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Disy-Akel war of words over Turkish Cypriot candidate

Turkish Cypriot university professor and Akel MEP candidate Niyazi Kizilyurek

Academic and EU parliament hopeful Niyazi Kizilyurek on Tuesday demanded an apology from ruling Disy chief Averof Neophytou for disparaging comments made by a party MP regarding his candidacy.

Kizilyurek, who is running on the Akel ticket, also censured Disy after the ruling party launched an attack against him, disputing his loyalty to the Republic of Cyprus.

Neophytou has distanced himself from his MP’s comments but has implied that gatherings held by Akel and Kizilyurek in the north were out of order.

Speaking on state radio, Neophytou said the academic held separate election gatherings in the north and wondered why Akel did not hold bicommunal meetings.

He also suggested that Kizilyurek promised Turkish Cypriots that if elected, his first speech would be in Turkish, which is not an official EU language.

On Saturday, Disy MP and candidate for the European Parliament Eleni Stavrou Syrou suggested Kizilyurek was Ankara’s stooge and that if elected he would not represent the “Republic of Cyprus’ Greeks but the hapless community of the Turks of Cyprus.”

Neophytou distanced himself from the MP’s comment, but he has been heavily criticised for keeping her on the ticket nevertheless.

“I don’t think any Turkish Cypriot is Ankara’s stooge. I consider Turkish Cypriots our compatriots. It’s the breakaway state that is Ankara’s subordinate (administration),” he said.

Syrou is the daughter of Stavros Stavrou Syros, the deputy chief of the EOKA B paramilitary organisation that fought for union with Greece after the island’s independence.

Her presence on Disy’s ticket is seen as an effort to stop the flow of voters to far right ELAM, which is tipped to elect one MEP.

Kizilyurek rejected Disy’s claims, likening its demand to place conditions as “the master imposing conditions on their lackey” ignoring the fact that Turkish Cypriots are equally Cypriot, equally Europeans.

He said Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot voters were taking part in the elections “and Mr Averof’s party only addresses Greek Cypriots and doesn’t even think to issue a statement in Turkish to address the other community. When we go to this community and speak its language, they are annoyed.”

Some 80,000 Turkish Cypriots are eligible to vote in the May 26 election and there are several other Turkish Cypriot candidates contesting the island’s six seats.

Observers view Disy’s attack on Kizilyurek, a widely respected academic who lives and works in the Republic and speaks fluent Greek, as a bid to curb potential gains by Akel, which in second place according to surveys.

On the language issue, Kizilyurek said the Republic has two official languages and pledged to fight for the second one to be established in the EU.

President Nicos Anastasiades submitted a formal request in 2016 for Turkish to be adopted by the EU but it did not get far.

“I am saying I will try to take it further to integrate Turkish Cypriots in EU institutions,” he said, remaining indifferent on what it would mean to Turkey.

“It doesn’t concern us, we are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and one of our languages is Turkish. I don’t know how Turkey benefits from this, it’s another matter.”

Kizilyurek said Neophytou owed him a huge apology over what Syrou claimed. He said she had presented him as a Turkish agent, which was similar to what Turkish Cypriot nationalists were saying in the north, but to them he was a Greek agent.

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