Greek Cypriot side ready to assist exhumations in occupied areas
Nicosia, Dec 23 (CNA) - The government is ready to assist the process of exhumation of remains of persons listed as missing since the 1974 Turkish invasion, believed to have been buried in northern occupied Cyprus, President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos said today.
The President was replying to press questions on the issue of missing persons, in the wake of a letter UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has sent to him and to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash stressing the need to see this humanitarian problems resolved.
''The purpose of Annan's letter is to implement the agreement reached in July 1997 between the two sides. We are ready to take steps unilaterally, if need be,'' he added.
The President has given a positive reply to Annan's letter. Denktash has yet to give his response to the Secretary General.
''We are ready to help exhumations of remains in the occupied areas,'' Papadopoulos said.
The July agreement between Denktash and the then President of the Republic Glafcos Clerides provided for the exchange of information on burial sites, exhumations and the return of remains to their families.
The government of Cyprus began in the summer of 1999 a process of exhumation of remains buried in two local cemeteries and more than 100 remains belonging to persons listed as missing have been identified.
Exhumations and identification was carried out by a team of forensic experts from the Nobel Peace Prize winners Physicians for Human Rights, with the help of local experts.
Replying to questions, the President said a lot of work has been done on this issue and the Secretary General has responded in a positive manner.
In his recent letter to Papadopoulos and Denktash, Annan stresses the need to implement the July agreement and points out that the work of the Committee of Missing Persons (CMP) should continue.
He recommends the resumption of CMP meetings with the representatives of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides and the interim member, and calls for the investigation of those cases not yet considered by the Committee.
It also calls on CMP to discuss modalities to implement the July agreement.
The CMP has not held any formal meeting since January 2000 when the third member, appointed by the Secretary General, died.