Statement to the Closing Plenary Session of the Third Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)Ronald Bettauer, Deputy Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Head of Delegation
U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva
November 17, 2006
Thank you Mr. President.
I would like to join others and congratulate you on the effective work you have done not only throughout the past year. During this conference, you brought together delegations and helped to achieve agreement.
It should be no surprise that the United States delegation came to this conference most interested in agreeing on a protocol on MOTAPM, or anti-vehicle landmines. We worked hard at this. We were among the original co-sponsors of the idea. We joined the 31-nation proposal. We supported the Reimaa text, and we still do. We supported and still support the efforts that Ambassador Paranhos made.
However, this was not to be. It was not possible to achieve consensus on this at this conference. We therefore thought that it was very important that the humanitarian steps that would have been achieved by such a protocol not be lost. We were pleased, therefore, to join other states in the Declaration on Anti-Vehicle Mines that the distinguished representative of Denmark read out.
The number of supporters of this declaration has been growing. As of now, there are 25 states that have joined in stating this policy. This policy will be of immediate humanitarian benefit. It will ensure that the states that join it make any anti-vehicle landmine detectable, limit their active life, and have restrictions on transfer in accordance with the stated terms of the policy. We think this is very important. But, as we have made clear to our colleagues at this meeting, it is not the end of the road for us, or for any of the others who have joined in this policy. We would like to see a protocol negotiated. We stand ready, if positions change, and consensus appears possible, to restart the work and to achieve agreement in the CCW framework on a new protocol dealing with anti-vehicle landmines. We would begin the work based on the work already done over the past five years.
My delegation is also pleased at the entry into force of Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War. We have submitted this protocol to our Senate for advice and consent and we intend to press vigorously to achieve U.S. adherence as quickly as possible. In this connection, we previously had taken the position that Protocol V and the strict implementation of international humanitarian law was sufficient to deal with ERW issues, including cluster munitions. But cluster munitions and all explosive remnants of war are clearly a humanitarian concern. We therefore were ready to work with the other delegations to find a way to address explosive remnants of war meaningfully during the next year, with principal focus on cluster munitions. The mandate that has been adopted for a meeting of governmental experts that will occur in June is appropriate in scope and will provide for serious work on this issue. The United States intends to participate vigorously and seriously in this work to see that there is a common understanding of the risks and dangers, and to do all we can to clarify the issue and come up with a reasonable report for the next meeting of States Parties.
In this connection, I should say that the United States government was disappointed at the announcement made both in Oslo and today at this conference of a separate meeting outside the CCW framework to negotiate an agreement concerning cluster munitions. While recognizing that this is an important humanitarian issue, we should deal with cluster munitions inside the current framework, the framework of the CCW. The effort to go outside this framework is not healthy for the CCW, it is not healthy for the development of widely adhered to rules of international humanitarian law. One can compare our reaction to the failure to adopt a consensus protocol on MOTAPM. We did not seek to go outside the CCW framework and adopt a protocol with like-minded states. Rather we have, as a national policy, avowed our intention to negotiate an anti-vehicle mine protocol in the CCW framework when that is possible. What has happened instead in the cluster munitions area is that certain states have expressed an intention to go outside the CCW framework. We think this will weaken the international humanitarian law effort. It is our view that states should work in the CCW framework, and states should not work outside it, if they wish to achieve meaningful and serious results.
My government regards the CCW as an important international agreement. We think it is an agreement that is alive, has value and has vigor. The U.S. has been actively involved in every CCW protocol since the negotiation of the initial instrument. The CCW, takes into account both military and humanitarian considerations in the interest of preventing potential indiscriminate effects of weapons on the civilian population and mitigating unnecessary suffering. It is only in this framework that we believe we can truly bring together the users and producers of munitions and those concerned with humanitarian values, as is the United States, and achieve results that are meaningful, that will have value, and that will result in true humanitarian progress. My government thinks that the importance and effectiveness of a treaty is not measured by the number of meetings or review conferences that are held, but rather by the seriousness with which states implement their obligations and comply in good faith with their legal commitments. This can be seen for example in the Geneva Conventions. There are no Review Conferences for those Conventions, but they are adhered to and respected. We respect the CCW. We intend to participate in its meetings. We will be there and do the important humanitarian work.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to again congratulate you and welcome you to Washington soon. I also wish to give my best wishes and congratulations to the other members of the bureau who have done so much work to make this conference possible. Thank you.