Country Listing

Cyprus Table of Contents



By virtue of its strategic situation, Cyprus has been invaded, conquered, and colonized by foreign military powers that successively dominated the region. Since the second millennium B.C. the island has been occupied by the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, crusaders, Genoese, Venetians, and Ottoman Turks. It was employed by the Arabs as a base to launch warfare against Byzantium, and by the crusaders in their efforts to wrest the Holy Land from Muslims. The Turkish Cypriot community on Cyprus originated in the some 50,000 Turkish occupation forces and discharged soldiers who remained on the island after the defeat of the Venetians in 1571. Britain used Cyprus as a base in both world wars and as a staging ground for the attack on Suez in 1956.

Incapable of repelling the many foreign powers that have overrun the island, the Cypriot people have inherited little military tradition of their own. In the twentieth century, some 11,000 Cypriots fought as auxiliaries with the British army during World War I, and about 30,000 Cypriots served in the Cyprus Regiment and other British units during World War II. But Cyprus itself was not the scene of fighting in either war, and Cypriot recruits were demobilized at the close of hostilities. After independence in 1960, Cyprus remained a neutral country and a member of the Nonaligned Movement (WAM). It did not join any military alliance.

The intractability of the Cyprus problem nevertheless imposed on the island the presence of six separate military forces. As of the early 1990s, these forces included Turkish troops in the north, the Greek Army contingent in the south, the British in the two Sovereign Base Areas on the southern coast, and UNFICYP manning the buffer zone separating the two Cyprus communities. The indigenous Cypriot armed forces on the island consisted of the Greek Cypriot National Guard in the south and the Turkish Cypriot Security Force (Kibris Türk Emniyet Kuvvetleri) in the north.

In reunification negotiations, the Greek Cypriot government proposed demilitarization as the way to remove both external and internal security threats. Specificially, the government foresaw the withdrawal of all non-Cypriot military forces, the disbanding of Cypriot military forces under a timetable to be drawn up in advance of establishing a new federal government, and a UN-controlled force to assist in internal security.

Turkish Cypriots, on the other hand, called for a "balance" between non-Cypriot and Cypriot forces on both sides of the island. Once a federal government was in place, non-Cypriot forces on both sides would be brought to the level needed for ensuring the fulfillment of guarantees.

Data as of January 1991