NICOSIA – Turkish Cypriots vote on Sunday in a leadership runoff that could decide whether they retain more control over their own affairs or steer even closer to an increasingly domineering Turkey.
Veteran incumbent Mustafa Akinci, 72, backs the long-held federal framework for a deal with rival Greek Cypriots to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus. He’s also a champion of Turkish Cypriots who oppose Turkey’s complete domination of their affairs.
His hardline challenger Ersin Tatar, 60, advocates fully aligning Turkish Cypriots with Turkish policies, such as pursuing a two-state deal instead of a federation.
Here’s a look at what’s at stake:
THE PEACE PUZZLE
A 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a coup aimed at union with Greece split the eastern Mediterranean island along ethnic lines. Nine years later, Turkish Cypriots in the northern third declared independence, but are only recognized by Turkey, which maintains a strong military footprint there.
Since then, the agreed-upon arrangement that would restore Turkish Cypriots to the international fold is a federation of two separately administered zones. But nearly half a century of U.N.-mediated talks to cobble a deal together have stumbled on several core issues.
Those include a demand for Turkey to retain military intervention rights and a permanent troop presence. The majority Greek Cypriots also oppose a Turkish Cypriot demand for equal say at all levels of federal government.