President Nikos Christodoulides on Thursday scolded both his health minister Popi Kanari and her ministry’s permanent secretary Christina Yiannaki over on ongoing public spat between the two, telling them such behaviour would not be tolerated.

The two women were summoned to the presidential palace following a war of words over Yiannaki’s qualifications, which first broke out on social media and then found its way into the printed press in recent weeks.

Kanari, who became the minister in March under the new Christodoulides government, 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.

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.

Christodoulides stepped in on Thursday after returning from the presidential retreat in Troodos.

According to the Cyprus News Agency, citing its sources, during the meeting at the palace, Christodoulides made it clear that he requires cooperation for the implementation of the government’s health policies and to resolve other challenges in the health sector “matters that are non-negotiable as a priority for his government”.

According to the same information, the president made it clear that what has seen the light of day “would not be tolerated”. There were specific goals that have been set concerning the reorganisation of the ministry, the strengthening of internal control, and faster preparation of necessary bills for further improvement of the services provided by the health system Gesy.

Implementation timetables have also been set and a meeting was rescheduled to review the progress made before the president travels to New York in mid-September for the UN General Assembly.

“The great challenges in health and the demands of society require intensive work and cooperation from all involved, a commitment that both the minister of health and the permanent secretary, reaffirmed as their goals to the president,” the sources concluded.

The government had said initially the ongoing row was an “internal matter for the ministry” and it did not plan to intervene but acknowledged it must be brought to an end.