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 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 15:13 GMT
Analysis: Pressure mounts on Cypriot leader
Recep Tayyip Erdogan (l) and Rauf Denktash (both AP photos)
Mr Erdogan (l) told Mr Denktash to change his policy
BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason

Unprecedented criticism of Turkish Cypriot policy has signalled a significant change in attitude from Ankara.

The head of Turkey's governing party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, attacked Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, directly for resisting a United Nations plan to reunite Cyprus.

Mr Erdogan said things would get harder if there was no agreement by the end of February - a deadline designed to make sure Cyprus does not enter the European Union still divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

A Greek Cypriot woman holding pictures of alleged victims of Turkey's 1974 invasion
The Turkish army has supported a hard line since its 1974 invasion
But obstacles to a settlement remain.

For years the Greek Cypriots and many Western diplomats have said there would never be a Cyprus settlement without serious pressure on Rauf Denktash from Turkey.

Now that pressure has materialised, following the election of a government in Ankara led by former Islamists.

Mr Erdogan used harsh words: Cyprus was not Mr Denktash's personal business, he said, and the policies pursued for the past 30 or 40 years could not continue.

The views of Turkish Cypriots could not be brushed aside, he added, referring to a big anti-Denktash demonstration in Nicosia last week, which was itself encouraged by the political transformation in Ankara.

Many Turkish Cypriots are afraid of falling further behind the Greek Cypriots economically when Cyprus signs a treaty in April to join the European Union.

Problems ahead

But the Turkish army has supported Mr Denktash's hard line ever since it occupied the northern third of Cyprus in 1974, in response to a coup in Nicosia, engineered by the then military regime in Greece.

Greek Cypriots preparing to enter a Turkish zone
The UN plan envisages redistribution of land to the Greek majority
The UN peace plan calls for the demilitarisation of the island, including a sharp reduction in the number of Turkish troops from about 35,000 to a level matching Greek forces.

The biggest problem in the negotiations is likely to be the return of Turkish-controlled territory to the Greek Cypriots to better reflect their majority population.

Mr Denktash has described the UN proposals on territory as utter nonsense.

He also maintains that the constitutional arrangements modelled on the political structures of Switzerland would destroy the political equality of the Turkish Cypriot community.

The outcome of the negotiations to be resumed this month will depend largely on Ankara keeping up the pressure and on how fast Mr Denktash's power base crumbles.


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