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New round of demining to begin this year

UN demining officers have recently arrived in Cyprus to set up an office to launch a programme with the two sides on the island in connection with the mines that still remain in the ground across the island.

Reliable sources told CNA on Friday that the demining officers will liaise with the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides and decide on the locations to begin demining.

After the Cambodian deminers left last year, UNFICYP did not have any funding and a request for demining activities was recently approved by the UN Security Council.

Following the Council decision, demining officers arrived in Cyprus to set up a demining office which will act as an advisory service and will set up a programme, the sources said.

The locations the programme will cover are all in the UN-controlled buffer zone, according to the same sources, which explained that there are lots of locations but no decision has been taken as to which site will be the first on the list.

The operation is still in the early set-up phase and the demining officers have just arrived, they noted, adding that the officers are expected to liaise with the two sides and then see where the location of the programme is going to start. “Its work is still in progress,” the sources told CNA.

The demining office is expected to start its work this year, within months, they said.

It is estimated that more than 7,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines still remain in the ground across the island, affecting two million square metres of land, UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has said.

According to a fact sheet, in 2015, four minefields remained inside the buffer zone and more than 35 minefields were still scattered across the island.
Cyprus has fulfilled all its international obligations stemming primarily from the Ottawa convention on anti-personnel mines in the areas where it exercises effective control, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

The statement was in response to a reference by the United Nations that the sides on the island were withholding access to four remaining minefields in the buffer zone, three of which under the control of the National Guard and one under the control of the Turkish occupying forces.

The ministry said the “Republic has met all its international obligations arising from the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines in relation with the areas where it exercises effective control.”

The ministry said Turkey, as “the occupying force that exercises effective control in the northern part of Cyprus, but also as a party to the Ottawa Convention, ought to assume and fulfil its responsibilities in relation with over 20 minefields it maintains on the occupied areas.”

The general obligations of convention members are to never use anti-personnel mines; never develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain, or transfer AP mines, and never assist, encourage, or induce, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited under the convention.

Each state party also undertakes to destroy or ensure the destruction of all AP mines in accordance with the convention’s provisions.

In its resolution, which extended UNFICYP’s mandate for another six months, the UN Security Council said it noted “with regret that the sides are withholding access to the remaining minefields in the buffer zone, and that demining in Cyprus must continue, noting the continued danger posed by mines in Cyprus, noting also proposals and discussions as well as positive initiatives on demining, and urging rapid agreement on facilitating the recommencement of demining operations and clearance of the remaining minefields …”

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