THE DISTINGUISHED Turkish Cypriot journalist Mehmet Ali Akpinar was known to the international journalistic corps not only as a perceptive, accurate reporter and editor with a first-class news sense, but for his generous allotment of time and knowledge to brief visiting journalists.
These briefings were remarkable for their clarity and objectivity, a somewhat rare quality in the troubled areas of the Levant and Middle East, and included adverse as well as favourable criticism of his own Turkish Cypriot government's policies as well as those of the Greek Cypriots'.
Akpinar was keen that the world should not forget the oppression of the Turkish Cypriots at the hands of the Greek Cypriots that led to Turkey's 1974 armed intervention, which in turn led to the division of the island into a Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north. But he was also quick to criticise the Turkish Cypriot diplomatic service for what he considered its unprofessional inability to keep this and other important issues before the international community.
He lamented the increasing loss in the north of a Cypriot identity in favour of a Turkish one due to the north's 25-year dependence on the Turkish mainland. "Even my own English has gone to hell," he said:
In the old days I used my mother tongue and English absolutely interchangeably, as any educated Cypriot should be able to do. Now, there is no point. I work, and socialise, almost entirely in Turkish.
He also regretted the exodus of Turkish Cypriots for greener pastures abroad, especially the young, because of the deteriorating economy in the north. While he blamed in part Turkish Cypriot policies, his main criticism was directed at the south's insistence on maintaining the international diplomatic and trade embargo against the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which was unilaterally declared by the Turkish Cypriot authorities on 15 November 1983 and recognised only by Turkey.
He championed continued across-the-board contacts between north and south in an effort to rebuild good relations and took care to maintain his own with Greek Cypriot professional colleagues and friends. "But I always tell them, `If you keep up this embargo, you'll have no Turkish Cypriots left to talk to, only Turks. …