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Press Release: De-mining Effort Begins in Cyprus
2004-11-18 17:02:23

Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus
Press and Information Office
2211 R. St. NW, Washington DC, 20008

Contact: Press Office
Tel.: (202) 232-8993

Joining International Efforts Against Mine Proliferation, Cyprus Government Begins Initiative to De-mine Ceasefire Line – Promotes Island’s Reunification

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 18, 2004) – The Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus announced that the Cyprus Government’s initiative to clear all Cyprus National Guard minefields within the buffer zone, which divides the island, began today (November 18,2004). The initiative is a part of the international effort against mine proliferation and the clearing of existing minefields, in full support of the United Nations Policy of Mine Action. The initiative also promotes reunification of the island by eliminating physical barriers between the two communities.

A symbolic destruction of two mines in an area south of Nicosia's Airport, closed since the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island, signaled today the commencement of the Republic of Cyprus' unilateral decision to destroy its minefields in the buffer zone, in full support of the UN policy and in accordance with the provisions of the Ottawa Convention.

During an official ceremony that started the de-mining procedure, UN Acting special representative in Cyprus Zbigniew Wlosowicz and Head of the European Commission's office in Cyprus Adriaan van der Meer symbolically cut barbed wire fencing a minefield, while two mines were destroyed.

“Every mine is one less obstacle to crossing points and a road to normality. Hopefully it will not be long to see this happening in the north,” Wlosowicz said.

“This initiative is significant for many reasons” stated Ambassador Euripides Evriviades, Cyprus Ambassador to the United States. “Not only does it support the goals of the U.N. and the Ottawa Convention, but it is also a confidence-building measure that shows through action our desire to break down the physical barriers that separate us from our Turkish Cypriot compatriots”.

The Cyprus Government has been working with the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) since January 2002 to enact the Government’s plan to clear all the minefields within the buffer zone, both those of the National Guard and the Turkish Armed Forces. Although the Turkish side declined to participate, the Government of Cyprus indicated its strong, continued commitment to clear all of the National Guard’s minefields and is beginning this action unilaterally.

Over the course of approximately one year, an estimated 2,300 mines will be cleared from eight minefields. Cyprus Defense Minister Koulis Mavronicolas said the government intends to de-mine the length of the ceasefire line -- more than 100 miles. The Republic of Cyprus estimates that there are 27 minefields on the side of the buffer zone controlled by the Turkish occupation forces.

“Despite the fact that a part of Cyprus continues to be occupied by the Turkish armed forces,” Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said, “the government of the Republic of Cyprus, bearing in mind the importance of the Ottawa Convention, has consciously decided to join the international effort against mine proliferation and the clearing of existing minefields, in full support of the UN Policy of Mine Action.”

The de-mining program is funded by the European Union’s “Partnership for the Future”. Two British companies were selected by the U.N. to carry out the de-mining project.

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