Foreign Ministry gears up efforts for missing, prepares action plan with aim to deliver results the soonest

Turkey’s denial to cooperate with the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) and to fulfill its obligations deriving from the international law as well as the difficulties caused by the passage of time, particularly in locating and identifying human remains, have led the Cyprus Foreign Ministry to put together an action plan, which includes measures on both political and administrative/collaborative levels.

The aim is to yield results within a certain timeframe, as the Ministry is very much concerned with the lack of outcome in locating and exhuming remains of missing persons. It is worth mentioning that in 2018, CMP was able to locate the remains of only 13 persons, compared to 47 the year before and 107 in 2016.

The action plan was tabled during the last meeting of the Cabinet. According to this plan, as Cyprus News Agency has learned, Nicosia aims at engaging in a political campaign on international level and especially within the EU and will also take concrete steps on administrative level, with all competent services and authorities in order to step up efforts and to secure that there will be enhancement of efficiency to bear fruits within this year, if possible.

The action plan was put together following a close cooperation and exchange of views between the Foreign Minister, who oversees the implementation of the Governments policy on the humanitarian issue of missing persons and the Attorney General, the Presidential Commissioner, the Greek Cypriot Representative to the CMP, and the Committees of the Relatives of Missing Persons in both Cyprus and Greece as well as the Committee of the Relatives of Missing Persons from the 1963-67 period.

During the extended and exhaustive exchange of views, all competent authorities of the Republic came to the conclusion that the lack of progress in identifying the fate of missing persons calls for immediate action with a timetable of implementation with the aim to raise awareness within the international community in exerting pressure on Turkey to change its stance of intransigence and finally cooperate in the humanitarian issue. The effectiveness of the measures and actions decided upon will be evaluated regularly and if needed, adjustments will be made.

Measures on political level-policy steps

The policy measures are mainly aimed at further raising the awareness of the international community and addressing the attitude and approach of Ankara that does not cooperate to resolve the humanitarian issue of the missing. According to the action plan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be the responsible body for determining and implementing policy-making measures and will work with all relevant governmental and non-governmental services and authorities.

The role of the House of Representatives is also considered of paramount importance in this process and to this end the Minister is set to brief the parliamentarians about the action plan in the near future, with a view to launching a regular channel of discussion on the joint effort to put pressure on Turkey by the international players in order to cooperate and facilitate the work of CMP.

Nicosia intends to further exploit its status as a full member state of the EU and believes that there can be tangible results. The government, at the same time, will work at the level of the Council of Europe and will seek to apply pressure on Turkey in the context of the forthcoming debate on the missing persons at the CoE Committee of Ministers.

The Committee of the Ministers is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the 4th Interstate Application of Cyprus v. Turkey

The Ministry also believes that it is of great importance to further maximize the involvement of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, given the active presence of Cypriot MPs and for this purpose there will be coordination and exchange of views with them.

There will also be coordination with Cypriot MEPs to further highlight the issue of missing persons and the effort will be, among other things, to encourage joint efforts to adopt a resolution at the European Parliament on the issue of missing persons, through which the MEPs will ask Turkey to take specific actions.

The policy measures also include the further engagement of the diplomatic missions of the Republic of Cyprus. Embassies will work to further raise awareness on the issue of missing persons in order to secure that pressure will be put on Turkey and that there will be further financial support of the work of the CMP.

Efforts will also be made to further exploit Cyprus’ status as a founding member of the International Commission of Missing Persons (ICMP) and the signing on Cyprus behalf, of the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the ICMP, based in the Hague, in 2015. A more active role will be assumed so that more states become members of the Commission. Furthermore, Cyprus will look into the possibility of upgrading the observation status the European Union currently holds, to a full member of the ICMP.

Coordination with the Greek Government will also be intensified and a joint ministerial meeting with competent authorities and groups of relatives of missing is set to take place.

Coordination/administrative measures

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wants to highlight the importance of effective coordination between all authorities involved in the issue and special focus is given to the significance of consensus and better collaboration and coordination.

All competent services which came together in preparing the action plan, under the umbrella of the Foreign Ministry, underlined the need for assessment and evaluation on a regular basis in order to improve the level of coordination based on the results and the problems that arise.

The action plan also suggests to set up a joint research group with the participation of CMP and officials from the Department of Missing Persons of the Republic. This joint research group is considered to be a very important measure which falls into the category of urgent steps. It is noted that both the Presidency and the Greek Cypriot representative to the CMP believe that strengthening the research work is key to achieving immediate and tangible results.

Furthermore, another research team will be set up to study archives available and with the assistance of academic staff will be able to broaden its field of research to include open data. Efforts will be made in order to accelerate the procedure of digitizing all the information available and a mechanism for exhuming and identifying remains will be formed, under the aegis of the Presidential Commissioner. This mechanism will solely deal with issues related to fallen civilians or soldiers, i.e. collecting information, studying records and making visits on site, working with specialized centers abroad to resolve matters of false identifications of human remains.

Administrative measures basically include requests made by the competent departments or services and have to do with the increase of excavation teams and other staff and their presence in the newly established Joint Task Force which includes police personnel and officials from the Ministry of Defence.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Since then, the fate of hundreds of people remains unknown.

A Committee on Missing Persons has been established, upon agreement between the leaders of the two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying and returning the remains of missing persons to their relatives. In the past thirteen years, the CMP managed to identify and return the remains of 927 persons, out of 2,002.

Source: Cyprus News Agency