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Asian regional seminar on landmines: a call for action

23-07-1997 News Release 97/21

Geneva (ICRC) - A regional seminar for Asian military and strategic analysts meeting in Manila ended today with a call for governments in Asia to take urgent action to address the disastrous humanitarian implications of the use of anti-personnel landmines.

The seminar concluded that the appalling consequences in humanitarian terms of the deployment of anti-personnel landmines far outweighed their military utility in most conflicts, and that the international community should work for their prohibition and elimination as a matter of urgency.

The seminar, attended by Asian defence analysts from 18 countries, was organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in cooperation with the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Philippine National Red Cross. The participants, who were invited in a personal capacity, included serving and retired military officers, defence officials and representatives of military and strategic institutes.

Key recommendations made to governments in the region include:

- participation in forthcoming negotiations aimed at the conclusion of a new treaty imposing a comprehensive ban on anti-personnel landmines by the end of 1997;

- the rapid adoption of a regional agreement to prohibit remotely delivered anti-personnel landmines (dispersed by helicopter, plane or artillery), so as to prevent an escalation of mine warfare and higher levels of civilian casualties;

- incre ased regional cooperation in mine clearance and assistance to mine victims.

To date, six States in the region (Cambodia, Fiji, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines) have signed the Brussels Declaration whereby they undertake to negotiate an international treaty prohibiting anti-personnel mines with the aim of signing it in Ottawa, Canada, by the end of the year. Worldwide, one hundred States are firmly committed to the " Ottawa process " .

The Manila seminar and its recommendations are particularly significant as this is the first time that senior defence strategists from the region have gathered to examine the use of landmines in Asia. The ICRC believes that a greater degree of involvement by countries in Asia will be crucial in efforts to eliminate the global scourge of landmines and the terrible suffering they inflict.