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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 25, April 1998

States Urged to Join Landmines Ban

In Budapest in late March, 19 States attended a Conference championing the cause of the December 1997 Ottawa Landmines Convention. Hungary's President, Arpad Goncz, announced his country's ratification of the Convention to delegates on 26 March. Goncz stated:

"Anti-personnel landmines are the most cynical and wicked weapons of all times... This weapon must disappear from the world once and for all..."

Addressing the opening session of the conference (26 March), Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy emphasised the momentous role former Warsaw Pact States could play in bolstering the Convention, and with it global demining efforts:

"Central and Eastern Europe, with what some estimate to be the world's largest stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines - easily in the tens of millions - is a 'make or break' region for the ban. ... Allowing even a small portion of these stockpiles to leak onto black markets and into the ground would be a major setback."

By the end of March, the States in the region which had signed the Convention were: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Those yet to sign were: Albania, Belarus, Estonia, Yugoslavia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine. In all, 124 States had signed.

1997 Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, US coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), also stressed the importance of regional support for the Convention. Williams acknowledged (26 March): "We still have much work to do in this region." Referring to the attendance of many regional States, Williams added:

"We hope that by virtue of their being here over these days this is an indication that they are hearing the call of humanity and are looking to the possibility of signing... We hope that it is an indication of their understanding that the world has already decreed this weapon to be illegal and indiscriminate..."

Speaking at Harvard University of 24 April, Axworthy described himself as "extremely confident" that all the major non-signatories - including China, Russia and the US - "will be coming on board." This optimism, he explained, was attributable to the fact that for any State to remain outside the regime would "be to face a stigmatzation." Even without universality, Axworthy added, "the fact of the matter is that since the signing of the Treaty, it has become a standard to which all countries are now adhering."

Reports: E. Europe urged to join landmine ban, Reuters, 26 March; Canada sees US signing landmines treaty eventually, Reuters, 24 April.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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