Turkey passes disputed mines law

ISTANBUL – The Turkish parliament has passed a controversial law on clearing mines along the border with Syria. According to the law foreign companies will also have a chance to help in clearing the mines, in exchange for the use of the cleared land for several decades. The opposition now threatens to take the law to the Constitutional Court.

Along the 500 kilometres of border between Syria and Turkey lay more than 600,000 mines. In the nineteen fifties they were laid there against smugglers and later against fighters of the separatist PKK. Turkey is a signatory to the Ottawa Treaty, and has committed itself to clearing the mines before 2014. The Turkish army doesn’t have enough capacity to make the area mine-free, and NATO probably doesn’t either.

Controversy over the law started when it turned out an Israeli company might win the tender to do (part of) the job. The opposition fulminated against this possibility with the argument that part of Turkey would be ‘sold to foreigners’. Governing party AKP on the other hand sees the law as a chance to attract foreign investment and to keep down the cost of the valuable work.

The opposition now threatens to take the law to the Constitutional Court, which is a familiar opposition tactic. If they go ahead and do that, then it is expected the Court will annul the law.

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