Erdogan to back Denktash for talks

Turkish Cypriots’ commemorations today of the 20th anniversary of their unilateral declaration of independence were marked yesterday with protests in the part of Cyprus not under Turkish military occupation. Today, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit the northern part of the island. Yesterday he denied a report in the Turkish daily Milliyet that he would try to cross the buffer zone into the southern part of the island to meet with Cypriot officials. «I don’t have such plans,» Erdogan said. Some Turkish-Cypriot opposition party sources said they were afraid Erdogan would ask them to commit themselves to retain Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in his position as negotiator in the talks aimed at reunifying the island. Opposition parties have said they will remove Denktash if they win the elections on December 14 and Denktash himself has suggested he may pull out if the parties that oppose him win by a large majority. Erdogan and his government have come out in support of Denktash lately even though they had openly questioned his obstructionist tactics, which have earned him criticism from the international community. The European Union also has warned Turkey that if it does help solve the Cyprus issue this will be a serious obstacle for its own EU ambitions. Cyprus will become a full member of the EU on May 1 but EU laws and benefits will not apply in the Turkish-occupied north.