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.
North declares independence
In 1983 the Turkish-held area declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The status of Northern Cyprus as a separate entity is recognised only by Turkey, which 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. But hopes of larger progress continued to be disappointed.
Hopes on hold
A revised UN reunification plan was put to both communities in April 2004. Turkish Cypriots endorsed the plan but Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected it, and so the island remained divided as it joined the EU in May.
Hopes rose again briefly after the election of leftwing Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who agreed to talks on reunification with the new Communist president of Cyprus, Demetris Christophas, in 2008. The victory of nationalists at parliamentary and later presidential elections in the north over the following two years brought talks to an end.
After independence from Britain in 1960, Cyprus successfully diversified its largely agrarian economy into one based on services – including a large tourism sector – and light manufacturing. More recently it has also developed into an important financial hub, especially for investors from Russia and Eastern Europe.
But in 2012, Cyprus' economy was badly hit by its extensive exposure to recession-hit economy of Greece, and the country was forced to seek emergency help from international lenders.