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Iran Press TV

Turkish Cypriots vote in presidential run-off amid tensions

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 18 October 2020 11:27 AM

Turkish Cypriots have begun voting in a tight run-off election to pick a new president, amid an escalation of tensions between Turkey and Greece over a territorial dispute in the Mediterranean Sea.

Incumbent president Mustafa Akinci and the current Prime Minister Ersin Tatar contest in the runoff vote.

The president supports the island's reunification with the majority Greek-speaking EU member, the Republic of Cyprus in the south.

But the right-wing Turkish nationalist Tatar supports separate sovereign administrations on the island — a plan that Turkey has recently said is the only solution to the decades-long dispute.

Tatar, who receives the backing of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, won a 32 percent of the vote earlier this month, ahead of Akinci, who secured almost 30 percent of the vote.

Akinci also has the backing of Tufan Erhurman, a fellow Social Democrat, who came third last time around.

The island has been divided into Turkish Cypriot-controlled northern and Greek Cypriot-controlled southern territories since a brief war in 1974, which saw Turkey intervene militarily in response to a military coup backed by Athens to annex Cyprus to Greece.

Greek Cypriots run the island's internationally recognized government, while Turkish Cypriots have a breakaway state in the north and say offshore resources belong to them too.

Speaking alongside Erdogan, Tatar said earlier this month that Northern Cyprus was reopening part of the beachfront of a resort abandoned for 46 years.

The president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, called the move "illegal."

The election, which will have an impact on inter-island talks, will also influence negotiations over the maritime dispute in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey and Greece, both of them NATO members, have been at loggerheads over oil and gas exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Tensions escalated in August as Turkey dispatched the seismic research vessel, Oruc Reis, and warships escorting it to prospect for energy resources in an area in the sea that is disputed with Greece, infuriating Athens.

Turkey had pulled back the research ship from the contested waters in the region last month for maintenance and to "allow diplomacy." It also said at the time that the vessel would be sent back when maintenance work was completed.

It sent the ship back to the area earlier this week, after Brussels threatened Ankara with sanctions in case of further "illegal" drilling and energy exploration in the sea.

In response to the sanctions threat, President Erdogan said the EU "is doing the most damage to itself by becoming captive to Greece and Greek Cypriots."

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