Vienna, 4 December 2007 - "Austria has traditionally spearheaded disarmament issues. We try to create awareness and set a good example," stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik today at a press conference on "Austria’s Commitment to a Ban on Cluster Munitions", held jointly with the President of Parliament’s National Council, Barbara Prammer, and Defence Minister Norbert Darabos.
In her speech before the UN General Assembly in September she had called for disarmament and arms control to be returned to the global agenda: "You are only credible if you take action yourself." In February, at the joint initiative of Defence Minister Norbert Darabos and Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, Austria had decided to introduce a national moratorium on the use of cluster munitions. On 3 October, their joint proposal led to a decision by the Federal Government to draft a bill calling for a total national ban on cluster munitions. Its adoption by Parliament is expected for the day after tomorrow. "With this act Austria is only the second country in the world to have complex arrangements banning cluster munitions in place," emphasised Plassnik.
"The Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines was a good role model: the networking of non-governmental organisations, civil society and parliaments acts as a political incentive for issues beyond the general negotiation fora," stated the Foreign Minister.
The process calling for a ban on cluster munitions had met with wide approval at both national and international level, which was gratifying. "A year ago we were a handful of states, including Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway and Peru, calling for a worldwide ban on cluster munitions. Tomorrow, 127 states will assemble in Vienna. The support of a majority of the international community of states is an impressive mandate which has to be fulfilled. Our goal is therefore to work out a treaty against the use of cluster munitions that is binding under international law, and to do so as quickly as possible," stated the Foreign Minister. The "text under discussion in Vienna" was setting high standards in this respect, particularly in areas such as clearance of contaminated areas, destruction of cluster munitions stockpiles, and international aid and cooperation. "Our main attention will focus on those affected: Austria is particularly committed to the issue of aid for victims," continued Plassnik.
The Foreign Minister also mentioned the sponsorship programme initiated by Austria and Norway: "It is of special concern to us that the less wealthy states are also included in this process. Thanks to the sponsoring programme they can participate in the Vienna conference," stated Plassnik.
"Last year’s war in Lebanon reminded us once again what a cruel weapon cluster munitions are. 98 percent of the victims are civilians, and 40 percent of these are children. We want to ensure that children can return to their carefree play and that farmers can till their fields again without fear. A country should not remain contaminated by dangerous cluster munitions after a military conflict. We want to free our world of this horrible weapon," concluded Plassnik.
Federal Ministry for
European and international Affairs
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213