I should like to take the opportunity of the introduction by Canada of the draft resolution on the Ottawa Convention to speak on this item that is of special interest in France. It seems that for three sessions now the First Committee has represented the international community’s achievements on the path towards its ambitious objective of eliminating anti-personnel mines. In 1996 it endorsed the endeavour undertaken on 2 October of that same year in Ottawa ; in 1997 it took note of the adoption in Oslo of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction ; and this year we welcome the entry into force on 1 March next of this Treaty thanks to the deposit on 16 September 1998 of the fortieth instrument of ratification, as well as the offer of the Government of Mozambique to host the first meeting of States parties.
We cannot but be impressed by the rapid succession of these stages : less than a year of preparing the Convention and barely 10 months to obtain 40 ratifications. This unusual diligence shows the shared feeling of the need to respond to an urgent situation. France deposited its instrument of ratification on 23 July 1998, thereby becoming one of the 40 States making possible the Convention’s entry into force. It intends to demonstrate its full and complete determination to see the Convention implemented rapidly by co-sponsoring draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.33.
Along with this political and legal process, the international community continues to mobilize in order to meet the urgent situation on the ground through determined action for demining and rehabilitation of victims.
The emphasis now placed on the humanitarian dimension might lead us to believe that with the signing of the Ottawa Convention the task has been accomplished with regard to disarmament. That is not the case at all. The objective of eliminating anti-personnel mines will be achieved only when this norm is made universal. In this regard, one should not be deceived by the impressive number of signatories. Many countries have remained behind because they are not yet in a position, for their own reasons, to join us in our approach. We can hardly ignore them, because together they represent a significant portion of the world’s population, and numbered among them are major producers, exporters and users.
It is important to continue to promote vigorously the standard for the complete elimination adopted in Ottawa. This necessary effort, however, cannot in the medium or short term solve the problem of the countries to which I have just referred. Fortunately, other undertakings do exist and even though they do not aim as high as the Ottawa Convention they do attack the problem of mines.
France, which took an active part in the review of, and has ratified, Protocol II of the 1980 Convention, looks forward to its entry into force on 3 December this year. It will join fully in the consensus when the decision is taken on the draft resolution on this subject, which it has co-sponsored.
France would like to take this opportunity to express its regret over the lack of interest shown in this instrument, as demonstrated by the low number of adherences to date, almost two and a half years after its adoption. Some progress has clearly been made in the establishment of minimal measures for the gradual abandonment of the indiscriminate use of the weapons in question, especially with regard to those that have not yet been able to join the Ottawa Convention. In this context, Protocol II deserves the broadest possible support.
It will be recalled that many countries expressed their disappointment when that text was adopted, on 3 May 1996. It was seen as a compromise between security interests and humanitarian concerns and did not attack the root of the problem. While there can be no doubt as to the merit of the texts, it is clear that those reservations were also valid. It is hardly likely that the first annual conference of the States parties to Protocol II and the forthcoming Review Conference of the 1980 Convention, to be held by the year 2001, will address this state of affairs.
In view of the difficulties inherent in this issue, France, with many others, has asked for the Conference on Disarmament to make a contribution to the cause of eliminating anti-personnel mines. Many countries share this view : on 9 December 1997, by a vote of 147 to none, the General Assembly adopted resolution 52/38 H, which invites the Conference on Disarmament to intensify its efforts in the area of anti-personnel landmines.
This would seem to be the most promising way. The overwhelming majority of that institution in Geneva agreed on the need to begin negotiations with a view to reaching a ban on the transfer of anti-personnel mines. Such an agreement would represent an important stage. By contributing to drying up the markets that provide anti-personnel mines it would greatly serve the cause of the victims of mines. Moreover, this endeavour would not begin from scratch. The Ottawa Convention, especially regarding definitions, would be an indispensable reference for the Conference on Disarmament.
Along with many other countries, we are convinced that the Conference could rapidly reach an agreement. We hope — and we have noted with the greatest interest that the Secretary-General also shares in this hope — that the Conference on Disarmament will decide, when it resumes its work, to re-establish the office of special coordinator on this subject. We hope that the special coordinator will quickly be able to identify the conditions for a consensus so that once a special group has been established the negotiations can begin without delay.