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First meeting to discuss a treaty banning anti-personnel landmines opens in Vienna on 12 February 1997

10-02-1997 News Release 97/03

Geneva (ICRC) - Representatives of governments, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations will meet in Vienna next week to begin consultations on the text of an international agreement to ban the production, transfer, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel landmines. The meeting, to be hosted by Austria from 12-14 February, will consider a draft treaty prepared by the country's government. Discussions are expected to cover a number of issues, including the precise definition of an anti-personnel mine, the importance of an immediate and total prohibition on mines as against a phased approach and the need to establish a monitoring mechanism to ensure compliance with the treaty. The ICRC, which strongly supports a total ban on anti-personnel mines, will attend the meeting as an expert observer. The drafting process is intended to lead to the formal signature of a treaty in Ottawa in December 1997.

This initiative was taken in response to the disappointing results of the Review Conference of the 1980 United Nations Weapons Convention, which ended in Geneva in May 1996. Owing to the lack of a consensus, the Conference, which was convened specifically to address the problem of anti-personnel mines, was able to agree only on limited restrictions on the use of these weapons instead of an outright ban. The meeting next week in Vienna should build on the momentum created by the adoption in 1996 by the UN General Assembly of a resolution (51/45S) calling on States to complete " as soon as possible " negotiations for an effective, legally binding international agreement to ban the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines. This landmark resolution was supported by 155 States, with none opposing it.

The forthcoming meeting also reflects the efforts of the " Ottawa Group " , which was set up in October 1996 and is composed of 50 pro-ban States. At the time, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs invited all governments to return to Ottawa in December 1997 to sign an international treaty banning anti-personnel mines. To date, 53 States have publicly expressed their support for a global ban. Of these, 28 have already put an end to the use of anti-personnel mines by their own armed forces and 15 are destroying their stocks.

Further meetings to discuss the text of a new treaty are to be held in Vienna, Brussels and Oslo later this year. In parallel, the Geneva-based UN Conference on Disarmament is discussing proposals to put the negotiation of a ban on anti-personnel mines on its agenda. However, the consensus required to do so has not yet been achieved.

The ICRC will actively support the negotiation of an effective international agreement to outlaw the use of anti-personnel landmines, which each year kill or maim an estimated 24,000  people, mostly civilians in rural developing communities.