There are now no land mines left within the buffer zone, sources said on Saturday.

Sources from the Cypriot government told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that the Greek Cypriot side considers that demining has now been completed, and that the only minefields of which they are aware are located inside the Republic.

Those minefields, they said, “are an integral element of our defence organisation”.

“They are in areas where it is not dangerous, and where it is necessary for them to continue to exist. When we agreed on demining, the agreement was that not all minefields would be removed. The agreement was that minefields inside the buffer zone would be removed,” the sources said.

They added that the remaining mines in the Republic are anti-tank mines and have been left in place “so someone cannot just pass through”.

However, all the anti-personnel mines have now been removed.

“We have destroyed all of them, both those that were in minefields and those that were in storage, because it is our obligation under the Ottawa Convention on the elimination of anti-personnel mines.”

For this reason, they said, “if there are any left, they belong to the Turkish military, which has them either in minefields or in storage.”

The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (Unficyp) estimated at the start of the year that there were a total of 7,000 mines remaining in the ground across the island, across a total land area of two million square metres.

The mines were laid during 1963, 1964, and 1974. Unficyp were keen to stress in their report that “landmines are not rendered inactive” and that they can in fact become more dangerous over time.

The UN has undertaken significant demining work. Between 2004 and 2011, the Mine Action Centre cleared 27,000 mines – 18,000 of which were anti-personnel mines – from the buffer zone and released 11 square kilometres of land as being safe.

Since July 2016, the UN Mine Action Service (Unmas) has become an integral component of Unficyp, providing dedicated expertise in mine action planning and coordination and demining capacity.