Turkey to take greater role in Cyprus

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THE DAY was billed as a celebration of a quarter of a century of peace, but it ended with provocation. Northern Cyprus marked the 25th anniversary of the Turkish invasion that tore the island in two by announcing plans yesterday for even closer ties with Turkey.

Bulent Ecevit, the veteran Turkish Prime Minister who ordered the 1974 invasion, and Rauf Denktash, the Turkish-Cypriot leader, said they would sign a new "special relationship" agreement.

The announcement came just a mile from the Green Line, which has divided the North from the Greek-Cypriot South for the past 25 years. The South was yesterday in mourning and the latest announcement will be met there with dismay. Peace hopes had been raised by a UN call for new talks in the autumn, but the North is refusing to attend unless it is internationally recognised.

After a march past of units of the 30,000-strong Turkish force stationed in the North, Mr Ecevit told a cheering crowd that the security of Northern Cyprus was vital to Ankara. "Nobody should try to test the strength of the [Turkish] army again. Nobody should test the resistance of the Turkish nation to pressure," he said.

Mr Ecevit said he sent in the troops to prevent genocide. "Turkish-Cypriots would have been annihilated," he said. And he warned the international community not to interfere. "I wish the G8 countries, and others, could just leave us alone."

Mr Denktash said the South's application to join the European Union left him no choice but to tighten links with Ankara. "[Cyprus President Glafcos] Clerides has made it clear that he wants to integrate 100 per cent with Greece through the EU," Mr Denktash said. "In response, we can only do the same, through our special relationship with Turkey."

Both Turkey and Northern Cyprus were enraged by the EU's decision to consider the South's application: the Cypriots because it was made on behalf of the whole island, over which the southern government claims sovereignty, Turkey because its own membership bid was refused. Ankara has long threatened that it will retaliate by annexing the North completely.

In reality, Northern Cyprus is already far more closely tied to Turkey than the South is to Greece, sharing Turkey's currency, postal system and telephone network. That was clear at yesterday's parades, as Turkish tanks rolled incongruously under the peace banners. It was the Turkish military that created Northern Cyprus and in the face of a continuing international boycott, it is Turkish backing alone, both economic and military, that allows the North to continue to exist.

Yesterday was as much about Turkey as about Cyprus, and the celebrations were shown live on Turkish television. At a time when Turks feel increasingly isolated from the outside world, rejected by the EU, condemned by the international community over the death sentence on the Kurdish rebel Abdullah Ocalan, the invasion of Cyprus is a Turkish success to take pride in.

With prospects for reconciliation looking slimmer than ever, Britain's special envoy to Cyprus, Sir David Hannay, formerly Britain's envoy to the UN, called Cyprus one of the world's top 10 trouble spots. "The problems are very intractable and the spirit of give and take... is not always very visible," he said yesterday.