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Cyprus - Overview

Capital: Nicosia

Population: 780,133 (July 2005 est.)

Languages: Greek, Turkish, English

Religions: Greek Orthodox 78%, Muslim 18%, Maronite, Armenian Apostolic, and other 4%

Currency: Greek Cypriot area: Cypriot pound (CYP); Turkish Cypriot area: Turkish lira (TRL)

Timezone: GMT+2

Cyprus is an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, south of Turkey. Formerly a British colony, it achieved independence in 1960.

Cyprus' landscape includes forest-covered mountain masses with the Messaoria Plain in the interior as well as rugged coastlines and sandy beaches. The central Troodos Mountains rise to almost 1950m (6400ft), and skiing is popular here in winter. The quaint, historical capital of Nicosia, which dates back to the bronze age, is located in the middle of the Messaoria. Limassol, in the south-east of the island, is the main port and a major tourist centre. Other major towns in the Republic of Cyprus include Paphos and Larnaca, also popular tourist locations.

Conflicts between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority in Cyprus have necessitated the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces on Cyprus since 1964. In 1983 the Turkish area to the north of the island declared itself the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus', but only Turkey recognizes this as an independent state. The island and the capital remains divided, with only the Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, being recognized internationally. The UN-patrolled 'Green Line' still divides the island. Despite the long-standing conflict, the political situation in Cyprus is relatively stable and civil disorder is very rare.

There are many UN-employed expatriates living in Cyprus, as well as the employees of foreign companies and self-employed consultants, many attracted by Cyprus' favourable off-shore business benefits. Northern Cyprus has long been a favoured location among British visitors and settlers, and is increasing in popularity as stability is maintained on the island and people become less concerned about buying property here. Northern Cyprus seems to be preferred over the Republic of Cyprus for settlement, due to a lower cost of living and more favourable climate.

Cyprus enjoys a relatively low crime rate, although petty thefts and burglaries are reported as being on the increase.

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