US and Russian Embassies pledge to raise missing persons’ issue after receiving relatives’ memorandum

Representatives of the Embassies of the United States and Russia in Cyprus assured Thursday relatives of persons who became missing as a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus to raise their issue with their respective governments, in order to exert pressure on Turkey to open its military archives and allow for excavations in military zones in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus.

The Pancyprian Organisation of Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons, accompanied by representatives of the Women Organizations of Cyprus, handed over a memorandum to representatives of the US and Russian Embassies, in Nicosia, in the framework of the 33rd Missing persons marathon

Amanda Beck from the Political Affairs Department of the US Embassy pledged to forward the memorandum to Ambassador Kathleen Doherty, while noting that the United States continue to support a Cyprus settlement under the auspices of the UN. She also expressed sympathy to the relatives of missing persons.

The same memorandum was received by Counsellor Andrey Panyukov at the Embassy of the Russian Federation, who was replacing Ambassador Stanislav Osadchiy. Panyukov said that he will discuss the matter with the Third Member of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) Paul-Henri Arni, during a meeting next Monday. He also expressed hope for this humanitarian issue to be resolved soon.

Handing over the memorandum on behalf of the organization, Giorgos Economides referred to Turkey’s unconstructive attitude with regard to access to military archives, permits for excavations in military zones and the relocation of remains.

This is an international matter, not limited to Cyprus, Economides went on, and called both the United States and Russia to exert pressure on Turkey in order to resolve the issue.

In its memorandum, the Organisation of Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons expresses sympathy and support to all families of missing persons in Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike. We expect and rightly demand that the fate of our loved ones will soon be determined, so that the long and painful agony of so many families in Cyprus will come to an end the relatives say.

They note moreover that after a virtual standstill of more than four decades, some positive developments took place, with the work carried out by the CMP, which concentrated solely on a project of exhumations, identifications and the return of remains.

In their memorandum, the relatives of missing persons say that until now 868 families from both communities – 658 Greek Cypriots and 210 Turkish Cypriots – have been notified about the discovery and the identification of the remains of their loved ones.

The identification and the return of remains, for humanitarian and religious reasons are considered as a positive step. However, CMP until now has not been able to secure the full cooperation of all parties concerned which would enable it, to start the needed effective investigation it is added.

Relatives refer in particular to the lack of an effective investigation and Turkey’s refusal to release relevant information in its possession and reveal the places where bones were relocated, noting that it is not only depriving the relatives the right to the truth, but it is also creating the tragic possibility that for a large number of missing persons, their fate will remain undetermined for ever.

They call finally on both countries to help towards securing the necessary cooperation on behalf of Turkey for an effective investigation for all missing persons in Cyprus. This, they say, can be achieved by persuading all parties concerned and especially Turkey to provide CMP with access to battlefield reports and information, in order to restore human rights of the missing and their relatives.

A similar memorandum was handed over to the embassies of all UN Security Council member states, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Cyprus and the Head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Hundreds of Greek Cypriots went missing during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, most of them combatants but also women, children and elderly people. During the same period and in the early 1960 when intercommunal fighting broke out Turkish Cypriots went missing too.

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.

Source: Cyprus News Agency