Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, after Sicily and Sardinia, with an area of 9.251 sq. km (3.572 sq. miles).
It is situated at the north-eastern corner of the Mediterranean, at a distance of 300 km north of Egypt, 105 km west of Syria, and 75 km south of Turkey. Greece lies 380 km to the north-west (Rhodes -Karpathos).
The population of Cyprus is estimated at 854.300 (December 2005) of whom 656.200 belong to the Greek Cypriot community (76,8%), 87.900 (10,3%) to the Turkish Cypriot community and 110.200 (12,9%) are foreign nationals residing in Cyprus.
The history of Cyprus is one of the oldest recorded in the world. From the earliest times Cyprus’ historical significance far outweighed its small size. Its strategic position at the crossroads of three continents as well as its considerable supplies of copper and timber combined to make it a highly desirable territorial acquisition.
The first signs of civilization go back to the 9th millennium BC, while the discovery of copper brought wealth and trade to the island. Around 12 BC a process began that was to mark the island with an identity that it still has today: the arrival of Mycenaean-Achaean Greeks as permanent settlers, who brought with them their language and culture. Cyprus was subsequently conquered by various nations but, nevertheless, managed to retain its Greek identity, language and culture intact. The Turkish Cypriots came much later. They were descendants of the Ottoman Turks who occupied the island for more than 300 years between the 16th and 19th centuries, and have contributed their own heritage to the country.
The capital of the island is Lefkosia (Nicosia) with a population of 224.500 in the sector controlled by the Cyprus government. It is situated roughly in the centre of the island and is the seat of government as well as the main business centre.
The second largest town is Lemesos (Limassol) on the south coast with a population of around 176.900. Since 1974 it has become the island’s chief sea port, an industrial centre and an important tourist resort.
Larnaka, also on the south coast of the island, has a population of 79.000 and is the country’s second commercial sea port and a tourist resort. The Larnaka International Airport is located to the south of the city.
Finally, Pafos, on the south-west coast, with a population of 52.800, is a fast-developing tourist resort, home to the island’s second international airport and an attractive fishing harbour.
The towns of Ammochostos (Famagusta), Kyrenia and Morfou as well as part of Nicosia, have been under military occupation by Turkey since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The Greek Cypriot inhabitants of these towns were forced to flee to the government-controlled area. In their homes and properties the Turkish authorities installed illegal settlers, mostly from Anatolia, Turkey.
The language of the Greek Cypriot community is Greek and the community adheres to the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. However, English is widely spoken in Cyprus and is regularly used in commerce and government. Under the Constitution of 1960, the Armenian, Maronite and Latin communities had to choose to belong either to the Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot community. These groups, which belong to other Christian denominations and constitute 1% of the population, opted to be part of the Greek Cypriot community.
The language of the Turkish Cypriot community is Turkish and the community adheres to Islam.
Cyprus has a Mediterranean climate: hot, dry summers from June to September and mild, wet winters from November to March which are separated by short Autumn and Spring seasons of rapid change in weather patterns in October, April and May.
Sunshine is abundant during the whole year, particularly from April to September when the daily average exceeds 11 hours. Winds are on the whole light to moderate. Gales are very infrequent and heavy storms rare.
Snow hardly falls in the lowlands and on the Pentadaktylos range, but is a frequent feature every winter on ground above 1.000 metres in the Troodos range. From December till April snow is usually in evidence there, but hardly continuous. Yet during the coldest months it lies in considerable depth for several weeks, attracting skiers.
The Cypriot economy is a small, robust and fairly flexible economy, and has shown that it is capable of adapting to rapidly changing circumstances. Intertemporally, the Cypriot economy is characterised by a very satisfactory rate of growth (the average annual rate of growth of GDP amounted to 5,1%, in real terms, over the period 1961-2005), full employment and conditions of internal and external macroeconomic stability. As a result, Cyprus has achieved an enviable level of real convergence with the advanced economies, with a per capita GDP in 2005, expressed in PPS (Performance Presentation Standards), standing at 88,9% of the EU25 average, according to the latest Eurostat figures and exceeds that of all the rest of the new member states as well as Portugal.
Source: Press and Information Office, Republic of Cyprus, December 2008