The death of former President Glafcos Clerides marks the end of a major chapter in contemporary Cypriot history. Clerides, whose life became closely identified with a number of key events in the history of the eastern Mediterranean island, died on Friday in Nicosia, with his daughter, Kate, and a few very close aides by his side. He was 94.
Clerides served his country at many different posts – most notably as president from 1993 until 2003. A true milestone in his political career was the fruition of negotiations for Cyprus's membership of the European Union. However, Clerides did not live to materialize his big "life's ambition," as he put it, of seeing an end to the island's division.
In the presidential elections of 2003, he urged voters to renew his tenure so that he could continue his efforts for a settlement on the basis of the so-called Annan peace plan. He was, however, defeated by the late Tassos Papadopoulos, a bitter opponent of the UN-brokered blueprint. After his defeat, Clerides retired from politics.
Clerides was born in Nicosia on April 24, 1919, the eldest son of a prominent lawyer and politician, Giannis Clerides. During the Second World War he served in the Royal Air Force and then joined the 1955-1959 uprising against British colonial rule, under the nickname “Hypereides.”
As a lawyer, Clerides defended many fighters of EOKA, the underground independence movement, in court. He took part in the 1959 London Conference on Cyprus and served as justice minister in the transitional period from colonial administration to independence.
Over the same period, Clerides served as head of the Greek Cypriot delegation on the Joint Constitutional Committee. He was also elected president of the House of Representatives, a post he kept until July 1976.
Clerides often acted as president of Cyprus when filling in for Archbishop Makarios if the latter was away on a foreign mission. He also led the Greek Cypriot delegation at the London Conference in 1964 on the Cyprus issue.
On July 23, 1974 - amid the strife of the Greek-led coup and the Turkish invasion of the island - Clerides temporarily assumed the duties of the president until the return of Makarios on December 7 of that same year. For a number of years, he represented the Greek Cypriot side in talks between the two communities.
In 1976, Clerides established the Democratic Rally (Dimokratikos Synagermos), the party of current President Nikos Anastasiades.
Clerides's legacy has been praised by politicians of all stripes.