Nicosia.- By Jean Christou/Cyprus Mail
US Vice President Joe Biden’s first stop on Thursday was the Archbishopric in Nicosia where he met for over an hour with the leaders of the island’s main faiths, Greek Orthodox, Turkish Cypriot Islam, Maronite, Armenian and Latin.
Before Biden arrived the religious leaders lined up to greet him with Archbishop Chrysostomos joking around with some of the local media. When Biden’s convoy – around 10 police motorcycles, half a dozen squad cars, two vans from the bomb disposal unit, around 25 other vehicles and a strange looking black van – arrived surrounded by his security team, he entered the lobby and shook hands with each of the religious leaders who all in turn said: Welcome to Cyprus”. Biden then turned to head off but was persuaded by the media to pose for a line up photo with the clerics, which apart from the Archbishop, included Mufti Talip Atalay, Maronite Archbishop Joseph Soueif, Armenian Archbishop Varoutzian Cherkelian, and the Latin representative in Cyprus Father Zacchaeus Toulninof.
After the round table discussion, Archbishop Chrysostomos held a one-on-one for ten minutes with Biden where, according to the Cyprus News Agency, the Church leader expressed his views on the Cyprus issue and ‘set his red lines’, although he did not go into detail on that. “These are known,” he said later but spoke of the need for a “balanced solution”. “Otherwise the Greek Cypriot side will be wronged and the Turkish side will look for the opportunity to overturn things,” he said.
Speaking some time after Biden had left around noon, the Archbishop said Biden had offered his support for a solution. He said the religious leaders had expressed their views to Biden at the round-table discussion and that he had encouraged them to continue to work together.
“We will work to this end,” said the Archbishop, adding that the goal was to see Christians and Muslims on the island have access to their religious sites both in the government-controlled areas, and in the north of the island.
“But a solution must be reciprocal and as fair as possible,” the Church leader said. Asked if the issue of energy could act as a catalyst for a solution, the Archbishop said he believed so, and so did the US Vice President.