Glafkos Clerides: Statesman who saw Cyprus through independence, partition and entry into the European Union in 2004 - Obituaries - News - The Independent

Glafkos Clerides: Statesman who saw Cyprus through independence, partition and entry into the European Union in 2004

 

Glafkos Clerides was the incarnation of modern, independent Cyprus – from the struggle for independence from Britain to the tragedy of the Turkish invasion and division of the island in 1974; from the long and still fruitless efforts to heal that partition to the entry of his country into the European Union in 2004.

For half a century of Cypriot history Clerides was at centre stage. He was an activist in the Eoka movement that sought to end British rule and unite Cyprus with Greece. After independence was achieved in 1960, and tensions grew between the island's Greek majority and Turkish minority communities, he was a key negotiator in efforts to find a peaceful settlement, conspicuous for his courteous pragmatic style and quick sense of humour.

But he was best known as president. His first stint in the job was brief and accidental, during the five-month interregnum between the July 1974 overthrow of Archbishop Makarios, in a coup mounted by backers of union with Greece and ordered by the colonels' junta in Athens, and the formal reinstatement of Makarios that December.

On five occasions subsequently, Clerides stood for president in own right, winning twice. He held the office between 1993 and 2003, failing to achieve his dream of a re-united Cyprus but laying the groundwork for the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus to join the EU a year after he left office.

As a young man, Clerides also personified the complicated relationship between Cyprus and its colonial power. Hoping like many Greek Cypriots that an Allied victory over Germany would lead to enosis, or union with Greece, he volunteered to serve in the Royal Air Force. Shot down over Germany, he was a prisoner of war until 1945, returning to London to take his law degree at King's College.

During his London years Clerides first met a young Turkish Cypriot lawyer named Rauf Denktash – later to lead the island's Turkish community and serve as president of the rump Turkish Republic of Cyprus. The two men became friends but lifelong political competitors. They were sparring partners but always respectful of each other, despite years of gruelling and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations. Even so, Denktash's stubbornness would drive Clerides close to despair. "If I had someone else instead of Denktash," he said later, "the Cyprus problem would have been solved long ago."

It was intractable from the beginning. During the 1950s Clerides was by day a lawyer in Nicosia but an after-hours member of Eoka, operating under the alias "Hyperides". In 1959 he took part in the London conference on independence, and became the new country's first minister of justice before being elected speaker of the new parliament, a post he held until 1976.

His most important function, however, was as a negotiator, first with the British over the UK bases in Cyprus, then with the Turks as strains between the island's two communities worsened. Twice, Clerides and Denktash came close to agreements that might have averted the disaster of 1974, but both deals were reportedly blocked by Makarios. Then came the coup, the Turkish invasion and creation of the TRNC, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Ankara, and of which Denktash was president from 1983 to 2005.

Clerides had twice been defeated for president, in 1983 and 1988, but his third attempt was successful. His tenure, inevitably, was a balancing act between ensuring the security of his country and keeping the door open to reunification with the North that occupied some 40 per cent of the island's territory.

The former concern in 1997 provoked the biggest crisis of his presidency, as Clerides sought to bolster Cyprus's defences with Russian-built S300 long-range anti-aircraft missiles. Turkey's response was the threat of a new war. Eventually he backed down and the missile systems were moved to Crete.

Clerides' most tangible success was entry into the EU, a testament to his country's economic performance during his presidency. But that quest became entwined with the search for the biggest prize of all, a settlement with the Turkish north and re-unification of the island.

In the years around 2000, the common ambition of both Republics of Cyprus and Turkey to join the EU offered an unprecedented opportunity. Denktash was, of course, against the idea. Not so, however, ordinary citizens of the TRNC, who saw Europe as the means of ending their isolation and boosting a standard of living by now far below that south of the "Green Line" demilitarised zone, patrolled by United Nations peacekeepers, which divided the two states.

The plan elaborated under the aegis of Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, foresaw a united Cyprus as a member of the EU, a federation of two states loosely modelled on Switzerland. Clerides supported the scheme, but ancient suspicions proved too strong. Although 65 per cent of the Turkish community voted in favour of the plan in a referendum in April 2004, the Greek Cypriot community rejected it by an even larger margin.

Glafkos Joannou Clerides, lawyer and politician: born Nicosia 24 April 1919; President of Cyprus 1993-2003; married 1945 Lilla Erulkar (deceased; one daughter); died Nicosia 15 November 2013.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week