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UN official believes Cyprus will be mine-free in a few years
2006-04-05 12:10:07

Nicosia, Apr 5 - The UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Michael Moller expressed optimism that in a few years time Cyprus could be totally rid of landmines.

?r. Moller was speaking at a Mine Awareness De-mining Demonstration in the buffer zone in Nicosia, organised by the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) on the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, in cooperation with the Mine Action Centre (MAC) in Cyprus.

He also said that ''now we must focus on the remaining minefields both inside and outside the buffer zone'' but noted that ''ridding the buffer zone of mines will take an estimated 6 million euros more, while a further 5 million euros is required to achieve the ultimate goal of a mine-free Cyprus.''

During the demonstration, Michael Raine, Programme Manager for the Partnership for the Future (PFF)-MAC said the EU had funded this programme with 4 million euros for 2004-2006, Canada with 250,000 US dollars and Slovenia with 25,000 US dollars.

The project is being carried out by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and is carried out by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) with the technical support of the UN Mine Action Centre and the operational facilities of UNFICYP.

A total of 31 staff are involved in the de-mining process, which began on 18 November 2004 with National Guard minefields, the clearing of which was completed in July 2005.

Regarding the Turkish forces' minefields, MAC said the clearing operation began in August 2005 and so far a total of 1,336 antitank mines and 982 antipersonnel mines have been retrieved and destroyed, with a total of 900,741 square metres of land freed from mines.

Areas cleared include Nicosia, Kaimakli, Kokkinokremmos, Dhenia, Ayios Dhometios, Kato Pyrgos, Lefka, Zodhia, Skouriotissa and Omorphita.

"A world without landmines, once seen as requiring decades to achieve, can now be attained in years. Certainly, this is true for Cyprus,'' he noted.

Mr. Moller said that in November 2004 de-mining began in a National Guard minefield in the buffer zone and ''to date, 20 of the buffer zone's 48 minefields have been cleared and more than 900,000 square metres have been cleared for return to normal use.''

''In the process, the way has also been cleared for new crossings, enabling the two communities to move about more freely, and opening up new opportunities for trade and commerce,'' he pointed out.

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