New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
The Chicago-based Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) has launched a campaign on Tuesday to collect signatures for a letter addressed to US Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to urge Turkey to turn over any information it may have on the remaining missing persons in Cyprus, and to allow the Committee on Missing Persons to have access to so-called military zones in order to continue its work.
The campaign follows a series of contacts by organisations of overseas Cypriot with Congress and US Administration members, in the framework of the 31st Congress of the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), and the meetings of Cyprus` Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Issues Photis Photiou in Washington with State Department and National Security Council officials.
“We are encouraged by the high priority the State Department is placing on the Cyprus issue. We welcome the Obama Administration’s push for Confidence Building Measures that can push along negotiations that will end Turkey’s 41 year occupation of Cyprus”, the letter reads.
It notes that “there is one particular measure that can make a significant impact – a renewed effort to resolve the fate of missing Greek and Turkish Cypriots” and that, “despite the progress made over the last several years by the Committee on Missing Persons, Turkish occupation forces have prevented further progress”.
“We ask you to urge Turkey to turn over any information it may have on the remaining missing, and to allow the Committee on Missing Persons to have access to so-called military zones in order to continue its work”, it says.
Furthermore, the letter says that “progress on the issue of the missing can contribute to overcoming the legacy of conflict and occupation, and it will create a more positive atmosphere in which the present negotiations can proceed”.
“Such progress is also mandated by the 1994 missing in Cyprus Act (Public Law 103-372), a bill directing the President to investigate the whereabouts of five missing Americans in Cyprus, report to their families and to the Congress the findings of the investigation, and return to the families the remains of the missing who are no longer alive. Twenty one years after the passage of the Act, the remains of only one of the five missing Americans have been found and returned”, it adds.
The letter notes that “for Cyprus to be reunified in a just and lasting manner, reconciliation between the two communities is vital”.
“Resolving the fate of the missing once and for all is a necessary step in this process. We look forward to working with you to make progress on this humanitarian issue that will bring closure to families that have been waiting for far too long”, it concludes.
The letter is accompanied by data concerning the number of missing persons whose fate has been determined and those whose fate has not, and indicate the very slow progress.
In a separate message to the overseas Cypriots, calling on them to sign the letter, PSEKA President Philip Christopher says that “21 years ago, we worked closely with Congressman Eliot Engel to enact Public Law 103-372, a bill that committed American resources to finding the remains of five Greek Americans missing since the 1974 invasion of Cyprus”.
“The bill helped bring a small measure of justice to the Andrew Kassapis family. Andrew was one of those missing Greek Americans. Unfortunately, 17 years after Andrew’s remains were returned, the other four Greek Americans along with nearly 1,500 Cypriots still remain missing”, he points out.
Those seeking information about the missing persons in Cyprus and those interested in signing the letter can visit http://hellenicleaders.com/FindTheMissing.