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Cyprus President Warns of 'Chasing Illusions'

Sep 1, 2008
A row broke out in Cyprus this week between church and state. President Christiofias, who has led the Greek Cypriots since February of this year, was publicly criticised by the Bishop of Paphos Georgios, who was speaking on behalf of Archbishop Chrystostomos, over his progressive attitude to the Cyprus Problem and his well known desire for reunification between the two sides.

The churchmen complained that the problem was no longer viewed in the terms of invasion and occupation but instead in the terms of inequality between two separate communities. The Archbishop, who's comments have come at a time when the mood toward reunification is moving from pessimism toward optimism, went on to raise serious concerns over the notion of the rotating presidency that Christiofias's government have placed as a possibility for post-reunification politics.

Speaking at the annual conference of overseas Cypriots, which took place earlier this week at the Hilton Hotel, Nicosia, Georgios, on behalf of the Archbishop who, though absent, instructed him what to write, said that the Greek Cypriots had been overwhelmed with defeatism.

"Our positions have steadily converged towards those of the Turkish side, which has not budged at all," he said, "Unfortunately, it seems we [Greek] Cypriots have become desensitised."

Georgios colourfully described the recent crossing of Turkish Cypriots at Tilyria as "a passage of Attilla [a reference to Attilla the hun, also known as the Scourge of God, the invader remembered by many as the epitome of evil]."

Christiofias, the political left winger, hit back at the man of the cloth at the same event. He reiterated the point that he has made before; that Cyprus is not a theocracy, and that it is a secular state that owes as much to the London and Zurich agreements as it does any organised religion.

The President smacked down the Archbishop's remarks, saying that, "It is patriotic slogans that have led us to near-disaster. If these slogans persist, in the name of religion and of cultural heritage, then total catastrophe shall come about." The President, who has arranged direct negotiations with his Turkish Cypriot counterpart to begin in September,warned about the dangers of "chasing illusions."

The President went on to personally attack Chrysostomos, who, two years ago won the vote for Archbishop despite having far fewer votes than the other candidates. Christiofias said that "The President has been elected by the people, with a 53% vote, and not with 8% nor 10%."

The Archbishop has been known for his outspoken views on the Cyprus Problem. During the most recent elections he sided first with the five year incumbent, nationalist Tassos Papadopoulos and then, in the run off caused by the close first round of voting, with Christiofias's rival Ioannis Kasoulides. During Papadopoulos's Presidency the Archbishop was a vocal lobbyist against the Annan plan - a plan which was widely viewed as holding the best chance to reunification in recent times.

The conflict between the Archbishop and the President is the result of the first serious, feasible move toward reunification in the years since the Annan plan. What it shows is that this September's meetings, whilst they might not be welcomed by everyone, are going to, one way or another, take Cyprus a step closer toward reunification.
About the Author
Martin Gavin writes for Meridies Homes. http://www.meridieshomes.com
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