NEWS

Missing Turkish Cypriots’ remains found near resort?

NICOSIA (AFP) – A mass grave thought to contain the remains of Turkish Cypriots missing since the 1963-64 intercommunal clashes has been located near a tourist resort in the government-controlled south of the divided island, an official said yesterday. «This was a one-off emergency dig due to the area being developed, and they wanted it checked out,» a source close to the UN-led Committee for Missing Persons (CMP) told AFP. «Human remains were found. It seems they were found in a bore hole and are subject to anthropological examination,» the source added. The exact number of bodies found has not been disclosed. It is one of the few suspected Turkish-Cypriot mass grave sites in the Cyprus government-controlled south to be successfully dug up since the island was partitioned in 1974. [Other digs are under way in the Turkish-occupied parts of the region of Famagusta.] The remains were exhumed near the coastal resort of Protaras at a site forensic experts started excavating on June 2 away from the media spotlight. The government has declined to comment on the find but views the missing as a humanitarian issue that transcends the politics of the island’s division. Last December, both communities made a breakthrough agreement to proceed with full-scale exhumations of more than 2,000 Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot disappeared. Most of the Turkish-Cypriot missing are from 1963-64 and the 1,586 Greek Cypriots have been missing since 1974. Full exhumations are expected to begin after an anthropological lab is fully equipped and operational in the UN controlled buffer zone in Nicosia. «We are still awaiting full-scale exhumations and the lab is being equipped. The project also needs funding,» said the source. The issue of the missing is expected to step up a gear once the new international member of the CMP, Christopher Girod, takes up duties next month. The UN believes this would be the perfect opportunity for Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to meet. They have not met since a UN reunification blueprint failed at a referendum in April 2004. Peace talks have been shelved ever since. A meeting to resolve the fate of the missing is viewed as a necessary icebreaker to new talks.