The remains of seven Greek soldiers who lost their lives during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus were transferred to Greece on Thursday.
The handover ceremony took place on Thursday morning, in the presence of the political, military and religious leadership and Greece`s Deputy Minister of Defense Nikolaos Hardalias. House Speaker and Defense Minister were also present to pay their respects as well as the Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, the Chief of Cyprus’ National Guard and representatives of the political parties and other organized groups.
Relatives of the soldiers who have travelled from Greece were also present to receive the remains of their beloved as well as medals of honors.
The remains were transferred by plane for a proper burial in the places of their origin. Six of the soldiers were stationed in ELDYK, the Hellenic Force in Cyprus and were killed during the battles in the summer of 1974 when Turkey invaded Cyprus. The seventh was in NORATLAS, the military transport aircraft shot down in Nicosia.
Commissioner Photis Photiou said that the seven heroes from Greece gave their lives for Cyprus and the Cypriot people are grateful to them and their relatives, many of whom are no longer alive and passed away without knowing the fate of their loved ones.
He spoke of the ties between the two countries and their common struggles for liberty and democracy. According to Photiou a total of 77 Greek citizens are included in the list of missing persons, of whom 47 are still unaccounted for. He said that Turkey has a huge responsibility as regards the issue of the missing persons and so far it refuses to cooperate and called on the international community to exert pressure on Ankara. He spoke of incidents of mass graves, transfer of remains to other places and archives of the Turkish army which include information on their fate.
The Commissioner reassured that the Cyprus government will continue the struggle for the fate of each and everyone of the missing persons.
Greek Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias said that their sacrifice proves the principles and virtues of Hellenism adding that until the very end they remained focused and faithful to the military oath.
He said that 47 years after the invasion, Turkey still shows a provocative stance, adding that both Greece and Cyprus are determined to carry on the struggle for reunification, putting forward the international law and justice. He also referred to the role of both countries as pillars of stability and security in the eastern Mediterranean.
Hardalias and Photiou had a meeting Wednesday evening at the Presidential Palace and the issue of the missing persons was on the agenda. They both referred to Turkey`s obligation to cooperate and they also assessed the Committee on Missing Persons` (CMP) program.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Numerous rounds of talks under the UN aegis to reunite the island under a federal roof failed to yield results.
Since the Turkish invasion the fate of hundreds of people remains unknown.
A Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) has been established, upon agreement between the leaders of the two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying and returning to their relatives the remains of missing persons.