The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) is set to confer in the coming week to decide its next step following an announcement on Friday that Turkey has granted access to 30 suspected burial sites in military areas in the occupied north of the island.
There is no time constraint attached to the decision and the excavation planning will be decided by the CMP.
Leonidas Pantelides, the Greek Cypriot member of the CMP told the Cyprus News Agency on Saturday that the access to burial sites in military areas is very helpful for the work of the Committee, adding that this week the members will get together to plan their next steps.
He said that they will look into maps of the specific areas and will decide how the excavations will take place. Pantelides clarified the Greek Cypriot side had asked for access to these 30 areas which include a total of 33 sites, following credible information.
He said that some sites are in military areas, some close to the buffer zone and therefore a thorough study of the maps is needed. Pantelides added that there is reliable information that the remains of at least one person are buried in each of these sites.
He highlighted the fact that there is no time constraint as to when the excavations should take place, or how many per year.
“Therefore,” he said, “we plan to include these 30 sites in the excavation schedule of this year, taking into account various factors such as the weather conditions, if the remains are located in a well, or near water.”
After years of efforts by the CMP and the Cypriot government to get Turkey to grant access to such areas, Friday’s announcement that the Committee had been granted access restored hope that the 1,510 Greek Cypriots and 492 Turkish Cypriots that are still missing may still be found and returned to their families for a proper burial.
In March, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe had urged Turkish authorities to assist the CMP in any way it could.
In addition to requesting that Turkey ensures that the CMP has unhindered access to all areas of interest located in the northern part of Cyprus, Turkey was also called to hand over its military archives, which 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 on the northern coast of Cyprus.