Location: Middle East, island in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Turkey.
Background: A former British colony, Cyprus became independent in 1960 following years of resistance to British rule. Tensions between the Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority came to a head in December 1963, when violence broke out in the capital of Nicosia. Despite the deployment of UN peacekeepers in 1964, sporadic intercommunal violence continued forcing most Turkish Cypriots into enclaves throughout the island. In 1974, a Greek Government-sponsored attempt to seize control of Cyprus was met by military intervention from Turkey, which soon controlled more than a third of the island. In 1983, the Turkish-held area declared itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," but it is recognized only by Turkey. The latest two-year round of UN-brokered talks - between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to reach an agreement to reunite the divided island - ended when the Greek Cypriots rejected the UN settlement plan in an April 2004 referendum. The entire island entered the EU on 1 May 2004, although the EU acquis - the body of common rights and obligations - applies only to the areas under direct Republic of Cyprus control, and is suspended in the areas administered by Turkish Cypriots. At present, every Cypriot carrying a Cyprus passport has the status of a European citizen; however, EU laws do not apply to north Cyprus. Nicosia continues to oppose EU efforts to establish direct trade and economic links to north Cyprus as a way of encouraging the Turkish Cypriot community to continue to support reunification.
Extracted from The World Factbook.