Ex-Cyprus president, unity advocate Clerides dies at 94

Fri Nov 15, 2013 1:42pm EST
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By Michele Kambas

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Former president Glafcos Clerides, a conservative who ushered Cyprus into the European Union but failed in efforts to heal the island's decades-old ethnic partition, died on Friday, his doctor said. He was 94.

Clerides led Cyprus for two consecutive terms from 1993 to 2003, but was inextricably linked with the island's fraught modern history since its independence from Britain in 1960.

Cyprus's Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities were split by a Turkish invasion in 1974 prompted by a brief, Greek-inspired coup, following years of sporadic ethnic strife on the eastern Mediterranean island.

Years before his first election victory, Clerides was a prominent Greek Cypriot leader who helped craft treaties that gave Cyprus independence, and was a negotiator with longtime Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who died last year.

Clerides bowed out of politics in 2003 when he failed in an attempt to get elected for a third, truncated term to spearhead peace negotiations with Turkish Cypriots.

He turned 94 in April but his health had deteriorated in recent years and he died at a Nicosia clinic from complications associated with old age, doctor Iosif Kassios told reporters.

Widely respected, even by Turkish Cypriots, Clerides was one of the last surviving European leaders to have seen active service in World War Two as a gunner for Britain's Royal Air Force. He escaped German prisoner-of-war camps three times.

A colorful character who studied law in London, Clerides was once written off in a premature obituary after being shot down over Hamburg during World War Two. He spent a year in chains and endured two forced starvation marches across Germany before escaping for a third time.   Continued...

Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos (R) talks to the former Greek Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides (L) before a meeting of the delegations in Buergenstock, Switzerland, March 29, 2004. REUTERS/POOL/Attila Kisbenedek