Rauf Denktas, the former Turkish Cypriot leader whose determined pursuit of a separate state for his people and strong opposition to the divided island's reunification defined a political career spanning six decades, has died. He was 87.
Dr. Charles Canver, who treated Denktas for his heart condition, said he died late Friday of multiple organ failure at Near East University Hospital in Lefkosa. He had been in poor health since suffering a stroke last May.
Denktas' death comes in the middle of yet another diplomatic drive to reunify Cyprus, which has been split along ethnic lines since 1974.
Denktas had maintained the Turkish Cypriots needed a separate state to preserve peace and avoid a return to what he called massacres of Turkish Cypriots at the hands of the majority Greek Cypriots.
His dedication to the partitionist cause made him a hero to many Turkish Cypriots.
Born in Paphos, which is in today's Greek Cyprus, on Jan. 24, 1924, the London-trained lawyer rose to prominence as a leading figure in the Turkish Cypriot community during the tumultuous period in the 1960s and 1970s when inter-communal conflict claimed hundreds of Cypriot lives.
He blocked efforts to reunite the island, claiming that unification would open the way for Greek Cypriot domination and raise the threat of renewed violence.
He proclaimed the independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) in 1983.
Backed by Ankara and the powerful military establishment whose respect he commanded, Denktas argued for a two-state solution in defiance of international support for a federation.
Denktas' dominance of Turkish Cypriot politics was reflected in his victory in every presidential election between 1983 and 2000.
Denktas left politics in 2005 after announcing that he would not seek re-election. But as a respected elder statesman, he continued to be a very vocal supporter of a two-state solution.