NEWS

Ray of light for the lost

Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash reached an initial agreement yesterday in their effort to solve the mystery of an estimated 2,000 people missing since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The two men held two meetings on the subject in Nicosia yesterday and agreed to write down over the weekend their opinions and practical ways to work toward determining the fate of the missing. They will also exchange documents and discuss them at a later meeting with the objective of shaping a commonly acceptable and binding document on the practical means that will be applied to this end. Denktash appeared upbeat after the meeting in the UN-held buffer zone in Nicosia. «There is progress. There are more chances of finding a formula,» he told reporters in the Turkish-held sector. «There is no reason why this issue should not be resolved, but there is no solution yet.» He said the two sides would exchange reports on the missing on Monday. Cypriot government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said that the continuation of talks on the subject was positive, but added that this process was not linked to the direct negotiations on the Cyprus problem that Clerides and Denktash will begin on January 16. He said the objective was a new push in efforts to solve the humanitarian problem. Clerides invited the relatives of the missing to a meeting tomorrow morning to exchange opinions on drawing up the Greek-Cypriot document. Both sides appear to have realized that progress in solving the problem of the missing will help improve the climate of the talks that begin on Wednesday. The Greek Cypriots want to persuade the Turkish Cypriots to apply the Clerides-Denktash formula of July 1997, which foresees exhumations and DNA analysis to determine identities. It also calls for investigations into cases where Greek Cypriots saw compatriots being taken prisoner and who were never seen again. Some 1,600 Greek Cypriots and 803 Turkish Cypriots have been missing, in one of the most emotive issues involved in the Cyprus question. Many of the Greek Cypriots were seen by witnesses when they were captured alive by Turkish forces. Opposition New Democracy party commented that «It is early to evaluate the results of the visit, but there are serious questions over what was done and what was not done there. The expected progress on the issues of Cyprus and the EU force did not materialize.»