Cyprus is a Mediterranean island located south of Turkey, southeast of Greece, north of Egypt, northwest of Israel and Lebanon, and west of Syria. Cyprus is the third largest Mediterranean island with an area of 3,572 square miles. Cyprus is sometimes placed in Europe, Asia or even in the Middle East. Geographically, Cyprus is closer to Asia but is historically and culturally a European country. Cyprus has four geopolitical divisions with different administrations. The Republic of Cyprus occupies two-thirds of the island towards the south, and the Turkish Republic occupies the northern third of the island. There are also two bases, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, that are under British sovereignty. This UN-controlled buffer zone separates the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus.
Cyprus is one of the oldest countries in the world, in terms of human occupation. There is archaeological evidence showing settlements dating back to more than 9000 years ago. Cyprus was occupied and ruled by many kingdoms through conquests. The island was settled by Greeks and Phoenicians in the early centuries and served as a strategic location to the Middle East. The island fell under the rule of several nations including Assyria, Egypt, Greece under Alexander the Great, and the Roman Republic. In the middle ages, Cyprus was under the influence from various empires such as the Byzantine, Ottoman, and British Empires. Cyprus remained a Turkish colony under lease to the British Empire and later became a Crown Colony in 1925. Cyprus gained independence in 1960 after years of resistance from the Cypriots.
Cyprus has maintained close relations with both Asia and Europe. The people of Cyprus are of Greek or Turkish origin with strong cultural and historical roots with their countries of origin. In ancient times, Cyprus was an important island both to Europe (Greece) and Asia as well as Egypt. Its strategic location was vital for trade between Asia and Europe with important links to the towns of Alexandria and Athens. Olive oil, an important commodity during the Roman period, was the major trading item sold both locally and outside Cyprus. In war, kings such as Alexander the great and Ptolemy employed the help of Cypriot armies for conquests. The influence of the Turkish and Greek occupants on Cyprus is the most notable and has lasted to this date.
The Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus maintain international relations with most countries. The Republic of Cyprus has diplomatic relations with about 178 countries, mainly those from Europe and is also a member of the European Union. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized as a country only by Turkey with whom it has close relations with. The Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots live in ethnic conflicts which are evident in the division of Cyprus and constant attacks since the independence of Cyprus. These conflicts emerged as each ethnic faction hoped for incorporation of Cyprus into Greece or Turkey instead of recognizing Cyprus as a country by itself.
Cyprus as a Transcontinental Country
Cyprus is both an Asian and European country depending on how one looks at it. By its political inclinations and membership in the European Union, Cyprus is a European country. However, it is an Asian country as per its geographical placement. This makes Cyprus a transcontinental country.
Is Cyprus in Europe or Asia?
Cyprus is sometimes placed in Europe, Asia or even the Middle East. Geographically, Cyprus is closer to Asia but is historically and culturally a European country.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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