Turkish-Cypriot nationalist politician, founder of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and its president 1983–2005. In 1975 the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus (TFSC) was formed in the northern third of the island and he was elected its president in 1976 (and re-elected in 1981). In 1983 it became the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), with Denktaş as its head, but was recognized internationally only by Turkey. He was re-elected its president in 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000. Successive talks between Denktaş and Greek Cypriot leaders failed to reach agreement on the reunification of the island.
Deteriorating relations between the Greek and Turkish communities led to the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus in 1974 and the formation of the TFSC, with Denktaş at its head. Denktaş held successive talks with Greek Cypriot leaders to attempt to reunify the island, but these foundered over an unwillingness by both sides to cede land and sovereignty. The accession of the independent politician Georgios Vassilou to the Cyprus presidency offered hopes of reconciliation, but meetings between him and Denktaş in 1989 and 1992 failed to produce an agreement. Further talks with Vassilou's successor, Glafkos Clerides, in 1997 and 2003, also failed.
Born in Cyprus, Denktaş studied law in England (1944–47) then returned to Cyprus to set up his own law practice. He held law-officer posts, as public prosecutor (1949–58) under the British crown before independence in 1960. In 1960 he was elected head of the assembly of the Turkish community, but the Greek Cypriot leadership barred him from entering the island 1964–68, following the collapse of the partnership state.