James Bond star Daniel Craig was in Cyprus on Tuesday on the second day of a two-day visit to witness first-hand the work of UN deminers on the island, UNFICYP confirmed in an official statement.
This was Craig’s first ‘mission’ as part of his new role since being appointed as the first United Nations Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines and Explosive Hazards in April.
The 007 star visited an active minefield in Cyprus on Monday and on Tuesday highlighted the need for continued efforts to combat the scourge of landmines. “I very much hope that I will be the first and last Global Advocate to see landmines on this beautiful island,” said Craig, according to the UN statement.
During his visit to the minefield on Monday with members of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), Craig was briefed on mine clearance activities by Lieutenant Sovannara Leang who leads a 20-strong team of Cambodian peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), deployed with UNFICYP as part of an inter-mission co-operation agreement.
“Craig witnessed first-hand the difficult and risky work involved in manual demining and explosive ordnance disposal by the UN peacekeepers,” the statement said.
It said that having filmed years ago in Cambodia, Craig was familiar with the widespread contamination of mines found in that country and was impressed to see Cambodian de-miners offering their expertise to help the people and peace process in Cyprus.
“Witnessing the potential impact that mines can have on people and communities, years after the end of conflict, brings home the humanitarian importance of the UN’s de-mining efforts in Cyprus. For these peacekeepers to take their expertise, gleaned over the last forty years in Cambodia, and make it available to the people of Cyprus, half-way around the world, is truly inspiring.” he said.
Craig also visited an area recently cleared of mines in the UN buffer zone and the UN protected area in Nicosia where he has briefed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of Mission, Lisa Buttenheim and UNFICYP’s Force Commander, Major General Kristen Lund.
“The fact that the UN Global Advocate chose to come to Cyprus for his first mission, at a time when demining demonstrates positive momentum in the peace process, is significant. His visit draws attention to the UN’s long expressed goal of achieving a mine free Cyprus for all,” said Buttenheim.
Over the last decade United Nations de-miners have removed over 27,000 landmines from the UN buffer zone in Cyprus. A total of 74 minefields or 9.7 square kilometres of land have been cleared throughout the buffer zone, to international mine action standards, set and monitored by the United Nations Mine Action Service. The cleared area can now be put to other productive use. Today it is estimated that thousands of landmines still remain in Cyprus and large areas of land could still be contaminated by mines and unexploded ordnance.
When Craig was appointed in April, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said at the time: “As 007, Mr. Craig had a ‘licence to kill.’ Today we are giving him a ‘licence to save,’” Craig told the UN News Centre about his meeting with the Secretary General and how he hoped to use the fame he has earned as an actor, playing one of the most famous roles in cinema to advocate for UNMAS and give its cause more exposure around the world so that it can raise more money to do its work.
Over the next year, he said he would be busy immersing himself in his new field, developing as much understanding as possible of the work done to eliminate the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war.
“I don’t have a lot of experience in warzones and minefields,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll get to visit somewhere this year where UNMAS are doing their incredible work and with that I’ll be able to get the message out there.”