The remains of 16 Greek soldiers who were killed during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and of one soldier who was killed on board FAETHON in 1964 when the Turkish air force bombed and sank her, return home on Friday.
A special ceremony to mark the return of the remains took place here today after mass at the Church of Gods Wisdom in Nicosia.
The remains of ten of the Greek nationals were located in the occupied areas of Cyprus and were identified through the identification program of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP). The other seven identifications were carried out as part of the exhumation and identification program of the Cyprus Republic.
Three of the Greek nationals were onboard Noratlas aircraft which was hit by friendly fire in Nicosia during the Turkish invasion.
The relatives of the 17 soldiers attended the mass and were decorated with honours by the President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades. The Greek Government was represented by the Minister of Defence Panos Kammenos.
In his address President Anastasiades expressed Cyprus’ deep gratitude and unwavering love for the heroes and their relatives, saying that they sacrificed their lives for the country and this sacrifice gives us the right today to carry on the struggle to reunite our country and free Cyprus of the Turkish occupying troops.
President Anastasiades acknowledged past mistakes in the procedures followed to identify remains of missing persons and for this reason – he said – he wants to convey his apologies to the relatives. Today, he added, we are able to reinstate the honor and dignity of all those who have fallen for Cyprus.
He said that his government, as well as others in the past, is making every effort to identify the fate of missing persons, both in the meetings with the Turkish Cypriot leader and on an international level.
The President assured that these efforts will be intensified in every direction in order to achieve the best possible results the soonest. He also pointed out that Turkey’s stance hinders all the efforts underway and called on Ankara to grant permission for excavations in military zones. He also referred to the tragic issue of the transfer of human remains to other sites from the ones where they were buried.
Referring to the Cyprus problem and the efforts underway for reunification, the President said that we are fully aware of our size and our capabilities and for this reason, all our actions must be well-prepared with one and only objective, the withdrawal of the Turkish army and the abolition of the guarantees, the creation of a modern state that respects the rights of its citizens which will be able to function harmoniously with other states in the international world and will be effective in its participation in the European Union.
He referred to the proposal he put forward on May 17, a proposal, he pointed out, which is fully consistent with what has been jointly agreed with the Turkish Cypriot leader, as recorded in the Announcements of the United Nations of 1st of December 2016, immediately prior to Geneva, of 12th of January 2017 in Geneva and of 1st of February in Cyprus.
He said that the procedure followed so far has not been the desired one as there was no interrelated discussion of the six chapters of the Cyprus problem.
The President in detail referred to the discussions taken place in Mont Pelerin, Geneva as well as the Cyprus Conference last December and January to point out that a new Geneva can take place but with the completion of the discussions on the critical Chapters of Security and Guarantees.
Second, he added, when discussions on security and guarantees are completed, to proceed immediately to negotiations on territorial readjustments.
Third, following completion of discussions on territorial readjustments, stay in Geneva for as long as necessary; essentially it would be a continuous summit of the leaders, not just in order to achieve substantial progress, but even to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem as well.
Minister of National Defence of Greece Panos Kammenos in his speech said that there is continuous and strong support as well as cooperation and coordination with Cyprus for a solution that will lead to a peaceful island without foreign troops and guarantees.
Commissioner Fotis Fotiou said that we will never forget our duty to determine the fate of all missing persons and we will continue with the same determination to intensify our efforts to this end.
Greek Cypriot member at the CMP Nestoras Nestoros said that once the human remains were identified, the relatives were informed by the Committee who tried to give answers to the relentless questions that led to a great ordeal for decades.
He said that the task of CMP will continue, despite the problems in order to give an end to the suffering of the relatives.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. UN-backed talks aim to reunite the island under a federal roof.
As a result of the invasion, many Greek Cypriots were listed as missing, most of whom soldiers or reservists, who were captured in the battlefield.
A Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) was established, upon agreement between the leaders of the islands two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying and returning the remains of missing persons to their relatives.
Source: Cyprus News Agency