Work to ID Cyprus’ Missing War Victims Remains Starts to Slow

FILE - In this Wednesday, May 31, 2017 photo, an anthropologist works on the remains of a missing person at the anthropologist laboratory of Cyprus Missing Persons (CMP) inside the U.N buffer zone in the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Efforts to identify the remains of people missing and killed in Turkey’s unlawful 1974 invasion of Cyprus is slowing down and time is running out, Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Photis Photiou said.

He called for a joint government-Parliament meeting after telling lawmakers only eight remains were identified in the first five months of this year compared with 49 in 2017 and 114 in 2016, the Cyprus Mail said.

Talking to the House Refugee Committee, he blamed Turkey for withholding archives of information and for moving remains around in an apparent attempt to hide them and disclose the fate of the missing and victims.

The committee also heard that the amnesty offered to people on both sides to come forward with information if they knew anything or were involved in any aspect related to missing persons, had been a complete failure and yielded essentially nothing useful.

“I have proposed a joint government-House meeting, with Greece, to see what further action we can take, how we can reinforce the political and diplomatic efforts on the subject of our missing people because the greatest enemy for this humanitarian issue is time,” Photiou said in statements after the meeting.

Victims on both sides of the island haven’t been identified, including Turkish-Cypriots killed during the battle as well as Cypriots, including around 70 people from the Turkish occupied village of Ashia murdered during the 1974 invasion now believed buried under rubbish in a restored landfill.

According to witnesses, the remains were transferred there from the village of Ornithi. The relocation took place between 1995-1996. The landfill was closed between 2009-2012 as part of an EU-funded project to restore the area but the EU said it wasn’t aware of the possibility of remains.

“There is also the political dimension and we will not accept to close this on the grounds that there are problems or that the information is not correct. That will never happen,” said Photiou.

The number of Greek Cypriots identified so far is 659, with 851 still missing. There have also been 211 identifications of Turkish Cypriots, with 281 still missing.