By George Psyllides
Without ever before raising such an issue, Turkey recently applied to the Council of Europe to ask the Republic to allow investigators searching for Turkish Cypriot missing persons access to military areas under its control, a government official said on Saturday.
It follows a recent decision by Turkey to grant investigators access to military areas in the north to search for missing Greek Cypriots.
But officials say no reports of Turkish Cypriots missing having been buried on Greek Cypriot military sites have ever been made.
The Turkish application was made “without such an issue ever emerging to date, without ever having similar information in connection with Turkish Cypriot missing persons,” presidential commissioner Fotis Fotiou said.
“In contrast, reports about Greek Cypriots whose fate is unknown, and who are probably buried in military zones in the occupied areas, have been around for decades in numerous documents asking Turkey to allow access,” he added.
Fotiou linked Turkey’s move to press the government to allow investigators access to military sites in the Republic to a decision it took in November last year, to allow excavations in search of missing persons in 30 locations in military areas in the occupied north of the island.
He said Turkey bore huge responsibility, but it chose to hide behind the Turkish Cypriots as if it was not to blame, “as if it does not maintain troops in Cyprus, exercising control in the part of our country it occupies.”
According to the decision, access will be given to the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) over a three year period, which started in January, with ten sites to be excavated each year.
Apart from granting access to military areas, Fotiou said, Ankara is also obliged to open Turkish army archives and release any information regarding missing persons.
It must also indicate the location of mass graves where Greek Cypriot were buried after the bodies were collected from the battlefields, and provide information about the deliberate transfer of remains from their original burial places to other sites, which remain unknown.
“You cannot give the relatives – after identification – just a few bones from the remains of their loved ones,” Fotiou said. “This is completely unacceptable. It is inhuman. It is a second crime against them.”
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.
Its objective is to recover, identify, and return to their families, the remains of 2001 persons – 493 Turkish Cypriots and 1,508 Greek Cypriots – who went missing during inter-communal strife in the 1960s and the 1974 Turkish invasion.
The CMP has so far identified 629 missing people – 480 Greek Cypriots and 149 Turkish Cypriots.