The missing persons issue is at the forefront as Cyprus marks on Thursday July’s ‘black anniversaries’ of the coup that overthrew Archbishop Makarios from office and the Turkish invasion.
President Nikos Christodoulides said there will be a joint visit with the Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar to the CMP Anthropological Laboratory (CAL) of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus at the end of the month.
He added that he has specific proposals on the issue, stressing that the meeting is not of a communicative nature, but “we expect to achieve substantial results”, specifying that this means accelerating, in practice, all relevant processes.”
Furthermore, a joint declaration “to send a positive message particularly on this humanitarian issue” is also expected after the visit, the president told reporters at an event of remembrance and honour for the missing persons in Kornos on Wednesday night.
“I hope there will be a response, and above all, because that’s where the key is, there will be particularly cooperation from the Turkish side, whether it’s on the military zones or the archives of the Turkish army,” he added.
Speaking from the same event, House president Annita Demetriou denounced Turkey’s attitude on the issue of the missing, while admitting “our own mistakes”. The event was also attended by the Deputy Minister of National Defence of Greece, Nikos Chardalias.
She said the country continues to refuse to provide evidence to determine the fate of the missing persons, which is “extremely disappointing and provocative”.
“Instead, it takes every opportunity to instrumentalise human suffering by withholding essential information,” Demetriou declared, assuring that the parliament will continue to support the work of the commission of inquiry.
But “Turkey’s criminal attitude does not absolve us of our own mistakes or omissions as a state,” she said.
“It is commonly accepted that we have lost valuable time. We must therefore not just stop at publicly expressing our apologies for the moral satisfaction of the relatives, but make every effort to rectify tragic mistakes of the past,” Demetriou noted.
Her statement echoed an earlier speech by the newly appointed head of humanitarian affairs for the missing persons Anna Aristotelous who said authorities are focusing on avoiding past mistakes in the effort to identify the remains of the missing.
Addressing the Greek relatives of the fallen and missing persons, Aristotelous referred to the contribution of the ‘brothers’ during the 1974 invasion but also to the efforts made to determine the fate of missing persons.
She said most of the mainland Greeks were wounded or their traces were lost in the area of Gerolakkos, ten kilometres west of the capital, where the Eldyk camp was located. She referred to it as the Thermopylae of Nicosia saying soldiers fought their last battle there 49 years ago, “knowing that death was inevitable”.
The struggle to preserve the memory and determine the fate of the missing is ongoing despite the difficulties that emerge, she said.
“The difficulties of tracing and identification are well known,” she said referring to the remains of some Greek soldiers who had been buried in cemeteries but listed as among those missing before their remains were returned years later to relatives in Greece.
“We focus on avoiding past mistakes, which no one disputes, and we join forces with a single objective. The discovery of the fate, with convincing and documented evidence, of our last missing person,” she said.
Earlier, the Greek forces in Cyprus attended a commemorative service and laid a wreath as part of the events for the anniversary of invasion.
The missing was also the focus of a meeting between the House president and the first vice president of the Greek parliament Ioannis Plakiotakis who visited the island to attend the commemorations on behalf of the Greek House president Constantinos Tasoula.
During their talk, Plakiotakis underlined Greece’s full support and solidarity with Cyprus in its efforts to achieve a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem.
On Thursday, the anniversary of the Turkish invasion, the president accompanied by cabinet members and the House president will attend, first at 8am a service at the Makedonitissa Tomb and then at 10am, the annual memorial service for those who died during the Turkish invasion, at the Apostle Varnavas Cathedral in Nicosia.
Later on Thursday, the House president Annita Demetriou will receive the chairperson of the Panhellenic Committee of Parents and Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons, Maria Kalmpourtzi, at the House of Representatives. She will also attend the memorial service for the fallen Greek and Cypriot officers and soldiers during the 1974 Turkish invasion, organised by the Association of Eoka ’55-’59 Fighters, at Makedonitissa Tomb. At 9.30pm, Demetriou will be at the presidential palace for the event in memory of the 1974 coup d’ état and the Turkish invasion.
On Friday, Agriculture Minister Petros Xenophontos, will address, on behalf of the president, a commemorative event on the occupation of Kyrenia, at Makedonitissa Tomb.
At the memorial services to be held at 8.30 am on Sunday, the government will be represented by government officials in various districts. The laying of wreaths on behalf of the will be done in Limassol by the Health Minister Popi Kanari, at the church of Panagia Pantanassi.
In Larnaca, the Energy Minister Georgos Papanastasiou will attend the service at the church of Ayios Georgios Kontou while in Paphos the Transport Minister Alexis Vafeadis will be at the church of Ayios Theodoros.
The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Kostas Koumis will attend the Ayios Georgios church in Paralimni for the commemoration of the fallen during the coup and the Turkish invasion.