of the Greek Cypriots but to no avail. After eight years the Turkish Cypriots declared independence and formed the disputed state that sits atop northeastern Cyprus today, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Since 1983 there has been a whole bunch of bluster about the politics of reunification. In 2004 the Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly voted against reunification whereas the Turkish north voted for it. This left Cyprus entering the European Union with the North basically left out of the deal. In spite of all the hope for unification continuing sanctions has disillusioned much of the Northern Cyprus population and they recently voted in a government that prefers independence to unification and links with Turkey rather than the EU. But, while this current government is ideologically at odds with unification it is pragmatic and the current president Derviş Eroğlu is still performing ongoing negotiations with the Republic of Cyprus on unification plans.

That's all we'll cover this time, but look this week for a further explanation on the divisions within Cyprus through a historical lens and more on the disputed states in Europe. Tomorrow, barring something horrible, the podcast will resume with the Chalcolithic podcast. I'm excited. I hope you are!

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