Turkey agrees access to Cyprus army zone graves in search for missing
ATHENS – Reuters
AP photoTurkey has agreed to allow access to graves in military zones in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in a major breakthrough in a decades-old search for persons missing in past conflicts, a team working under U.N. auspices said on Nov. 5.
Turkey has formally agreed to let exhumation teams inspect 30 known suspected burial sites in closed military areas, the Committee for Missing Persons (CMP) said in a statement.
The CMP said it was notified by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı that “Turkey had formally agreed to provide access ... to all 30 currently known suspected burial sites in military areas in the north.”
In what the CMP hailed as an “important breakthrough”, access will be granted over a three-year period, starting in January 2016, with 10 sites to be excavated each year.
Turkish Cypriot leader Akıncı and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades have repeatedly called on both communities to help in efforts to locate the remains of missing persons as part of confidence-building measures.
The eastern Mediterranean island was divided into a Turkish Cypriot administration in the north and a Greek Cypriot one in the south after a Greek-inspired 1974 military coup was followed by the intervention of Turkey.
More than 2,000 Greek and Turkish Cypriots disappeared in the intervention.
Long-stalled negotiations to settle the conflict resumed May 15 of this year.
The CMP has been carrying out exhumations at sites since 2006, but has never been allowed to carry out work in army zones.