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Treaty Signing Conference and Mine Action Forum: Challenge lies ahead

03-12-1997 News Release 97/34

Today in the Canadian capital Ottawa, representatives of more than 150 States heard Cornelio  Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), hail the opening for signature of the Ottawa treaty banning anti-personnel landmines as a " triumph for humanitarian values in the face of cruelty and indifference " . Having demonstrated by the conclusion of the treaty that such decisive action for humanity is possible, the international community has " a solemn obligation to ask why it happens so seldom " , he added.

While the ban on the use of mines will save lives and limbs, the world's governments must now prepare for the " long road ahead " , as the daunting challenges of mine clearance and the provision of adequate assistance to all mine victims still have to be addressed, President Sommaruga reminded delegates.

The ICRC President also took the opportunity to call on States to tackle the issue of the ready availability of weapons as a matter of pressing international concern. " We have learned from the case of landmines that it is both easier and faster to distribute arms than to teach the principles of humanitarian law to those who possess them. If we fail to learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them " , said Mr Sommaruga.

Since February 1994 the ICRC and the entire International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have been actively involved in the drive to impose a total ban on anti-personnel mines, running public awareness campaigns and encouraging diplomatic and military circles to support their efforts. These efforts will continue, in order to achieve universal acceptance of the treaty, to coordinate and improve the care given to victims, and to extend preventive mine-awareness programmes.