By legend the birthplace of the ancient Greek goddess of love Aphrodite, Cyprus's modern history has, in contrast, been dominated by enmity between its Greek and Turkish inhabitants.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a military coup on the island which was backed by the Athens government.
The failure of its biggest bank would have grave consequences for Cyprus, where the economy revolves around financial services — a result of the island’s appeal as a low-tax gateway to the Middle East and Africa for companies from Russia and elsewhere in Europe.
But a collapse of Cyprus Popular would also be more bad news for the rest of the euro zone, just as a new fog of financial gloom seems to be descending on Europe. The shaky state of Cypriot banks and government finances threatens to add another name to the list of euro countries needing international bailouts.
In the daily drone of news it flitted by as an unfortunate act of God of one sect or another: at least 15 people died Monday in a blast at a major naval base in Cyprus. The blast was so fierce it blew out windows and doors of a tourist town two miles away along the Mediterranean island nation’s southern coast.
RUSSIAN and Chinese companies may soon join an American one drilling for gas in the sea off Cyprus, the Cypriot president, Demetris Christofias, told Israel's Binyamin Netanyahu in Nicosia on Thursday February 17th. Mr Netanyahu agreed that such vicarious super-power involvement could offer Cyprus a measure of deterrence against Turkish threats over sea rights. Israel is keen to be involved in Cyprus's offshore bonanza.
I have just been taking part in an energy conference in Nicosia, the capital of a Cyprus whose northern part (including a bit of Nicosia) has been occupied by Turkish troops ever since 1974, when they invaded in order to defeat a coup d’état which had been organised by the Greek military junta in order to unite the island with Greece. In the ensuing 37 years, there have been plenty of attempts to reconcile Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots—and none has succeeded: Cyprus has been a member of the European Union since 2004, but in practice that membership is for Greek Cypriots only and excludes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (an entity recognised only by Turkey).
Statistics released earlier this month revealed that medium-sized households in Cyprus paid an average electricity price of 0.1731 euros per kilowatt-hour in 2011 – the highest rate in the European Union, and around 26 per cent more than the EU average.
That price, however, is believed to have been calculated before an additional 6.96 per cent levy which was introduced to compensate for the effects of an explosion which destroyed the island's main power station at Vasiliko in July, and further increases – including a two per cent hike in VAT to 17 per cent in March – have been announced this year.
The trouble in Cyprus is an unsettling development. The island has suffered much the same loss of competitiveness as Greece within EMU, with a current account deficit peaking at 17pc of GDP in 2008. While debt below 70pc is manageable, growth has slumped to zero and the budget deficit may top 7pc this year. The economy was already struggling before an explosion knocked out the main power station at Vasikilos.
For those of you that don't know the sorted history of the island: Cyprus gained its independence from the Brits in 1960 (wrong hand drive here!). Despite a constitution which guaranteed a degree of power-sharing between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority, the two populations with the backing from the governments of Greece and Turkey, respectively, clashed vehemently in 1974, with the end result being the occupation of the northern and eastern 40% of the island by Turkey.
Cyprus an island in the E. Mediterranean which has two mountain ranges, an extensive coastline, and a population of under a million, has had a turbulent history, which is reflected in its food.
A Greek colony 4,000 years ago, it has since been conquered by Egypt in the 6th century bc, later by Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Venetians, and in 1571 by Turks until 1878 when it came under the British. Subsequently it became a British crown colony in 1925. In 1960 it became an independent state but there was continuing strife between its Greek and Turkish populations until in 1974 a full-scale war broke out.
The dazzle of New York, Paris, and Rome all draw more than 40 million visitors annually, notes Mr. Barkat’s foreign affairs aide, Stephan Miller, freshly returned from an August mayoral tour touting the city’s 3,000-year-old brand in North America.
“Cyprus, an island, gets 10 million per year,” he says, eyebrows jumping. “Jerusalem – a brand important to 3.4 billion people of faith around the world – gets on average 2 million.”
If Jerusalem can match Cyprus within a decade, they estimate it will create as many as 150,000 new jobs, roughly doubling the city’s job market.