Mine clearing starts in foothills of Mount Ararat
AA photoEfforts to clear mines have been launched on Mount Ararat in the eastern province of Iğdır as part of a project financed by the European Union and Turkey in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The project aims to clear Turkey’s eastern border of mines to increase Ankara’s ability to control the border and provide socio-economic development. As part of the project, mines along the borders with Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan will be cleared within two years.
Third Army Cmdr. Gen. İsmail Serdar Savaş and Ninth Corps Cmdr. Major Gen. Mehmet Özoğlu attended a ceremony to begin the project, as well as mark International Mine Awareness Day, at the Subaşı border police post in Iğdır’s Aralık district alongside officials and local administrators from the Defense Ministry and the U.N.
Officials made examinations in a tent established for the event and were also shown mine-clearing techniques with trained dogs and scanners.
South African firm DENEL-MECHEM will conduct the mine-clearing works as part of the project. Company officials said a total of 15 square kilometers will be cleared of 222,000 mines in 511 areas near the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Iranian borders within two years.
The locations of mines will initially be determined by scanners and dogs before clearing works will begin. The disposal of the mines discovered will be conducted with armored vehicles.
Speaking at the ceremony, the head of the EU delegation in Ankara, Ambassador Christian Berger, said hundreds of innocent people, including children, die each year after stepping on mines. Berger also said land mines produce serious societal and financial effects and prevent development, as well as killing individuals.
“This project aims to reduce these effects by taking plenty of precautions including clearing the area of mines and helping the victims. The support given by the EU to mine activities is a part of our support for border management. The mines were planted between 1984 and 1999 for border security. Turkey, the EU and the U.N. are jointly working to clear the area of mines, as well as creating a modern, humanitarian and strong border security,” Berger said on April 4.
Also speaking at the ceremony, UNDP Turkey Deputy Representative Atilla Uras said British company RPS Energy had been selected as a quality assurance service provider for the project.
“The 2017 mine clearing season will start in mid-April. The plan is to clear 20 mine fields with over 44,000 mines in Iğdır until the end of this year. Because of the project, job opportunities were provided to over 200 people, including medical personnel and the locals who received mine training,” Uras said, adding that the UNDP’s support to increase the capacity of the National Mine Action Centre (MAFAM) would continue.
“This way, MAFAM will have the opportunity to plan the mine activities in Turkey better and manage them more effectively,” he also said.
MAFAM Department Head Labor Col. Aydın İmren, meanwhile, said the mines constitute a problem for the country.
Turkey joined the Ottawa Treaty, which was signed in 1997, on March 1, 2004, İmren said, noting that 167 countries are now party to the treaty.
Mine-clearing works were launched on April 4, 2016, he said, noting that 122,764 square meters of land had been cleared by the end of the year.
“The project, which had to break due to weather conditions, will resume this month,” he said.