29 July 2003

Settlers in north Cyprus could bloc settlement

Cyprus has ratified its forthcoming membership in the European Union, but the benefits will not apply to the breakaway north, as indicated in this Associated Press report. Although Turkish Cypriots overwhelmingly favour the island's reunification, their leader Rauf Denktash does not and may have a way to stay in power despite their contrary wishes.

Turkish Cypriots staged mass demonstrations earlier this year demanding the resignation of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for rejecting a United Nations reunification plan that would enable a unified Cyprus to join the EU next May.

Turkish Cypriot opposition parties saw the demonstrations as a sign they may defeat the hardliner Denktash in December's presidential election.

But they fear their victory may be blocked by the increasing influx to the north of thousands of impoverished settlers from mainland Turkey who are granted voting rights on arrival.

The continued presence of these illegal settlers from Anatolia could obstruct unification. On the other hand, it is well known that Turkish Cypriots are not famously fond of their mainland counterparts, whose unwanted presence could conceivably be a catalyst for their coming to terms with Greek Cypriots.

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