Photo: AP
Erdogan. Political minefield
Photo: AP

Israelis to clear mines in Turkey?

Turkish opposition says government promised Israeli company bid of tens of millions of dollars to clear landmines on border with Syria, call move 'political foolishness'

Minefield in Turkish politics: An Israeli company has won a government bid worth tens of millions of dollars for clearing mines on the Turkish-Syrian border, according to Turkish opposition sources.


The claim was made during a heated discussion at the Turkish parliament over the approval of a mine clearing law, after the opposition reportedly discovered that leaders of the Justice and Development ruling party had already promised to give the tender to an Israeli company.


The opposition believes that "giving the contract to the Israeli company is a foolish political act, as Syria will object to the presence of an Israeli company on its border."


The report was first published by the Quds Fares news agency, which is affiliated with the Syrian government. According to the report, some of parliament members on behalf of the Justice and Development party are boycotting the discussions on the law due to their objection to the Israeli involvement and to what they define as "the sale of Turkish lands to Israelis".


According to opposition sources in Turkey, the bid was given to an Israeli company already several years ago against fixed procedures, but the move was eventually stopped by the parliament.


Erdogan: Bid open to all companies

In 2003, Turkey signed an international treaty obligating the country to dismantle all minefields within its borders by 2014.


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated lately that "the contracts are open to all companies", but opposition members claimed that in practice the contract was finalized with the Israeli company "due to the fast execution", although the law is far from being approved. Should the bill be adopted by the parliament, Turkish President Abdullah Gul will have to approve it before it is executed.


Opposition sources quoted Erdogan as stating that Turkey lacked the ability to carry out the project within the set timetable, and that the project would eventually help the Turkish economy.


The Turkish opposition claims that according to the contract, the Israeli company, which also employs Turkish workers, will have the right to lease the territories cleared of mines for 44 years, during which it would be able to turn them into agricultural lands.


International experts say this territory measures 176 square kilometers (68 square miles) in size, scattered with some 615,000 mines placed in order to reduce the smuggling movement and the infiltration of Kurdish rebels. Today, however, it is a complicated project as floods which have hit the area changed the location of the mines.


Doron Peskin is head of research at Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd


פרסום ראשון: 06.03.09, 12:26
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