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Turkey faces demining delays

Having stalled for a decade, Turkey risks further delays in meeting its international obligations to clear vast minefields, most of them along the Syrian border.
Turkish soldiers use mine detectors to search for landmines during a patrol on a road outside the south-eastern Turkish town of Sirnak bordering northern Iraq February 24, 2008. Turkey began sending thousands of ground troops across the mountainous border into northern Iraq on Thursday to crush PKK guerrillas who use the region as a base from which to attack targets inside Turkey.   REUTERS/Fatih Saribas  (TURKEY) - RTR1XHU0

Turkey has finally moved to set up a national authority to plan and oversee the demining of massive minefields, most of them along the Syrian border, months after missing its deadline under the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty. The 10-year period for Turkey to clear the mines expired in March 2014. With progress next to zero, some 1 million mines remain buried in the border regions and predominantly Kurdish areas in the interior, posing fatal hazards for civilians and preventing the use of otherwise arable land.

In early December, the defense commission in parliament approved a draft law for the establishment of a National Mine Action Center, which the government described as an “urgent” matter. The general assembly is expected to pass the bill in the coming days. Human rights activists and observers have welcomed the move, but misgivings persist that even the new clearance deadline of March 1, 2022, may be a tall task for Turkey, as the war in Syria drags on and Ankara’s track record inspires little confidence.

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