Vienna, 5 December 2007 - "Today, 133 governments of the world have gathered here in Vienna, united in one objective: an international, legally binding ban on cluster munitions. The fact that more than two thirds of the international community is present here today is in itself a strong and encouraging signal. It constitutes a significant boost in awareness. We are establishing a new mainstream on an international scale," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik today during her opening speech at the Conference on Cluster Munitions in Vienna, which is also attended by Mohammad Haider Reza, the Programme Director of the Mine Action Centre in Afghanistan, Kathleen Cravero, the Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery at UNDP, Bianca Jagger, who has been engaged in this field for years, and two victims of cluster bombs.
Before the opening of the conference, students and representatives of the non-governmental organization "Cluster Munitions Coalition" presented 1,505,815 signatures to the Foreign Minister, which were collected worldwide for a total ban on cluster munitions: "These more than 1.5 million signatures are a clear and unmistakable message: Ban cluster munitions!" said Plassnik.
In recent years, there have only been a few success stories in the area of international disarmament: "Disarmament and arms control are no longer at the top of the global agenda. This is unacceptable, we have to change that!" said the Foreign Minister. According to the Minister, the cluster munitions process represents a new form of diplomacy: "This new type of partnership includes governments, the civil society, parliamentarians, survivors, and experts. As with the Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines, it involves efficient networks for concrete progress - internationally, but also within the individual states," said the Foreign Minister.
Plassnik named two objectives for the Vienna Conference: an unmistakable signal by the majority of the international community, and a clear common understanding of the major elements of the future treaty. For Austria, the central aspects are, in particular, assistance for the victims, the destruction of existing stockpiles of this weapon, and the long-term disposal of unexploded shells in the affected areas: "The global alliance against cluster munitions must live up to the expectations vested in it and assume responsibility. I am confident that, together, we will succeed in achieving this."
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