Cyprus hands over remains of five Greek officers who died during 1964 clashes

The remains of five Greek nationals who died onboard the patrol ship Phaethon during the 1964 battle of Tillyria were sent back to Greece on Tuesday, after being honored by Cyprus and Greece during a ceremony held in Nicosia.

Another two Greeks who also sacrificed their lives for Cyprus’ liberty, one in 1964 and the other in 1974, were buried today in Nicosia, according to the wishes of their relatives.

In total, seven members of the crew of Phaethon died in the summer of 1964, when the Turkish air force bombed the northwest of Cyprus. One was a Cypriot national, Akis Filitas, who was subsequently buried in his hometown, Morphou. The remains of sailor Nikolaos Niafas were returned to Greece a few months ago.

The other five, whose remains were repatriated today, are lieutenant Panayiotis Chryssoulis from Athens, Lieutenant Commander Spyridon Agathos from Corfu, Lieutenant Commander Nikolaos Panayos from Arcadia, sailor Panayiotis Theodoratos from Kefalonia and sailor Nikoloas Kapadoukas from Skopelos. For the past decades, their remains were buried in a Nicosia cemetery and were unearthed last April, in order to be identified and receive a proper burial.

A handover ceremony was held on Tuesday morning, at the Saints Constantine and Helen cemetery. The President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades was represented by Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Photis Photiou. The Greek state was represented by Alternate Minister of National Defence Dimitris Vitsas, while several relatives travelled from Greece to attend the event.

Addressing the ceremony, Photiou apologized on behalf of Cyprus for the delay in returning the remains due to mistakes or omissions of the past, as well as due to reasons deemed necessary in the course of time.

54 years since the Turkish assault in Tillyria and 44 years since the Turkish invasion in Cyprus, in violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and against any notion of international law, we address the ultimate right of the families of those heroes to be identified and their remains handed back, in order to be buried wherever their beloved ones wish Photiou said.

Vitsas sent on his part a message of unity and respect towards the fundamental values of defending the homeland and Hellenism. He added that Greece in not favouring tension with neighbouring countries, he said however that the Greek armed forces are always prepared to defend liberty, sovereignty and democracy.

After the ceremony, the remains of Colonel Athanasios Photopoulos, who died during the 1974 Turkish invasion and of Warrant officer Vassilios Koukousoulis, who died in August 1964, were buried at the cemetery.

The coffins with the remains of the five, covered with the flags of Cyprus and Greece, were subsequently transported to the old Larnaca airport and were transported with a military aircraft to Athens.

The plane departed a little before 13.00 o’ clock local time (11.00 am GMT) after a brief religious ceremony, attended by Photiou, Vitsas and the relatives, as well as by the Ambassador of Greece to Cyprus and senior military officers.

During 1963-1964, inter-communal fighting broke out in Cyprus. Phaethon was sunk off Xeros area, in the Bay of Morphou, after being hit by the Turkish air force with napalm bombs. Cyprus remains divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

Source: Cyprus News Agency