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Last Updated: 26 November 2013

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact


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.[1] According to Turkey, all the mines laid along its borders with Bulgaria, Georgia, and Greece have been cleared.[2]

In its Article 5 deadline extension request submitted in March 2013, Turkey identified a total of 3,514 mined areas covering 213.59km². This estimate is 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 (190.5km²), with small amounts on the borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Iraq. A further 704 mined areas, covering a total of 2.62km², have been identified around military installations inside the country.[3]

Turkey mine contamination[4]


Number of 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.[5] Turkey’s Armed Forces General Staff reported finding 92 PKK mines in the first seven months of 2011, but it did not specify whether they were victim-activated devices or command-detonated.[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]

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.


Key institutions and operators


Situation on 1 January 2012

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 does not yet have a national mine action authority or mine action center (MAC). The Minister of National Defense, Vecdi Gönül, told parliament in March 2010 that the ministry had set up a Top Project Board (TPB) to oversee mine action, and a Project Implementation Board (PIB) to act as a national MAC. The TPB would include representatives of the ministries of agriculture, finance, foreign affairs, internal affairs, and rural affairs, with other ministries participating when necessary. The Ministry of National Defense was said to be preparing a directive setting out the respective responsibilities of the TPB and PIB.[10] Turkey told the Twelfth Meeting of State Parties that the board had been established to identify precise coordinates of mined areas and use the data to create digital maps.[11]

Officials reported in March 2013 that the preparation of a draft law establishing a MAC was in its “final stages.” They said that once completed, the draft would be sent for review by the Prime Minister’s office and then to parliament, but added that officials were not working to meet any timetable.[12]

In the meantime, Turkey informed the Twelfth Meeting of States Parties that an Interministerial Coordination Board (IMCB) within the Ministry of National Security that had begun working on 26 October 2010 was “meeting regularly and practically functioning as the National Mine Action Authority.” Turkey said the board would:[13]

·         Comprise, among other institutions, the Prime Minister’s office, the ministries of national defense, foreign affairs, finance, education, health, energy, national resources, agriculture, interior, transport, environment, and culture;

·         Issue instructions to and coordinate all government agencies involved in mine action;

·         Discuss key issues, ranging from appropriate mine clearance methodologies, risk education, and planning local infrastructure to preserving cultural assets; and

·         Elaborate Turkish mine action standards.

Turkey’s Article 5 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.[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.[21] Officials reported that demarcation of the border in some of the six areas is disputed by Syria and work would start in the east, where the border was not disputed and the terrain is flat. The government had initially planned to set a deadline of June 2011 for tender submissions, but later extended it. Officials told the ICBL in May that Turkey’s intention was still to start clearance in 2011.[22]

However, Turkey told 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 Defense reportedly canceled tenders for clearing the border because of developments in Syria.[24]

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. Turkey said the European Union had agreed to finance two-thirds of the cost of the first two phases, amounting to €30 million. 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]


Despite the approach of its Article 5 deadline, Turkey did not record any land release in 2012. In the past, Turkey used the Specialized Mine Clearance Unit of the Turkish Army to conduct some demining, using manual and mechanical means, as well as commercial companies.[26] In 2008, a German commercial company, Tauber, working in partnership with the Turkish company Tusan Corporation, won a demining contract by tender to clear the Nusaybin border gate between Turkey and Syria.[27] In March 2011, Nokta Yatirim Limited Company reported it had demined the ancient city of Karkamış in Gaziantep Province, clearing an area of 663,800m2 and destroying 1,200 mines.[28]

Mine clearance in 2012

Turkey’s Article 7 report for 2012 showed an increase of 685 mines destroyed in 2012, compared with 244 mines in 2011, bringing the total number of mines destroyed in mined areas since the start of demining in 2004 to 26,021. However, in 2012 the number of mines Turkey reports as remaining to be cleared from mined areas went up by 759. Turkey provided no explanation for the change.[29]

Compliance with Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty

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 and, a year later, it acknowledged to the Twelfth Meeting of State’s Parties that it would seek an extension to its deadline.[30]

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.[31] 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 cleared a total of 1.15km² of mined area, three-quarters of it in one year (2011). Military teams had additionally removed 24,287 mines, but only to allow safe movement of troops, not to release an area of contamination.[32]

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 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, three years after first announcing plans for these institutions, the request gave no indication as to what had held up progress, or when they would become operational.

Other risk factors 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; and yet, the request offered no clarity on when the process will conclude and work can start, except that the government expected contracts to be awarded “soon.”

To meet its treaty requirements regarding areas under its jurisdiction or control, Turkey may also need to set out and implement plans for clearance of affected areas in northern Cyprus. Turkey does not claim either jurisdiction or control over this territory. Cyprus, however, in requesting an extension of its own Article 5 deadline, noted that it claims jurisdiction over northern Cyprus but cannot clear it due to a lack of control. In an aide memoire sent to all States Parties, Cyprus asserted that there is legal precedent to back the notion that Turkey has control and therefore legal responsibility over this territory.[33] The ICBL, in its comments on Turkey’s draft extension request, noted that this discrepancy left “unresolved the question of which State Party will address contamination” in this area and called on all States Parties to “look for a way to ensure that the mined areas in northern Cyprus are cleared as soon as possible for the benefit of the affected communities.”


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

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

[3] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 28 March 2013, p. 6.

[4] Ibid., pp. 6 and 11−12. Tables on pp. 11−12 report 1,265 mined areas on the Syrian border, covering 189.35km².

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

[6]PKK, 7 ayda 92 mayin döşedi” (“PKK placed 92 mines in seven months”), Zaman, 18 August 2011.

[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.

[9] “Explosive remnants of war and mines other than anti-personnel mines,” Landmine Action, London, March 2005, p. 173.

[10] Speech to Parliament by Vecdi Gönül, Minister of National Defense, 2 March 2010, www.tbmm.gov.tr.

[11] Statement of Turkey to the Twelfth Meeting of State Parties, Geneva, 5 December 2012.

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

[13] Statement of Turkey, Twelth 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.

[16] “President Gul Ratıfıes Law on Demining of Mınefields Along Syrıan Border,” Turknet (Ankara), 16 June 2009, haber.turk.net/.

[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.

[25] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 Extension Request, 28 March 2013, pp. 14−16.

[26] Convention on Conventional Weapons Amended Protocol II Article 13 Report (for calendar year 2008), Form F, 12 November 2008.

[27] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Elif Comoglu Ulgen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 14 July 2008.

[28]Mayınlar Temizlendi Yeni Bir Antik Kent Doğuyor” (“The mines were cleared, a new antique city is rising up”), Sanliurfa Gazetesi, 21 March 2011.

[29] Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Reports (for calendar years 2011 and 2012), Form G.

[30] 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.

[32] Ibid., p. 8.

[33] Aide Memoire, Republic of Cyprus, 8 July 2013.