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Media Watch 2003

07 May 2003
Source: Guardian
Author: Helena Smith
Comment: The following article appeared in the Guardian of London on 07 May 2003
Cyprus euphoria dented by Denktas

Island's barriers eased, but not for those on blacklist

The euphoria surrounding the easing of travel restrictions on the long-divided island of Cyprus took a blow yesterday after the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, demanded that a number of "undesirable" Greek Cypriots be blacklisted from crossing into his self-declared state.

The veteran politician, who astonished peace mediators two weeks ago when he unexpectedly ordered the lifting of the barricades that divide the island, said the blacklist was now necessary to "prevent trouble".

The blacklist is expected to include Greek Cypriots known to have murdered their compatriots during the inter-communal strife that preceded the 1974 Turkish invasion, and gunmen from Eoka, the group that campaigned in the 50s and 60s for union with Greece.

"A blacklist should be in front of every policeman," Mr Denktash told the local BRT television channel.

"Such people will not pass. Something might happen, and trouble might be caused. We had said in the past that we should give blacklists to each other for freedom of movement to exist. Now the time for it has come."

Mr Denktash said he ordered police to prepare the list from "past documents" after a Greek Cypriot refugee who was returning to his village in the breakaway north was almost lynched amid accusations that he had murdered two Turkish Cypriots in 1974.

But many Turkish Cypriots - echoing resident diplomats - said the step would only spell trouble.

Since the restrictions were lifted, more than 160,000 islanders have crossed the ceasefire line in an exchange that has been noticeably free of violence.

Yesterday the blacklist, which has yet to be implemented, was roundly denounced by Mr Denktash's opponents.

Many said it would incite the Greeks to follow suit - President Tassos Papadopoulos was a prominent member of Eoka in the 50s - destroying the climate of goodwill that the mingling of the two communities had generated so far.

"Greek Cypriots killed us but Turkish Cypriots killed them as well," Feder Soyer, an MP with the opposition Republican party, told the Guardian from the Turkish half of Nicosia.

"Today I gave a speech in parliament saying that such measures will only cause problems, not solve them. Terrible things always happen in war but if the two sides want real reconciliation they are the things we have to forget."

Mirroring remarks made by President Papadopoulos, the Turkish Cypriot politician said that the lifting of the ban did not signal the end of the last dividing wall in Europe.

"What is happening is beautiful but it is not enough," Mr Soyer said. "We have to find a solution. Like this, there are no rules, and anything could happen."

Mr Denktash, the focus of international criticism for obstructing UN attempts to reunify the island this year, has ruled out restarting the peace process.

Allowing Cypriots to cross the divide that has separated them for almost 30 years is simply aimed at boosting confidence between the two communities, he maintains."