Egypt intensifies demining efforts

Egypt intensifies demining efforts

 CAIRO: The Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation Faiza Aboul Naga harshly criticized the silence of the international community towards the removal of mines, those leftovers of World War II in the Western Desert of Egypt. She also warned of the dangers of the existence of about 18 million mines in the country, pointing out that the armed forces have succeeded in clearing around 3 million acres of mines.

The minister revealed at a meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee of the People’s Assembly on Tuesday that those mines are covering 22 percent of Egypt’s area.

“This area is rich in oil and minerals and renewable groundwater, and enjoys a good touristic location and there are 30 species of natural vegetation does not exist in the world, and can alone result into a self – sufficient Egypt in wheat and grain,” the minister said.

The minister pointed out that Egypt is the second largest country in the world after Angola in terms of the number of mines on its territory, although Egypt did not have any “guilt” in the presence of mines planted by Britain, Italy and Germany.

She stated that the armed forces succeeded in clearing 3 million acres, however there are more than 17 million mines remaining. She argued that the cost of clearing the land mines is hefty and costs substantially more than the price of planting them.

Aboul Naga revealed that the ministry is launching a national project entitled “removals for development” that looks to efforts for the clearance of the mines in Egypt and added that the project was piloted on 30 feddans in el-Alamein and ended the experiment in November last year for the extraction of 315,000 mines and aircraft bombs.

The Minister noted in an agreement with the armed forces to oversee the lands that are held until cleared by the development project, in order to preserve them from “anyone that would seize it.”

She also said expressed that Britain pressured Germany and Italy so as not to help Egypt in demining efforts after both countries showed their readiness for cooperation, according to Fayza. Britain believed that this cooperation could open the door and pave the way for financial compensation, although the “moral and legal responsibility lies on them.” She continued: “We have determined the number of deaths and injuries caused by mines and the ministry will have an exhibition of pictures of people affected at the Italian Ambassador’s house as a kind of pressure on the governments of those countries to help and t to provide technology required for mine clearance.”

The Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Mostafa al-Fiqi, recommended raising the issue to the international community, especially at the European Parliament and the United Nations, to put pressure on the United States that have laid mines to assist Egypt in the removal.

The sands of the northwest coast are home to approximately 17.5 million landmines and the number of landmines in the Sinai and the eastern desert is roughly 5.5 million, according to a statement by the ministry. She also estimated the number of the victims of landmines in Egypt to be about 900, disabled or wounded.

In Sinai, however, it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of landmines because the Israeli government has not revealed all the locations of the mines that were placed during the 1967 and 1973 wars.