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Landmine Treaty Meeting Ends, Challenges Remain

In Zagreb, Croatia, this week’s progress meeting on the International Landmine Treaty has come to a close. Such meetings are held by the parties to the treaty each year, following the 1997 treaty to ban the weapons.

Among those attending is Steve Goose, who heads the delegation for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. From Zagreb, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about this week’s meeting.

“The states parties to the mine ban treaty come together each year to assess the progress that has been made in the course of the past year in trying to eradicate anti-personnel mines, and even more importantly to identify the challenges that remain and to plan concretely for the next year, to set up priorities for the next year. Unlike a lot of diplomatic conferences that I’ve been to, this one is all about working and setting priorities and a concrete work plan for the future.

Asked about those challenges and priorities, Mr. Goose says, “The big, big tasks for the coming year are going to be getting the mines out of the ground and assisting landmine survivors, those who have lived through landmine accidents. That of course has always been a focus, but the early years of this convention have largely been spent trying to get more and more countries to agree to join the ban, to accept that there should be no use, production, trade or stockpiling of mines. And to have that become a new international standard of behavior. We’ve largely accomplished that now.”

The United States has not signed the landmine treaty and did not send a delegation to the Zagreb meeting. In February 2004, the United States announced a new landmine policy. Among other things, it calls for the development of self-destructing or self-deactivating landmines, which won’t pose a threat to people after battle. It also announced it will eliminate all persistent – or non-self-destructing – landmines from its arsenal. The new US policy calls a worldwide ban on the sale or export of all persistent landmines – and for beginning the destruction of persistent mines not needed for the protection of South Korea within two years.