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Denktash to be buried on Tuesday
FORMER TURKISH Cypriot leader and flag-bearer of Turkish Cypriot independence, Rauf Denktash died last night, announced his family and doctors.
The 88-year-old, who played a massive role in the many twists and turns of the decades-old Cyprus problem, died just after 10pm in the Near East University hospital in the north. His family was by his side.
His death was announced by doctors and his son at a press conference.
“He had the soul of a fighter,” his son, Serdar Denktash, said in a live TV broadcast.
Denktash had spent several weeks in hospital in 2011 following a stroke. He had experienced deteriorating health for the past decade but was hospitalised last May after suffering a stroke. He spent most of the summer in intensive care in Turkey.
In early September his condition was described as critical though by October he was released to continue his recovery at home. Last month, the 88-year-old was seen taking a stroll around the university hospital.
On January 5 he was admitted to hospital with dehydration which rapidly developed into multiple organ failure.
Yesterday, his condition deteriorated rapidly. In the morning, he was put on a respirator though by afternoon, suffering multiple organ failure, doctors put him on a kidney dialysis machine.
He will be given a ‘state’ funeral on Tuesday.
Considered the architect of the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’, Denktash was clearly a controversial figure in local and international politics, who attracted a wide range of views and emotions from anyone ever connected to the Cyprus problem since the 1950s, taking in presidents and prime ministers, a long line of UN Secretary-Generals and almost everyone of a certain age from both communities on the island.
His daughter Ender was quoted by Anatolu news agency saying that the day before he died, Denktash tried to tell her something in Greek during the night, calling the name of President Demetris Christofias.
She could not understand so he explained to her to tell Christofias and other Greek Cypriot leaders that “this is an independent republic” in reference to the breakaway regime.
According to Ender, the former leader spoke about territorial adjustments and questioned how rehousing people who had to be moved could ever work.
Denktash started life in Paphos in 1924 but soon rose to become a capable lawyer with a shrewd mind that would at times be pitted against another sharp lawyer, Glafcos Clerides, in the trials against EOKA fighters during British colonial rule. The two later became on and off sparring partners over a period spanning decades in the Cyprus peace talks, each representing their community.
Denktash was also infamous among Greek Cypriots for being a co-founder of the Turkish Resistance Organisation (TMT) an underground body whose declared aim was to prevent union with Greece. Independence of the island was not something Denktash espoused, however, fighting most of his life instead for a separate, breakaway state of Turkish Cypriots tied very closely to ‘the motherland’ Turkey.
His ties with the ‘deep state’ in Turkey combined with political astuteness, charm and charisma kept him in power in the north for decades. That is, until the turn of the millennium, when even he was unable to feel the wind of change sweeping down the eastern Mediterranean, starting from his own beloved Turkey.
Mass demonstrations by Turkish Cypriots for peace and against his two-state solution policy led him to announce that he would not seek re-election in 2005, after spending more than half a century working with conviction for what he believed were the wishes and ambitions of the Turkish Cypriot community.