Skip to comments.Turkish Cypriot rally calls for end to division: Cyprus, EU, Turkey
Posted on 12/26/2002 7:25:39 PM PST by pkpjamestown
About 30,000 Turkish Cypriots took to the streets of Nicosia yesterday, calling for reunification with the Greek Cypriot majority and pressing for the resignation of their leader.
Public employees refused to work, increasing the pressure on Rauf Denktash to agree to a UN plan that could see a united Cyprus join the European Union in April 2004.
"Yes to a solution by February 28," the demonstrators chanted, invoking a deadline that the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has set for acceptance of the UN plan.
Their protest is thought to have been the biggest yet in the state that is recognised only by Turkey.
"Yes to a Cyprus settlement and the EU," they shouted, in defiance of the authorities who have prohibited public debate of the breakaway territory's future.
Protestors waved blue European Union flags and demanded the resignation of the 78-year-old Mr Denktash as riot police looked on.
"Resign! Resign! You do not represent the Turkish Cypriots," they chanted.
The demonstration coincided with the third day of a hunger strike by prominent members of the Turkish Cypriot opposition. They too are demanding that the veteran leader resign.
"There's no work and no money in the north," said Mehmet, a construction worker and one of a growing number of Turkish Cypriots to have sought employment in the south.
"Why shouldn't we live together with the Greek Cypriots? It's only Denktash who doesn't want a solution," the 50-year-old said in fluent Greek.
"If there's no agreement by February everybody will want to leave. It will be like the collapse of the Berlin Wall, you'll see, they'll come in their thousands."
Mr Denktash, who led an armed resistance movement during inter-communal fighting in the 1960s, is blamed for thwarting the UN plan.
Many see it as the best possi ble chance of ending 28 years of partition.
They fear that the hardline stance taken by Mr Denktash threatens to leave them stranded while their wealthier co-islanders enter the EU.
Cyprus was among 10 new countries that were invited to join the 15-nation bloc at the EU summit in Copenhagen earlier this month. If it accedes reunited, as other member states hope, Turkish Cypriots would be the first major Muslim population admitted to the enlarged union.
Settlement of the longstanding dispute would also help Turkey's own membership bid.
Ankara has about 35,000 troops stationed in the north and could find itself in the embarrassing situation of occupying part of the EU if joint accession is thwarted.
"The big question is whether the Turkish government can bring the necessary pressure to bear on Mr Denktash in the next two months," said Dr James Ker-Lindsey who runs a think-tank in Nicosia.
"Rauf Denktash is increasingly out of touch with his own people and what they want. Support for EU accession is extremely high among the Turkish Cypriots, he added."
European officials hope to see the two feuding communities - divided since 1974 when a coup orchestrated in Athens prompted the Turkish army to invade - reconciled.
Failure would see EU borders end at a UN-patrolled barbed wire fence. The edgy ceasefire line is manned by British troops serving with the UN troops.
Greek Cypriots, who account for about 80% of the population and 63% of its territory, applied for membership of the European Union on behalf of the whole island in 1992.
The UN-brokered peace talks are due to resume in January. In an attempt to entice the Turkish Cypriots, whose income is seven times lower than that of their compatriots across the ethnic divide, the Greek Cypriot leader, Glafcos Clerides, has promised to take economic measures in the New Year to bolster the northern part of the island.
Five Turkish Cypriots on Thursday entered a third day of a hunger strike to push for the reunification of the island.
Don't hold your breath waiting for mainland Turks to go home.
These are the same people who murdered Christians by the millions in 1915-1922, and continued well into the 1950's in Istanbul.
The warships will stay until Thursday and people will be able to visit them everyday between 14:00 16:30 hours.
The commanding officers of all ships paid a courtesy visit to Denktash. Speaking to the officers, Denktash claimed that the Cyprus government is getting ready to give a naval base to Greece. Denktash added: "We have given the answer to this.
Whatever they do, we will do the same here. If they continue this unnecessary and senseless work to turn Cyprus over to Greece, then our sea ports will be the ports of the Turkish fleet. We say this with all sincerity".
Repeating his known views and allegations Denktash said:
"Cyprus can never be Greek, this is our march. Neither 65 million Turkey nor the Turkish Cypriots will allow this". He went on and said that in order for the Turkish Cypriots to come to this point Turkey sacrificed her sons." We have Ataturk's words. I say this so that Clerides should learn this by heart: Turkey will not leave Cyprus. These are the words of Inonu as well. All the past and present presidents of Turkey have said this. These are their words".
"Had it not been a single Turk in Cyprus, again the balance established by the Treaty of Lausanne between Greece and Turkey would not had been allowed to be tilted. Otherwise the southern shores would have been closed by Greek islands. This is the reason", added Denktash, "why the Turkish leaders say: We would still have a Cyprus cause, even if you were not there".