Turkish-Cypriot rift blocks talks again

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The Independent Online
IF THE United Nations had any illusions left about the success of its plans to reunify Cyprus, the uncompromising nature of the problem has been starkly revealed by an extraordinary feud between two leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community.

Progress in talks between the 18 per cent Turkish Cypriot minority and the Greek Cypriot majority, divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974, will have to await the outcome of elections later this year in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

It was almost with the relief of a confession that the Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister, Dervis Eroglu, rejected all but marginal adjustment to Turkish military occupation of the northern third of the island. This populist position holds that the solution to the Cyprus problem is an acknowledgement of the status quo, during which only three or four Turkish or Greek Cypriots have died since 1974.

'After 10 years I have to say the truth . . . so that future generations can live in peace,' Mr Eroglu said in an interview. 'We shouldn't be thinking of gaining time. We should have an agreement on two states . . . forcing the two communities together could bring a bloodbath.'

Mr Eroglu's coming clean has infuriated Rauf Denktash, the Turkish community's veteran leader. On 6 July, Mr Denktash resigned as chief negotiator and is threatening to resign as president, angry at Mr Eroglu's candour. 'It destroyed everything,' Mr Denktash said. 'Basically we may be very close in evaluation of the situation. But I am not accepting his tactics of making a fool of me . . . while federation is still on the table.'

Most Turkish Cypriots believe the dispute between the two men is a simple power struggle, as Mr Denktash prepares for retirement and his 33-year-old son launches his own political party. But involving the Cyprus problem in a Turkish Cypriot domestic dispute will complicate a situation that has stumped the UN for 30 years.

Mr Denktash has long tried to consolidate northern Cyprus and its isolated economy of 171,000 people. He has kept talks going with the offer to the Greek Cypriots to return territory, including most of Varosha (Maras in Turkish), an uninhabited strip of more than 100 hotels and flats along the island's best beach, south of Famagusta.

Such a return was envisaged in the UN's latest package of ideas, along with re-opening Nicosia airport to both communities. Mr Denktash denied he had agreed to this, but said he might consider it in return for an end to the international embargo and non-recognition of his territory. This is unlikely. The Greek Cypriots have refused to recognise any aspect of Turkish Cypriot sovereignty.