THIS year should be pivotal for the fate of missing persons, Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou told the Cyprus News Agency, as he warned that the number of remains discovered by experts was dropping.
He noted that the 30 military sites in Cyprus` northern Turkish occupied areas where Ankara has said excavations can take place are not enough, since it is not expected to locate the remains of more than 140 missing persons in the next three years, out of a total of 1,032.
Speaking to CNA, Photiou said that almost 42 years since the Turkish invasion, two thirds of missing persons are still listed as missing, stressing that time was working against the issue. Turkey was still not cooperating substantially to help take significant steps in this purely humanitarian issue, he said.
Asked about the Turkish military areas in which excavations will begin soon, Photiou said that although it constituted a positive step forward, the majority of missing persons are not located in these military areas.
The mass graves are at the battlefields, where the bodies of soldiers killed were collected by the Turkish army, he said, noting that only the Turkish army has knowledge of the location of these mass graves.
The Commissioner welcomed the decision of the leaders of the island`s two communities, President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, to call on people to give information anonymously to the authorities regarding the issue of missing persons.
He said that he has received calls and has met with people who wish to provide information about the fate of Turkish Cypriot missing persons.
Photiou pointed out that in the past few years the rate of discovery of remains has been dramatically reduced, and the danger is that in few years the Committee on Missing Persons may run out of work since there will be no remains to identify.
The 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. According to CMP, the total number of identifications has reached 625, 476 of whom were Greek Cypriots and 149 Turkish Cypriots.