Nicosia prepares action plan and diplomatic initiative on missing persons, Presidential Commissioner tells CNA [VIDEO]

Nicosia prepares to launch a diplomatic initiative on missing persons, targeting decision-making centers abroad, and plans to put forward an action plan, Presidential Commissioner Fotis Fotiou told CNA.

According to data from the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), the number of individuals that are being exhumed is declining in the last few years, with two exhumations taking place since the beginning of this year and 10 exhumations in 2018, compared to 42 in 2017.

In an interview with CNA, Fotiou expressed support to the work of CMP, he said however that he expected a more vigorous stance on behalf of the Third Member of CMP, Paul-Henri Arni, when it comes to accessing Turkish military archives. He also dismissed suggestions to turn CMP into a regional hub providing services for missing persons, noting that the Committee should focus on solving the problem of missing persons in Cyprus first.

We need to go one step ahead. Already with the Foreign Minister and all relevant services we concluded a specific action plan that will be discussed in the Cabinet in the next days or weeks Fotiou added.

He said moreover that together with Greece � a country with nationals who also went missing in Cyprus � there should be an intense, proactive diplomatic action targeting decision-making centers, in particular the EU which is the main donor of CMP.

According to the Presidential Commissioner, in 2020 the EU will review the situation concerning missing persons in Cyprus and this should be the time for the EU to ask for explanations from the occupying force regarding the CMP’s low turnout.

As for the UN-appointed member of the CMP, Fotiou said that Arni should bear in mind that he is here in order to solve the humanitarian issue of missing persons. This is not a political issue, it is purely humanitarian he went on, adding that the Third Member should act in line with UN Security Council resolutions and decisions on missing persons.

Furthermore, Fotiou said that a pledge made by Turkey through Arni, regarding Turkish military archives, cannot be constantly postponed. In the past few years CMP addressed several countries and organisations asking to access their archives, however Turkey is the only country not cooperating he added.

The Third Member should therefore ask for this more intensely, more vigorously and support the efforts of the Republic of Cyprus on this matter the Presidential Commissioner underlined.

At the same time, Fotiou expressed support to the work of CMP, despite poor results. We do support the operation and the programs of CMP, on the other hand we are disappointed about the results for which Turkey is to blame and not the CMP, he added.

He also dismissed suggestions which are being made from time to time, to turn CMP into a regional hub providing services for missing persons. CMP should focus on solving the problem of missing persons here in Cyprus he said adding that once this is settled, we could examine the idea of turning it into a regional hub.

The Presidential Commissioner outlined two areas where Turkey’s cooperation is required. First is the issue of mass graves where the bodies were placed after they were collected from the battlefields in the summer of 1974, he said. The second point, he added, is the relocation of remains, which he described as the second war crime committed by Turkey.

Evaluating the results of excavations that took place in military zones in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus, following a permission granted in 2015, Fotiou said they were poor. There was an expectation by many that these military zones might contain the remains of many missing persons, he said, adding that Turkey knew that this was not the case.

According to Fotiou, the reason why these permissions were granted was for Turkey to convey the impression internationally that she is cooperating with CMP.

In his interview with CNA, the Presidential Commissioner also said that together with the Ministry of Labor and other authorities they prepared an incentives scheme for the resettlement of families to Karpasia and the Maronite villages in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus. The scheme is expected to be submitted to the Cabinet in the next few days or weeks, and aims, among others, to support financially couples who decide to go back to their villages and live there.

Fotiou pointed out that the aim is to have new families added to the enclaved population, and provide additional pupils for the school in Turkish-occupied Rizokarpaso, a village in the northeastern tip of Cyprus.

He said moreover that if there are enough children, the school in Kormakitis, a Turkish-occupied Maronite village in the northwestern part of Cyprus, could also reopen.

There is a lot of interest with people already filing applications to be resettled to the Maronite villages and to Karpasia, Fotiou went on, adding that they will be reviewed once the scheme gets Cabinet approval.

Asked about the return of Maronites to the villages of Ayia Marina and Asomatos, which are now sealed off by the Turkish army, Fotiou said that the issue is brought up from time to time by the Turkish Cypriot side in order to generate confusion among the members of the Maronite community.

Refugees will return once the Cyprus issue is settled, Turkey’s occupation is terminated and Cyprus is reunified, the Presidential Commissioner noted, adding that it is up to Maronites to decide whether they want to return under other conditions.

Fotiou also referred to the bilateral and trilateral actions Cyprus is undertaking in order to promote cooperation on diaspora matters.

The diaspora will not continue to exist without the new generation, he said. He also pointed to the example of the Israeli and Armenian diasporas, noting that these countries invested in the young generation, and this is what we are also doing.

Speaking about Nostos 3, an event taking place later this month in Australia with the participation of Egypt’s Minister of Immigration and Expatriates Affairs and Greece’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Presidential Commissioner said that it is expected to focus on young people and on entrepreneurs.

Moreover, he said that cooperation with Israel on diaspora matters is advancing and added that cooperation with Jewish lobby organizations in the United States was hugely successful. The President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades is expected to address the AIPAC conference later this month in Washington, he noted.

He said finally that he is expected to attend an Informal Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Diaspora Policy, in Bucharest next week, in the framework of Romania’s EU Presidency, while Romania’s Minister of Diaspora will pay a visit to Cyprus early in April.

Source: Cyprus News Agency