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Nicosia becomes a mine free zone
2006-11-24 08:47:10

Nicosia, Nov 22 - A historic event took place in Nicosia on Wednesday, as the last two mines in the Nicosia buffer zone were detonated, during a special ceremony.

At 11.30 local time, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Nicosia Michael Moller and Andrew Rasbash on behalf of the European Commission’s DG Enlargement detonated Nicosia’s last mines using a remote ignition, during a special ceremony at the Nicosia airport UN buffer zone at the presence of EU Ambassadors to Nicosia, the Ambassadors of the US and China as well as the Head of the European Commission Representation in Nicosia.

The demining program began two years ago and is funded to a great extent by the EU, that has already donated 5 million euros so far.

A spokesperson of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that has undertaken the execution of the demining project, told CNA that demining will continue at least for two more years, depending on the amount of funding.

Our objective, she said, is to clear all landmines in the buffer zone.

She added that the practical part of the demining project, which is the most dangerous one, has been undertaken by 40 experts from the Mozambique and Zimbabue.

In his address, Mr. Moller described this day as a “landmark landmine occasion”, adding that to date, 2,810 mines have been extracted or removed in this joint EU-UN effort which begun two years ago when the demining programme was launched in November 2004.

“Today marks the end of a significant chapter in the history of this very special cooperative venture. Our stated goal is a mine free buffer zone and eventually we hope a mine free Cyprus”, Mr. Moller also said.

He added that ''here in the buffer zone 25 minefields have been cleared and more than 1.8 million square meters of land cleared for return to normal use.''

Such projects, he said, enable the two communities to move about more freely, adding that “every mine removed represents one less obstacle to crossing points, a step forward to normality”.

Mr. Moller reassured that the joint effort would now focus on the remaining minefields both inside and outside the buffer zone aiming “to make Cyprus mine free as soon as possible”.

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