The international community should put pressure on Turkey to act on the missing persons, says Photiou

It is high time for the international community to put pressure and persuade Turkey to cooperate on the missing persons issue which is clearly a humanitarian issue, Commissioner to the Presidency for Humanitarian Affairs and Overseas Affairs, Photis Photiou told CNA.

He also said that there are positive indications from a laboratory in the US that they will be able to find genetic material from remains that were sprayed with chemicals.

In an interview with CNA on the occasion of his re-appointment, Photiou also referred to the illegal regimes decision in the Turkish occupied northern part of Cyprus to impose tariffs on humanitarian aid sent to the enclaved people in the occupied areas via UNFICYP, saying that at the moment there is no indication of a change in stance.

Photiou said that on the missing persons issue, nearly 44 years after the invasion, two thirds of the missing remain unaccounted for.

Noting the government sees the issue as a humanitarian one, he said Turkey does not respect the ECHR decisions, does not respect the UN resolutions and does not cooperate to locate remains of Greek Cypriots and Greek nationals. Turkey, he added, refuses to give information from the Turkish army’s archives as to where large mass graves are located around Kyrenia where the dead were buried in July and August 1974.

The annual results of the Committee on Missing Persons, he said, are poor due to the lack of information. In 2017, he said, around 34-35 missing persons were located. You understand how long this is going to take as there are still 850 persons still unaccounted for, Photiou added.

This, he said, might create problems for the CMP’s operation. That is why we say it is time for the international community to persuade and put pressure on Turkey to cooperate on this issue which is clearly humanitarian and not political, he remarked.

Photiou also said that there are other problems that need to be resolved, such as the remains which have been covered with chemical substances. However, the US Defence Department’s laboratory where the remains have been sent has indicated that it may find genetic material as it is a very experienced laboratory that has dealt with cases from the Vietnam War. Their first indications are that they will be able to locate genetic material and this will contribute to the solution of a great problem that we have been faced with for 43 years now, Photiou said.

He further said that all exhumation programmes in the government-controlled areas have been completed. Noratlas (where the Greek military transport plane Noratlas was shot down by friendly fire in Cyprus in July 1974) was successfully completed, as well as Phaethon where seven members of the crew of the patrol ship died in the summer of 1964, when the Turkish air force bombed the northwest of Cyprus. The remains of five Greek nationals in the ship were buried in a Nicosia cemetery and were unearthed last April. The raimains were identified and returned to their relatives.

Unfortunately, the case of the exhumation of the remains of 31 people listed as buried in the area of the Athalassa psychiatric hospital has not been completed. He said remains for around 14 missing have been located but it seems that due to construction in the area, remains were moved and it is possible that there are two more areas that need to be dug up.

Asked about the specific actions that the government will undertake to promote the missing persons issue, Photiou said that apart from the UN and the EU, the government is appealing to other countries, including the US as US nationals are included in the list of the missing persons. The US has an obligation to become involved in this case, he said and added that overseas Cypriots in the US, Britain and Europe are also working hard at decision making centres.

As far as the enclaved are concerned, Photiou said the illegal restrictions that came into effect by the occupation regime continue. Food as well as other goods except medicines, are subject to taxes by the so-called regime and Photiou noted under no circumstances we will submit to this measure.

He added that we are trying to help the enclaved at this difficult time through diplomatic and political means for the occupation regime to lift this measure which is contrary to the Third Vienna Agreement.

On 2 August 1975, at the conclusion of UN sponsored intercommunal talks the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash respectively, reached an agreement known as the Third Vienna Agreement addressing important humanitarian aspects affecting the lives of the enclaved.

“We hope that if something comes up, such as the resumption of the negotiations, they (the Turkish Cypriot side) will think more logically and lift this measure, the Commissioner added.

Photiou further said that the plan announced by the government last month to allocate 1.3 million euro for the repair of houses belonging to the enclaved in the Turkish occupied areas is going ahead with full speed. The enclaved will be able to utilize the plan which is valid for three years, although it looks like it will be completed in the first year because of the interest exhibited, he said.

On the overseas Cypriots, Photiou said the national strategy that his office has implemented over the last few years, continues. These people are the most genuine part of Hellenism overseas, that have a long-term contribution to the country, especially in the fight for a solution to the Cyprus problem and the economic problem that Cyprus faced.

The national strategy, he said, aims to help the younger generation know its roots, its history and traditions by various programmes such as exchange visits, teaching the Greek language, visiting archaeological sites and other.

He also said his office will seek the help of distinguished overseas Cypriots, doctors, scientists, professors, business people since they are the best ambassadors of Cyprus.

Photiou also said that they are also forging agreements with other diaspora (Jewish, Armenian) to help further cooperation as they have vast experience at decision making centres.

He further praised the role of the Church especially in bringing the younger overseas generation closer to its roots.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The latest round of UN-peace talks commenced at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana on June 28, but in the early hours of July 7, it was announced that the Conference on Cyprus ended without an agreement. Talks held under the auspices of the UN aim at reunifying Cyprus under a federal roof.

Source: Cyprus News Agency