NATO demining more economical (Turkey)

ANKARA - Turkish authorities estimate the clearance of mines on the border with Syria to cost between $400 million and $1.6 billion if carried out by private foreign contractors, while NATO is likely to assume the task of demining at a cost that would be closer to the sum of $252,000


As the controversy over the clearance of landmines on the Syrian border continues, it was revealed that the military-proposed NATO unit could assume the task even at a lower cost than the foreign private sector.

Turkey is required to clear the mines by 2014 in accordance with an international treaty signed in Ottawa, Canada, in 1993. The area of mines begins in Hatay in the south of Turkey and stretches through Kilis, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa and Mardin all the way to Şırnak in southeastern Anatolia. The 178.5 square-kilometer area is estimated to contain around 600,000 landmines and stretches for 510 kilometers in length.


The clearance of the mines is expected through the build-operate-transfer model and if the law passes, the tender will be open to global actors. The bidding process would begin once the relevant law is passed by Parliament. The parliamentary session on the issue will be held this week. Meanwhile, the participation of an Israeli company in the tender sparked a heated debate both among opposition parties and within the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week denied the allegations that an Israeli company would be assigned the task.

The company that wins the tender must clear the minefields by 2014 and will own rights to the land until the end of 2058. Holding a press conference yesterday, Gökhan Günaydın, the head of the Agriculture Engineers' Chamber, said the area at the Syrian border should be given to local farmers once the mines were cleared, objecting to the idea of assigning the cleared minefields to foreigners. The land belongs to the local people, he said.

"Taking into account the fact that southeastern Anatolia is one of the less developed regions of Turkey, it is very vital for the cleared minefields to be given back to local farmers in terms of employment and social balances," he said, adding that it was not logical to assume that a foreign company would engage in such a task in such a strategic region simply to deal with agriculture.

The military earlier said an area of that size could not be cleared with the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK's, existing equipment alone, proposing the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency, or NAMSA, be considered for mine clearance in the region. Amid this climate of debate and the government's insistence to go ahead with the tender process following the adoption of the relevant law, daily Cumhuriyet reported yesterday that NAMSA could assume the task at a lower cost compared to the foreign companies.

Former Finance Minister Kemal Unakıtan said such a mine clearance service would cost between $400 million and $1.6 billion but NAMSA, NATO's principal logistics support management agency, earlier carried out similar tasks in Serbia and Montenegro, Belarus, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Albania at lower costs in the last five years, according to daily Cumhuriyet. NAMSA has cleared 4.1 million mines for $4.2 million in the mentioned countries between April 2002 and June 2007, meaning the clearance cost for per mine is one dollar and three cents.

According to similar calculations, NAMSA is likely to assume the task of clearing 615,419 mines for a maximum of $2.1 million. NAMSA cleared 1.4 million mines for 1.6 million euros in Serbia and Montenegro in June 2007; 700,000 mines for 205,000 euros in Belarus in December 2006; 1,261 mines for 3,100 euros in Tajikistan in March 2004; 400,000 mines for $800,000 in Ukraine in May 2003 and 1.6 million mines for $800,000 in Albania in April 2002, daily Cumhuriyet reported.

While the Finance Ministry anticipated the clearance cost of a single mine as at least $650, NAMSA offered it for $0.5 per mine as of May foreign exchange rates. NAMSA is likely to assume the same task in Turkey between $252,000 and $2.1 million, representing a sharp gap with the figures suggested by the former Turkish finance minister.

Von: 24.05.2009,

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