Cyprus, The Island of Love, the island where the goddess of beauty and love, Aphrodite, emerged full blown from the sea, is a republic of dichotomy today, love and hate. At the same time it presents the United Nations with one of its perennial seemingly insoluble problems, it also sets a mark for enterprise and self financing few countries can match.
Free Cyprus, as the southern 60 percent of the island governed by Greek Cypriots is known to its population, has staged a stunning comeback from the dark days of 1974. In July of that year, the Turkish Army landed in northern Cyprus. In a week, the Turks drove out all the Greek Cypriots living north of an arbitrary line encompassing 40 percent of the island nation. The Occupied Zone as this northern sector is called by Greek Cypriots is indeed still occupied by 30,000 Turkish troops protecting the 20 percent of the population of Cyprus counted as Turkish Cypriots.Some 200,000 Greek Cypriots fled their homes on just a few hours notice as the Turks advanced. Many of these people were wealthy, established business people and administrators. They got out with just their Mercedes and sought safety in the south.
The Turks immediately seized all Greek Cypriot assets in the main branches of Cypriot banks which were mostly located in the northern industrial area. It was only an immediate international effort by the Cyprus and Greek governments that all Cyprus foreign assets be frozen and Cyprus currency be immediately dishonored throughout the world that prevented the Turks from totally looting the Cyprus economy.
Before the Turkish invasion, which the Turks called a "peace offensive," the beachside city of Farmagusa had just been completed. New hotels of all rank, from economy to luxury, lined the white sands of this Cyprus version of Miami Beach. The hotels were virtually all owned by Greek Cypriots who had arranged financing and invested their own capital in what was becoming the most complete resort in the Mediterranean. Then, after the invasion, Farmagusa was declared in Turkish occupied territory. The hotels were closed and today the empty shells are still deteriorating in the sun.
In 1975 Free Cyprus was a hollow economy with only its beauty, its varied scenery from beaches to mountains offering snow skiing in the winter, and its 4,000 year old history and partially restored ruins as assets. The Republic of Cyprus had only 3,000 beds to offer the tourists bringing in badly needed foreign exchange. But Cypriots are nothing if not resourceful.
Today, 12 years after the invasion, there are 33,000 beds in every category and price range. Thirty percent of hotel guests in Cyprus come from Great Britain to vacation in this former British colony.
As a colonial heritage, English is the second language here. Air charter flights from six different British airports and from Sweden fly in and out of Cyprus' Larnica Airport daily from May to October. Scandinavian, French, German, and Swiss visitors also swell the tourist tide and the economy booms, totally without any U.S. contribution other than U.S. foreign aid.
Alecos Michaelides, a Greek Cypriot who in 1974 lost his newly opened luxury hotel in Farmagusa to the invading Turks, has put the newest coast resort town of Paphos on the map for the first time since Aphrodite sprang
from the waves here in the days of the gods.
"The most challenging thing I ever did in my life," he said "was when I came to Paphos as a refugee and opened the Paphos Beach Hotel at a time when free Cyprus was a vast refugee camp and there was not even an airport operating." In 1985 he opened the super luxury hotel Annabelle and a third hotel is just starting construction.
Richard the Lion Heart of Britain, who was married on Cyprus, once said, ''I would go back to Cyprus if only for the wine." Today the wine industry is robust and KEO, the prime vintner located at Limossol on the southern coast, produces one of the tangiest dry white wines, Bellapaise, this writer has ever sampled.
Greek Cypriot families are increasingly sending their children abroad to school and college. The United States is becoming the first choice for training young Cypriots to handle the future of their country. Mr. Michaelides
went to Georgia Tech, but he's sending his son Thanos to Brandeis in Massachusetts.
It should be noted that considerable fiscal imagination is being employed in the occupied sector of Cyprus by Turkish Cypriots. While there is little or no heavy construction, and after 12 years the Turks have not figured out how to capitalize on Farmagusa and its empty hotels, procedures requiring ingenuity rather than physical work are being employed to make small and large fortunes.
The Turks wisely banned Interpol and other police units from operating in its occupied zone. Thus in the early years of the occupation, a lively trade in antiquities and,particularly early Christian icons in which the Moslem Turks saw no value, took place between northern Cyprus and the dealers and auction galleries in London and New York.
In one case a Christie's catalogue for an auction of ancient Cyprus artifacts was brought to the attention of the Greek Cypriot refugee, a lawyer who had left his priceless collection behind when he fled the Turks. He was one of the few collectors who was able to effect the return of that part of his collection that was consigned to Christie's.
While in Free Cyprus no digging or underwater exploration is permitted, in the north new artifacts are constantly being unearthed or taken from the bottom of the sea and spirited out via private yacht and transported to London and New York.
A particularly ingenious method of smuggling top quality Turkish heroin
from Occupied Cyprus to London has only recently been discovered by the authorities. It seems the Moslems in England are permitted to import gravestones from Cyprus where they are cut, from a particularly porous limestone and consecrated by Moslem mullahs.
It is possible to cut the stones in half lengthwise and stuff the porous material with up to four kilos (8.8 pounds) of pure heroin and they are rejoined send them to the bereaved sons of the prophet in Great Britain.
There are, of course, many totally legitimate businesses operating in Occupied Cyprus. The Turkish government has sent approximately 50,000 new settlers from Anatolia to enhance the Turkish Cypriot population. One particularly successful entrepreneur hit upon the idea of importing Japanese sewing machines and distributing them to the new women settlers who pay for them at double or triple their cost by sewing shirts mass cut in London. By the time these women have earned their sewing machines the shirt manufacturer has made himself another fortune.
What the outcome of the divided Cyprus situation will be may be decided at meetings between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders with the Secretary General of the United Nation during the last week of September. However, since a solution has eluded all mediators for the past 12 years it is probable that Free Cyprus will go on developing as it has in the field of tourism and industry and Occupied Cyprus will continue to develop more profitable schemes that could only be possible under its present system of minimum international supervision.