The President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday cancelled a scheduled meeting with Archbishop Elpidophoros in New York because, according to reports, the Head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America attended a ceremony for the opening of the Turkevi Center (Turkish House).
The ceremony, held on Monday in Manhattan, was presided over by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar was also present.
Anastasiades, who is in New York for the 76th UN General Assembly, had been scheduled to meet with Elpidophoros as part of his contacts while in the US.
Cyprus Presidents’ tight schedule a polite excuse?
According to state broadcaster CyBC, the official reason given for the cancellation of the meeting was Anastasiades’ tight schedule, but reports said it was actually because the Archbishop had attended the opening of the Turkevi Center.
The Turkevi Center, which will become the hub of Turkish culture in the US, will also house the UN’s permanent mission for Turkey and the Turkish Consulate General.
In a message on social media, Elpidophoros said he congratulated Erdogan on the opening of the Turkevi Center. He added that “as always I insist on the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the re-opening of the Halki Theological School, and supporting the rights of religious minorities of Turkey.”
I congratulated Pres. Erdogan on the opening of the Turkevi Center, together with UN SG Guterres. As always I insist on the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the re-opening of the Halki Theological School, and supporting the rights of religious minorities of Turkey.
— Elpidophoros (@Elpidophoros) September 20, 2021
However, Elpidophoros’ presence at the ceremony created negative reactions among some Greeks and Armenians. The Armenian National Committee of America said on Twitter:
“Shunned by the DC establishment (hawks, doves, and everyone in between) – desperately seeking allies – Erdogan recruits Azerbaijani diplomats, representatives of the illegal Turkish occupation force in Cyprus, and the Greek Orthodox Church for this staged photo op in NYC.”
Source close to Elpidophoros responds to criticism
Greek media report that a source close to Elpidophoros said that the archbishop had accepted the invitation from the Turkish diplomatic mission without knowing at that time who else had also received the invitation to attend the event.
The same source reportedly said that if Elpidophoros had known that the Turkish Cypriot leader Tatar would be present, he would have declined the invitation.
He added that, in any case, the Archbishop took the opportunity to remind Turkey’s obligations regarding religious freedoms, the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the re-opening of the Halki Theological School.
Erdogan calls again for a two-state solution on Cyprus
He said that “a fair, lasting and sustainable solution to the Cyprus issue is possible only through a result-oriented, realistic approach. While the leader of one of the two peoples on the Island, which the United Nations considers as equal, can address you, it is not fair that the other leader cannot make his voice heard on this platform.”