NEWS

Cyprus poll about Denktash policy

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash sees himself as a man standing fast against an unreasoning world, guardian of a tiny state isolated and worn down by international sanctions. Yesterday’s parliamentary election in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus was focused not on party politics but on Denktash’s hawkish stance against a UN blueprint to reunify Cyprus. To some diplomats this bald, rotund, vivacious man has been the chief obstacle to reconciliation on the island, which was partitioned almost three decades ago. But Denktash, 79, radiates an assurance that it is the world, not the Turkish Cypriot, that is askew. The Turks, he argues, were the main victims of intercommunal bloodshed in the 1960s, yet the world ignored their plight and recognized Greek Cypriots as the island’s masters. «They’ve done us wrong,» he once said of the international community. «They must put it right.» The dispute between the two communities dates back to the days before independence from Britain in 1960. They could share a joke, enjoy a meal together, exchange greetings or condolences, but underlying suspicion was always there. «I know their souls inside and out,» Denktash told Reuters, speaking of Greek Cypriots. Their goal, he believes, is still union with Greece and the banishment of Turks from Cyprus. Denktash was educated in London as a barrister before returning to the ferment of Cyprus, where he helped found a Turkish-Cypriot paramilitary group, the TMT. The group opposed the Greek-Cypriot EOKA which waged a guerrilla war on the British in the 1950s for Enosis, or union with Greece. In July 1974, Greek Cypriots bent on union staged a coup with the backing of the military then ruling Greece. Within days Turkey invaded and seized the island’s northern third. Denktash’s critics on both sides of the divide see him as a Turkish patriot rather than a Cypriot. «I am a Turk who lives in Cyprus,» he once said.