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 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 20:36 GMT
Profile: Rauf Denktash
Rauf Denktash and Glafcos Clerides shake hands as a UN envoy watches, Jan 2002
Mr Denktash met the Greek Cypriot leader face-to-face
Rauf Denktash has been the key figure in the Turkish community of Cyprus for more than 30 years.

Now in his fourth five-year term as president of the unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, he has been a leader of the community since the 1960s.

But the veteran politician now faces challenges to his leadership from two different directions - from his people and his patron.

Turkish Cypriots demonstrate in favour of unification with the Greek part of the island
Thousands marched against Mr Denktash's policy
Some 30,000 Turkish Cypriots demonstrated against his policy towards Greek Cyprus at the end of December, and a week later, the Turkish Government signalled that it, too, was ready for a shift.

The pressure from above and below may finally force a change from a man who has remained in power as successive efforts by the United Nations, the United States, the European Union (EU) and Britain failed to reunify the island.

Long presidency

Mr Denktash became president of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.

He declared independence a decade later and became president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Turkey, in 1983.

Speaking at the United Nations in 1998
Mr Denktash addressed the United Nations in 1998
He was born in Cyprus, and trained first as a teacher and then as a barrister at Lincoln's Inn in London. He returned home to practise as a lawyer and worked as a crown prosecutor before Cyprus won independence from Britain in 1960.

He began representing the minority Turkish community at international conferences in 1963.

He helped form TMT, a Turkish Cypriot paramilitary group opposed to union with Greece, against which the EOKA Greek Cypriot guerrillas were fighting.

In 1973, Mr Denktash was elected vice-president of the Republic of Cyprus.

After the Turkish invasion, he formed the National Unity Party, and in the following year he was elected President of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus as the island was split into two sections.

Years of effort

Efforts by the UN, the US, the EU and Britain failed to reunite the island as Mr Denktash won four successive presidential elections to lead the minority 170,000 Turkish Cypriot population, protected by 35,000 Turkish troops.

In 1994, the EU imposed a trade embargo, and that - along with 200% inflation - brought the economy to the edge of economic ruin.

Greek-Cypriot woman with pictures of her missing relatives
More than 1,500 Greek Cypriots have been missing since the Turkish invasion
A year later Mr Denktash threatened to unite his republic with Turkey if the EU accepted an application for membership from the Greek Cypriot Government.

The desire of both Cyprus and Turkey to join the European Union has given an impetus to efforts at reaching a settlement to the long-standing problem of a divided island.

Personal meetings

Mr Denktash and his Greek-Cypriot counterpart, Glafcos Clerides, embarked on a series of face-to-face talks in 2001 which failed to achieve a major breakthrough.

There were hopes for an agreement on the sidelines of the EU Copenhagen summit at the end of 2002, but Mr Denktash failed to attend, claiming illness following heart surgery.

The EU issued an invitation to Cyprus to become a member, and asked the two sides to settle their conflict by the end of February 2003.

If no agreement is reached by then, only the majority Greek Cypriot section of the island will join the EU.

Greek Cypriots want the island reunified as a single state, while Mr Denktash wants a looser arrangement linking two independent states.

The latest UN plan combines elements of both positions.


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02 Jan 03 | Europe
15 Nov 02 | Europe
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