His victory over the outgoing president, George Vassiliou, in the second round of voting by a margin of only 2,000 votes, brought jubilation to Rauf Denktash, the President of the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. With an eye to the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, he has resisted international pressure to join in a federal Cypriot state.
Mr Clerides appeared to play into Turkish Cypriot hands yesterday by calling for a postponement in United Nations-sponsored peace talks, dashing the hopes of those who said he would not follow through with the anti-British and anti-UN rhetoric of the election campaign. Even as Mr Clerides was fulfilling their worst fears, diplomats were pointing out that he had earlier been involved in negotiations for sharing government with the Turkish side.
Mr Denktash was severely rebuked by the UN Security Council before Christmas for stubbornly refusing to accept settlement proposals that would have seen the Greek and Turkish communities ruling themselves, with power being shared at national level in a weak federal administration. Mr Denktash's rejection of the peace plan was made all the easier because of US reluctance to lean on its strategic ally, Turkey.
Mr Denktash's immediate response to the election of Mr Clerides, 73, was to recommend that UN negotiations scheduled to resume in New York in three weeks' time should be cancelled in favour of direct talks with the new president.
'The side which explicitly said it did not want a federal solution in Cyprus won the presidential election,' Mr Denktash said, with evident delight. Instead, he invited Mr Clerides, with whom he studied law in London and jointly practised at the Cyprus bar, for 'talks on an equal footing and without conditions'. Mr Clerides was quoted as saying he wanted to go to Athens before the next round of UN-sponsored talks scheduled for March.
The UN has drawn up a 'set of ideas' to re-unify the island which has been divided since 1974 when an occupation force of Turkish troops arrived, following a coup in Nicosia which was backed by the military junta in Greece.
The plans envisage the Turkish community of 150,000 giving back 10 per cent of the land it now occupies and ending up with 28 per cent of Cyprus under its control.
The Greek side claims that is not enough and it also objects strongly to the absence of firm guarantees that Greek refugees who fled the advancing Turkish invaders will be able to reclaim all the property they lost.Reuse content