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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).

Traditional 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.

The Presidential 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 the island.

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.

Source: Press and Information Office of the Ministry of the Interior

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