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Ex-Turkish Cypriot Leader Denktash Dies

Veteran politician and former leader of Turkish Cypriots Rauf Denktash in a 2005 photo.

Former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has died after a long illness.

Denktash's family announced Friday that he had died earlier in the day, two weeks before his 88th birthday.

Denktash, who had experienced deteriorating health for some time, was admitted to a hospital in northern Cyprus on January 8. He died of multiple organ failure.

Denktash was a staunch, lifelong advocate for a separate Turkish Cypriot state on the island that has been split since 1974, when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of a union with Greece.

Denktash founded the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983 and remained at its helm until 2005. The self-proclaimed independent state was recognized only by Ankara.

All talks on reunification have failed so far. The conflict has hampered Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.