NEWS

54,000 settlers in Cyprus poll

Officials in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus have granted voting rights to over 50,000 Turkish settlers since the 1974 invasion, a high Turkish-Cypriot official was quoted as saying yesterday. Mehmet Alpayrak, who is responsible for interior affairs in the north, said a total of 54,000 settlers have been naturalized as Turkish Cypriots, according to an Athens News Agency report that quoted remarks by Alpayrak in the Turkish-Cypriot Kipris newspaper. Opposition parties and Nicosia accuse Turkish-Cypriot leaders of handing out citizenship to large numbers of mainland Turks living in the north ahead of the December 14 vote for a house of representatives. Settlers closely back Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in his rejection of United Nations reunification plans. Alpayrak said 600 people had been naturalized over the past month. According to the Council of Europe, which in June called for an end to Turkish colonization of Cyprus, settlers in the north number 115,000. Meanwhile, Turkish-Cypriots number around 87,000, down from 118,000 in 1974.