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79. a. Opening statement by Mr. Bettauer to meeting of states parties to CCW Convention (Nov. 7, 2007)

Meeting of States Parties
Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons
Geneva, November 7, 2007

Opening Statement by Ronald J. Bettauer
United States of America

Thank you, Mr. President.

I want to thank you for all of your work leading up to these meetings. I would also like to thank Ambassador Karklins for his work chairing the Group of Governmental Experts in June.

How to deal with the issue of cluster munitions is the most important topic at this meeting. As you are all aware, the United States changed its view on how to address the main humanitarian concerns raised by the use of cluster munitions. We took this step due to the importance of the issue, concerns raised by other countries, and our own concerns about the humanitarian implications of these weapons, and based on an internal review. While we have taken no position yet as to the outcome of negotiations on this topic, we did determine that we should support the initiation of a negotiation on cluster munitions within the CCW framework, which is most likely to achieve a result that balances humanitarian concerns with military utility and is, therefore, likely to have a more substantial impact than a result that fails to garner the support of many military powers.

What has not changed, however, is the view of the United States that cluster munitions continue to be legitimate weapons when employed properly and in accordance with existing international humanitarian law. In many instances, cluster munitions result in much less collateral damage than unitary weapons would if used for the same mission. If the use of cluster munitions were banned or unreasonably restricted, certain missions would require our forces to fire many times more non-cluster projectiles to achieve the objectives, potentially causing greater civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure.

We were pleased that the Group of Governmental Experts that met in June reached consensus that urgent action should be taken to address the humanitarian concerns raised by cluster munitions, striking the right balance between military and humanitarian considerations. As we said then, we are prepared to join a decision by CCW States Parties at the meetings this week to initiate a negotiation on cluster munitions. In fact, we believe that adoption of a negotiating mandate on this subject is the primary objective of this meeting.

While we are aware that significant differences among States Parties exist on where we would like to see a cluster munitions instrument come out, such differences are sorted out through a negotiation process. We need to resist the temptation to rush into discussing those issues during this meeting. What is important is that we agree to commence the substantive work with a sense of urgency. We need to stay focused on this task. We should not now prejudge the negotiations themselves. We need to agree to a negotiating mandate that is broad, general, and brief. It should not attempt to get into the substance of an eventual instrument.

The United States believes achieving agreement to begin negotiation is important because we believe that the issue of cluster munitions should be addressed within the framework of the CCW. We favor working within this framework because it ensures the widest participation of states, including all the major military powers and the key producers and potential users of cluster munitions. An instrument developed within this framework is more likely to have a meaningful, practical effect; is more likely to be widely adhered to; and is more likely to lead to widely accepted rules of international humanitarian law. It is important that we demonstrate we are up to the challenge of starting a negotiation that will find a balance between humanitarian objectives and military requirements in this area. We urge our colleagues here to work with us and each other in a spirit of cooperation and compromise to obtain agreement at this meeting on a negotiating mandate on cluster munitions.

One of the other important topics we will address at these meetings is anti-vehicle landmines, or MOTAPM. It should be no surprise to anyone here that the U.S. delegation worked hard, along with many other delegations, to develop the text of a protocol on MOTAPM. Non-detectable, long-lived anti-vehicle mines can pose threats to civilians and civilian vehicles long after a conflict is over, and this threat continues. In 2005 and 2006 there was near unanimous agreement on a text, but a few states blocked consensus last November at the Third CCW Review Conference. In order that the humanitarian steps that would have been achieved by such a protocol not be lost, we were pleased to join with 24 other states in stating our intention to follow the policies set out in the Declaration on Anti-Vehicle Mines. The declaration is contained in Document WP.16.

The policy articulated in this document has real humanitarian benefits. Each government adhering to the declaration stated its intention, as a matter of national policy, to take steps to make anti-vehicle landmines used outside of perimeter marked areas detectable, not to use such mines outside a perimeter-marked area if they do not incorporate a self-destruction or self-neutralization mechanism, and to prevent the transfer of anti-vehicle mines that do not meet these criteria, and then only to transfer them to states accepting the same policy as in the declaration. The United States urges other governments to state their acceptance of the policy set out in the declaration.

The declaration was an important step but it is not the end of the story for us or for others who have signed up to it. We would still like to see a protocol adopted. We stand ready, if positions have changed and it appears possible that consensus may be achieved, to restart the work immediately on a new protocol dealing with anti-vehicle landmines building on the work done between 2001 and 2006. However, the discussion at the June government experts meeting suggested that positions have not changed, and the United States has not seen any indications since last November that makes it appear that consensus is now possible. If this is the case, we see no reason to have a fruitless repetition of many prior discussions this year. If there is no chance of agreement, we should save the time and money and move directly to other agenda items, as we agreed we would last year.

Before closing, I would like to note that the United States is actively pursuing ratification of amended Article I and Protocols III, IV and V. The Administration supported expeditious Senate action on these treaties in its Treaty Priority List for the current session of Congress. The Deputy Secretaries of State and Defense sent the Chairman and Ranking Minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee letters stating support for ratification without delay. And this summer the American Bar Association passed a resolution supporting ratification of these treaties. We will continue to work to achieve advice and consent to ratification of these instruments and hope that by this by this time next year the United States will have ratified them all.

Thank you Mr. President.

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