Last Updated: 25 August 2014

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact

Overall Mine Action Performance: VERY POOR[1]

Performance Indicator


Problem understood


Target date for completion of clearance


Targeted clearance


Efficient clearance


National funding of program


Timely clearance


Land release system


National mine action standards


Reporting on progress


Improving performance




The Republic of Turkey is contaminated with antipersonnel and antivehicle mines, as well as improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Mines were laid in 1956–1959 along 510km of the border with Syria, as well as on some sections of the borders with Armenia, Iran, and Iraq in order to prevent illegal border crossings; additionally, mines were laid around security installations.[2] According to Turkey, all mines laid along its borders with Bulgaria, Georgia, and Greece have been cleared.[3]

In its Article 5 deadline extension request submitted in March 2013, Turkey identified a total of 3,520 mined areas covering almost 215km². This estimate was provisional as another 346 suspected mined areas have yet to be investigated, of which 279 are on the border with Iraq. The main mine-affected area is on the border with Syria (190km²), with small amounts on the borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Iraq. A further 704 mined areas covering a total of 2.6km² have been identified around military installations inside the country.[4] No update has yet been provided on the size or number of mined areas cleared in 2013.

Table 1. Mined areas as of March 2013[5]


Mined areas

Area (km²)

Armenian border



Azerbaijan border



Iranian border



Iraqi border



Syrian border



Areas inside Turkey






Landmines were also emplaced by government forces during the 1984–1999 conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK) in the southeast of the country. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, these mines have been progressively cleared since 1998.[6]

During the 1974 occupation of northern Cyprus, Turkish Armed Forces laid minefields to create a barrier on the northern side of the buffer zone that divides the island, and also in areas adjacent to the buffer zone. The UN identified 26 minefields laid by Turkish forces in the buffer zone.[7] Cyprus reported in 2011 that one minefield remained in the buffer zone after clearance of 78 mined areas and 26,000 mines.[8] In 2014, Cyprus reported other mined areas in areas under the control of Turkish forces in the north of Cyprus (see separate report on Cyprus).

Explosive remnants of war

Turkey is also contaminated with explosive remnants of war (ERW), primarily unexploded ordnance (UXO), but has not identified the affected areas. Human Rights Foundation reports, cited by Landmine Action in 2005, claimed that the areas most affected were Batman, Bingöl, Diyarbakir, Hakkari, Mardin, Siirt, Sirnak, and Van.[9] There is no evidence of any problem with cluster munition remnants.

Mine Action Program

Key institutions and operators


Situation on 1 May 2014

National Mine Action Authority


Mine action center


International demining operators


National demining operators

Turkish Armed Forces

International risk education operators


National risk education operators


Turkey still does not have a national mine action authority (NMAA) or national mine action center (NMAC). Currently mine action activities are decentralized with responsibility divided between various national authorities. The Turkish Army is responsible for contaminated areas around military installations; the Ministry of Interior oversees clearance activities in the eastern borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, and Iran; and clearance activities along the border with Syria fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of National Defense.[10]

Turkey reported that efforts were underway to centralize coordination of clearance activities through efforts by the Ministry of National Defense to establish an NMAA and NMAC. In 2013, it was reported that a draft law on the establishment of an NMAA and NMAC had been completed and was awaiting input from other ministries before delivery to the Prime Minister to submit to Parliament.[11] The law was expected to pass through Parliament in 2014, but no progress was reported as of May 2014.[12]

In the meantime, an Interministerial Coordination Board within the Ministry of National Security reportedly began working on 26 October 2010 and was said to be “meeting regularly and practically functioning as the National Mine Action Authority” to coordinate all government agencies involved in mine action, elaborate mine action standards, and discuss key issues, including appropriate mine clearance methodologies and risk education.[13]

Turkey’s Article 5 deadline extension request says it plans to complete clearance of all mined areas by 2022, including its borders with Armenia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria as well as mined areas around installations inside the country. Turkey gave priority to clearing the Syrian border, estimated to account for two-thirds of the mines and close to 90% of the remaining mined area. Officials observe it is also the easiest border to clear because the terrain is flat and there has been minimal displacement of mines as a result of factors such as land erosion.[14] Delays in 2013 in implementing plans for demining the Syrian border left the prospects for early progress uncertain.

Turkey and Syria reportedly agreed in 2003 to demine their common border.[15] Turkey’s President ratified Law No. 5903 on the demining of minefields along the Syrian border on 16 June 2009, giving both the lead role as well as the responsibility for inviting tenders for demining to the Ministry of National Defense. If this process did not work, the Ministry of Finance would have the minefields cleared by means of “service procurement.” If this method also failed, the law said the government would invite companies to tender for demining in exchange for the right to cultivate lands suitable for agriculture for up to 44 years.[16]

The law also provided for the possibility of “requesting the services of the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency” (NAMSA).[17] Turkey said in June 2011 that it had concluded a “sales agreement” with NAMSA providing for quality management and technical support.[18] A NAMSA advisor in Ankara provided technical support on such issues as tendering procedures and contract management.[19] Officials told the Monitor in March 2013 that NAMSA was no longer involved in the tender process, but it would conduct quality control and assurance after clearance was completed.[20]

Turkey announced in 2011 that tenders would be invited for clearance of the 911km-long Syrian border, divided into six separate areas, with a total mined area of 212km2 (larger than the area subsequently reported in its Article 5 deadline extension request).[21] The government had initially planned for a deadline of June 2011 for tenders with a view to starting clearance in 2011.[22]

However, Turkey told the Standing Committee meetings in Geneva in May 2012 that bids would be submitted only by 15 June 2012 for the first Syrian border clearance project, involving a 527km stretch between Cizre and Çobanbey. Clearance would continue until 2016. Bidding for the second Syrian border project, involving 384km of border between Çobanbey and Denizgören, would begin only after “validation of the contract” for the first section. Clearance of the second section would continue until the end of 2016.[23] Eleven demining companies reportedly bid for the first project but, in July 2013, the Ministry of National Defence canceled tenders for clearing the border because of developments in Syria[24] and as of May 2014 had not provided any information on future prospects for clearance in the area.

Turkey’s Article 5 extension request also sets out plans for a three-phase clearance of its eastern and southeastern borders, starting with the Armenian border and working south to the border with Iraq. It said that work would start before the end of 2014 and last for two years, although a table of the timelines showed the first two phases continuing through 2017 and the third phase being completed in 2018.[25]

Land Release

Turkey did not record any land release in 2012, neither has it provided any information for the year 2013, although its Article 7 report for 2013 indicates that clearance activities did take place.

In its 2013 extension request, Turkey indicated that since activities began 1.15km2 had been released along the Syrian border through clearance destroying 760 antipersonnel mines and 974 antivehicle mines. This amounts to less than 1% of the area currently identified as mined along the border with Syria. No land release has been reported in either the interior mined areas or in other border areas, although a total of 24,287 antipersonnel mines had been destroyed. Demining has seemingly been limited to ensuring safe passage for military personnel.[26]

Mine clearance in 2013

Turkey’s Article 7 transparency report for 2013 recorded 2,248 mines had been destroyed during the year—a substantial increase in the number of mines destroyed compared with 2012 (685) and 2011 (244), bringing the total number of mines destroyed in mined areas since the start of demining in 2004 to 28,269.

Progress in destruction of mines in mined areas in 2012–13[27]


Mines remaining by end 2012

Mines remaining by end 2013

Mines destroyed in 2013

Syrian border




Iraqi border




Iranian border




Armenian border




Azerbaijani border




Interior areas








Article 5 Compliance

Under its original Article 5 deadline, Turkey was required to destroy all antipersonnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 March 2014. At the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties in December 2011, Turkey disclosed that clearance of its border with Syria would not be completed until 2016. In 2012, it acknowledged to the Twelfth Meeting of States Parties that it would seek an extension to its deadline.[28]

Turkey submitted a request in March 2013 asking for an eight-year extension until 2022, but also said this was “provisional” and only an “initial estimate” of the time needed.[29] It cited delays in setting up a national mine action authority, inconvenient weather, and insecurity among factors that had obstructed progress. But it also revealed that in the nine years since acceding to the Mine Ban Treaty, Turkey had only cleared a total of 1.15km² of mined area, three-quarters of it in one year (2011). In addition, military teams had cleared 24,287 mines, but only to allow safe movement of troops, not to release an area of contamination.[30]

The request provided the most comprehensive statement yet of Turkey’s mine contamination and its plans to tackle them, but shed no light on some key issues, thereby creating uncertainty over the prospects for fulfilling its clearance obligations. No budget has been allocated for clearance of mined areas inside the country, which have caused most of Turkey’s mine casualties. Clearance was expected to start after setting up a mine action authority and center, but, four years after first announcing plans for these institutions, there has been no indication as to when they would become operational.

Other factors indicating risk that clearance may not occur by 2022 include delays and lack of transparency in processing tenders and awarding contracts. By the time it submitted the request, four years had lapsed since Turkey passed Law No. 5903 on demining minefields on the Syrian border; two years had passed since it first drew up a short list of companies for the work; and a year had passed since it took selected companies to the border to conduct a survey. Nonetheless, the extension request offered no clarity on when the process will conclude and work can start, except that the government expected contracts to be awarded “soon.” As of May 2014, there was still no news as to when—or indeed if—any contracts will be awarded. Overall, as the ICBL has remarked: “the country has made little progress in addressing its mine contamination and has not begun clearance of areas with the greatest impact on local communities inside the country, or areas with militarily strategic significance.”[31]

To meet its treaty requirements regarding areas under its jurisdiction or control, Turkey also needs to set out and implement plans for clearance of affected areas in northern Cyprus. Turkish forces are in effective control of the areas.

Support for Mine Action

In 1998–2012, Turkey has reported contributing almost 63.2 million Turkish lira (equivalent to approximately US$30 million) to its own mine clearance efforts.[32] Turkey has not reported the amount contributed in 2013.

In its March 2013 extension request, Turkey estimated the budget needed for the three phases of its clearance plan for the border areas in 2015–18 as totaling almost €68.7 million, of which two thirds of the first two phases would be covered by the European Union under the “Pre-accession Financial Assistance Scheme.”[33]

Turkey has not allocated national funding for clearance of other mined areas, due to be undertaken in 2015–2022, although it has estimated a budget of at least €5.3 million for this work.[34]


·         Turkey should prioritize clearance of areas where mine incidents are occurring. Clearance in these areas should not depend upon clearance of the border with Syria.

·         Turkey should push ahead with the administrative and structural processes needed to accelerate mine clearance in the country, and not wait until 2015.

·         Turkey should urgently overcome delays in the establishment of a Mine Action Authority and a Mine Action Center.

·         Turkey should overcome persistent delays in its tendering process for mined areas on the Syrian border and provide an update to States Parties on its progress.

·         Turkey should report its clearance efforts more fully and present a budget for the clearance work to States Parties.


[1] See “Mine Action Program Performance” for more information on performance indicators.

[2] Statement of Turkey, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 26 April 2007.

[3] Statement of Turkey, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 23 May 2012; and Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 29 March 2013, p. 1.

[5] Ibid., pp. 6 and 11–12. The tables on pages 1112 report 1,265 mined areas on the Syrian border, covering 189km².

[6] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Elif Comoglu Ulgen, then-Head, Disarmament and Arms Control Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 14 July 2008.

[7] Email from Brian Kelly, Spokesperson, UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus Headquarters, 25 April 2002; and interview with Brian Kelly, UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus Headquarters, Nicosia, 28 March 2002.

[8] Statement of Cyprus, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 21 June 2011.

[11] Ibid.

[12] ICBL interview with Serhan Yigit, Head, Arms Control and Disarmament Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ankara, 4 March 2013.

[13] Statement of Turkey, Twelfth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 5 December 2011.

[14] ICBL interview with Ömer Burhan Tüzel, Serhan Yiğit, and Ramazan Ercan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Abdullah Özbek, Ministry of Interior, Ankara, 5 May 2011.

[15] Ali M. Koknar, “Turkey Moves Forward to Demine Upper Mesopotamia,” Journal of Mine Action, Issue 8.2, November 2004.

[17] Statement of Turkey, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 22 June 2010.

[18] Statement of Turkey, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 23 June 2011.

[19] Interview with Huseyin Yurekli, Project Officer, Ministry of National Defense, in Geneva, 22 June 2011.

[20] ICBL interview with Serhan Yigit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ankara, 4 March 2013.

[22] Interview with Ömer Burhan Tüzel, Serhan Yiğit, and Ramazan Ercan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Abdullah Özbek, Ministry of Interior, Ankara, 5 May 2011.

[23] Statement of Turkey, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 23 May 2012.

[24]Turkey cancels tender for demining border with Syria,” Azerbaijan Press Agency, 3 July 2013. Bidders for the contract reportedly included a joint venture between the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action and Azairtechservise, Aardvak, Countermine, the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, Croatian Mine Action Center, Mechem, Minetech, the Olive Group, RONCO Corporation, and UXB International.

[26] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 29 March 2013, p. 8. In addition, mine accidents have occurred in areas previously claimed to have been cleared (see, for example, the incident on 1 May 2013 in the Iğdır region near the border with Armenia that killed two military personnel: One million landmines pose risks for Kurdish comeback,” Hurriyet Daily News, 4 May 2013).

[28] Statement of Turkey, Eleventh Meeting of States Parties, Phnom Penh, 1 December 2011; and statement of Turkey, Twelfth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 5 December 2012.

[30] Ibid, p. 8.

[31] ICBL, “Spotlight on Turkey,” 19 February 2014.

[33] Ibid, pp. 15 and 17.

[34] Ibid, p. 18.