NICOSIA: Turkish Cypriots in breakaway northern Cyprus on Sunday elected right-wing nationalist Ersin Tatar, backed by Ankara, in a run-off poll, at a time of heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

Tatar, 60, clinched a surprise victory in the second round of presidential elections, winning 51 percent of the vote, official results showed.

He edged out incumbent Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, 72, a supporter of reunification with the Greek Cypriot south on the divided island.

Tatar is an advocate of a two-state solution and held the post of premier in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognised only by Ankara.

He controversially received the open backing of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the election campaign.

In a victory speech to his supporters, Tatar thanked Turkey’s leader and said: “We deserve our sovereignty — we are the voice of Turkish Cypriots.

“We are fighting to exist within the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, therefore our neighbours in the south and the world community should respect our fight for freedom... because we deserve it.” Under Erdogan, Turkey has become an increasingly assertive regional power that is now engaged in a bitter dispute with EU states Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas reserves in eastern Mediterranean waters. The European Union has deplored Turkey’s move and warned Ankara against further “provocations”, while multiple countries have staged military drills in the region in recent months.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2020

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