Cyprus is an island located
in the eastern Mediterranean, strategically situated at the
crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa and in close proximity
to the busy trade routes linking Europe with the Middle
East, Russia, Central Asia and the Far East. Cyprus extends
240 kilometres (190 miles) from east to west and 100
kilometres (62 miles) from north to south. The total area of
Cyprus is 9,251 sq kilometres (3,572 sq miles).
weaving by an elderly woman in a Cyprus village
Cyprus gained its
independence from British colonial rule in 1960. In 1974
Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied 36.2% of its sovereign
territory. The ceasefire line runs right across the island
and cuts through the heart of the Capital, Nicosia, dividing
the city and the country. Although its northern part is
under foreign occupation, the Republic of Cyprus is
internationally recognised as the sole legitimate State on
the island with sovereignty over its entire territory.
The population of Cyprus was
854,300 (December 2005), not including the illegal settlers
from Turkey (currently estimated at about 162,000) residing
in he Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus. Of the legal
population 76.8% are Greek Cypriots and 10.3% Turkish
Cypriots, with the remainder foreign residents and workers.
The population density is 88.4 persons per sq kilometre.
The capital and largest city
of Cyprus is Nicosia, with a population of 224,500 (in the
government-controlled part of the city only). Limassol, on
the southern coast, is the second largest city with a
population of 176,900.
Cyprus has a presidential
system of government. The President is elected by universal
suffrage for a five-year term. Executive power is exercised
through an 11-member Council of Ministers appointed by the
President. Turkish Cypriots have refused to participate in
the government since late 1963.
Palace in Nicosia
Cyprus as been a member of
the European Union since 1 May 2004 and joined the eurozone
on 1 January 2008, whereby the euro replaced the Cyprus
pound as the official currency. The application of EU laws
and regulations is suspended in the area under military
occupation by Turkey, pending a solution to the division of
A United Nations
Peace-Keeping Force (UNFICYP), numbering 917 (Dec. 2006)
military personnel, has been on the island since 1964. It
was established after the outbreak of intercommunal clashes
in December 1963 and threats by Turkey to invade. Its chief
task now is to to supervise the buffer zone and maintain the
UN ceasefire, given that more than 43,000 troops from Turkey
continue to occupy the northern part of the island.
Additionally, there are
British sovereign military bases at Akrotiri/Episkopi and
Dhekelia covering 2.7% of the island's territory. The bases
were retained by Britain under the 1960 accords which
granted Cyprus its independence from British colonial rule.