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Media Watch 2003

02 May 2003
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Menelaos Hadjicostis
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 2 May 2003
Relatives hope for new moves in missing tragedy


RELATIVES of missing Greek Cypriots are hopeful the opening of the Green Line, coupled with the government’s support measures for Turkish Cypriots, will kick-start stalled efforts to uncover the fate of the hundreds whose fate has been unknown since 1974.

Relatives of the Missing Committee Chairman Nicos Theodosiou said the easing of travel restrictions to and from the north opened a political window of opportunity to push through the long-standing humanitarian issue of missing persons that the government ought to exploit.

“It’s a fact that new prospects are being created that could help make some headway on the issue of the missing, prospects that we expect the government to exploit, said Theodosiou.

The Committee chairman said one way to nudge things forward is to prod the occupation regime into reactivating a dormant July 31, 1997 agreement to swap information on the location of mass graves on either side of the divide for exhumations to begin without delay.

That agreement ground to a halt after Denktash back-pedalled on allowing experts to begin the search for some 1,500 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots officially listed as missing.

Prodding

“Now is the time to test the occupation regime’s new tactics by prodding Rauf Denktash to reactivate the 1997 agreement,” said Theodosiou.

That could come by way of support measures the government announced on Wednesday, serving the dual purpose of reaching out to Turkish Cypriots and regaining the political initiative to get Denktash back to the negotiating table.

Among the measures are monthly allowances for relatives of Turkish Cypriots missing or killed in inter-communal fighting between 1963-1974, and a resumption of exhumations in government-controlled territory where Turkish Cypriots are believed to be buried.

Identification of uncovered remains will be carried out using DNA samples provided by Turkish Cypriot relatives and stored at a newly-formed tissue bank.

It is thought this measure could prompt Denktash to reciprocate in kind, allowing teams of experts to search for possible mass graves of Greek Cypriots in the occupied north.

Some sources suggested the specific measure was included in the package in exchange for a similar move by Denktash in a deal brokered through back-channel negotiations.

But Theodosiou sounded a word of caution over Rauf Denktash’s possible change of heart, suggesting that the move to ease travel restrictions could be a political ruse to shake off the tag he’s been given as the spoiler in settlement efforts. 

“We’re dealing with an unpredictable Denktash, who could shut this down on a whim...We have to give it a few days to see how the situation takes shape,” said Theodosiou.

However, the Committee Chairman said that, at this point, there’s no one or anything to stop relatives of the missing from crossing over into the occupied north seeking for information into the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Going one step further, one source suggested that relatives going to the north with pick-axe and shovel in hand to begin actual digging where they believe family members might be buried could create a situation that could force the hand of Denktash to settle the humanitarian issue once and for all. 

Important

“The most important thing, however, is to avoid a fiasco where someone could start digging, find nothing and give the occupation regime reason to use it against them,” said the source.

One person who won’t be making the trek north in search of information on her missing husband and son is Panayiota Pavlou-Solomi.

Her husband Pavlos Solomi, 42, and son Solomis Pavlou Solomi, 17, where never seen or heard from again after being arrested by Turkish Cypriots from their mixed village of Komi Kepir.

The 72-year-old said there’s no reason for her to go knocking on doors in the north for scraps of information when the occupation regime has for three decades refused to come clean on the missing.

“I’ve lived for two-and-a-half years as an enclaved person and nothing came out of anyone’s lips, what would be different now?

“If I’m going to go to the occupied north, I’m going to go when I don’t have to show a passport to anyone and when a proper solution is found,” said Pavlou-Solomi."