Country Profile: Cyprus

The small Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been a point of international conflict for decades, fueled by bitter clashes between its ethnic Greek and Turkish populations.

Just over three quarters of the island's 763,000 people are Greek Cypriots, with the remainder being ethnic Turks. Greece and Turkey have backed their respective ethnic populations, and the dispute over Cyprus has repeatedly threatened to erupt into a broader conflict between the larger nations.

Cyprus, which is less than two-thirds the size of Connecticut, gained its independence from Britain in 1960. Turkish Cypriots gained de facto control of the northern part of the island in 1975 following an armed incursion by Turkey. The Turkish Cypriot region declared its own independence in 1983, but it is officially recognized only by Turkey.

Each side of the island has its own courts, government and flag, though only the Greek Cypriots are accepted as legitimate by world governments. A United Nations buffer area separates the two populations, with U.N. peacekeepers monitoring the zone.

The Turkish Cypriot area's small size and lack of official recognition has hampered its economic growth, and it remains primarily agricultural.

Both areas have tried to draw tourists to their sandy beaches, cedar forests, and mild climate.

United Nations-led talks resumed in 1999 and are intended to negotiate a comprehensive political settlement between the feuding factions.

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