Press release on signing a memorandum of understanding between the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the UN Mine Action Service
We praise the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Damascus the other day. The Russian side exerted proactive efforts to draft the document that stipulates the required legal framework for the practical involvement of the UN and the international community in addressing topical tasks as regards humanitarian mine clearance operations in Syria.
We believe that the fastest implementation of several pilot projects will allow UNMAS experts to start working all over the country. Naturally, this activity should be depoliticised and should not stipulate any pre-conditions whatsoever.
UN mine clearance efforts will greatly assist the effective long-term work of Russian experts conducting humanitarian mine clearance operations and training Syrian combat engineer units. In 2016−2017, a mine clearance unit from the Russian Armed Forces’ International Mine Action Centre conducted four humanitarian mine clearance operations in the Syrian Arab Republic, which were unique in their scale and complexity. Two operations took place in Palmyra’s architectural-historical section and city districts, one in Aleppo and one in Deir ez-Zor. This allowed tens of thousands of Syrians to return safely back to their homes, and it also became possible to save numerous priceless world heritage objects. During its four operations, the mine clearance unit removed explosives from a total area of land measuring 6,600 hectares, 1,500 kilometres of roads and from over 17,000 various buildings and structures. Its members located and deactivated 105,000 explosive devices, including over 30,000 improvised explosive devices. Syrian combat engineers who have been trained at the Russian centre continue to take part in mine clearance operations in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta and southern suburbs of Damascus, Eastern Qalamoun and Homs, liberated earlier this year. Over 2,000 buildings and structures, their adjacent territories as well as 45 kilometres of roads have been cleared of landmines. In all, 2,400 explosive devices have been defused in the suburbs of Damascus, and an additional 7,800 explosive devices have been defused in the former Homs de-escalation zone.
We are urging the international community to become proactively involved in the Russian-Syrian efforts in this area and to provide the relevant financial and technical support that would eventually help create worthy and safe conditions for returning millions of Syrians back to their homes and for the restoration of the country. The situation in Raqqa covered with landmines planted by terrorists and damaged during operations by the so-called anti-ISIS coalition shows that the international community should promptly conduct humanitarian mine clearance operations there as soon as possible.