UN Clears Over 25,000 Landmines
The UN has cleared over 25,000 landmines in the buffer zone, taking a significant step towards a mine-free Cyprus, said a UN spokesman.
“Our hope is that today’s announcement will instill an even stronger commitment on the part of both communities to rid the island completely of its deadly landmines heritage driven by the recognition that landmines have no place in any civilized society,” said Lisa Buttenheim, special representative and chief of mission of UNFICYP.
14.3 million euros has been spent on demining since late 2004 as the UN Mine Action Centre in Cyprus (UNMACC) worked to rid the 180-km-long buffer zone of landmines originally laid during the outbreak of violence in 1974.
UNMACC has released 9.5 million square metres of land for normal use, including the return of land for farming activities, and has cleared 71 minefields in the buffer zone. Of the 25,000 landmines cleared and destroyed, over 17,000 were anti-personnel and 8,000 anti-tank mines left behind from the 1974 events. It is estimated that as many as 15,000 landmines remain on the island and two million square metres of land may still be contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance.
Since beginning its ground work in November 2004 UN deminers in Cyprus have suffered a number of casualties, including the death last October of Felisberto Novele, a team leader from Mozambique who died from an explosion in a now-cleared minefield near Geri some 10 kilometers southeast of Nicosia.