Rauf Denktash janvier 16, 2012Posted by Acturca in Europe du Sud-Est, Histoire, Turquie.
Tags: Cyprus, Histoire, Orbituries, Rauf Denktas, Rauf Denktash, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Turquie
The Daily Telegraph (London, UK) Monday, January 16, 2012, p. 29
Turkish Cypriot leader for half a century who declared independence for his people and survived several assassination attempts
Rauf Denktash, the former President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, who has died aged 87, led the Turkish Cypriots for nearly half a century and steadfastly defended their right to self-determination.
Denktash reflected the deep distrust felt by the 160,000-strong Turkish Cypriot population about the ambitions of the Greek Cypriots. It was a distrust born in the years of struggle against British colonial rule and hardened between 1963 and 1974, the years of inter-communal violence that followed independence. During those years many Turkish Cypriots lost their lives and a quarter of their population fled their homes. They lived in defended enclaves for the next 11 years and were attacked by the more numerous Greek Cypriots in 1964, 1967 and 1974.
Denktash: ‘My vision of Cyprus is a place where my grandchildren can grow up free from fear. Preserving the peace is the question’
After the Athens-backed coup of 1974 which replaced Cyprus’s first president, Archbishop Makarios, with the former Greek Cypriot nationalist terrorist Nicos Sampson, it was Denktash who persuaded Turkey to invoke its powers of intervention as guarantor of the constitution. Turkey landed troops in the northern part of Cyprus, subsequently extending their control over about a third of the island, and 200,000 Greek Cypriots fled to the South.
Since then the status of Cyprus has become one of the thorniest problems of international affairs. As one British diplomat observed, the Cyprus problem was that no Turkish Cypriot could ever forget the period 1963-74, and no Greek Cypriot could remember it.
Once established, the 35,000-strong Turkish military presence on the island, neutralising the equally strong Greek and Greek Cypriot forces in the South, gave Denktash a stronger position in UN-sponsored negotiations. Yet he was no puppet of Ankara. When, in November 1983, he proclaimed Northern Cyprus’s independence, it was as much an act of defiance directed at the government of mainland Turkey as it was symbolic of his determination that the island should never be reunited under Greek Cypriot control.
Failure to resolve the constitutional issue became a huge thorn in the flesh of Turkish governments looking for closer ties with the EU; but Denktash gambled – correctly – that Turkish governments could not afford to alienate Turkish public opinion by abandoning the Turkish Cypriots.
No country other than Turkey recognised the legitimacy of the new Turkish Cypriot republic, and, as a result of a Greek Cypriot-inspired international blockade, it suffered economically and became dependent on huge subsidies from the mainland. But if some questioned whether Denktash was truly representative of Turkish Cypriot opinion, his victory in successive presidential elections from 1983 to 2000 put the matter beyond all doubt.
Rauf Denktash was born on January 27 1924 at the village of Ktima, near Paphos, Cyprus, the son of a judge. From the English School, Nicosia, he went on to study Law at Lincoln’s Inn in London. During the Blitz he served as an airraid warden and helped to save Lincoln’s Inn Hall from destruction.
After the war he practised as a prosecuting barrister in Nicosia, where he met the young Greek Cypriot defence lawyer (later President) Glafkos Clerides. He and Clerides would later become involved as representatives on opposite sides in the negotiations on Cyprus’s future. They remained personal friends despite their political differences, as was, and is, the case with many Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
By the time Denktash became Solicitor General in 1956, he was already involved in politics. He served as a member of the Consultative Assembly in search of self-government for Cyprus and as a member of the Turkish Affairs Committee in 1948. During the 1950s he helped to establish the TMT, the Turkish Cypriot paramilitary group set up to oppose the Greek Cypriot EOKA that was waging guerrilla war against British colonial rule and the Turkish Cypriots, with the aim of making Cyprus a Greek Cypriot island and annexing it to mainland Greece.
In the negotiations that preceded independence, Denktash advised the Turkish government during the preparation of the Zurich Agreement of 1958, and in 1959 led the Turkish Cypriot delegation at the London Conference, at which the establishment of a bi-communal partnership state was endorsed by the two peoples of Cyprus and by Turkey, Greece and Great Britain.
There was some surprise when Denktash was not nominated as a member of the provisional government of 1959-60, but he preferred to stay on as head of the Turkish Cypriot committee to draft the new constitution. After the assembly elections of 1960, he was elected president of the Turkish Communal Chamber.
Denktash always saw himself as the defender of the constitution against Greek Cypriot ambitions for majority rule and "Enosis" (union with Greece). During the early years of independence he spoke out strongly against revived demands for Enosis, dismissed Greek Cypriot claims that the constitution was unworkable and opposed proposals by Makarios in November 1963 to remove the entrenched clauses of the Constitution and abolish the separate Turkish municipalities in the five main towns. The issue was taken to the Supreme Court, which ruled against Makarios, who then implemented the "Akritas" plan. The Turkish Cypriots have always maintained that since that date there has been no lawful "Government of Cyprus".
The Greek Cypriots attacked the Turkish Cypriots at Christmas the same year, and Denktash led his deputies in withdrawing from the assembly in protest at constitutional violations by their opponents. While travelling abroad in 1964, he was denied permission to return to Cyprus and remained in exile in Turkey. In 1967 he attempted to return in a small boat and was nearly drowned. He was arrested on landing, imprisoned by Makarios, and later sent back to Turkey.
After a further armed attack on Turkish Cypriot enclaves, in 1967 the crisis of a threatened Turkish invasion finally convinced Makarios that further attempts to grab Enosis by force would almost certainly be counterproductive, and Denktash was allowed to return to represent the Turkish Cypriot side in negotiations. In 1968 he became vice-president of the Turkish-Cypriot "transitional administration", a provisional government set up to administer the Turkish Cypriot enclaves.
To begin with, there were hopes that Denktash and Clerides would achieve a compromise on the vexed question of separate Turkish municipalities, but the Makarios government could not accept de jure separateness, which had been included in the Constitution precisely to prevent Greek Cypriot domination. Discussions continued unresolved until the Greek-orchestrated coup of July 15 1974.
After the Turkish intervention, Denktash was elected President of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus in 1975. He had wanted to declare full independence, but was held back by Ankara for fear of international repercussions.
This did not always stop him. In 1981 he attacked controversial negotiations between Britain and the Greek Cypriots over payment of aid in compensation for the two sovereign British military bases which had remained on the island. He considered that the Turkish Cypriots were entitled to some of the international aid given to Cyprus.
Denktash immediately threatened that sanctions would be taken against British interests in Cyprus if any money was paid to the Cyprus government, led by the Greek Cypriot President Spyrou Kyprianou, without an equal share going to the Turkish Federated State. Denktash said that 240 British residents in the north would be prevented from crossing the dividing "green line" to buy meat and vegetables in the south which were not available to Turkish Cypriots in the north. The British high commissioner would also find his movements curtailed.
Such threats came to nothing, but it was clear that Denktash was determined to battle for a fair deal for his people. As such he became a target for terrorists and escaped assassination several times.
In 1986, for example, he claimed that an attempt was made to murder him while he was staying at a London hotel. When he answered his room telephone there was a small explosion in the mouthpiece. "Something hit the back of my throat and my mouth was filled with vapour. I felt I was going to suffocate," he said.
Denktash claimed that he slammed down the receiver and ran to his bathroom and vomited. He coughed up a tiny red pellet, which a Turkish doctor said was a cyanide capsule. Vomiting, the medic said, had saved Denktash’s life. Scotland Yard was called in and the pellet examined by a government chemist, who maintained that there was no sign of any toxic substance.
In the end, despite objections from mainland Turkey and the prospect of continued diplomatic isolation, Denktash went ahead and declared independence, cementing the divisions on the island but providing instead what he insisted was more important – security. "My vision of Cyprus is a place where my grandchildren can grow up free from fear," he said. "Preserving the peace is the question which must realistically be faced."
He chose to declare independence during an interregnum between military rule and civilian government in Ankara, when there was no one in authority to slap him down. The new constitution of November 1983 was passed without opposition by the Turkish Cypriot assembly, making it almost impossible for Ankara to set it aside. The proclamation of independence emphasised that the declaration of statehood was a manifestation of the right of self-determination of the Turkish Cypriot people.
Years of violence against them had hardened attitudes within the Turkish Cypriot population, and throughout the long and fruitless negotiations which followed the Turkish intervention, Denktash was called "Mr No". Time and again peace talks foundered on his insistence that the Greek Cypriots should never again take control of the whole island. He insisted on a continuing Turkish military presence as a guarantee of security, because UN troops had failed to protect the Turkish Cypriots in 1964, 1967 and 1974.
Denktash was disappointed by his failure to achieve international recognition for the Turkish Cypriot state. In the wake of the EU’s 1997 decision to open negotiations with the Greek Cypriot government on Cyprus’s entry into the EU, Denktash cut off all inter-communal contacts in Cyprus, and demanded international recognition of the North as a legal and separate entity, and the withdrawal of Cyprus’s EU application. Though invited to participate in the accession negotiations by the Greek Cypriots and the EU, he refused to participate as he regarded the application as contrary to the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee.
His basic contention remained the same as it had been during the early 1960s: the Greek Cypriots had repudiated the 1960 constitution, therefore they could not invoke the constitution to claim to be the government of the whole island.
But things were changing. In the early years of this century, Denktash found that his position was no longer quite so popular. Increasing isolation was taking its toll on Turkish Cypriots – residents of an economic wasteland and owners of useless, unrecognised passports.
Denktash’s people looked with increasing envy across the barbed wire at their Greek Cypriot counterparts, who were about to reap what were then seen as the diplomatic and financial rewards of EU membership. Understanding that some form of reunification was the only way to share in these spoils, Turkish Cypriots began demonstrations calling for the island’s divisions to be torn down. That message was underscored when Denktash’s party suffered in municipal elections in 2003. Suddenly reunification, for so long a wearisome, doomed diplomatic goal, seemed within grasp – and soon. There was a pressing deadline: the Greek side of the island was due to become one of 10 new EU members on May 1 2004. Any reunification deal needed to be sealed by a popular vote before then.
Talks duly got under way in February 2004, under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and the agreement was put to separate referendums on the two sides of the island on April 24. Until that point it had been the Turkish Cypriots, led by Denktash, who had monopolised the reputation for intransigence on the island. Although Denktash opposed the Annan plan, 65 per cent of Turkish Cypriots gave it their backing, and it seemed that decades of dispute and division were coming to an end – at least for a time.
But Denktash’s resistance was equalled by Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, who appeared on television making an emotional speech denouncing the Annan proposal just days before it went to the vote. Secure in the fact that they would accede come what may to the EU, and its benefits, 75 per cent of Greek Cypriots voted against reunification. Distraught diplomats and EU officials rounded on Papadopoulos, with the EU enlargement commissioner Gunter Verheugen going so far as to say he "felt cheated" and that "a shadow" had fallen over Greek Cypriot accession.
Denktash, meanwhile, came under pressure to resign, which he refused to do. Instead, he completed his term, and in April 2005 Mehmet Ali Talat was elected president in his place. Denktash was awarded Turkey’s State Medal of Honour.
Stocky but imposingly rotund, Denktash was in private an affable and charming man. At home in the beautiful but unpretentious former residence of the British district commissioner of Nicosia, he cultivated his image as a man of the people; his diversions included gardening, cooking, photography and breeding canaries.
Denktash was re-elected president in 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000. A heart attack in 1998 forced him to reduce his commitments to two or three days a week; but he maintained his hold on the affections of the Turkish Cypriot people and to the end of his life his picture looked down benignly in many homes in the northern part of the island.
He married, in 1949, Aydin Munir, with whom he had three sons and two daughters; two of his sons predeceased him.
Rauf Denktash, born January 27 1924, died January 13 2012.