Families reclaim the remains of 15 recently identified Greek soldiers killed in Cyprus in 1974

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The remains of recently identified Greek soldiers who fought in Cyprus against invading Turkish troops nearly a half-century ago were returned to their families on Thursday.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides attended a funeral service in the capital, Nicosia, for the 15 Greek soldiers before their remains were contained in Greek flag-draped coffins.

Christodoulides said it was the least the state can do to honor and pay respect to the memory of those who died.

Eight of the 15 soldiers will be reinterred back in Greece. The families of another six opted to have their remains reinterred at a mass grave in the Cypriot capital that stands as the country’s prime monument for the war. No family members have been located for one of the soldiers, according to the state broadcaster.

Turkey invaded in July 1974, a week after supporters of union with Greece mounted a coup backed by the Greek junta then ruling the country.

The invasion resulted in Cyprus’ ethnic cleave, with Turkish Cypriots later declaring independence that’s only recognized by Turkey, which still maintains more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north.

Of the 2,002 people who disappeared in 1974 and the preceding decade amid ethnic violence, the remains of 1,033 have been identified and returned to their families since U.N.-led search efforts began in earnest in 2006.

U.N. officials said this marks the second-best success rate in the world, after the former Yugoslavia.

A total of 769 Greek Cypriots and 200 Turkish Cypriots are still listed as missing and officials say the passage of time poses a huge challenge.