Nearly 39 years after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) has begun digging for possible burial sites of victims within a fenced Turkish military area in the occupied areas, said Aristos Aristotelous, the Greek Cypriot member of the CMP.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Aristotelous said the Turkish authorities recently gave their consent for excavations to take place, following a request from the CMP. The former AKEL MP said he hoped the committee would also be able to carry out excavations in other Turkish military areas which have long been linked to possible burial sites.
Until now, Turkey has resisted requests to open up military areas where many of the missing are believed to have been buried in mass graves, based on witness accounts given to the CMP.
Aristotelous said digging for the remains of missing persons began in a fenced military area southwest of the Kyrenia district, based on information given long ago to the CMP.
As a result of fighting between Greeks and Turks in the 1960’s and the Turkish invasion of 1974, some 1,464 Greek Cypriots and 494 Turkish Cypriots were reported missing and both sides blamed the other for atrocities and murders. According to the CMP, to date, human remains of more than 900 people have been exhumed from burial sites located across the island.
The CMP team of scientists has visited and opened more than 600 potential burial sites so far, the majority in the north of the island. Officials said that 373 did not contain any human remains. As of August 2012, a total of 330 missing persons (264 Greek Cypriots and 66 Turkish Cypriots) were identified and returned to their families for burial.
Exhumations are carried out on both sides of the buffer zone by bi-communal teams (six teams in the north and two teams in the south) made of over 55 Cypriot archaeologists and anthropologists. The teams are now autonomous after having been trained by international experts from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) during the first 18 months of the project.