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Buffer Zone
Jan S. Krogh's Geosite: Cyprus

The island of Cyprus has since 1974 been under control of four powers; the Republic of Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriots, the United Kingdom and the United Nations. There are four enclaves/enclaves, four tripoints, three  UN buffer zone segments, one North Cypriotic fragment, one South Cypriot fragment and the last divided capital of the world. While the southern side is a part of the European Union and Schengen, the northern part is not.  Therefore it is a very interesting area to study; Cyprus is also an island where the borders still are alive.



Area %


Population %

Areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus 5,296.2 km˛ 57.25% 838,897 67.78%
'Territory occupied by Turkish troops (TRNC) 3,355,0 km˛ 36.27% 373,161 30.15%
'Areas of the UN buffer zone (UNIFICYP) 346.0 km˛ 3.74% 10,000 0.81%
'Areas of British bases (SBA) 253.8 km˛ 2.74% 15,700 1,26%
All Cyprus 9,251.0 km˛ 100% 1,237,758 100%

The size of the TRNC population is debated.

Geography of Cyprus

Geopolitically, the island is divided into four main segments. The Republic of Cyprus, the internationally recognized government, occupies the southern three-fifths of the island. Turkey occupies the northern third of the island which it calls the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus; a de facto independent state recognised only by Turkey. The United Nations-controlled Green Line is a buffer zone that separates the two. Lastly, two bases under British sovereignty, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, are located on the southern island shore.

Geography of areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus

The Republic of Cyprus is bordering all three UN zone segments; 1) at Kokkina; 2) the main zone and 3) east of Dhekelia. The territory is divided in two parts by the Eastern Sovereign Base Area (ESBA); whereof the eastern part is making a fragment. Four Cypriot exclaves are located completely surrounded by ESBA territory and are therefore British enclaves. 

Geography of areas controlled by the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC)

The Turkish Republic of

Geography and Population of the UK Sovereign Base Areas 1), 3)

The Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, usually referred to as Western Sovereign Base Area (WSBA) and Eastern Sovereign Base Area (ESBA), are those parts of the island which have remained under British jurisdiction since the creation of an independent Republic of Cyprus in 1960. Under the 1960 Treaty of Establishment, HMG retained sovereignty over the SBAs, a total of 253,8 km˛ (123 km at Akrotiri and 130,8 at Dhekelia). However, HMG does not own most of the land. About 60% is privately owned and intensively farmed. Only 20% is MOD-owned land, with the remaining 20% being SBA Crown land (including forests, roads, rivers and Akrotiri Salt Lake (7%)).

The SBAs were retained in 1960 as military bases under British sovereignty, not as ordinary colonial territories.
This is the basic philosophy of their administration as declared by Her Majesty's Government in 'Appendix O' to the 1960 treaty with Cyprus, which provided that the British government intended:

– not to develop the Sovereign Base Areas for other than military purposes;
– not to set up and administer "colonies";
– not to create customs posts or other frontier barriers between the Sovereign Base Areas and the Republic;
– not to set up or permit the establishment of civilian commercial or industrial enterprises except insofar as these are connected with military requirements, and not otherwise to impair the economic commercial or industrial unity and life of the Island;
– not to establish commercial or civilian seaports or airports;
– not to allow new settlement of people in the Sovereign Base Areas other than for temporary purposes;
– not to expropriate private property within the Sovereign Base Areas except for military purposes on payment of fair compensation.

The bases have their own legal system, distinct from the United Kingdom and Cyprus. This consists of the laws of the Colony of Cyprus as at August 1960, amended as necessary. The laws of Akrotiri and Dhekelia are kept, as far as possible, the same as the laws of Cyprus. The Court of the Sovereign Base Areas is concerned with non-military offences committed by any person within Akrotiri and Dhekelia, and law and order is maintained by the Sovereign Base Areas Police, while military law is upheld by the Cyprus Joint Police Unit.

The boundaries of the SBAs were drawn to include the major military installations on the ground and to exclude villages and towns. There are four Republican exclaves within the Dhekelia SBA – Ormidhia, Xylotymbou, EAC Refugee Settlement and Dhekelia power station. However, as a result of the coup of 1974 and other developments over the years, about 7,000 Cypriots now live in the SBAs ('temporary purposes'). In addition, approximately 7,800 military and UK-based civilian personnel and their dependants work or live on the Bases.

The total of SBA residents was in 2011 approximately 15,700 persons: 7,700 Cypriots, 3,900 Service and UKBC personnel, of whom 3,600 live in the SBAs, and nearly 5,000 dependants, of whom over 4,400 live in the SBAs. There are also nearly 2,700 locally employed civilians.

Geography of areas controlled by the United Nations 2)

Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish-Cypriot northern region and a Greek-Cypriot southern region since 1974. UNFICYP is responsible for the area that separates the two sides, or the Buffer Zone.  The United Nation Force administrates and issues Permits for Construction in the Buffer Zone, Permits for Farming in the Buffer Zone and Permits for Short-Term Access (An Access Permit is necessary if someone needs to enter the buffer zone in an official capacity not related to working or farming on a specific plot.)

The zone - also called ‘the Green Line’ - extends approximately 180 kilometers across the island. The zone consists actually from three segments (around Kokkina; 7 km˛, main segment about 290 km˛ and eastern segment; about 40 km˛).  In some places in old Nicosia it is only a few meters wide. In other places it is a few kilometers wide. Its northern and southern limits are the lines where the belligerents stood following the ceasefire of 16 August 1974, as recorded by UNFICYP.
In the eastern part of the island, the Buffer Zone is interrupted by the British Sovereign Base Area of Dhekelia, where the UN does not operate. Another area the UN does not control is Varosha, the former resort town near Famagusta, now under the control of the Turkish military.

In line with UNFICYP’s mandate to work toward a return to normal conditions, parts of the buffer zone are farmed and/or inhabited. There are several villages or special areas (called Civil Use Areas) within the buffer zone, where more than 10,000 people live and/or work. Civilians may enter these areas freely. Elsewhere in the buffer zone, civilian movement or activity requires specific authorization from UNFICYP. Located in the eastern region of the buffer zone, Pyla is the only village where Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots live side by side. 
Other areas are largely untouched by human activity. Remnants of old villages, shops and other reminders of lives once lived are scattered throughout the zone. In old Nicosia, ‘new’ cars from the 1970s sit in an underground garage once owned by a car dealer.

UNFICYP is one of the longest-running UN Peacekeeping missions. It was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island and bring about a return to normal conditions. The Mission’s responsibilities expanded in 1974, following a coup d’etat by elements favouring union with Greece and a subsequent military intervention by Turkey, whose troops established control over the northern part of the island.

Since a de facto ceasefire in August 1974, UNFICYP has supervised the ceasefire lines; provided humanitarian assistance; and maintained a buffer zone between the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces in the north and the Greek Cypriot forces in the south. UNFICYP’s Chief of Mission also serves as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus and in that capacity leads efforts to assist the parties in reaching a comprehensive settlement.

The Civil Affairs Section of UNFICYP was established in 1998 to reflect the increasingly civilian nature of the issues confronting the mission. With a military status quo, a longstanding ceasefire and the establishment of a UN-controlled buffer zone between the opposing forces, normal civilian activities resumed throughout the island and, in recent years, increasingly in the buffer zone. 

The roots of the civil affairs function of UNFICYP can be traced back to the original mandate authorized by Security Council Resolution 186 (1964), in particular, the provision that the Force contribute to “a return to normal conditions” on the island. After the events of 1974 and the resulting displacement of large numbers of the population, UNFICYP was mandated to provide humanitarian assistance to the population all across the island (Security Council Resolutions 359 and 365 and General Assembly Resolution 3212, all of 1974). 

Since April 2003, a number of crossing points have opened up between the north and the south: two in the British Sovereign Base Area at Pergamos and Strovilia, three in Nicosia at Ayios Demotios/Metehan, Ledra Palace and Ledra Street and one west of Nicosia toward the Troodos mountains, at Astromeritis/Zodhia.

There have been five tripoint borders (whereof four still are de facto) on Cyprus (marked with green rings): TRNC-UK-UN and CY-UK-UNw in west, and CY-TRNC-UK ("de jure", de facto until 2000), TRNC-UK-UN and CY-UK-UNe in east.

1.  Geography of the The Sovereign Base Areas

2. Declaration by Her Majesty's Government regarding the administration of the sovereign base area

3. Akrotiri and Dhekelia (Wikipedia)


1. Jesper Nielsen's Boundaries of Cyprus (2003 Report)

2. Dallen J. Timothy's Border Pictures (2004 Report): Cyprus - United Kingdom

The page was first time published on 22/01/12. This page was last time updated 18/08/15 .