Vienna, 10 November 2006 - "The international community is called upon to take concrete steps against the terrible and inhumane effects of cluster bombs. Years later they still pose a threat to the civilian population in conflict areas and lead to terrible injuries, particularly among children. We are undertaking intensive efforts to get the support of all states in order to be able to enter into negotiations on a new agreement that will be legally binding under international law. Only such a legally binding instrument will enable us to combat the catastrophic humanitarian effects of cluster bombs effectively," said Plassnik.
Cluster bombs have been deployed in the conflict areas of the world for almost 40 years now - in Africa as well as in South-Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq and just recently in Lebanon. The number of casualties among the civilian population is constantly rising. Children are particularly jeopardised by the small, seemingly harmless explosives because they think they are toys.
Within the framework of the current Third Review Conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in Geneva, therefore, Austria, on behalf of 14 like-minded states (Argentina, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, the Holy See, Hungary, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland), is calling for swift negotiations on an international legally binding agreement on cluster bombs. "By spearheading this issue we are again emphasising the traditional humanitarian commitment of Austria's foreign policy," said Plassnik, who referred to her own ministry's close consultation with the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence in this matter.
"We want to create effective regulations at the international level to ensure better protection of the civilian population. The issue now is to achieve a ban on the use of those types of cluster bombs that are characterised by an unreasonably high number of duds," Plassnik stressed.
Cluster bombs are weapons that have proved to be particularly cruel because of their deployment against civilians in settled areas. The high number of duds among these weapons has consequences that are not only felt during hostilities but continue to cause damage when the latter are over. Individual explosives that did not detonate may have the same effect as anti-personnel mines, contaminating whole regions decades after the actual fighting has ceased.
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213