Written answers

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Department of Foreign Affairs

Cluster Munitions

5:00 pm

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin South, Green Party)
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Question 29: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's position at the current Conventional Weapons Review Conference in Geneva, in particular, the Government's stance on the banning of the use of cluster bombs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39585/06]

Photo of   John Curran John Curran (Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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Question 40: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland will take a lead role in opposing the use of cluster munitions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39463/06]

Photo of Peter KellyPeter Kelly (Longford-Roscommon, Fianna Fail)
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Question 101: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland will take a lead role in opposing the use of cluster munitions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39588/06]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 29, 40 and 101 together.

Ireland has been calling for action on cluster munitions within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) since July 2002. We have consistently expressed our view that it is in the tradition of the CCW to address issues concerning weapons that have been shown to have indiscriminate effects.

Accordingly, Ireland was one of six CCW States Parties (the others were Austria, the Holy See, Mexico, New Zealand and Sweden) which made a proposal last August for the Conventional Weapons Review Conference to draft a mandate for the negotiation of a legally binding instrument on cluster munitions. We welcomed, and were encouraged by, the appeal made by the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, on the opening day of the Conference, to take urgent action to address the issue of cluster munitions. By the close of the Conference last Friday, a total of 25 States had supported our call for such a mandate.

The Conference operates by consensus, however, and the mandate agreed on Friday provides only for the urgent convening of a meeting of governmental experts "to consider further the application and implementation of existing international law to specific munitions that may cause explosive remnants of war, with particular focus on cluster munitions, including the factors affecting their reliability and their technical and design characteristics, with a view to minimising the humanitarian impact of these munitions."

In a national statement on the closing day, we regretted that the Conference was unable to agree a more comprehensive mandate to deal with this grave humanitarian issue but signalled that we will continue to work within the CCW process, and elsewhere, to seek agreement on a legally binding instrument on the use of cluster munitions.

Ireland also joined 24 other countries in a declaration recognising that cluster munitions are of serious humanitarian concern during and after armed conflict. The declaration called for an international agreement that would include a prohibition on the use of cluster munitions within concentrations of civilians and a prohibition on the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of cluster munitions that pose serious humanitarian hazards due to their unreliability and inaccuracy.

Ireland was also successful in introducing language into the Conference Final Declaration "noting the foreseeable effects of explosive remnants of war on civilian populations as a factor to be considered in applying the international humanitarian law rules on proportionality in attack and precautions in attack." This will increase the onus on military commanders in the field to give due weight to the foreseeable after-effects on civilian populations of whatever weapons and munitions are used on a given occasion. This is, however, no substitute for the international instrument on cluster munitions, which we believe to be necessary and which the Government will continue to pursue.

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