Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou, has told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that the implementation of an action plan on the issue of missing persons that was drafted by the Republic of Cyprus is on good track, adding however that important information on this humanitarian issue can be found in the archives of the Turkish army, but Ankara refuses to give it.
This information concerns for example mass graves and relocation of remains, Photiou noted. He went on to say that the remains of 80-85% of the individuals who are still missing have most probably been relocated.
Responding to questions following a story in “Phileleftheros” newspaper saying that according to the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) figures and statistics, the remains of only eight missing persons were identified during the first five months of 2019 and that the Committee faces difficulties in fulfilling its task, the Commissioner said that “the situation is certainly not good, and this is why this action plan was drafted in an effort to improve the results.”
He went on to say that “our efforts always aim to help the CMP’s work” and underlined Turkey’s grave responsibilities with regard to the solution of this humanitarian issue.
Turkey refuses to cooperate, does not give information about massive graves and the relocation of remains, Photiou said. On the other hand, he noted, “we support and will continue to support the CMP work. The Committee is one of the most important tools that can help solve this humanitarian problem, as long as it has information which only the occupation force, Turkey, has at its disposal, concerning massive graves and the relocation of remains,” he added.
With regard to the action plan on the issue of missing persons, that was presented by Foreign Minister, Nicos Christodoulides, before the Cabinet in April, and is being implemented, Photiou said that this plan will certainly not solve the problem of missing persons, but will further help the efforts made by the CMP.
This action plan was necessary as an extra effort particularly in the field of research and as regards the use and evaluation of information from witnesses and archives, he added, noting that its implementation is on good track. We’ve had three meetings on the basis of this action plan, competent authorities are working professionally at all levels, and we will meet again in September, he added.
“We are currently evaluating all the information that we have, we are trying to gather more, but we do not yet have the positive results that we want,” he added.
As regards the sites in military areas in the northern occupied part of Cyprus to which Turkey has given access to CMP for excavations, Photiou said that the missing persons found in such sites to which access was given during that last three years were not many, adding that Turkey has not given access to sites where “according to our information there are massive graves.”
Moreover, he said that information retrieved from the archives of the UN, the Red Cross and the UK are currently being examined.
According to the CMP data in 2018 71 missing persons were identified, in 2017 117, in 2016 115, in 2015 61, in 2014 157, in 2013 21, in 2012 124, in 2011 38, in 2010 63, in 2009 58, in 2008 46 and in 2007 56.
From a total of 1510 Greek Cypriot missing persons 683 were identified while 827 were still missing until May 31, 2019.
Turkish Cypriots who went missing amount to 492. Two hundred fifty-two were identified while 240 were still missing until May 31, 2019.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Since then, the fate of hundreds of people remains unknown.
A Committee on Missing Persons has been 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.