Closing Statement Delivered by Stephen Mathias,
Head of the U.S. Delegation
April 17, 2009
Mr. Chairman, my delegation would like to offer our thanks to you for your continuing efforts to lead us toward consensus in these difficult negotiations. We would also like to extend our thanks to all of the Friends of the Chair for their work.
My delegation has a mixed view of the results of this week of negotiations. On the one hand, we are disappointed that more progress has not been made. In addition, there are elements in this new Chairman’s text that are of concern to my delegation. It also contains a number of new elements (such as the new reporting requirement, the provisions on anti-ship and anti-runway munitions, and the new treatment of direct fire weapons) that will require careful review by my delegation and presumably other delegations as well. However, in general, we believe that this text remains a good basis for continued work, it moves us closer to a draft protocol that could achieve consensus, and it contains provisions that will have a significant humanitarian benefit.
We are well aware of the complaint that a text along the lines of the one in front of us does not go far enough. However, we have to keep in mind that the perfect can become the enemy of the good. This is particularly true in large multilateral negotiations which, by their very nature, involve compromises among many competing interests. We have in front of us a text that, while certainly not perfect from any delegation’s perspective, clearly would have a major positive humanitarian impact.
In this connection, and keeping in mind that we have heard delegations this week express their desire for a better understanding of the practical impact of a protocol on existing stockpiles, it may be worth describing briefly, once again, the critical potential humanitarian benefits that could be achieved with a text along the lines of the one you have presented to us.
This text would have a very significant impact on the world’s existing stocks of cluster munitions. Many, if not most, of the cluster munitions that currently exist do not meet the requirements that are set forth in article 4 of this text. The result is that these cluster munitions would have to be removed from the active stocks of any state party to this potential new protocol.
As we have said with regard to our own stocks, our domestic policy that we would use to implement these obligations would affect almost our entire arsenal of cluster munitions. Over 95% of our cluster munitions will be affected by this new standard. We understand that other countries’ arsenals will also be similarly dramatically affected.
We believe that many of the countries participating in this process who have large stockpiles of cluster munitions could agree to a text along the lines of the one before us, and that these countries will live up to the commitments they make. Therefore, we continue to hope that we will be able to reach agreement and realize the humanitarian gains that are within our grasp here.
My delegation is prepared to support an informal meeting to continue our work in the period between now and the Meeting of States Parties in November. However, we think it is very important, if we are going to have such a meeting, that delegations come to it prepared to roll up their sleeves and work toward final compromises on the remaining issues that need to be resolved to reach agreement on a Protocol. There is no sense in having such a meeting if there is no political will to make these necessary compromises.