Turkish Leaders, Turkish Cypriots Mourn Former Leader Denktash

Posted January 17th, 2012 at 5:25 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Turkish leaders have joined thousands of residents of northern Cyprus to bid farewell to former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who died Friday after a long illness at 87.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were among mourners filing past Denktash's coffin Tuesday at the presidential palace on the Turkish Cypriot side of Nicosia. Prayers were held at the Selimiye Mosque.

Denktash was a staunch, lifelong advocate for a separate Turkish Cypriot state on the Mediterranean island, which has been split since 1974 when Turkey invaded a failed attempt to united the island with Greece.

Denktash founded the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983 and remained at its helm until 2005. Only Turkey recognizes it as an independent state.

Denktash's memorial service came just days ahead of a summit in New York that could decide the future of peace talks on the divided island. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to meet with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and current Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.

All talks on reunification have failed. The conflict over reunification has hampered Turkey's bid to join the European Union.