The Turkish Republic of Cyprus and the International Community

Since the dominance of the Ottoman Empire during the middle of the last millennium, Turkey - in various forms - has been a prominent force in both European and middle eastern politics. It has continually exerted a sphere of influence over the two continents, and never committed to both; in that respect it can be compared to Russia, who have historically felt that their dominance can be justified on its western borders in Europe, and in Asia on its eastern border.

As the two major nations that close off what is traditionally classed as Europe's borders, and the nations who feel neither fully European or fully Asian, they have been the centre of several diplomatic and cultural conflicts with Europe's major powers over modern history; the Crimean war and Britain clashes with Russia over China are prime examples.

In recent years the perceived cultural anomaly that Europe perhaps attributes to these nations has been best embodied by the 'Cyprus Dispute', and Turkey's invasion of the island in 1974.

After independence was granted in 1960, there were disputes between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities as to the prevailing social demographic of the island. With Greece pushing for a more European island, and backed by the strong European ally, the U.S, tensions came to a head when an attempted coup resulted in a Turkish counter-invasion, establishing the North of the island as the 'Turkish Republic of Cyprus'.

The island has remained partitioned since then, and is indeed a perfect geographical and metaphorical embodiment of the uneasy relationship that Turkey has with its European neighbours; the island, recognised by the E.U as part of Europe, is subject to the whims of two very traditional European and Asian cultures. It shows just how Turkey has traditionally been a nation that flirts with ideas of Europeanism, but will never quite fully commit to the continent.

It is an understandable hesitation. With the roots of modern Turkey laying in the Ottoman Empire, which stretched far into Arabia and along the Persian gulf, Turkey has historical claims to European and Asian possessions, and Cyprus is no exception.

What makes the 'Cyprus Dispute' so interesting, though, is that the E.U recognises Cyprus as essentially European; Greece, a member state of the European Community since the 1980s, holds control of the 'Republic of Cyprus', which is the only government on the island that the E.U recognises. The 'Turkish Republic of Cyprus', as far as they are concerned, does not exist.

Turkey's options are in that sense limited. Either they align themselves with the European community, or risk further isolation. The most obvious step is to join the E.U, for which it has been intermittently applying since the early 1980s itself. But the monopoly of the major European powers on the ideology of European diplomacy is so strong that Turkey would have to concede its fundamental belief in its status as both European and Asian.

With Turkey perhaps understandably not willing to give up that position, the 'Cyprus Dispute', but also Turkey's wide position as a member of the European community, will continue to cause problems for European diplomacy.

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Chris Woolfrey is an expert on European politics, and specialises in the history, politics and diplomacy of Northern Cyprus. He writes for

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