Greek Cypriot officials were heading back to a bombing site in Pachyammos on Monday to investigate two missing person cases from the 1964 events but reportedly unrelated to Turkish bombardment, as relatives of disappeared persons keep pushing the state for answers.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, the bicommunal Committee on Missing Persons conducted excavations at the Paphos cemetery over the weekend as part of efforts aimed at exhuming and identifying remains of people perished during the island's turbulent past.
While CMP operates under UN auspices with both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot teams involved in the process on both sides of the island, Pachyammos is a project carried out by the Republic of Cyprus that has launched its own program for a number of sites under its jurisdiction.
In late 2019 human remains and personal items were unearthed during an excavation project overseen by Greek Cypriot authorities in Tylliria, where Turkish planes bombed a former makeshift hospital in Pachyammos in August 1964.
'The team will go on Monday to Pachyammos for two cases which are not directly related to the bombing of the hospital but have to do with the events of 1964 in general'
Greek Cypriot CMP consultant Xenophon Kallis told CNA that excavations at the Paphos cemetery over the weekend were related to pending cases of those perished in Pachyammos.
But a return-trip scheduled for Monday in Pachyammos was said to be unrelated to the bombings according to Kallis.
“Two years ago there was an excavation at the Pachyammos hospital where a crater was discovered, along with many bones, some of which were genetically matched with some bone fragments belonging to some of the members of the medical staff,” Kallis said.
According to the expert, who had also headed a discovery mission about the fate of fallen soldiers in Greece’s secret Noratlas mission to Cyprus in 1974, there were four graves at the Paphos cemetery with one tombstone having two names belonging to members of medical staff known to have been in Pachyammos while there were also three individual graves.
By late July 1964 the Greek Cypriot National Guard had moved in troops and artillery pieces in Tylliria, surrounding Turkish Cypriots from land and sea as patrol boats shelled Kokkina and Mansoura villages. UN calls for a ceasefire were ineffective as Turkish planes flew over the area on August 7 and fired warning rounds out to sea. Fighting ensued and the planes returned and bombed government positions in a follow up mission the next day, according to records.
“The team will go on Monday to Pachyammos for two cases which are not directly related to the bombing of the hospital but have to do with the events of 1964 in general,” Kallis said.
In July 2019 President Nicos Anastasiades’ Cabinet decided that authorities in the south should launch an excavation program for Greek Cypriot missing persons, whose whereabouts had become unknown during inter-communal fighting, focusing on specific sites under the Republic’s jurisdiction.
North criticizes South, Greek Cypriots blame Turkey
Turkish Cypriot officials have condemned the Greek Cypriot side for carrying out exhumations unilaterally, while the south has also been heavily criticized by Greek Cypriot relatives of missing persons following procedural delays, lack of clarity, and errors in identifying remains.
But Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou, who says Greek Cypriots’ unilateral action was a response to a lack of cooperation by the Turkish side, suggested last week the excavations in Paphos were not concerning individuals on the bicommunal list of missing persons.
“They are among the fallen of the 63-64 and 74 periods, and their relatives are still looking for answers,” Photiou said.
The commissioner also told CNA the Republic’s special program was “nearly finished,” giving a two-month deadline for completion of projects including Noratlas mass burials in Makedonitissa cemetery as well as Athalassa mental hospital in Nicosia and cases linked to National Guard navy patrol boat Phaethon that was bombed by Turkish planes in Tylliria.
Photiou said he hoped that soon authorities could give answers to the families and relatives of the missing persons, adding the number of individual cases was still unknown.
“Nobody knows, this will become clear after the investigations and exhumations will take place,” Photiou said.
The bicommunal Committee on Missing Persons, which has been operating on a bicommunal mandate since 1981 with consent from both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, is aimed at recovering and identifying the remains of missing persons without getting into politics.
Pachyammos and Athalassa were not part of CMP projects on the divided island.
In January 2022 the Security Council renewed the mandate for the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus for another six months. UNFICYP, comprising military and civilian personnel from various contributing countries, arrived in Cyprus in March 1964 following inter-communal fighting.
Turkish troops landed on the island in July 1974 following a short-lived Greek-inspired coup engineered by Athens. A number of UN-led peace efforts over the decades have failed to reach a settlement.