Ersin Tatar, a leading presidential candidate of Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, has called for permanent partition of the island, complicating efforts to reunify the island that has been divided for almost half a century.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the island. Ankara justified the invasion saying that it was protecting ethnically Turkish community minorities after a coup that sought to unite the island with Greece.
Tensions between the Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority came to a head in December 1963, when violence broke out in the capital of Nicosia. Despite the deployment of UN peacekeepers the following year, sporadic inter-communal violence continued in the island, forcing the majority of Turkish Cypriots into enclaves throughout the island.
Talks for a peace deal to unite the island have failed repeatedly.
Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, yet the Union’s laws do not apply in the north, which Turkey alone recognises as an independent state.
If Tatar will be able to win over the incumbent northern Cyprus president Mustafa Akinci in the election, he is likely to open a begin a new round of UN-sponsored peace talks with the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades.
Akinci would prefer a reunification of Cyprus in a federal state.