35 North 33 East: Cyprus, A Brief Overview

Cyprus has a total area of 9,251 sq.km and is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sicily and Sardinia. It is located in the East Mediterranean basin (35 degrees North, 33 degrees East) and is considered as being at the crossroad of Europe, Africa and Asia. The country closest to Cyprus is the Asian part of Turkey, 75 km north, followed by Syria 105 km east, Egypt (Africa) 380 km south and finally the island of Rhodes, Greece (Europe) that is 380 km west of the island.

The total population of the island is 796,800. 85.0% of them are Greek Cypriots (including Armenians, Maronites (Catholic confession) and Latins). 12.0% are Turkish Cypriots and 3.0% foreign residents. The population density is 82 persons/sq.km. The official languages of the island are Greek, Turkish and English.

The main towns of Cyprus are Nicosia, the capital of the island, with a population of 205,300, followed by the port town of Limassol with 165,500 citizens. Larnaca is the town where the largest international airport is and has a total population of 68,800. Paphos is the oldest town of the island and its population is estimated at 49,500.

Cyprus has an Executive Power Presidential Democracy system of government. The President is elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term. The House of Representatives (Legislative Power) consists of 80 Members (56 Greek Cypriots, 24 Turkish Cypriots). The parliament representatives are elected by proportional representation for a five-year term. The Judicial Power is executed by the Supreme Court and the five Districts Courts.

Cyprus is a member of the United Nations Organisation since 1960. That was the year of the proclamation of Cyprus as an independent state. It is also a member of the Council of Europe since 1961, of the Commonwealth of Nations since 1961 and of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe since 1975. The first president of the island Archbishop Makarios was a leading personality of the Non-Aligned Movement, where Cyprus became a member directly after the independence in 1960. Cyprus is also a member of the World Trade Organisation since 1995.

In 1987 a Customs Union Agreement was established with the European Union (EU) and an application for membership was made in 1990. Commencement of substantive accession talks with the EU begun in 1998. On the 1st of May, 2004, Cyprus Joined the EU as one of the ten new full members middle- and east-European countries.

The geomorphology of the island itself is rather unique. Although small in size it is subdivided in the southwest by the Troodos massif with the highest point, mount Olympos, at 1953 m. On the north is the Keryneia or Pentadaktylos range with the highest point that of Kyparissovounos at 1024 m. In the middle of the island lies the Messaoria plain.

Due to the fact that the island lies in the Mediterranean it has mild, wet winters (10-15oC), but rather hot and dry summers (27-31oC).

Indeed, tucked away, as it is, in the easternmost corner of the Mediterranean Sea this island republic has its own particular beauty with sandy beaches enclosed by rugged cliffs, cool cedar forests, scented orange groves and gentle meadows blanketed in wildflowers.

It is also a country whose nine-thousand-year cultural legacy infuses East and West and where over two million tourists per year often retrace the footsteps of figures as diverse as Saint Paul, Alexander the Great, Richard the Lion Heart and Leonardo da Vinci. Moreover it is regarded as a romantic island, once being Anthony's gift to Cleopatra and where, according to mythology, the goddess Aphrodite first emerged from the sea. Indeed its history has been 'enriched' by its geographical position and its natural resources have always made it a target for conquerors. The Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Arabs, the Frankish dynasty of the Lusignans, the Venetians, Ottoman Turks and the British, all conquered Cyprus in turn and have invariably left their mark.