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Friday, January 23, 1998 Published at 16:49 GMT


Cypriots swap files on missing people
image: [ Almost 2,000 Cypriots have been missing since Turkey invaded the northern sector of the island in 1974 ]
Almost 2,000 Cypriots have been missing since Turkey invaded the northern sector of the island in 1974

Officials from the Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus have exchanged details about the location of graves of hundreds missing for more than 23 years.

The meeting marks the first time such information has been shared and is seen as a breakthrough by the United Nations, which leads international efforts to reunite the two sides.

There are files on almost 2,000 missing Cypriots - three-quarters of them Greek - who have not been seen since Turkish troops invaded the island in 1974.

But while efforts to solve the Cyprus problem remain close to deadlock, the leaders of each side have succeeded in accepting this humanitarian issue as a separate topic.

Efforts to reunite island failed

The exchange in Nicosia came during a 45-minute meeting between Greek Cypriot Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner, Takis Christopoulos, and his Turkish counterpart, Rustem Tatar. Gustav Feissel, the UN envoy in Cyprus, also attended the meeting.

Mr Feissel later said the two men agreed to meet again soon.

Cyprus has been divided since the invasion with a UN force patrolling a 'green line' separating the two communities. Many efforts to reunite the island have failed.

The breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north is only recognised by Turkey.

Relatives anxious for proof

In the exchange, Greek Cypriots handed over files concerning 200 of the missing 803 Turkish Cypriots and received details of about 400 of their own people.

The aim is to locate the graves where most are believed to be buried and then arrange for a team of international experts to examine the remains in a bid to identify them.

Few, if any, of those unaccounted for are thought to be alive but relatives and friends are anxious for proof of their fate.

But that will come neither quickly nor easily, since forensic experts say that even armed with modern equipment and methods, identification remains complex.


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