Wien, 20. February 2007 Press release

Plassnik/Darabos: Austria renounces use of cluster munitions

20.02.2007

Austria to play pioneering role at Oslo Conference

Plassnik/Darabos: Austria renounces use of cluster munitions Austria to play leading role at Oslo Conference Vienna, 20 February 2007 - In view of the forthcoming international conference on cluster munitions to be held in Oslo on 22-23 February, Minister of Defence Norbert Darabos and Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik have agreed to renounce the use of cluster munitions by the Austrian Armed Forces. At the Oslo Conference Austria will issue a declaration regarding a moratorium on the use of cluster bombs and cluster munitions. A relevant motion will be passed at tomorrow's meeting of the Council of Ministers

"The use of cluster munitions can cause unbearable suffering among civilian populations. I personally was deeply shocked by the terrible images from the Lebanon we saw last year. We are thus taking a first elementary step to start putting an end to this horror. Although Austria possesses state-of-the-art munitions of this type with a very low failure rate for defence purposes only, we will renounce the use of these weapons", said Darabos. "I do not see this renouncement as having any impact on our national defence, on the protection of our soldiers on duty or on our international obligations of solidarity."

The moratorium is intended as an appeal to the humanity of those countries that have cluster bombs and cluster munitions in their stocks. Darabos: "An international renouncement of munitions of this kind is also in the interest of our soldiers who are deployed in crisis regions worldwide. Their protection is a major concern of mine. I therefore hope that many countries will follow our example."

"With this agreement on a comprehensive moratorium on the use of cluster munitions we are sending out a clear and unequivocal signal. Austria is thus consistently maintaining its international leading role in outlawing this type of weapon", Plassnik emphasised.

The Foreign Minister stressed that the moratorium was only the very first step. "Our long-term goal is and remains a legally binding international treaty on the prohibition of cluster munitions. In Oslo we will therefore be joining forces with like-minded partner states to call for the elaboration of an international treaty by 2008. Only a legally binding instrument will allow us to effectively combat the disastrous humanitarian effects of cluster bombs at international level. These deadly weapons, which claim numerous victims worldwide every year, must be outlawed internationally. The conflict in southern Lebanon in summer 2006 clearly evidenced the urgent need for international action against cluster munitions. The international community is called upon to take concrete measures against the appalling and inhumane effects of this type of munitions. Austria is therefore ready to organise a follow-up to the Oslo Conference to take place in Vienna in autumn 2007", stated Plassnik.

Plassnik recalled Austria's successful campaign in support of the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines. "It is therefore only consistent to single-mindedly continue our traditional humanitarian commitment in this instance too in an attempt to bring about a far-reaching ban on cluster bombs and munitions", emphasised the Foreign Minister.

In Oslo Austria will issue a concrete and unequivocal declaration stating that the Austrian Armed Forces will renounce the use of cluster bombs and cluster munitions until an adequate regulation is established under international law. Austria will in any case uphold its own comprehensive moratorium, even if a future international convention should fail to achieve such a far-reaching solution.

Contacts:
Foreign Ministry
Mag. Alexander Schallenberg
Press spokesperson of the Foreign Minister
Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3265
Fax: ++43 (1) 535 50 91
kabbm(at)bmaa.gv.at

Ministry of Defence
Mag. Stefan Hirsch
Press spokesperson of the Minister of Defence
Federal Ministry of Defence
Tel: ++43 (1) 5200-20215
kbm.buero@bmlv.gv.at
www.bundesheer.at