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June 1, 2018
U.S. To Join 'Ottawa Process'; Will Seek Changes to Treaty
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Erik J. Leklem

IN AN ELEVENTH HOUR effort to influence the emerging draft treaty on a global anti personnel landmine ban, the United States on August 18 announced that it would join the Canadian led "Ottawa Process" and participate in the final round of negotiations September 1 19 in Oslo, Norway. Clinton administration officials said, however, the United States would propose a number changes to the current draft text, including an exception for the stockpiling and use of anti personnel mines on the Korean Peninsula and a revision of the accord's definition of a mine so as to permit the use of some U.S. anti tank systems which incorporate anti personnel capabilities. The current draft treaty bans the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of all anti personnel mines with no exceptions.

Over one hundred countries are expected to participate in the Oslo conference, the fourth meeting in the year old effort that seeks to have a treaty ready for signature by December 1997. While several countries welcomed the U.S. decision to participate in Oslo, many ban supporters were critical of the administration's insistence on an exemption for the Korean Peninsula, arguing that such a proposal clearly violates the spirit of the treaty. Ban proponents, particularly among the international non governmental organizations that have been closely involved in the Ottawa Process, have also suggested that the proposed U.S. changes could set a precedent for other states to advance unfriendly amendments to the draft text. Under the conference's rules of procedure, any proposed change to the draft text will have to be approved by two thirds of the participating delegations. According to the State Department, U.S. officials had presented the administration's position to some 40 participating countries prior to the start of the Oslo negotiations, and these meetings generally had a "positive tone."

In addition to seeking a geographic exception for the Korean Peninsula and a revised definition of an anti personnel mine, the administration said it would also propose changes to strengthen the draft text's verification provisions, primarily enhanced information exchanges and fact finding missions. Australia is one of only a few countries that may back the United States on this point. In contrast, most states do not believe an intrusive verification regime would be economically viable. The United States will also seek the inclusion of a provision delaying entry into force until a majority of producers and users ratify the treaty or one that defers implementation of parts of the accord for nine years.

The administration's decision to negotiate at Oslo alters, at least temporarily, its January decision to pursue a global landmine ban solely at the Geneva based Conference on Disarmament (CD). (See ACT, January/February 1997.) In addition to U.S. opposition to details of the Ottawa Process's so called Austrian draft text, administration officials have said the CD is a more appropriate forum because its membership includes Russia and China, two of the world's largest producers of anti personnel landmines and critics of the Canadian led effort. (While Russia has attended some of the Ottawa meetings as an observer, China has avoided the negotiations entirely.) But the CD's continuing inability to initiate formal negotiations on a global landmine ban effectively blocked the United States from assuming a leading role in efforts to negotiate a treaty.

On August 14, the CD's new "special coordinator" on landmines, Ambassador John Campbell of Australia, said the CD would not include landmines on its agenda until after the outcome of the Ottawa Process was clear, postponing serious consideration of the issue in the CD until after the Ottawa treaty is signed.