Turkey mulls withdrawing from Ottawa Treaty

Turkey is contemplating reintroducing ‘offensive anti-personnel mine warfare’ as part of its military doctrine, according to an Istanbul-based MoD source familiar with the development.

A cost-benefit analysis performed by the country’s Land Forces Command, which features the second largest number of boots in the NATO, reportedly concluded as early as 2015 that “actively using anti-personnel landmines will significantly boost the Turkish anti-terrorism capabilities while reducing casualties with only marginal impact on Turkey’s international standing”. Anti-personnel mines are expected to be especially effective in the harsh and mountainous terrain of southeastern Turkey, as well as in Northern Iraq and Syria where Turkish military units are active and frequently clash with terrorists.

The proposal was brought forward during a MGK — National Security Executive Committee — meeting in 2015 but it was put on the back burner at the time due to both domestic and foreign policy considerations. It was further delayed in 2016 because of the events that unfolded following the July 15 coup d’etat attempt and imprisoning of key military personnel. However, it is now back on the MGK’s agenda and is expected to successfully make it to policy early next year.

Turkey has long been a victim of landmines itself, as the principal terrorist threat to its national security, the PKK, commonly uses landmines and improvised explosive devices derived from landmines in its acts against the Turkish military, which has resulted in thousands of casualties since the group took up arms against Turkey in the 80’s.

Reintroduction of the landmines requires Turkey to leave the Ottowa Treaty, a document that forbids signatory countries from manufacturing and deploying anti-personnel mines, other than a small amount for training purposes. Turkey has been among the countries frequently criticized for not meeting deadlines and still maintaining a relatively larger stockpile.

Prominent countries with strong military forces such as the United States, Russia, China, India and Israel have never signed and remain outside of the treaty.