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.
Cyprus Tourist Attractions
The island was effectively partitioned with the northern third inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots. A "Green Line" - dividing the two parts from Morphou through Nicosia to Famagusta - is patrolled by United Nations troops. The island's partition has been in place since 1974. Zanzibar
In 1983 the Turkish-held area declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Turkey recognises only the Turkish Cypriot authorities and keeps around 30,000 troops in the north of the island. The prospect of EU enlargement concentrated minds in the search for a settlement. UN-sponsored negotiations continued throughout 2002 and a peace plan was tabled.
Soon afterwards the EU invited Cyprus to become a member. But hopes that the island could join united were dashed when leaders of the Turkish and Greek communities failed to agree to the UN plan by the March 2003 deadline. In the months that followed travel restrictions were eased, enabling people to cross the border for the first time in nearly 30 years, raising hopes that progress might be on the way.
As EU entry approached, a revised UN reunification plan was put to both communities in twin referendums in April 2004. The plan was endorsed by Turkish Cypriots, although not by their then leader Rauf Denktash, but overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots.
Because both sides had to approve the proposals, the island remained divided as it joined the EU in May. EU laws and benefits apply only to the Greek Cypriot community. More than two years later, hopes of progress were rekindled at UN-sponsored talks between Cypriot President Tassos Papadopolous and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
The two agreed on a series of confidence-building measures and contacts between the communities. Hopes were given further impetus by the election of Demetris Christophas as president in February 2008. He immediately began talks with Mehmet Ali Talat on reuniting the country as a bizonal federal state.
Turkey has a particular interest in seeing the situation resolved as its own EU aspirations are linked to the island's future.
Cyprus map: Please mouse click on the thumbnail photos below to see an enlargement
Full name: Republic of Cyprus
Population: 855,000 (combined) (UN, 2007)
Capital: Nicosia (Lefkosia to Greek Cypriots, Lefkosa to Turkish Cypriots
Area (combined): 9,251 sq km (3,572 sq miles)
Major languages: Greek, Turkish
Major religions: Christianity, Islam
Life expectancy: 76 years (men), 82 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: Euro from 1 January 2008; Turkish lira used in north
Main exports: Clothing, potatoes, cigarettes, pharmaceuticals
GNI per capita: US $16,510 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .cy
International dialling code: +357