Through his spokesman, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said on Thursday that he disapproves of moves restricting Greek Cypriots’ right to worship in the north.
Akinci’s spokesman Baris Burcu said in a written statement the Turkish Cypriot leader disagreed with the decision by the ‘government’ in the north to deny a request for Greek Cypriots to hold the Good Friday service at Ayios Georgios Exorinos in Famagusta.
As a result, the matter has become politicised, allowing “certain quarters on the Greek Cypriot side to take advantage of it,” Burcu added.
On a practical level, the denial was also bad for business, as a number of Turkish Cypriot merchants were counting on the church service to cater to visiting Greek Cypriot worshippers.
According to Burcu, Akinci told the ‘governing parties’ in the Turkish Cypriot ‘parliament’ that he thought the decision was wrong.
Holding a service at the Ayios Georgios Exorinos church, which was reinstated only in 2015 after 58 years, was recently denied by authorities in the north.
It appears the move is a casualty of a new policy in the north last year limiting Orthodox services and introducing permits for such events. The reasoning was that there were too many services taking place and they could not all be adequately policed.
Commenting on this earlier in the week, President Nicos Anastasiades said he raised the matter with Akinci during their latest meeting.
Akinci replied that it was a “government” decision, not his.
A number of Turkish Cypriot civil society organisations have condemned the move, saying it harmed rapprochement between the two communities.