Spyros Kyprianou

Spyros Kyprianou (born 1932) was president and speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus, heading an island country comprising only some 3,500 square miles and 650,000 people, but one that was split into mutually hostile Greek and Turkish sectors.

Spyros Kyprianou was born on October 28, 1932, in the port city of Limassol in Cyprus, then a British crown colony, into a large, well-to-do Greek Cypriot commercial family. After completing his elementary and secondary education in Limassol, he was sent in 1950 to complete his studies in England. He studied economics and business at the City of London College, then law at Gray's Inn, where he received a diploma in comparative law. He was admitted to the bar in 1954.

In the meantime, Kyprianou had become active as a journalist and lecturer in the enosis movement, the campaign of Greek Cypriots to end British rule over Cyprus and to unit the island politically with Greece. The movement had flared up around 1950 with the election of the charismatic archbishop and ethnarch (national leader) Makarios III. Enosis was supported by Greece but opposed by Turkish Cypriots and Turkey. Great Britain, concerned for the rights of the Turkish minority (about 19 percent of the total population) as well as its own strategically important military installations on the island, moved slowly and hesitantly.

Kyprianou had known Makarios since his school days in Limassol, and Makarios appointed him first as his personal representative in London in 1952 and in 1954 as the London secretary of the Cypriot ethnarchy. In the mid-1950s, the enosis campaign on Cyprus became increasingly violent under the leadership of EOKA, the National Organization for the Liberation of Cyprus, a guerrilla-terrorist group led by Colonel George Grivas. Britain replied with increased military force and mass arrests. Kyprianou, charged with developing sympathy for the independence of Cyprus among members of the British government and the influential public, was forced to leave England in June of 1956. He spent the following year as the ethnarchy's representative in New York City, pressing the Greek Cypriot cause with the U.S. State Department and the United Nations.

In March of 1957 Kyprianou was permitted to return to London. There, in February of 1959, he helped Makarios work out a compromise agreement for an independent Cypriot republic with the prime ministers of Britain, Greece, and Turkey. Cyprus was granted independence, but the Turkish Cypriot minority was guaranteed the vice presidency, 30 percent representation in the government and civil service, and a veto over legislation. With Kyprianou's active backing, Makarios was handily elected Cyprus' first president in December of 1959 and re-elected with overwhelming majorities in 1968 and 1973. In August of 1960, when the new state officially began its existence, Kyprianou was named minister of justice, then minister of foreign affairs, a post he held for the next 12 years.

The young foreign minister quickly set about organizing a diplomatic corps and formulating a foreign policy for the fledgling republic. He oriented Cyprus toward cooperation with the Asian-African non-aligned nations. He also associated Cyprus with the European Common Market and the Council of Europe. When hostilities broke out again on Cyprus in the early 1960s, Kyprianou sought military assistance for the beleaguered republic throughout the world; in 1964 a United Nations peacekeeping force was sent to the island. Kyprianou also accompanied Makarios on his journeys to the United States, Europe, Africa, South America, and Japan, where the two statesmen sought to explain Cyprus' dilemma to the world. Known to share Makarios's newly gained conviction that, given the difficult situation in Cyprus, enosis would have to be postponed, Kyprianou was attacked by the nationalist right in Cyprus and Greece. In 1972 Makarios was finally compelled to remove him as foreign minister. For the next four years he returned to the private practice of law.

In 1974 a Greece-backed coup deposed Makarios himself and forced him to flee Cyprus. This, in turn, provoked Turkey into an invasion of Cyprus and occupation of the northern third of the island populated by Turkish Cypriots. Makarios returned to his presidency in December of 1974.

In his support, in May of 1976 Kyprianou founded the centrist Democratic Party. In September the party polled a majority in the parliamentary elections, and Kyprianou became the speaker (president) of the unicameral legislature, the House of Representatives. As such, he automatically became the acting president of Cyprus when Makarios died on August 3, 1977. As Makarios's chosen successor and with the support of the entire spectrum of political parties, Kyprianou ran unopposed in the presidential election in January of 1978. He thus was elected unanimously to his own five-year term. In February of 1983, with the support of the Cypriot Communist Party, he gained a second term in office.

As president, Kyprianou firmly and consistently maintained the integrity and sovereignty of Cyprus at home and abroad. In December of 1977 one of his two sons was kidnapped by a faction (EOKA-B) of pro-enosis extremists who demanded freedom for some of their imprisoned colleagues. Kyprianou refused to bargain with them; his son was released. In February of 1978 Egypt sent an unauthorized team of commandos to Cyprus' Larnaca Airport to seize a group of Palestinian terrorists who had murdered an Egyptian editor in Nicosia. Charging violation of Cyprus' sovereignty, Kyprianou sent the Cypriot National Guard against them. But the major problem facing Kyprianou, reunifying his island nation, continued to frustrate him. Kyprianou steadfastly rejected the partition of Cyprus, advocating a federation of the two ethnic communities, each possessing domestic autonomy and sharing in a central government. However, despite an almost continuous "intercommunal dialogue" between Kyprianou and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, and the good offices of many world powers and the United Nations, reconciliation was not achieved. In November of 1983 Turkish Cypriots even proclaimed their part of the island an independent state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, but only the Turkish government ever formally recognized it. In response, the Cyprus National Guard began rearming to offset the estimated 40,000 Turkish troops on the island

Cyprus remained fragmented, with U.N. troops perpetually manning the "Green Line" between its two populations. When UN president Javier Perez de Cuellar put forth a proposal in early 1985 that would have reduced the Turkish-controlled portion of Cyprus from 37 percent to 29 percent and entailed withdrawal of all foreign forces in the face of international guarantees, Kyprianou rejected it. He said there was no guarantee the Turkish government would honor any agreement to withdraw troops and settlers from the northern part of the island or that the Greek Cypriots would be allowed to enjoy freedom of movement.

Kyprianou's bid for a third term in 1988 was thwarted when he narrowly lost a run-off to Georghios Vassiliou, who ran with the tacit support of the Cyprus Communist Party. In spite of this, Kyprianou continued his career in politics by becoming a member of the House of Representatives and, in 1993, speaker. In the 1993 presidential election he backed the successful candidacy of Glafcos Clerides, but this did not prevent him from publicly disagreeing with the president. He opposed Clerides's decision to engage in proximity talks prior to the official meetings that took place in the official meetings in New York City in 1997, claiming that during his presidency similar proximity talks had resulted in unilateral concessions by the Greek side. He also opposed Cyprus attending the official talks without pre-conditions, and insisted that any settlement be subject to a referendum by Cyprus.

In 1997 Kyprianou declared himself a candidate for the February 1998 elections, his platform being admission of Cyprus into the European Union, the removal of all Turkish troops, and the return of all refugees and the repatriation of Turkish colonists who had immigrated to the island since 1974.

Further Reading on Spyros Kyprianou

There is no comprehensive biography of Kyprianou available. Nancy Crawshaw, The Cyprus Revolt: An Account of the Struggle for Union with Greece (1978) is a detailed treatment of the movement for enosis before he became president of the Republic of Cyprus.