The missing persons issue was the main issue of discussion at a meeting Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou had with United Nations Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix in New York.
Photiou, who is in New York representing the government at the Federation of Cypriot American Organizations meeting and the 2018 Greek Independence Day Parade on 5th Avenue, has told Lacroix that Turkey should stop raising obstacles to the Committee on Missing Persons so it can continue its work unimpeded. He said the CMP is a significant tool to solve this humanitarian issue.
Lacroix, he said, showed understanding about the missing persons issue and matters relating to enclaved persons in Cyprus` northern Turkish occupied areas, adding that their meeting was constructive. He also said the two discussed the Cyprus problem and he briefed Lacroix on the dinner President of the Republc Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci had earlier this month.
In his statements, Photiou said he conveyed the concerns of the Greek Cypriot side over the limited results that the CMP has achieved in locating Greek Cypriot missing since the 1974 Turkish invasion, due to the stalemate caused by the Turkish stance, pointing out that Turkey refuses to cooperate and that it must be persuaded that the missing persons issue is not political but humanitarian and that if progress were to be achieved on this issue, it would help boost confidence between the island`s two communities.
The Commissioner further said that Turkey should allow access to the Turkish army archives and give permission for exhumations to take place where there are mass graves. “It is inhuman to give relatives of the missing two to three pieces of remains for burial,” he remarked.
Photiou thanked Lacroix for UNFICYP’s work regarding the enclaved. He said the most important issue schools face in the occupied north are the obstacles raised in appointing teachers and in the distribution of history and religious studies books.
The Commissioner raised the issue of the levy on humanitarian aid delivered from the southern government-controlled areas of the Republic to Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the northern Turkish occupied part of the island and referred to the decision of the “foreign minister” in the illegal regime to abolish the levy. “I called on Lacroix to make sure that the initial procedures in place for years (to transport humanitarian aid to the north) will resume,” he added.
Photiou met with members of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and discussed cooperation between the Greek and Jewish diaspora in the US.
He recalled that diaspora issues are part of the trilateral cooperation Cyprus-Israel-Greece, adding that the three countries can promote national interests at decision making centres, especially in the US.
Regarding his meeting with Archbishop Demetrios of America, whom he described as an excellent friend of Cyprus who does significant religious work, he said he briefed him on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem and the missing persons issue, urging him to use his connections to promote both issues. He explained the programmes Greece and Cyprus are promoting for overseas Greeks that aim to keep the new generation close to its roots. He described the Archbishop’s role as decisive in the success of these programmes and thanked him for everything that he is doing for Cyprus and overseas Greeks.
On his part, the Archbishop thanked the Commissioner, noting that Photiou had briefed him on issues concerning youth. The Archbishop also referred to his close bonds with Cyprus, adding that despite the fact that one third of the island is under occupation, it is progressing dynamically and the people are very strong. He pledged solidarity to the cause of Cyprus.
Later on Tuesday, Photiou will attend a dinner hosted in his honour by overseas Cyprus which will also be attended by Terence Quick, Deputy Minister of State for Greeks Abroad.
President Anastasiades and Akinci have been engaged in UN-backed negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem. The latest round of talks took place in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans Montana but failed to yield any results.
UN talks aim at reuniting Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion, under a federal roof.
A Committee on Missing Persons has been established, upon agreement between the leaders of the two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying and returning the remains of missing persons to their relatives.