The Izmir-Ankara-Erzincan suture zone (IAESZ) in the Central and the Eastern Pontides comprises a stack of thrust sheets of mainly Late Cretaceous-Early Cenozoic age that are restored as: (1) a subduction-accretion complex; (2) a continental-margin magmatic arc, plus an associated forearc basin; (3) a back-arc basin and its mainly sedimentary fill. Northward thrusting affected all of the Late Cretaceous units during latest Cretaceous (Campanian-Maastrichtian) time. This was followed by regional southward thrusting to form the present thrust stack during Mid-Eocene time. Alternative tectonic models are considered in the light of sedimentary, igneous geochemical and structural evidence, and global comparisons. We infer that the Northern Neotethys was subducted northwards beneath the Eurasian active margin during the Late Cretaceous. Subduction was associated with the genesis of a magmatic arc and a related forearc basin. The subduction zone retreated oceanwards, associated with the opening of a back-arc basin along the Eurasian margin, floored by oceanic crust and overlain by mixed terrigenous and volcaniclastic deep-marine sediments. Ophiolite genesis in a continental margin back-arc setting is suggested by the presence of screens of basement-type metamorphic rocks within an ophiolite-related sheeted dyke complex in the Eastern Pontides. During the latest Cretaceous closure of the inferred back-arc basin resulted in northward emplacement of ophiolitic and related units onto the Eurasian margin, as well exposed in the Central Pontides. In addition, accretionary melange, volcanic arc, forearc and ophiolitic units were emplaced southwards onto the Tauride continent, represented by the Munzur platform in the Eastern Pontides, also during latest Cretaceous time. This incipient ('soft') collision was followed by widespread Paleocene-Early Eocene deposition of Nummulitic shelf carbonates and coarse clastic sediments on deformed and emplaced accretionary melange, arc and ophiolitic units. Final closure ('hard collision') of the Northern Neotethys occurred during the Mid-Eocene, resulting in large-scale southward imbrication, together with northward backthrusting in some areas. Suture tightening and Plio-Quaternary strike-slip ensued.