By Jean Christou
THE TURKISH foreign ministry has slammed a resolution passed by the European Parliament (EP) last week condemning the relocation of missing persons remains from graves in the north by the Turkish military, ostensibly to cover up the existence of mass graves.
In a statement on the Turkish foreign ministry’s website, spokesman Tanju Bilgin said the resolution was “entirely a unilateral decision” and undermined the reputation of the European Parliament.
Bilgin said the issue of missing persons in Cyprus, “which is a human tragedy” was sensitive for both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
“Indeed, there are many Turkish Cypriots who are still missing since the 1963-1974 period,” he said.
“Although the European Commission has already recognised this fact, it is unacceptable that there are no references to the missing Turkish Cypriots in the resolution. It has been an extremely unfortunate development that the EP ignored the losses of Turkish Cypriots and adopted a biased resolution on such a sensitive issue that should have been addressed by staying away from political polemics.”
He said the resolution would not make any positive contribution to the work of the tripartite Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP), which is financially supported by Turkey, along with a number of other of countries. “We will not accept this unilateral resolution in any form,” Bilgin added.
In its resolution last week, the EP condemned the “relocation” that took place in the village of Ornithi – where four burial sites were disinterred, two of which were the sites of mass graves. Evidence suggested the graves had been previously exhumed and the remains of 71 missing civilians intentionally removed. The EP said this was “a great disrespect to the missing persons and a gross violation of the rights of their families to finally know the real conditions of the deaths of their loved ones.”
MEPs called for the immediate and complete verification of the fate of the missing persons and urged the Turkish government “to immediately cease removal of the remains from the mass graves and to comply with international law, international humanitarian law and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgements” and “to fully implement its obligation following the decision of the ECHR to compensate the families of the missing persons.”
On top of that, also last week, it emerged that the family of a Greek Cypriot who went missing in 1974 were given bones belonging to three other people, along with his remains. Giorgos Fori’s remains were found in October in a mass grave at Ornithi, one of the sites that had been excavated by the Turkish military during which bones were removed.
The CMP said on Monday in a statement that following the recent developments, the three members – one Greek Cypriot, one Turkish Cypriot and a UN representative – would hold a news conference on Wednesday to discuss the controversy surrounding the identification process.
Around 2,000 people – 1,508 Greek Cypriots and 493 Turkish Cypriots – were listed as missing since the intercommunal fighting in the 60s and the invasion. The CMP has so far identified 430 Greek Cypriots and 138 Turkish Cypriots.
Its terms of reference do not include attributing responsibility for the deaths of any missing persons or making findings as to the cause of death.