ANKARA — After several years of delays, Turkey's Parliament has passed a bill for clearing more than 1 million landmines, mostly in Turkey's southern and eastern border areas. Industry sources say several contracts, big and small, are on the way.
The law orders the founding of a National Mine Center and tasks it with "making policy, strategy and work plans to remove threats from landmines and other unexploded ammunitions." The center also will set up and operate an information management system.
The law, passed in Parliament's general assembly on Jan. 22, grants customs and import tax exceptions to "all kinds of equipment, vehicles and machinery that will imported for the purpose of demining."
The article states that "local companies should be given priority in acquisition of goods and services in landmine clearance activity."
"We wanted to force foreign companies into partnerships with local companies," Seker said during the debate.
Another opposition deputy, Mehmet Gunal, echoed the same view.
"It would be humiliating for Turkey to award demining contracts [solely] to foreign companies," he said. "Turkish companies too should participate in biddings."
In 2009, the Turkish government moved to lease vast swaths of territory along the Turkish-Syrian border in exchange for clearing it of the landmines. After two weeks of hot debate, Parliament withdrew the draft bill that would lease the land "to a private company for 44 years in return for destroying the mines that had been planted there during the past decades."
Under the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines, Turkey was obliged to remove by March 2014 landmines planted on about 176 square kilometers of territory bordering Syria. Turkey ratified the treaty in 2003.