A Brief History Of Cyprus, and a Glimpse at the Island’s Future

For centuries Cyprus has been influenced by the cultures of many different nations, which has led to an island with a richly diverse historical and architectural heritage. From Soli and Vouni in the west, and Arabahmet Pasha Mosque in Lefkosa, to Salamis and the site of Apostolos Andreas in the east, there is much to reflect the 9,000 years of civilization the island has borne witness to.

Ancient History, Ottoman Rule, and the Leasing of Cyprus to Britain

The island has been occupied by a succession of peoples from Europe and Asia. In the 8th Century BC it was part of the Assyrian empire, then the Babylonian, Egytian and Persian. In 58BC the island was seized by the Romans. Richard Lionheart settled on the island in 1191 during the third crusade, and after selling it to the Knights Templar, permitted Guy de Lusignan to buy the island. Cyprus remained in Lusignan possession until captured by the Venetians in 1489. From 1571 to 1878 the island was ruled by the Ottomans until they leased its administration to Britain.

Independence from Britain

Independence was granted in 1960, but after a Greece-inspired military coup in 1974, Turkey was forced to intervene to safeguard the interest of the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was subsequently proclaimed in 1983.

The Annan Plan Referendum of 2004

The first genuine chance at reunification is widely viewed to have occurred in 2004, with the UN-brokered Annan plan. The plan was rejected by the Greek-Cypriot side via referendum and the subsequent years, with the anti-reunification Greek Cypriot Tassos Papadopoulos then incumbent, saw a return to the pessimism and entrenchment that had characterised both North and South Cyprus prior to the Annan Plan.

Christofias and Talat – Reunification and the New Order

With the election to power of Demetris Christofias as the new Greek Cypriot leader in February 2008, there has been a revival in the possibility of reunification. The International Crises Group, a hugely well regarded NGO, probably best described the current climate between the two sides in the title of their June 2008 report; “Reunifying Cyprus: The Best Chance Yet.”

Not only do Greek Cypriot President Christofias and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mehmet Ali Talat share a left-wing ideology, but both have publicly explained their desire to bring reunification to the island. To help matters along they appear to get on rather well – they met five times this year before the historic 3rd of September negotiations began.

As well as the new domestic political will, Turkey’s relationship to the EU – it is up for membership consideration again in 2009 – means that it cannot stand by and watch reunification talks, but will be expected to contribute to them in a proactive and positive way.

Because of the current optimism in a revived attempt at reunification, property prices in North Cyprus are already appreciating at a rapid rate. At the moment North Cyprus property offers the best place to buy investment property in Europe, as prices are, at time of writing, still between a half and a third of those in the south. However, with reunification, and the opening up of direct flights and trade that it would bring to North Cyprus looking more and more probable, property prices are set to rise to meet those of the south and the rest of Europe; exciting times for investors indeed.

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