Turkish Defense Ministry launches talks with NATO for mine clearing .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - Turkish Defense Ministry said Tuesday it has started talks with a NATO agency for the clearance of land mines from the country’s border with Syria.

The announcement of the talks launched with the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency, the alliance’s principal logistics support management agency, by the ministry ends a dispute over who would do the job.

The military and opposition parties had strongly opposed a government-drafted law that allowed private foreign companies to clear the mines in return for the right to farm the fertile land for up to 44 years.

The ministry said in a statement that in line with Law no 5903, the fields would be cleared of mines through the service procurement method that comprises of the stages of preparation, tender, implementation and approval, and certification, which would also involve the construction of a physical border security system.

After ratifying the Ottawa Treaty ban on anti-personnel landmines in 2003, Turkey has until 2014 to clear its border territories of mines.

The Turkish-Syrian border is riddled with some 615,000 landmines, planted since the 1950s to secure the frontier.