NICOSIA (Ardzagank–Reuters)–Former Cyprus president Spyros Kyprianou–who emerged from the shadow of independence hero Archbishop Makarios to lead the divided island for 11 years–died on Tuesday from cancer–his doctors said. He was 69.
One of the island’s best-known politicians–Kyprianou served as president between 1977 and 1988–was a speaker of parliament and was the island’s first foreign minister after Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960.
An ardent supporter of the Armenian cause–Kyprianou will be best remembered as the only international politician who–as foreign minister–in 1965 brought the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide to the United Nations General Assembly.
During his presidency–Kyprianou stopped at nothing to ensure that the aspirations of the Armenian community in Cyprus–including the Prelacy and community organizations.
As the speaker of the Cypriot parliament–Kyprianou vosoted Armenia for the last imew in spring of 2001–where he visited the Dzidzernagapert memorial monument and paid his respect to the 1.5 million Armenia’s that perished during the Armenian Genocide.
In 2001–Kyprianou was named Man of the Year by the Armenian National Committee of Cyprus. He was also bestowed with the Cilician Cross medal by His Holiness Khoren I–the late Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia.
Widely expected to be a stop-gap leader when he stepped in after Makarios’s death–Kyprianou quickly confounded sceptics and made a name for himself overseas as a fierce proponent of Greek Cypriot views over the divided east Mediterranean island.
Kyprianou was admitted to the hospital on Saturday suffering from low blood pressure and respiratory problems after several months of out-patient treatment.
Heavily sedated and slipping in and out of consciousness–his condition rapidly deteriorated on Tuesday afternoon and doctors pronounced him dead at 5:32 p.m. local time.
"Unfortunately he has died after a nine-month battle with cancer. I would like to take this opportunity to urge the media to respect his family’s need for privacy," one of his doctors–Demetris Andreopoulos–said.
His wife and two sons were at his side. His funeral was to take place on Thursday with a later private burial in his home town of Limassol.
President Glafcos Clerides expressed sorrow at the loss of a good friend. "Cyprus is in mourning," he said. Regarded as a rejectionist by some–Kyprianou frequently clashed with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash–with whom he sparred inconclusively for years over reunification.
Still–he was only one of two Greek Cypriot leaders – the other being Makarios – to get Denktash as far as agreeing to a bizonal bicommunal settlement to the conflict in 1979. The agreement was never implemented.
"The Greek Cypriot side has lost a very colourful politician. May he rest in peace as their religious rites see fit," Denktash told journalists.
Kyprianou was diagnosed last year as suffering from cancer of the pelvis–which spread to his lungs. He retired from public life shortly afterwards and had been undergoing radiotherapy.
A British-trained lawyer–Kyprianou had suffered from years of ill health. He had just recovered from complicated heart surgery in the United States and Britain when doctors discovered he was suffering from cancer.
He hid his personal distress well with cheerful dignity in his rare public appearances.