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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 17, July - August 1997

Increased Expectations of a Landmines Ban

The campaign for a ban on anti-personnel (AP) landmines is reaching a new pitch of intensity in the build-up to a September meeting of pro-ban States in Oslo. The meeting, scheduled to last from 1-19 September, will be the most important stage thus far in the 'Ottawa Process,' launched last October by Canada with the stated intention of drawing up a treaty for signature in the Canadian Capital in December 1997. See last issue for a summary and assessment of the June 24-27 meeting of the Ottawa-Process States in Brussels. The meeting resulted in a Declaration calling for a total ban by the end of the year signed by 97 States.

Throughout the time period covered by this Review, the US came under increasing pressure to join the Ottawa Process discussions. It finally did so on 18 August - see Documents and Sources. The move represents a considerable shift away from US prioritisation of discussions at the Conference on Disarmament (CD). As late as 17 July, a US Department of Defense spokesperson, Captain Michael Doubleday, maintained that "We just believe that there needs to be an all-inclusive approach to this thing, which can only be accomplished through the Conference on Disarmament."

On 18 July, speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan made his view of the relative merits of the CD and the Ottawa Process abundantly clear:

"I...support the Ottawa approach and hope that as many countries as possible will join it... I would encourage governments to do it as quickly as they can, without waiting for others to do it. ... The [CD]...will bring everybody in under the same umbrella, but the more governments we get that agree to ban the weapons now, the better [placed] we are."

On 16 July, 9 US Catholic organizations wrote to President Clinton urging him to fully participate in the Ottawa Process: "We urge you to demonstrate US leadership...by immediately banning the use and production of all AP mines, by destroying our stockpile of 14 million mines and by joining the majority of the world in negotiating and signing an AP mine ban treaty this December."

Pressure also mounted through July on other States not demonstrably enthusiastic about the Canadian initiative. On 17 July, the European Parliament in Strasbourg called on the only two members of the European Union (EU) who failed to sign the Brussels Declaration - Finland and Greece - to express their full support immediately. European Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan told the Parliament: "It is a matter of regret that two members of the Union do not currently feel able to subscribe to the total ban."

On 15 August, Australia announced that it would become a belated signatory of the Brussels Declaration. In a joint statement, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defence Minister Ian McLachlan observed:

"The decision to sign the Brussels Declaration and attend the Oslo conference is a further manifestation of the government's commitment to the goal of achieving a global landmines ban..."

Reports: UN Chief swipes at Clinton on landmine policy, Reuters World Service, 18 June; Catholics join in urging Clinton to change landmine policy, Catholic News Service, 17 July; Euro-MPs urge Finland, Greece to back ban on mines, Reuters World Service, 17 July; Australia moves to ban landmines, Agence France-Presse International News, 15 August.

Editor's note: on 28 August, the Washington Times reported that a seismic event had taken place in Russia on 16 August. The newspaper speculated that the event was an underground nuclear test. This was swiftly denied by Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy. At the time of this issue going to press, US statements indicated they were yet to make a determination on the nature of the event, although it appears to have taken place approximately 100 kilometres away from Russia's underground test site at Novaya Zemyla.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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