Poland set to become last EU state to ratify landmine pact
(GENEVA) - Poland is set to become the final member of the European Union to join the Ottawa Convention banning landmines, organisers said as a global conference on the deadly weapons opened here on Monday.
"Today 160 countries, or more than 80 percent of countries worldwide, have joined the treaty, with another, Poland, expected to announce its ratification during the meeting" in Geneva, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which oversees the implementation of the 1997 treaty, said in a statement.
Once Poland joins the club, all European Union countries and all NATO member states except for the United States will be parties to the treaty.
The announcement came as representatives of around 100 governments, including from countries that have yet to ratify the treaty, gathered in Geneva along with aid workers and campaigners to evaluate what progress has been made in the 15 years since the treaty was signed.
Polish deputy foreign minister Maciej Szpunar was due to announce Poland's "imminent ratification" during the five-day meeting, organisers added in a statement.
Convention spokeswoman Laila Rodriguez told AFP that Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski was expected to sign the bill by Wednesday, making the treaty national law.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the conference, Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said that while trade in the deadly explosives had been nearly eliminated, "there is much more left to be done."
"Ridding the world of the plague of anti-personnel mines is a question of will," he said.
"The common objective is clear: We must avoid new victims. Because each landmine victim is one victim too many," Burkhalter said, flanked by his Slovenian counterpart Karl Erjavec and UN human rights chief Navi Pillay among others.
He said that around 45 million stockpiled mines had been destroyed.
While the current total of 160 signatory states "is a lot", he told reporters, "we still need to convince 36 additional states to join. We should not settle for partial success."
Among the concerns to be raised at the Geneva meeting will be landmine use by Syria -- the only state found to have used such weapons in 2012, according to a report issued last week by the ICBL.
The meeting will also discuss the various groups using the deadly explosives in six other countries.
Three signatory countries -- Belarus, Greece and Ukraine -- are also currently in violation of the treaty, having missed their deadlines for destroying all their stockpiled mines.