Cyprus: UN envoy detonates last mines in campaign to clear capital of war’s heritage

Cyprus: UN envoy detonates last mines in campaign to clear capital of war’s heritage

The top United Nations envoy in Cyprus today helped trigger the last mines of a two-year campaign to clear the area of Nicosia, the capital, of explosives left over from decades of conflict.

The senior UN envoy to the country hailed the milestone during a ceremony held in the buffer zone separating the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. “Our hope is that today’s event will instil an even stronger commitment on the part of both communities to rid the island completely of its lethal landmine heritage,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Michael Moller said at the UN Protected Area in Nicosia.

Mr. Moller and the European Union’s (EU) Director General for Enlargement Andrew Rasbash, triggered the last mines, bringing to more than 2,800 those de-activated since the launch of the joint UN-EU programme. The de-mining project was launched in November 2004, by the by the UNDP programme, Partnership for the Future Mine Action Centre, which is funded by the EU, who has provided $5 millions Euros until December 2006.

The UN has been involved in the Mediterranean island since March 1964 when the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was set up to prevent a recurrence of fighting, contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order, and contribute to a return to normal conditions.

Currently the fourth-oldest UN peacekeeping operation in the world, it seeks to maintain stability in the buffer zone and ensure that there is no alteration of the status quo along the two ceasefire lines drawn in 1974 after renewed fighting.