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Table of Contents
Country Reports
CYPRUS, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports

CYPRUS

Key developments since March 1999: In November 1999, the United Nations reported military construction along both sides of the cease-fire line, including minefield refurbishment.

Mine Ban Policy

When the Republic of Cyprus signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 4 December 1997 in Ottawa, the Cypriot delegate linked this with his government’s desire “to reduce tension and promote mutual confidence” on the divided and heavily mined island.[1] But the government has not yet ratified the treaty.

In December 1999, the government reported to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that it “fully subscribes to the principles enshrined in the [Mine Ban Treaty], the ratification of which will take place as soon as conditions relating to the implementation of its relevant provisions are fulfilled.”[2] Those conditions have not been specified, nor has an expected date of ratification has been indicated.[3] More disturbingly, in May 2000, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Landmine Monitor that, for security reasons, it is the intention of the Cyprus to “keep landmines until we have to remove them.”[4]

The United Nations reported in November 1999 that “military construction along the cease-fire lines continued on both sides, including minefield refurbishment....”[5] It is not known if the refurbishment included both antitank and antipersonnel mines. A military official said that “the Greek Cypriot army do not have the armed forces to convert from a defensive to an offensive position. The doctrine of our armed forces is defensive, mines are part of our defensive weapons.”[6] Likewise, a Turkish Cypriot leader stated that “security is a vital issue, landmines do not exist in a vacuum, they are a manifestation of conflict.”[7]

Cyprus attended the First Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Maputo, Mozambique, in May 1999, but did not make a statement to the plenary. It has not participated in any of the intersessional Standing Committee of Experts meetings. It voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 54/54B in December 1999 supporting universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty, as it had with the other pro-ban UNGA resolutions in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

Cyprus is a party to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons, but has not ratified the Amended Protocol II on landmines. Cyprus has applied to become a member of the Conference on Disarmament but is at present an observer, and is “...fully committed to all international efforts for disarmament ... including naturally anti-personnel land mines.”[8]

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling and Use

The Republic of Cyprus has reported that it “neither produces nor transfers anti-personnel landmines. It has not however adopted legislation or taken any specific measures regarding the use, production, storage, transfer and destruction of anti-personnel landmines. No moratorium has been introduced.”[9] There appears to be no information on stockpiles of mines, other than an acknowledgement that Cyprus does currently possess stockpiles.[10] The Turkish Cypriots will divulge no information on mine production, transfer, stockpiles or use.[11]

Use and Landmine Problem

The buffer zone created in 1974 along the cease-fire line extends approximately 180 kilometers across the island. Many parts of the buffer zone, as well as areas outside of the buffer zone on both sides, were mined by Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot forces. Unofficial sources within the Greek Cypriot army gave an informal estimate recently that there are approximately 10,000 landmines laid on the Greek Cypriot side of the buffer zone.[12]

The UN force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) monitors the cease-fire, maintains the buffer zone and has military responsibility for all activities inside it. Most information on minefields was gathered during the initial period following the conflict in 1974, and has been updated since then, based mainly on sightings by UN personnel. The first survey was not conducted until 1989 when Canada proposed clearance of most minefields inside the buffer zone. This project was stopped due to objections from the Turkish side.[13]

The UNFICYP Minefield Records Officer stated that “mine laying patterns and the exact number and types of mines in minefields inside the buffer zone are not known to UNFICYP as UNFICYP is not mandated to investigate the contents of minefields.”[14] However, UNIFYCP is carrying out a new administrative survey, analyzing all documents, statements, photographs, sketches and accident reports. Its intention is to have the most updated and accurate information on minefield location and layout inside the buffer zone as possible, so that if mine clearance is agreed in the future, UNFICYP will have all the necessary information.

It was recorded previously that there are thirty-eight known minefields inside the buffer zone, which has now been updated to forty-eight minefields; the previous total of seventy-three minefields within 400 meters of the buffer zone has now been updated to seventy-five.[15] It is expected that this data will continue to change. The following types of antipersonnel mines have been recorded from sightings inside the buffer zone: U.S. M2, M2A4, M14, M16, and M16A2.[16]

UNFICYP has military control of the buffer zone and maintains observation of it. Military personnel from either side who have entered the buffer zone are requested to leave. As a result, minefields inside the buffer zone are not believed to have been maintained or “refreshed” since being laid in 1974, and therefore are likely to be highly dangerous. They are clearly marked.

Outside the buffer zone, UNFICYP involvement with mine-related issues is dealt with by liaison officers who contact the Greek Cypriot National Guard and the Turkish Front. Maintenance and ”refreshment” of minefields in Greek Cypriot territory has been observed, and may be assumed to have occurred also on the Turkish Cypriot side of the buffer zone. The UN reported in November 1999 that “military construction along the cease-fire lines continued on both sides, including minefield refurbishment and the construction of anti-tank ditches by the National Guard.”[17]

The mandate of UNFICYP has to be renewed every six months, with the agreement of both parties, and results in biannual reports by the UN Secretary-General. In May/June 2000 the Republic of Cyprus initially refused to renew the UN mandate, but it has been renewed.

Minefield Marking/Awareness

UNFICYP follows NATO standard military procedure with regard to mine warning signs, and minefields within the buffer zone are adequately marked. During peacetime UNFICYP soldiers are mandated to stay 1,000 meters away from signs that indicate a minefield.[18] Members of UNFICYP are trained in mine awareness before they begin their tour of duty in Cyprus. The following procedures apply: “Sometimes there is work carried out on minefields that are close to the buffer zone. When the work is to be carried out by either side close to the buffer zone the UN is to be advised and a 1,000-meter security zone (for anti-tank mines) is placed around the work areas to protect the UN soldier from an accident.”[19] All soldiers in the Greek Cypriot National Guard receive training in mine awareness.

Mine Clearance

In the Greek Cypriot National Guard one unit is trained in demining. Defense Minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis stated, “The methods used by the National Guard are those internationally recommended and used by most NATO countries.”[20] However, House Defense Committee member Marios Matsakis is quoted as saying that “the army did not have the specialised equipment to remove primitive mines and that, despite recommendations from the House, the National Guard had failed to purchase the necessary equipment to clear decades-old rusty land mines.”[21]

Despite strong statements about the continuing necessity of landmines for defense, a military official has stated that Cyprus has dealt with the issue of demining from a humanitarian as well as military perspective: “Since 1973 the Greek Cypriot army have destroyed lots of mines from places where the army considers are not strategic to defense. The Greek Cypriot army are planning to begin procedures for demining certain areas for humanitarian reasons.”[22]

Inside the buffer zone, “UNFICYP is the given authority.... Its task is among other things to maintain the status quo. Only with the consent of both parties will the status quo be changed, and only if it is beneficial to the reduction of tension/a solution to the Cyprus Problem. UNFICYP would like to see all mines lifted, but not if this means tension would rise.”[23] UNFICYP “does not itself undertake demining in the buffer zone, except where this is required to ensure the safety of its own troops, or in the event of a humanitarian emergency. In such cases, it would only be able to respond with demining resources obtained from organisations outside UNFICYP.”[24]

The UN Security Council has made numerous resolutions on the demining of land inside the buffer zone. Requests made by UNFICYP to both sides regarding demining and responses to these requests are noted biannually in the Secretary General’s reports to the Security Council; all references to date report a lack of progress on this issue. UNFICYP has also requested specific information from both sides on the location of minefields in and around the buffer zone, with the following result: The Greek Cypriot “National Guard has stated its readiness to hand over minefield records provided that the other side does the same. The military authorities in the north indicated that they would be ready to negotiate the minefield issue with UNFICYP immediately following agreement on the UNFICYP package of measures to reduce tension along the ceasefire lines.”[25]

In May 2000, the Turkish Cypriots repeated their earlier position that they will only deal with the issue of demining within the context of the 1996 further de-confrontation measures put forward by UNFICYP and “when this package is accepted we can discuss the issue of demining”.[26] In June 1999, the Security Council again called upon “both sides to take measures that will build trust and cooperation and reduce tensions between the two sides including demining along the buffer zone.”[27] The Secretary-General’s report of 29 November 1999 noted no significant developments on demining.[28] However, recently the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it has been “re-examining the whole issue and will come up with new proposals for demining inside the buffer zone.”[29]

Mine Casualties

The UNFICYP Mine Fields Record Officer indicated that there have been no civilian or military casualties as a result of landmines in the buffer zone in the last year.[30] In Greek Cypriot territory there have been no civilian mine casualties in the last year, but one military casualty: a National Guardsman was killed instantly when an antitank mine exploded in front of him during a demining operation in Potamia village south of Nicosia.[31] A Turkish Cypriot official stated: “There are no and have been no civilian casualties as a result of mines in the north of Cyprus. Landmines are not a humanitarian risk, the issues of landmines are dealt with within the military context, not the humanitarian context.”[32]

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[1] Statement by Ambassador Alecos Shambos, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the Mine Ban Treaty Signing Conference, Ottawa, Canada, 4 December 1997.
[2] Report of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cyprus to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), 9 December 1999, p. 2.
[3] The OSCE report of 9 December contains no specific information on conditions; the information was not forthcoming when requested in May 2000 in an interview with Taffos Tzonis, Director of Political Affairs Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nicosia, 5 May 2000.
[4] Interview with Taffos Tzonis, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 May 2000.
[5] “Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operations in Cyprus for the period 10 June to 29 November 1999,” document S/1999/1203, 29 November 1999, available at: www.un.org/Docs/sc/reports/1999.
[6] Interview with unnamed army official, Greek Cypriot National Guard, Nicosia, 5 May 2000.
[7] Interview with Osman Ertug, Under-Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense, TRNC, Nicosia, 4 May 2000.
[8] Report to the OSCE, 9 December 1999, p. 2.
[9] Ibid. The US government has identified Cyprus as a past producer. See Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 704.
[10] Interview with unnamed army official, Greek Cypriot National Guard, Nicosia, 5 May 2000.
[11] Interview with Osman Ertug, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense, TRNC, 4 May 2000.
[12] Interview with unnamed army official, Greek Cypriot National Guard, Nicosia, 5 May 2000. Landmine Monitor 1999, p. 705, reported 7,976 AP mines, and 16,942 total mines, citing UN sources.
[13] “Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operations in Cyprus for the period for the period 1 June to 30 November 1991,” document S/23263, 30 November 1991.
[14] Interview with Captain J. J. Simon, Mine Fields Records Officer, UNFICYP, Nicosia, 3 May 2000.
[15] Telephone interview with Captain Simon, 27 June 2000. Also, email from Minefield Records Officer, 26 July 2000.
[16] Ibid. Landmine Monitor 1999, citing UN sources, also listed U.S. M2A3, British Mark 2, and Russian PMD-6 and PMD-7TS AP mines. P. 705.
[17] “Report of the Secretary-General,” document S/1999/1203, 29 November 1999.
[18] Interview with Captain Simon, UNFICYP, 3 May 2000.
[19] Letter from Jim Prudhomme, UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), 22 May 2000.
[20] Charlie Charalambous, “Interview with Defense Minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis,” Cyprus Mail, 24 March 1999.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Interview with unnamed army official, Greek Cypriot National Guard, Nicosia, 5 May 2000.
[23] Email from Major Paul Kolken, Military Public Information Officer, UNFICYP, 16 May 2000.
[24] Letter from Jim Prudhomme, UNMAS, 22 May 2000.
[25] “Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in Cyprus, for the period 8 December 1997 to 8 June 1998,” document S/1998/488, 10 June 1998; available at: www.un.org/documents/repsc.htm.
[26] Interview with Osman Ertug, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense, TRNC, 4 May 2000.
[27] UN Security Council Resolution 1251 (1999), 29 June 1999; available at: www.un.org/Docs/sc/resolutions/1999.htm.
[28] “Report of the Secretary-General,” document S/1999/1203, 29 November 1999.
[29] Interview with Taffos Tzonis, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 May 2000.
[30] Interview with Captain Simon, UNFICYP, 3 May 2000.
[31] Charlie Charalambous, “Officer killed in mine clearing operation,” Cyprus Mail, 24 March 1999.
[32] Interview with Osman Ertug, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense, TRNC, 4 May 2000; for details of past casualties, see Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 706.