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Cypriots Exchange Info on Missing

January 23, 1998

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ In a rare sign of progress in efforts at reconciliation, officials from the estranged Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus exchanged information Friday on people who disappeared during violence on the Mediterranean island.

The exchange, which took place in Nicosia at the U.N.-patrolled buffer zone that has separated the island since a Turkish invasion in 1974, was the first of its kind.

It came during a 45-minute meeting between Greek Cypriot humanitarian affairs commissioner, Takis Christopoulos, and his Turkish counterpart, Rustem Tatar. Gustav Feissel, the U.N. resident envoy in Cyprus, attended the meeting.

In a statement afterward, Feissel said the two men indicated their respective sides would continue their efforts to obtain information about Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons or the location of their graves.

He said that Christopoulos and Tatar also have agreed to meet again soon, but refused to gave a date.

The issue of the missing is one of the thorniest and most emotive aspects of the 23-year-old Cyprus problem.

U.N. officials have said that Christopoulos was expected to hand over information on nearly 200 of the 803 Turkish Cypriots missing in violence in 1963 and the Turkish invasion.

Tatar was due to present information on 400 of the 1,619 Greek Cypriots who went missing during the same period.

``They have exchanged what they were supposed to today,″ Feissel told reporters.

Tatar sounded upbeat when he spoke to reporters, saying: ``Any step forward is good for the wider front of settling the Cyprus problem.″

``I think both sides are sincere,″ he said before leaving the zone for the Turkish-occupied northern third of Cyprus where a self-styled state was declared in 1983. Only Turkey recognizes it.

The progress made in Friday’s exchange of information on the missing contrasted with the stalemate in efforts to settle the Cyprus problem. Last summer’s U.N.-sponsored negotiations to reunite the island broke down over Turkish Cypriot opposition to the European Union’s decision to open accession talks with the Greek Cypriots in April.

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