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Committee on Cyprus missing looking to London for answers

The three members of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) are travelling to London to meet with UK government officials, in their search for archival material that might contain information on missing persons in Cyprus during 1963-64 and 1974.

A Committee on Missing Persons was established, upon agreement between the leaders of the two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying and returning the remains of missing persons to their relatives.

The CMP is a tripartite intercommunal investigatory committee comprising a representative of the Greek Cypriot community, a representative of the Turkish Cypriot community, and a Third Member nominated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and appointed by the UN Secretary General.

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Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA,) Nestoras Nestoros, the Greek Cypriot member of CMP, said that after the members arrive in the UK on Sunday, a meeting will next week take place with representatives from the Ministry of Defence, the Joint Forces Command and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

While in London, the CMP members will also meet with officials from the National Archives, as well as with MPs and associations of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot relatives of missing persons.

According to Nestoros, in their contacts at the British capital, the members of the CMP will reiterate their call for information regarding the collection of bodies from battlefields, the location of mass graves or individual graves.

They will also ask for any information that might lead to the discovery of remains, or is pertinent to the transfer of remains in a known location, their exchange or delivery to third parties.

The members will also be seeking information regarding people that were last seen wounded or dead, including those who died in hospitals, as well as photographs of remains, with the dates and location of the capture.

Contacts in London, that were initially scheduled for last summer, are deemed to be significant, especially with regards to missing persons from the 1963-64 period.

As Nestoros explained, at that time the British Forces in Cyprus were essentially filling the gap until UN dispatched its peacekeeping mission, in March 1964.

He added that recent research in the archives of a British officer, conducted by his Office, brought to light fresh information, that led to the discovery of missing Turkish Cypriots from the 1963-64 period.

Asked by CNA to comment on Turkish claims, contained in a recent document to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, that “information on the location of graves of missing persons that was in the possession of the Turkish side has already been shared with the CMP”, Nestoros said that “had we finished with this effort, we wouldn’t have asked for fresh information”.

He pointed to ongoing efforts to locate the remains of missing persons and noted that “the main country we expect to get information from, is Turkey”. He added that the CMP has asked for access to the archives of both the Turkish army and the “Turkish Cypriot forces”.

Calls to provide information were also issued to Greece, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, the Red Cross as well as countries contributing UNFICYP with personnel, such as Canada, Sweden, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Australia and New Zealand.

It should be noted that President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, addressing the UN General Assembly on Thursday, also referred to the issue of missing persons and called on Turkey to fully co-operate in order to resolve this tragic issue. He also urged all countries which might hold information, to open their archives in order to bring an end to this tragic aspect of the Cyprus problem.

CMP identified 815 missing persons so far
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According to data from the Office of the Greek Cypriot Representative, CMP has identified so far 815 cases, out of which 622 are Greek Cypriots and 193 Turkish Cypriots. Moreover, the Committee has identified the remains of 125 fallen soldiers.

Furthermore, the remains of another 397 people are stored in CMP facilities, either because they are still being examined or because their identification has not been possible yet. Some of them have not been tested yet for DNA, while others comprise disputed findings, since they may be ancient skeletons. Finally, it is possible that some of the remains belong to fallen soldiers.

The CMP is currently conducting excavations in two areas in Famagusta, as well as in Mora, Mia Milia, Voni, Marathovouno, Assia and Kontemenos.

On Friday, CMP excavation teams were expected to conclude their work at Mari, where they have been searching for Turkish Cypriot missing persons, without any results so far.

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