NICOSIA — The leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots on ethnically divided Cyprus on Feb. 11 criticized a new law making the annual commemoration of a 1950 plebiscite in support of union with Greece mandatory in Greek Cypriot schools.
Mustafa Akinci called the move a “serious blow” to ongoing peace talks aimed at reunifying the island.
Akinci called on Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to publicly denounce the law. He also urged two biggest Greek Cypriot political parties — the right-wing DISY and communist AKEL, which back reunification efforts — to rescind it in Parliament.
The Turkish Cypriot leader said the law sends “a very dangerous message” to Greek Cypriot youths and raises feelings of insecurity among Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus’ Parliament on Feb. 10 approved the law — proposed by the far-right ELAM party — despite AKEL voting against and DISY abstaining.
The plebiscite is already being taught in Greek Cypriot schools. The vote in which more than 95 percent of Greek Cypriots voted in favor of union with Greece was the precursor to a 1955 armed uprising against British colonial rule.
A 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a coup aiming at union with Greece split Cyprus into a breakaway Turkish speaking north and an internationally recognized, Greek speaking south. The minority Turkish Cypriots strongly opposed union with Greece, fearing domination by the Greek Cypriots.
The island gained independence from Britain in 1960, but seething ethnic tensions buffeted the young republic, degenerating into armed clashes.