Nicosia -- Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus is carrying out excavations at possible burial sites within a fenced military area in Cyprus’ Turkish occupied areas, Aristos Aristotelous, the Greek Cypriot member of the Committee has told CNA.
According to Aristotelous the Turkish authorities gave recently their consent for these excavations to take place, responding to a request by CMP. He noted that certain steps were taken to this end. He welcomed this development, noting that he hopes they will also be able to carry out excavations in other military areas with possible burial sites.
He said that the decision taken concerns possible burial sites in a fenced military plot, at the southwest of Kyrenia district, and is based on information given long ago at the CMP and which the members of the Committee discussed recently.
Aristotelous noted the direct implementation of the decision with the launching of the excavations on Tuesday by the teams of CMP scientists. He expressed hope that this decision will mark a differentiation in the stance of the Turks, that they will allow excavations at such sites only when excavations at other areas are completed.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. As a result of the invasion, 1619 Greek-Cypriots were listed as missing, most of whom soldiers or reservists, who were captured in the battlefield.
Among them, however, were many civilians, women and children, arrested by the Turkish invasion troops and Turkish-Cypriot paramilitary groups, within the area controlled by the Turkish army after the end of hostilities and far away from the battlefield. Many of those missing were last seen alive in the hands of the Turkish military. A further 41 more cases of Greek Cypriot missing persons have been recently added. These cases concern the period between 1963-1964, when inter-communal fighting broke out but none of them has been identified yet.
The number of Turkish Cypriot missing since 1974 and 1963/64 stands at 503.
According to the CMP, to date, human remains representing over 900 individuals have been exhumed from different burial sites located across the island. Over 340 missing persons have been identified and returned to the families for a proper burial, most of them Greek Cypriots.
Exhumations are carried out on both sides of the buffer zone by bi-communal teams (6 teams in the north and 2 teams in the south) made of over 55 Cypriot archaeologists and anthropologists. Bi-communal teams are now autonomous after having been trained by international experts from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) during the first 18 months of the project.
Between March and November 2012, 659 sites were excavated, the vast majority of them had no remains (243 had remains). In the occupied areas 534 sites were excavated. The corresponding figure for the southern government controlled part of the country is 125.