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Close Turkish Cypriot election result leaves peace deal in the balance

The first round of the Turkish Cypriot presidential election has produced a close result between one candidate favouring renewed peace talks on Cyprus and another wanting closer ties with Turkey.

Unofficial results gave 29.8% of the vote to the incumbent president Mustafa Akıncı, who is running for a second term.

He came narrowly behind the prime minister Ersin Tatar, who won 32.4%.

The candidates will face each other in a second round election next week, leaving Turkish Cypriot voters to decide whether they want another attempt to reunite the island or believe separation is a better course.

Cyprus has been divided between its Greek and Turkish communities since 1974, when Turkey invaded in response to a coup that aimed to unite the island with Greece.

The northern portion declared independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983, but it is diplomatically recognised only by Turkey.

Successive peace talks between the island’s two communities have been unsuccessful.

Akıncı, a left winger who wants to resume peace talks with Cyprus’s internationally-recognised Greek government, has said he hopes a deal can finally be agreed to reunite the island.

But Tatar, a nationalist, supports closer ties with mainland Turkey and advocates a two-state solution.

He controversially appeared alongside President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week to announce the reopening of the abandoned town of Varosha, which was largely inhabited by Greek Cypriots until it was occupied by Turkish forces in 1974.

Eleven candidates in all contested Sunday’s first round election, including the former Turkish Cypriot peace negotiator Kudret Özersay, who came fourth with 5.7% of the vote.

The Republican Turkish Party candidate Tufan Erhürman was third with 21.7%.

The second round of the election will be held next Sunday, October 18.

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