Posted January 13th, 2012 at 8:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Rauf Denktash was a Turkish Cypriot politician and leader of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

He was born January 27, 1924, just a year before Cyprus became a British Colony. He was the son of a judge who worked in the British administration.

After graduating from the English high school in Nicosia in 1941, he worked as an English teacher and court interpreter before studying law in London. He returned to Cyprus in 1948 to work as government lawyer and prosecutor, who became involved in the growing Cypriot Turkish movement for self-determination.

Early in life he began to write articles on the problems of the Turkish ethnic community on the majority-Greek island, especially at the time when many Greeks wanted unification of the island with Greece.

By the late 1960s, Denktash had become the spokesman for the Turkish Cypriot case in the international arena, defending his community's interests.

When Cyprus became independent from Britain in 1960, the constitution stipulated that political power would be shared proportionately between the Greek and Turkish communities, each with its own legislature. Denktash was elected president of the Turkish Cypriot communal chamber as well as president of the executive committee.

But the constitutional arrangements failed to work smoothly and then President Makarios shelved the constitution in 1963. As a result, fighting broke out between the two communities in December.

Subsequent negotiations were unsuccessful and in 1974, the Greek National Guard staged a coup against President Makarios with the idea of enforcing the island's unification with Greece. But the action led to intervention by Turkey and the occupation of the island's north. Denktash was the leader of that community, which proclaimed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in November of 1983. Only Turkey has recognized the de facto independent state. Denktash was elected its president for three consecutive terms.

But in his later years, many Turkish Cypriots came to view his insistence on a separate state as an obstacle to a settlement that would lift them out of international economic and political isolation.

The United Nations-sponsored peace talks have failed to produce a lasting settlement for the island and in 2004, the Greek-held Cyprus joined the European Union alone.

Denktash stepped down in 2005, but remained a respected public figure.