NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, trade unionists, European communists and politicians and leaders from Cyprus’ breakaway Turkish Cypriot community were among those attending a funeral service Tuesday for the country’s former president, Dimitris Christofias.
Hundreds of people thronged the Church of God’s Wisdom in Nicosia, the capital, to pay a final tribute to the Communist-rooted Christofias, who died at 72 on Friday.
The Soviet-educated Christofias served a single five-year term after being elected in 2008, the first Communist to hold Cyprus’ top political job. His presidency was tarnished by an unfolding banking crisis that required an international rescue to save the country from financial ruin, as well as an Iranian munitions blast at a naval base that killed 13 people.
As with previous presidents, Christofias failed to end the Mediterranean island nation’s ethnic division, despite his close relations with Turkish Cypriot left-wing party members. He cited that failure as his main reason for not seeking re-election.
But in his eulogy, Communist-rooted AKEL party leader Andros Kyprianou praised Christofias for his integrity.
Kyprianou said the former president was a tireless worker who introduced key social reforms and unflinchingly called out the wrongs of “imperialism” as well as those committed by both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Kyprianou praised Christofias for steady leadership during his time as AKEL chief, guiding the party through an internal crisis during the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union “by standing beside the common working man.”
Christofias’ son Christos, who leads AKEL’s youth wing, hailed his father for his unwavering commitment to his socialist roots. Turkish Cypriot journalist Fatma Kishmir said she brought a handful of soil from Christofias’ village of Dikomo, in the breakaway north, to place on his grave.
Earlier, thousands paid their final respects to Christofias when he was lying in state.