MAC says 19 of 48 minefields cleared in Cyprus' buffer zone
Nicosia, Feb 22 - The Mine Action Centre Cyprus (MAC) has cleared 19 of 48 minefields from the island's buffer zone in the past six months.
Mr. Michael Raine, Programme Manager for the Partnership for the Future (PFF) - MAC told Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot reporters that since the programme was first launched in October 2004 ''we have achieved the clearance of 19 minefields, basically released 802,000 sq meters of land and we have cleared over 2,300 anti-personnel mines and anti-tank mines at that period.''
''Our aim is to clear the whole of the buffer zone of all minefields and also maybe progress outside and clean the minefields outside the buffer zone,'' he added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied over one-third of the island's territory.
''Cyprus, has the potential to become one of the first, if not the first country in the world, to be declared mine-free. This is achievable and it is a realistic achievement,'' he also said.
Asked about this prospect and if it requires a political decision from the two sides or from the UN or the EU, Raine said ''this will be controlled and funded by the UN.''
''Let us say we had a very good cooperation so far, we just hope that continues and we can move outside the buffer zone once we complete that and have a Cyprus free of all land-mines,'' he added.
Asked about the funding of the project, Raine said its funding expires at the end of April this year. However, he said they were in contact with the EU and hoped it will continue to fund the project past April.
Invited to estimate the funds needed to complete the de-mining, Raine mentioned that ''until today the EU has provided 4 million euros for the project.''
''We estimate to clean the rest of the buffer zone we will need approximately 5 to 6 million euros and to clean the whole of Cyprus probably around 11 to 12 million euros,'' he added.
Since November 2004, the UNDP-executed project has released 802,475 square metres of land as mine-free and destroyed 2,318 mines in the process.
MAC said its de-mining operations ''help to support the EU Green Line Regulation, contributing to the free movement of people and goods throughout the island.''
''With MAC's assistance, crossings have been opened and considerable stretches of land returned to local farming communities,'' it added.
It also said that it ''continues to play a significant role in the on-going normalisation process on the island'' and in close collaboration with UNFICYP ''MAC's primary objective is to contribute to efforts enabling Cyprus to become a mine-free country.''
''This will also serve to add to the confidence building measures between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities,'' it said.