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Letter to UK Secretary of State, Robin Cook

Pressure to force the US to comply to a total ban at the forthcoming Ottawa process

OneWorld Partnership

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The Rt Hon Robin Cook
Secretary of State
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1 2AH

2 September 1997

Dear Secretary of State

On behalf of the member organisations of the UK Working Group on Landmines we are writing to express our deep concern regarding the latest US proposals and to seek your assurance that the British government will be pushing for a comprehensive ban treaty in the Ottawa process. As you know states will be meeting in Oslo next week to finalise the draft treaty. The US government has made it clear that if their proposals are not integrated into the treaty it will not sign. Instead of going to the table to negotiate for a full ban, it is disregarding the previous work and intent of over 100 participating states and a global tide of public opinion. In our view this is an attempt to sabotage the process by taking a disingenuous stance.

Of particular concern are the following US proposals;

  1. A permanent exception for use (and presumably the production, stockpiling and trade) of certain types of anti-personnel mines - those that are in mixed canisters that contain both anti tank and antipersonnel mines. The Pentagon has said that this would allow the US to continue to use its Gator, Volcano and MOPMS smart antipersonnel mines.

    Exception clauses or re-classification for certain mine systems is wholly unacceptable and will foul and undermine the process, leading to a gutted and meaningless treaty.

  2. A permanent exception for Korea would allow the US to deploy new dumb and new smart mines throughout the Korean peninsula. Whilst the geopolitical situation in Korea may be unique, the requirement for and the impact of the use of anti-personnel mines is not. If the US insists on a geographic exception other states will surely do the same for their own.

  3. A lengthy delay of entry into force is being promoted by the US. One option proposed is that 60 states ratify including all of the permanent five and 75% of historical users and producers before entry into force. The other is a nine year deferral period for key provisions. Both of these options fly in the face of the notion that this treaty is intended to deal with a humanitarian crisis and the spirit of both the Ottawa process and the December 1996 UN resolution calling for an international treaty as soon as possible.

We believe that introducing exceptions on use, lengthy delays before entry into force, and particular terms undermines the spirit and purpose of the Ottawa process. This is a unique opportunity to protect future generations from the misery and destruction caused by these weapons, it cannot be allowed to fail. Those who desire to adhere only to limited restrictions on anti-personnel mines should not be part of the Ottawa process - that is the CCW approach, the failure of which, in fact, gave rise to the Ottawa process.

Your government has stressed that it will negotiate constructively for an international ban in the Ottawa process. As the Secretary of State for Defence said what we are doing is not a gesture, but part of a worldwide movement to outlaw a particular type of weapon which should have been outlawed a long time ago . It would be a tragedy if states allow a truly comprehensive ban treaty to be compromised simply for one nation. We believe that all governments should work towards the strongest possible treaty, without reference to the nature and numbers of states signatory. As one of the leading nations in the Ottawa process we look to the British government to uphold the spirit and principles of this vital treaty by negotiating rigorously for a comprehensive ban.

Given that a ban on anti-personnel mines was one of your first undertakings after coming to office, underlining the strength of your commitment to this major humanitarian initiative, we assume that blocking the current US proposals would be entirely in line with British government policy on this matter.

However in the light of the government s recent welcoming public statements in favour of the US announcement we would appreciate urgent, written clarification from your department regarding:

  1. The UK government s position on the US proposals outlined above
  2. The UK government s minimum requirements for signature to the Ottawa treaty.

We look forward to hearing from you on this vital matter.

Yours sincerely

The Management Committee of the UK Working Group on Landmines
Neil Thorns, Christian Aid
Fiona King, Save the Children
Clare Crawford, Mines Advisory Group
Kamala Achu, Jaipur Limb Campaign
Ann Feltham, Campaign Against the Arms Trade

CC. The Rt Hon George Robertson, Secretary of State for Defence The Rt Hon Clare Short, Secretary of State, Department for International Development

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