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Table of Contents
Country Reports
CYPRUS, Landmine Monitor Report 1999

CYPRUS

Mine Ban Policy

Cyprus signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 4 December 1997. At the signing ceremony in Ottawa, the head of the Cypriot delegation linked his government’s signature of the treaty to its desire “to reduce tension and promote mutual confidence” on the divided and heavily mined island.[1] As of March 1999 Cyprus had not ratified the treaty, though its parliament was reported to be in the process of ratifying it.[2] Some observers have suggested that due to security concerns, the government of Cyprus will hesitate to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty as long as Turkey refuses to sign the treaty.

Cyprus attended the early ban treaty preparatory meetings, but not endorse the pro-treaty Brussels Declaration in June 1997, and did not participate in the treaty negotiations in Oslo in September 1997. However, Cyprus voted in favor of United Nations General Assembly resolutions supporting an antipersonnel mine ban in 1996, 1997, and 1998.

Cyprus is a state party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, but has not yet ratified the 1996 amended Protocol II on mines.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling and Use

Cyprus has been identified by the U.S. State Department and U.S. Army as a former producer of antipersonnel landmines, though the Cypriot government has denied past production.[3] It is not known to have ever exported mines. There is no detailed information Cypriot importation of AP mines. Cyprus currently possesses a stockpile of mines, but its size and composition is unknown.[4]

During the 1974 hostilities that resulted in the division of Cyprus, both Greek Cypriot and Turkish forces laid thousands of mines in and near the buffer zone or “Green Line” separating the Turkish-controlled area from the Greek Cypriot-controlled area.[5]

Eight types of blast and bounding fragmentation AP landmines are known to have been used in Cyprus, including: the Russian PMD-6 and PMD-7TS, the British Mark 2, and the U.S.-made M2, M2A3, M2A4, M14, and M16. Anti-tank mines used in Cyprus include the U.S.-made M6A2 and M15, the Russian YAM-5, the Danish M/52, the British Mark 7, and the Turkish 4SKG.[6]

Landmine Problem

The government of Cyprus estimated in 1995 that there were 16,942 mines in Cyprus, of which 7,976 were antipersonnel mines.[7] According to United Nations sources, there are 38 known or suspected minefields inside the buffer zone, and an additional 73 known or suspected minefields within 400 meters of the buffer zone.[8] The U.S. State Department estimates a total of 132 mined areas in Cyprus, covering approximately 1,350 square kilometers.[9] Observers have expressed concern that the majority of these mines have reached the mid-point of their 50-year lifespan and will become increasingly unstable and sensitive to pressure as they age.[10]

All of the known minefields within the buffer zone have been marked with a blue sign identifying the minefield number and with the standard international minefield marker, a red triangle, inscribed with the word “MINE” in Greek, Turkish, and English. UN sources have expressed concern over the adequacy of these markings, however, given the tendency of landmines to shift outside marked areas as a result of rain, landslides, and earthquakes. Moreover, the exact parameters of minefields are not always known, and neither side has exhibited a standard pattern for laying minefields. Finally, there is concern that minefields near the buffer zone have been modified or added to without notice to the UN. In addition to minefields near the buffer zone, there remain booby-trapped buildings in urban areas, including several abandoned villages and the capital, Nicosia.[11]

Landmine Casualties

Three members of the United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) have been killed by landmines since 1974.[12] In 1998, two Argentine peacekeepers are reported to have narrowly avoided injury when their vehicle struck a landmine near the Turkish-controlled village of Lefka. An unknown number of civilians have been killed and injured by landmines since 1974. In 1997, a 37-year-old father of three was killed by a mine when he followed his dog into a minefield in a government-controlled area near the buffer zone.[13]

Mine Clearance

In 1990, a proposal was made to remove all of the minefields from the buffer zone, based on the opinion of UNFICYP that these minefields were of no military value. Agreement could not be reached on the proposal and the project was never implemented.[14] Two years later, UNFICYP reportedly proposed that Canadian engineers engage in demining operations in the buffer zone, but this proposal was also rejected.[15] Canada again offered demining assistance in 1998, in connection with its support for the mediation efforts of the UN Secretary General’s resident representative on Cyprus, Dame Ann Hercus, and for UN resolutions calling for arms limitations on the island.[16]

Cypriot president Glafcos Clerides has called for demining and stockpile destruction on both sides as part of a comprehensive demilitarization of the island.[17] Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, has declared his willingness to permit demining in the buffer zone if the Cypriot government agrees to certain security measures, including withdrawal of soldiers from certain areas and leaving weapons unloaded.[18] The two sides have failed to reach a consensus on these broader political and military concerns. As a result, the issue of demining the buffer zone also remains unresolved. Still outstanding is the question of who is responsible for clearance in the buffer zone and the north of the island, given that the treaty holds signatory states responsible for demining only “in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control.”

<ALBANIA | CZECH REPUBLIC>

[1]Statement by H.E. Mr. Alecos Shambos, Ambassador, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus at the Signing Ceremony, Ottawa, 2-4 December 1997.

[2]Human Rights Watch interview with Mr. Demetris Hadjiargyrou, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Cyprus to the United Nations, 19 March 1999.

[3] Letter from U.S. Army Foreign Science and Technology Center to Human Rights Watch, 1 November 1993, p. 1; U.S. Department of State, Outgoing Telegram, Unclassified, Subject: landmine export moratorium demarche, 7 December 1993; Human Rights Watch Fact Sheet, Antipersonnel Landmine Producers, April 1996. One Army database lists a Cypriot BPD SB-33 antipersonnel mine.

[4] Information provided by United Nations sources, August 1998.

[5]United States Department of State, Hidden Killers: The Global Problem with Uncleared Landmines, 1993, p. 78.

[6] Information provided by United Nations sources, August 1998.

[7] Information provided by United Nations sources, August 1998. Also, Country Profiles, United Nations Demining Database, http:www.un.org.Depts/Landmine/ (Ref. 3/19/99).

[8]Ibid.

[9]United States Department of State, Hidden Killers: The Global Landmine Crisis, 1998, Annex A-4.

[10] Information provided by United Nations sources, August 1998.

[11] Ibid.

[12]Ibid.

[13] Jean Khristou, "Cyprus Expects First Step from Turkey on Mine Clearance,” Nicosia Cyprus Mail (Internet Version), 4 March 1999.

[14] Information provided by United Nations sources, August 1998.

[15]Hidden Killers, 1993, p. 78.

[16]"Canadian FM Expresses Support for UN Resolutions on Cyprus,” Athens News Agency Daily News Bulletin, 28 December 1998.

[17] Amb. Shambos statement, Ottawa, 2-4 December 1997.

[18]"Denktash Says Ready for Cyprus Landmine Clearance,” Reuters News Service, 12 June 1998.