Sunday, April 17, 2005

The one that got away?

Although, nominally, Cyprus is one of the latest members of the European Union, the writ of the EU runs only in the internationally recognised south and not the breakaway state in the north, which is recognised only by Turkey.

Yesterday, however - a day before elections for a new Turkish Cypriot leader - the head of the self-proclaimed state in the north of the divided island has warned that his likely successor would be committing treason if he did not protect Turkish Cypriot independence.

Rauf Denktash, the 81-year-old president and founder of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, is not running in Sunday's election. But he has told the front-runner, Mehmet Ali Talat, who supports reunification with Greek Cypriots in the south, that he must swear to protect Turkish Cypriot independence.

"Whoever is elected will take the oath of office, which demands that the republic, its independence, its sovereignty will be protected, cherished and improved," Denktash has told Associated Press. "If they don't they will be committing a constitutional offence of treason and this country will not be a peaceful country."

Talat strongly backed a UN-supported plan to unite the divided island, which was approved by the majority of Turkish Cypriots in a referendum, but Denktash is adamant about what his possible successor must do. "No one has the right to give him the mandate of selling out the republic or its independence," he told AP.

So far, the Greek Cypriots in the south have been the main obstacle to reunification, but feelings still remain strong in the North of the island that merging the two parts of the island could end up with the people of the North becoming "colonial subjects of Greece".

Clearly a success by Talat today could bring reunification that much closer, but there is still a possibility that Northern Cyprus could be the one that got away.

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