Republic of Cyprus

On the basis of the Zurich – London agreements, Cyprus became an independent republic on 16 August 1960. As an independent country it became a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Commonwealth of Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. According to the agreement, Britain retained two sovereign bases (158.5 sq. km) on the island, at Dekeleia and Akrotiri – Episkopi.

The Zurich – London agreements comprised the Treaty of Establishment, the Treaty of Guarantee and the Treaty of Alliance. Under the Treaty of Guarantee, Britain, Greece and Turkey pledged to ensure the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus as well as respect for its Constitution. The Treaty of Alliance between Cyprus, Greece and Turkey was a military alliance agreed for defence purposes. These agreements also became the basis for the 1960 Constitution.

The 1960 Constitution incorporated a system of entrenched minority rights unparalleled in any other country. The 18% Turkish Cypriot community was offered cultural and religious autonomy and a privileged position in the state institutions of Cyprus (Turkish Cypriot Vice President, three out of the ten Ministers of the Government and 15 out of 50 seats in the House of Representatives).

The frequent use by the Turkish Cypriot leadership of its extensive powers of veto, gave rise to deadlock and inertia in the functioning of the state. In November 1963, when Cyprus’ first President Makarios put forward proposals for amending the Constitution in order to facilitate the smooth functioning of the government and the state, the Turkish side promptly rejected them, arguing that the Constitution could not be amended without the entire independence agreement being revoked.

Subsequently, the Turkish Cypriot ministers withdrew from the Council of Ministers and Turkish Cypriot civil servants ceased attending their offices. The ensuing constitutional deadlock gave rise to intercommunal clashes and threats by Turkey to invade Cyprus.

Following the threats by Turkey against Cyprus, the government of the Republic brought the matter to the UN Security Council. The Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 186 of 4 March 1964, whose basic principles have guided international actions on Cyprus ever since.

This resolution:

 • Established the UN Secretary-General’s mission of good offices aiming at a
Peaceful solution on the basis of an agreed settlement in accordance with the UN Charter;
 • Created UNFICYP, the UN peacekeeping force on Cyprus;
 • Reaffirmed the sovereignty and continuing existence of the Republic of Cyprus;
 • Reaffirmed the continuity of the government of the Republic of Cyprus.

Despite calls by the Security Council to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus and to abstain from the threat or use of force against it, Turkey’s air force bombed Cypriot villages in August 1964.

On 26 March 1965, UN mediator Dr Galo Plaza issued one of the most significant reports ever to be prepared on Cyprus (S/6253). The Plaza report considered the 1959 arrangement as “a constitutional oddity;” questioned the functionality of federalism demanded by the Turkish side due to the hardship and inhumane nature inherent in population movements; was critical of disproportionate minority vetoes; and perceived the protection of the rights of minorities to be in international instruments such as the European Convention.

Arguing strongly against the geographical separation of the two communities advocated by the Turkish side, Dr Plaza stated that if the purpose of a settlement of the Cyprus question is to be the preservation rather than the destruction of the state and if it is to foster rather than to militate against the development of a peacefully united people, I cannot help wondering whether the physical division of the minority from the majority should not be considered a desperate step in the wrong direction.

Turkey instantly rejected the report and its recommendations and declared that it would not deal with the UN mediator. UN mediation came to an end, and thereafter the UN involvement in the Cyprus peace process has been conducted under the Secretary-General’s good offices.

The government of Cyprus took various measures to restore normalcy on the island. These steps resulted in the elimination of intercommunal violence and dramatic reduction of tensions between the two communities. The government also offered economic incentives to Turkish Cypriots, who had been forced by their leaders to move to Turkish controlled enclaves, to return to their homes. The Turkish side did not reciprocate, maintaining, instead, roadblocks in order to keep Greek Cypriots from Turkish enclaves.

In 1968, the government initiated talks with the Turkish Cypriot leadership under UN auspices for a negotiated agreement on a more functional constitutional system for the Republic of Cyprus. These talks had achieved considerable progress and, according to some reports, were close to success, when they were interrupted by the tragic events of 1974.

Source:  Press and Information Office, Republic of Cyprus