Mustafa Akıncı, president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, claimed on a live broadcast on Friday that people working for the Turkish president threatened him and tried to get him to abandon his candidacy in Sunday’s presidential election.
“They told me, ‘It would be better for you, your family and your loved ones if you weren’t a candidate’,” Akıncı said on a live broadcast on TV 2020, a local network.
The KKTC, founded after the Turkish army invaded the northern part of the island in 1974, is going to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president and vote on a constitutional amendment.
Akıncı repeated his claims later the same day, during a presidential debate, pointing to “operatives responsible for gathering intelligence for Turkey” as the source of the threat.
The Turkish Embassy in the KKTC denied Akıncı’s claims on Friday, saying the allegations are untrue and disconcerting. Its statement said the claims were born out of an ill-intentioned attitude toward Turkey.
During Friday’s debate, Akıncı accused the Turkish Embassy of acting like a campaign manager in the country’s elections.
“The ambassador works like an election ‘militant.’ His duty is to represent Turkey,” Akıncı said.
Akıncı had traded barbs with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in October 2019, when he spoke out against Turkey’s military offensive into predominantly Kurdish northern Syria.
“He should know his place. He is in office thanks to the Republic of Turkey,” Erdoğan said at the time.
“There is only one authority that decides how to get to this office: the Turkish Cypriot people,” Akıncı said in response.
Northern Cyprus made headlines after it decided to reopen Varosha, the abandoned southern quarter of the Cypriot city of Famagusta, to the public.
Varosha has been abandoned since Turkey took control of the town on August 13, 1974, at the end of a war between Greeks and Turks over the island. Located in the Cypriot city of Famagusta (Gazimağusa), Varosha was once a popular tourist resort. After being walled off by the Turkish army, it turned into a ghost town.
Using its guarantor rights to intervene, Turkey occupied northern Cyprus in 1974 in response to a brief Greek-initiated coup attempting to seize control of the island in a bid to unite it with Greece, a move that divided the island. Tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots fled south, while a smaller population of Turkish Cypriots living in southern Cyprus fled north intending to return when the situation had stabilized.
In 1984 a resolution by the United Nations called for the handover of Varosha to its control and prohibited any attempt to resettle the city by anyone other than its original inhabitants.
The decision to reopen the town, announced by Prime Minister Ersin Tatar, another presidential candidate, was welcomed by Turkey.
Tatar, who visited Ankara in September before the announcement, is seen by many as the candidate backed by Ankara in tomorrow’s election.