Mine clearing poses security challenges

The Turkish government is in need of $450 million to destroy mines which were planted for just $3 a piece. Some expect the cost to reach $1 billion.

Mine clearing poses security challenges
The government has agreed to offer a tender for the clearing of mines in an area as big as 3.5 million acres. When Israeli companies showed interest in the tender, nationalist statements began to flow in Turkey forcing the government to carefully reconsider the situation. However, if the government does not respond soon it will have to pay a heavy price. To date, Turkey has only cleared 10,638 mines. By 2014 it must clear all its minefields.The Ottawa Treaty for the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Destruction was submitted to several countries on Dec. 4 1997 and implemented on Mar. 1 1999. To date, 142 countries have signed the treaty and 122 have ratified it. The US, Finland and Russia have not signed the treaty.

Turkey began discussing the treaty in 2003. Then on March 1, 2004, the Parliament ratified it. Turkey did not rush to clear mines because of PKK infiltration from Syria and Iraq.  In 1996, Turkey declared a 5 year moratorium on the export and transfer of anti-personnel landmines.  Now that it has signed the Ottawa Treaty, Turkey will have to clear all its landmine fields by 2014. But to date, Turkey has managed to destroy 10,638 mines.

The treaty binds all parties to destroy all anti-personnel mines in its stockpiles within four years and to remove and destroy planted landmines within 10 years. The treaty prohibits all parties from using, developing, producing, storing, obtain and transferring landmines.

According to UN statistics, in 64 countries there are over 100 million landmines. Every month, 800 people are killed by landmine explosions. The most heavily mined countries are in the Balkans after several countries declared their independence from Yugoslavia. The highest number of mine deaths occurred in Bosnia-Herzegovina, followed by Cambodia and then Croatia.

Turkey is thought to have 935,000 landmines. The 2,000 km border of Turkey is laden with mines. Most mines are planted on the 600 km Syrian border. According to official data, 299 soldiers and 289 civilians were killed and 1,524 soldiers and 739 civilians were injured by landmine explosions between 1993 and 2003. According to the Human Rights Association, between 1990 and 2002, 839 people died and 937 were wounded in 512 landmine explosions.

To clear landmine fields on the Syrian border, Turkey needs $36 million. While the planting of a mine is about $3 dollars its destruction is about $1,000. The Ministry of Finance has calculated that the clearing of landmine fields in Turkey alone will cost between $350 and $450 million. It is claimed that costs have increased because the map of some landmines have been lost.

Although there aren't many Turkish expert landmine clearing agencies, Turkish companies have taken responsibility for clearing minefields on the Kuwait-Iraqi border.

Between 1956 and 1959 Turkey planted about 600 mines on its Syrian border to prevent illegal immigration. The clearing of mines on the Syrian border was agreed to by the National Security Council on May 29, 2001 and approved by the Council of Ministers on June 11, 2001. The first clearing efforts began with the available resources of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). It was soon determined that TSK resources and personnel were limited and would not be able to clear many minefields.

Turkey considered receiving foreign support but the cost of equipment from abroad was too expensive and it would take Turkey up to 15 years to finish clearing its landmines. It was then agreed upon to do service procurement.  

The National Estate Head office began work to clear the 205,000 acres of minefields located in Mardin, Hatay, Kilis, Gaizantep, Þanliurfa and Þirnak.  Mardin was chosen as the pilot province.

The tender mandates that minefield be cleared within five years. In return, the clearing company will be allowed to use the field for 49 year for organic farming. So far, three companies, one from Switzerland, have made a bid. Three different consortiums supported by the Israeli government also applied; their bid sparked nationwide debate. Quadro, Redwing, Mott and Israel farming company Tahal were included in the consortiums.

Swiss company Countermine Technology also made a bid as well as Croatia's Terra Company. There were rumors that the National Defense Ministry favored Israeli companies because the ministry had an embargo on Swiss companies in effect. After rumors increased, the General Staff recommended that the President's Office set up a National Mine Clearing Council. The letter of recommendation was submitted to the President's Office on March 22, 2006.

The Kilis Governor's office rejected private companies who wanted $758 million to clear landmines, saying he would be able to have them cleared for $29 million. The fact that the bidding is being held according to regional National State Offices and revenue offices has also prompted criticisms, even from AK Party MP's. AKP Mardin MP Nihat Eri believes the Turkish armed forces should be responsible for the task and said the clear-and-use method will be an advantage for foreign companies.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16