Denktash under friendly fire

Turkey’s foreign minister launched an unusually harsh attack on Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in a newspaper interview printed yesterday, accusing him of displaying unreasonable intransigence on the Cyprus peace talks. According to an Athens News Agency report from Nicosia, Abdullah Gul’s comments were carried in the Turkish-Cypriot Yeni Duzen paper, which reprinted an interview in the Turkish press. Gul was quoted as saying that Denktash had backtracked from an agreement – which Ankara had pressed him into accepting – to put the adoption of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s peace plan to referendum. The plan, submitted late last year, was accepted by the Cypriot government but rejected by Denktash in March. Gul was quoted as saying that Denktash changed his mind when it became apparent that his community would vote for the UN peace blueprint. The foreign minister was also quoted as saying that, when Denktash told him he wanted to follow the model of the Palestinian intifada, Gul countered that while Palestinian children were throwing stones at Israeli tanks, Denktash himself had become a target for verbal assaults by young Turkish Cypriots protesting outside his residence. Gul also allegedly remarked that Ankara had not played its hand well on Cyprus, «buttering the bread» of the Cypriot government. Denktash has come under increasing criticism by American and European Union officials for rejecting the idea of new peace talks. Yesterday, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen told journalists in Nicosia that Denktash had turned down an EU plan to ease the effective trade embargo in place against the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus.

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