Mustafa Akinci’s spokesman Baris Burcu made a serious mistake in responding to Archbishop Chrysostomos’ assertion that he would not accept rotating presidency as part of the settlement. There was no need for Burcu to tell us there “would never be a solution like the one Archbishop Chrysostomos is thinking about,” and that the rejectionists’ goal was “a unitary state dominated by the Greek Cypriot community and minority rights for the Turkish Cypriots.”
First, Greek Cypriots and the political parties that back the settlement efforts know this and did not need Burcu to inform them about it. Second, the Archbishop does not shape government policy, has no political power and speaks as an individual rather than as a representative of the people. Third, Akinci’s spokesman is not helping the efforts for a settlement by trying to put Greek Cypriot rejectionists in their place because they want confrontation with the Turkish Cypriots. This enables them to “poison the atmosphere” which was another of Burcu’s grievances voiced on Monday.
We do not hear government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides having a go at the Turkish Cypriot hard-liners who make up the ‘government’ in the north because, quite rightly, they are considered Akinci’s problem. Christodoulides cannot say anything that would change their views. On the contrary, it would validate their hard-line positions in the eyes of their supporters and encourage them to carry on fuelling hostility. Did Burcu not under-stand this was the only thing he achieved by attacking the Archbishop?
The truth is that Chrysostomos’ comments are widely reported by the media for their entertainment and occasional shock value rather than for their deep thought and wisdom. The Archbishop has succeeded in making himself a fun-figure by expressing superficial opinions about every issue in the news and not just the Cyprus problem.
As regards the Cyprus settlement there could also be personal reasons for his opposition. The Archbishop would be drastically downgraded on the protocol list in a federal state. He would no longer be paid courtesy calls by foreign dignitaries on official visits nor would he be among the top officials at federal state functions as has been the case in the Republic, which, although a secular state has never kept its distance from the Church. The state still contributes to the clergy’s payroll and has a preferential tax regime for the Church.
Perhaps Chrysostomos is afraid of losing these privileges in the event of a settlement. He would not be the only campaigner whose anti-settlement stance was determined by personal considerations. In fact, there a plenty of people on both sides of the dividing line that oppose a settlement because they fear it would affect their interests and Burcu should know that.