For the past ten days Cambodian demining experts have been examining a minefield that had shifted in a mudslide in late 2012 and have found the first anti-tank mine in an area about 15 km west of Nicosia, Colonel Angus Loudon, chief of staff at the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) said on Wednesday. The mine will be detonated today.
The minefield was washed south from the TRNC into farmland in the UN buffer zone.
“We are on a bit of a slope here, but I haven’t seen this sort of thing happen anywhere else,” Loudon said. “We do not know how many more mines might be in there.”
He said praised the cooperation from the Turkish Cypriot forces and the National Guard as well as the support from politicians on both sides. “So in all respects it has been a model of its type all in the interests of safety and ensuring that we can return this area to its former status.
I believe this itself is a confidence building measure and this type of cooperation is relatively unusual,” he remarked.
The multi-national UNFICYP force supervised the destruction of more than 25,000 land-mines in the buffer zone over a five-year period until the end of 2011.
Four known minefields remain in the buffer zone, one in Dherynia and three in Akincilar, are subject to removal in consultation with the opposing forces. Countless others are in territory controlled by either side.
When a reconnaissance mission in late 2013 confirmed the farmland in the buffer zone had become a mine hazard area, the UN called in experienced Cambodian deminers to secure the area and assess a second mine hazard area in southeast Cyprus.
The 21-strong company from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, which gained experience in the dangerous work by demining their own country, are part of a 184-strong unit helping clear Lebanon of mines for the past six years.
UN officials have repeatedly urged the sides to cooperate to clear remaining minefields in the buffer zone and beyond.