The Turkish army has given permission for excavations in search of missing persons in 30 locations in military areas in the occupied north of the island, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci announced on Thursday.
The announcement was made during a meeting between Akinci and the Turkish Cypriot member of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) Gulden Plumer Kucuk.
According to Turkish Cypriot reports, Akinci repeated the appeal they made jointly with President Nicos Anastasiades for people with information about the missing to come forward.
He said both Greek and Turkish Cypriots have suffered from this “bloodstained wound” and “I think helping to close it is a human duty.”
The CMP had requested permission from the army to carry out excavations in 30 locations where it is hoped remains would be found.
“It is not that permissions were not granted but they were being granted in small numbers,” Akinci said. “Today I invited them to convey this positive development we had as a result of our work with the military.”
According to a CMP statement, Turkey had formally agreed to provide access for excavation teams to all 30 currently known suspected burial sites in military areas in the north of Cyprus.
Access will be given over a three year period, starting in January 2016, with ten sites to be excavated each year, the statement said.
“This is a humanitarian matter and we must all be helpful military and non military,” Akinci said.
He added that he now expected the “unnecessary accusations” from the Greek Cypriot side over the lack of access in military areas to stop.
The Turkish Cypriot leader also announced a €75,000 donation to the CMP.
The third member of the CMP, UN’s Paul-Henri Arni, described the development as a breakthrough.
“It is very big news and I want to thank you, Mrs. Kucuk, and all those in Cyprus and elsewhere who helped to achieve this and receive this permission from Turkey,” he said. “It is a breakthrough for us.”
Nestoras Nestoros, the Greek Cypriot member of the CMP, said the areas were in Voni, Ayios Georgios, Kontemenos, Famagusta, and Nicosia. But most, nine, were in Voni.
“It is a big and positive step and I hope that we will have more steps forward on other problems like the removal of remains (from their original burial places) and” getting information from various records. “We hope these will also be solved through co-operation and good faith.”
In the past, the Greek Cypriot side had criticised the Turkish army for not providing information about the missing persons.
The CMP is a bi-communal body established in 1981 by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities with the participation of the United Nations.
Following the establishment of an agreed list of missing persons, the CMP’s objective is to recover, identify, and return to their families, the remains of 2001 persons — 502 Turkish Cypriots and 1,493 Greek Cypriots — who went missing during inter-communal strife in the 1960s and the 1974 Turkish invasion.
The CMP employs a bi-communal forensic team of more than 60 Cypriot archaeologists, anthropologists and geneticists, who conduct excavations throughout the island and anthropological and genetic analyses of remains at the CMP Anthropological Laboratory.
The CMP has so far identified 614 missing people – 469 Greek Cypriots and 145 Turkish Cypriots.