By George Psyllides
The remains of six Greek soldiers killed during intercommunal clashes between 1963 and 1967 and the Turkish invasion in 1974 were handed over to their relatives on Monday during a special ceremony in Nicosia.
Three of the men, including Colonel Sotirios Stavrou, had been listed as missing while the other three were known to have died in battles near the now defunct Nicosia airport.
All the remains were identified through DNA testing.
Only a small bone belonging to Stavrou was found in a mass grave in Kornokipos, near Halefka on the Pentadaktylos mountain. The grave appeared to have been deliberately disturbed.
Stavrou served in the 361 Infantry Battalion, which operated in the Kyrenia area. He was last seen on August 15, 1974 near Halefka.
The two others who were listed as missing are conscripts Demetrios Tsoukas and Zaharias Kardaras who served in the Greek contingent ELDYK. The two were abducted and executed by Turkish Cypriot extremists on February 3, 1965 and February 2, 1966. Their remains were found in the Turkish Cypriot village of Hamit Mandres north of Nicosia.
Commando Nicolaos Kavrohorianou was killed during an operation to airlift a commando battalion from Crete to Cyprus in the first days of the Turkish invasion in July 1974.
Warrant officers Theofanis Loukakis and Nicolaos Tsigkaropoulou were killed in the battles around the ELDYK barracks, just west of Nicosia in August 1974.
All three had been buried at a military cemetery in Lakatamia.
“Finally, after 51 years we want our brother to rest,” one of Tsoukas’ brothers said. His other brother said they had been searching for him for years, through the Red Cross, and other avenues. They had made a lot of failed efforts and were even told initially that he was a deserter.
The missing registry includes 77 Greek nationals – 73 from the invasion and four between 1963 and 1967.
Fourteen have been identified so far.
Presidential commissioner Fotis Fotiou said the missing persons were the most tragic aspect of the Cyprus problem.
He said the Turkey had not been co-operative in the past and the Turkish army’s decision to open military areas for excavation would only have limited results.
“What about the rest? Why the silence and the attempt to hide the truth,” Fotiou said. “And why the deliberate transfer of the remains of numerous missing persons from the initial graves to other, so far unknown, locations?
Greek deputy defence minister Demetrios Vitsas expressed his admiration for the endless perseverance displayed by the relatives and the persistence in seeking the fates of their loved ones. He assured them that Greece would never stop honouring those who fell fighting for the country and would continue to recognise their contribution.