The government’s deputy spokesperson Doxa Komodromou has said the ongoing row between health minister Popi Kanari and the ministry’s permanent secretary Christina Yiannaki is an “internal matter for the ministry”.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, Komodromou said the government does not plan to intervene on the issue but said it “needs to be brought to an end”.

Kanari and Yiannaki have been engaged in a public war of words since Monday, when Kanari – who became the minister in March – called on Yiannaki to provide proof of her dentistry degree from Cairo university, and proof that she could speak English. Yiannaki has so far refused.

The latest round of rumours regarding Yiannaki’s qualifications and English language proficiency – which is a requirement to serve as a permanent secretary to a ministry – surfaced on social media in recent days, catching the attention of Kanari.

Komodromou’s comments come after Kanari sent an open letter to Yiannaki, saying “I am truly saddened by your refusal to bring anything to light, choosing to use internal procedures as a defence”.

“What do you have to fear? It’s up to you to silence all those who criticise you by presenting your qualifications. I believe your silence strengthens the suspicions of your accusers, however baseless they may be. Even the most honest reader will wonder why you don’t respond in a credible manner,” Kanari said.

She added “if someone questioned my degrees and my knowledge of the English language, the only thing I would do would be to invite them to hold a conversation in English and bring my degrees with me, and I would authorise anyone interested to investigate them in any way they wish.”

Referring to her earlier request for Yiannaki to provide evidence of her degree and her proficiency in English, she said “the two suggestions I proposed are painless. I offered to make it easier for you. My recommendations offer a painless way out.

“This is not a legal proceeding to invoke the presumption of legality of your appointments [in the ministry]. Nowhere in my note is there any such reference or insinuation. This is a political action which will shut the mouths of whoever is slandering you once and for all,” she added.

She warned “your refusal will not only not help to defuse this organised attack, but I am afraid it will leave a permanent mark on your name and on what you offer. Of course, you have every right to make that choice. However, I am very afraid that the shadow this will cast will affect the prestige and effectiveness of the ministry.”

Yiannaki has responded in kind, saying that Kanari’s suggestions fall outside the legal and institutional frameworks. She added they are “beyond the limits” and constitute workplace persecution.

She added, “the state to which I offer my services has structures and procedures and they are the ones I followed and always follow. Unfortunately, I have noticed that you are still with your new letter trying to substitute these structures and procedures in an attempt at covert intimidation and blackmail.

“I and any law-abiding citizen need only the rule of law through the competent authorities and no one else, regardless of what position they hold. In view of the above, I am forced to reserve my legal rights,” she said.

This is not the first time Yiannaki’s qualifications have been called into question. In 2021, then Akel leader Andros Kyprianou filed a request to the auditor general Odysseas Michailides to investigate her qualifications.

On that occasion, Michaelides concluded that there were “no suspicions” of forgery of Yiannaki’s degree certificates and other qualifications.

In addition, Kanari herself launched a legal challenge against Yiannaki’s promotion to the role of the health ministry’s permanent secretary back in 2015, based off doubts regarding the authenticity of Yiannaki’s qualifications.

The appeal was rejected at the time and Yiannaki has held the role ever since.

Whatever the outcome of the tussle between the two women is, their working relationship will be increasingly strained.

The Cyprus Mail has contacted Yiannaki and Cairo university for comment.