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Hungary: One more step away from landmines

01-04-1998 News Release 98/13

A three-day regional conference on anti-personnel landmines hosted by the Hungarian government in Budapest ended on 28 March with a declaration by ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga that mines were " weapons of the past, not of the future " . The conference, which comprised parallel two-day seminars sponsored by the ICRC and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines respectively, brought together representatives of governments and non-governmental organizations from 19 Central and Eastern European countries.

The ICRC seminar, attended by representatives of the region's ministries of defence and foreign affairs, focused on the human cost and military utility of anti-personnel mines. The participants heard powerful evidence from outside military experts that, on the basis of their actual use, the military effectiveness of anti-personnel mines was extremely questionable, especially for the protection of long, unguarded borders. It was pointed out that alternatives already existed to fulfil the functions of these weapons in military doctrine.

The participants in the seminar adopted a very strong final declaration stating that the human cost of anti-personnel mines far outweighed their limited military utility and urging early adherence to the Ottawa treaty. The declaration was fully endorsed by all the participants in their personal capacity except for those from Belarus and the Russian Federation, who expressed support for its humanitarian objectives but were not able to agree with all its conclusions. Ten governments in the region have already signed the Ottawa treaty, and during the conference Hungarian President Arpad Goncz signed his country's instrument of ratification.