The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) announced on Friday Turkey had granted access to 30 suspected burial sites in military areas in the north without any time constraints.
The committee said in an announcement it was formally notified that Turkey had granted access for CMP excavation teams to 30 suspected burial sites in military areas in the north of Cyprus.
“No time constraint is attached to this decision and the excavation planning will be decided by CMP,” the announcement said.
The CMP members said they welcomed the decision which would accelerate the Committee’s humanitarian work.
The move comes after years of efforts by the CMP and the Cypriot government to get Turkey to grant access to such areas, but also a call by the Council of Europe.
In March, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe had urged Turkish authorities to assist the CMP in any way it could. During a meeting in Strasbourg, the body issued a decision in which it “deeply deplored the decision of Turkey not to participate in the discussions and urged the Turkish authorities to resume cooperation with the Committee.”
The Committee reiterated that “due to the passage of time, it remains urgent for the Turkish authorities to provide the CMP with all necessary assistance for it to continue to achieve tangible results as quickly as possible.”
It called upon the Turkish authorities to ensure that the CMP has “unhindered access to all areas of interest, including military zones, located in the northern part of Cyprus and to provide the CMP proprio motu [on its own initiative] with any information from the relevant archives, including military archives, in their possession on burial sites and places of possible relocation of remains.”
The Committee also said that despite its past pledges, Turkey refuses to open its military archives. The archives are believed to contain information on mass graves, as well as on the collection of bodies from battlefields in the summer of 1974, particularly around Kyrenia in the northern coast of Cyprus.
In its latest report on the annual progress report on Turkey’s EU accession process, the European Commission too said Ankara granting the CMP full access to all relevant archives and military areas had seen welcome developments, “but needs to be further expedited”.