UNFICYP: 7 m. euro needed to clear more than 7,000 mines in Cyprus

UNFICYP: 7 m. euro needed to clear more than 7,000 mines in Cyprus

It is estimated that more than 7,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines still remain in the ground across the island of Cyprus, affecting two million square meters of land, UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) said on Monday, on the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, observed every year on April 4.

According to an UNFICYP fact sheet, between 2004 and 2011 over 27,000 landmines were cleared from the buffer zone. Over these eight years, UNDP Partnership for the Future (UNDP-PFF), the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and UNFICYP worked together with the two communities to remove over 27,000 landmines from the Cyprus buffer zone. Eighty per cent of the funding for these activities cam from the European Union. More than 14 million euros have been spent so far on removing mines in Cyprus.

Most mines in Cyprus are United States and Chinese-made anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. Five types of mines can be found, according to UNFICYP. Since 1964, there have been 6 deaths and 6 injuries as a result of landmines. The last mine strike was on 28 September, 2015, near Mammari village. Fortunately there were no injuries. As it is noted, even with training, mine disposal experts expect that for every 5,000 mines cleared, one worker will be killed and two workers will be injured by accidental explosions.

According to the UN, for decades mines have posed a danger or delay to the everyday activities of the people living and working in Cyprus threatening among others farmers working to cultivate their lands, residents of areas close to the buffer zone and the opening of new crossing points.

“Thanks to the efforts of UN deminers, most of the Cyprus buffer zone is now mine-free. However, minefields adjacent to the buffer zone threaten to re-contaminate the areas already cleared. Wet weather and mudslides continue to cause mines to wash into the buffer zone, posing a dangerous hazard for farmers, communities and UN peacekeepers,” it is added.

UNFICYP assures that it works quickly to identify and secure these areas and to obtain funding and support to re-clear the affected sites. However, the only solution to prevent new mines shifting into areas that have already been cleared is to remove all the minefields in and along the buffer zone.

The UN points out that removing landmines is far more expensive than putting them into the ground in the first place. The maximum cost of one landmine is 70 Euros. The maximum cost to remove and destroy one landmine is 1000 euros, it is added, noting that this means that it could cost as much as 7 million euros to clear Cyprus of all its landmimes.

According to the fact sheet, in 2015, four minefields remained inside the buffer zone and more than 35 minefields were still scattered across the island.

UNFICYP noted that “in recent years, the two sides have continued to prevent access for demining to the four known mined areas in the buffer zone, of which three are under the control of the National Guard and one under that of the Turkish forces. Both the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey are party to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction – known as the Mine Ban Treaty.”

Under its terms, both parties are obliged to report the location of all mined areas that contain, or are suspected to contain, anti-personnel mines under their jurisdiction or control. With this obligation in mind, the Secretary-General has consistently called upon both sides to share any information on the location of minefields across the island.

Moreover it is recalled that UN Security Council Resolution 2263 (2016) calls on “both sides to allow access to de-miners and to facilitate the removal of the remaining mines in Cyprus within the buffer zone, and urges both sides to extend the demining operations outside the buffer zone.”

The United Nations stands ready to provide support and assistance, and continues to advocate at the political level to encourage the parties to make concrete steps towards a mine-free Cyprus, UNFICYP assures.

In his message for the International Day of Mine Awareness 2016 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was pleased that, in December 2015, the General Assembly, unanimously adopted a resolution underlining the need for mine action to remain at the top of the international agenda ,especially in humanitarian crises. “On this International Day, let us work together to advance the goal of a world free of the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war,” he added.

On her part, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim noted that “the opening of the crossing points at Lefka-Aplici and Deryneia is one step closer thanks to the demining operation. UNFICYP remains committed to supporting the efforts of the leaders as they work towards a sustainable and comprehensive settlement.”