A committee searching for missing persons on the war-divided island of Cyprus says Turkey has granted access to 30 suspected grave sites in military-controlled areas in northern Cyprus — a move that will significantly speed up exhumation work.

Paul-Henri Arni, the U.N.-appointed member of the Committee on Missing Persons, told the Associated Press on Thursday that will accelerate the work threefold to an estimated three years. He said it's important to move ahead because many witnesses with information on such graves are dying fast.

Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. In the last decade, the remains of 1,020 people have been exhumed, representing just over half all people who have been declared missing.