Archbishop Makarios, the President of Cyprus for 17 years, died on Wednesday (3 August) after a heart attack.
Archbishop Makarios, the President of Cyprus for 17 years, died on Wednesday (3 August) after a heart attack. He was 63.
SYNOPSIS: The Archbishop suffered a mild heart attack four months ago, but apparently made a quick recovery. He was back in public life, presiding over a cabinet meeting, within a few week; and though advised to cut down official functions he went to London in June for the conference of Commonwealth leaders and Queen Elizabeth's jubilee.
When Cyprus became independent from Britain in 1960, Makarios was elected its first President. Previously, he had campaigned for union with Greece, and been exiled in the Seychelles for it. But as President, his main concern was to keep the warring Greek and Turkish communities in the island from jeopardising that independence.
The Archbishop survived several attempts on his life. In 1970, gunmen tried to shoot down his helicopter as it was taking off from Nicosia. He stepped out unharmed, though his pilot was wounded. Behind this was the continuing campaign for union with Greece: a campaign that looked as though it had received a mortal blow when the guerrilla leader, George Grivas, died in 1974. But the biggest threat to Makarios was still to come.
The dramatic events of July 1974 began with a coup by the Greek-officered National Guard, and culminated in the Turkish invasion. Makarios was reported dead, but he escaped to London. For five months, in Britain and the United States, he worked for his restoration and the removal of Turkish troops.
In December of the same year, he was back in Nicosia, to the cheers of about a hundred thousand Greek Cypriots who turned out to welcome him. He told them his objective was now peace and unity in the divided island; of which about a third was still under the control of Turkish troops.
The Archbishop himself was homeless. His palace had been wrecked in heavy fighting on the day of the coup, and left an empty shell. It was a fate he shared with thousands of Cypriots.
Within days of his return, he went round the camps, visiting the Greek Cypriots who had fled from their homes in the Turkish-occupied part of the island. They were delighted to see him back, and it was an emotional occasion. Makarios commanded the devotion of the Greek-Cypriot majority, being their religious leader as well as their president.
Two weeks ago, he made his last public appearance, at a ceremony marking the third anniversary of the Turkish invasion. Despite the efforts that he and Mr. Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, have made in recent months to work out a settlement, he leaves behind a divided Cyprus and an uncertain future.