As part of a two-year project funded by the European Union, Turkey has begun to remove an estimated 83,000 landmines planted along its eastern border with neighbouring Iran, AFP reported on Wednesday.
The project, valued at €18.6 million (about $21.5 million), will clear 4.2 million square meters of the borderland of those tens of thousands of mines. Once it is complete, more land will be accessible for farming.
The project is being carried out in partnership with the Turkish Mine Action Center. On the ground, 175 deminers and 16 mine detection dogs are working across four Turkish provinces to remove these mines.
As a signatory of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, since 2004, Turkey has been obligated not to use landmines.
Faik Uyanik, head of communications for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Turkey, said that the 83,000 mines on the Iranian border were planted “between 1953 and 1996 in order to prevent illegal crossings and smuggling as well as to ensure security against the threat of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).”
In the 1990s, Turkey planted a large number of mines as part of its military campaign against that group.
Louisa Vinton, UNDP’s resident representative in Turkey, praised the project in a statement.
“We are so proud that UNDP Turkey is currently managing the largest de-mining project under way under United Nations auspices anywhere in the world,” she said. “The large scale is testament to Turkey’s strong commitment to humanitarian border management, in line with EU standards.”