Halfhearted approval for landmine ban

Stressing that the International Convention to Ban Land Mines (the Ottawa Convention) would not be brought before Parliament for a formal vote unless Turkey also ratifies the treaty, Deputy Defense Minister Lukas Apostolidis yesterday assured MPs on the Greek Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (KYSEA) that the country’s eastern borders would not be left undefended. The convention, which Greece signed on December 3, 1997, was cleared by the committee by 16 votes to five, with one abstention. Five opposition deputies voted against, and one member of the ruling PASOK party abstained. Formal ratification will depend on a vote in the full, 300-seat Parliament at a later date. The treaty calls for an international ban on the use, production, stockpiling and sale, transfer or export of anti-personnel land mines. Communist and Left Coalition MPs spoke of the hypocrisy of the countries that have not signed the convention, saying that land mines are not a serious defensive weapon but serve mainly to kill illegal immigrants. In Greece’s case, at least 13 people have been killed trying to sneak across the Evros border region from Turkey in the past two years. On December 23 last year, four Iraqi Kurds were killed, in the worst incident since five died in one incident in late 1999. Last April, Greece and Turkey agreed to ratify the convention, but, as of late September, Turkey was still among 51 countries that had not signed the convention, let alone ratified it. Other non-signatories include the United States, Russia, China, Iran, Iraq and Israel. Although the opposition New Democracy party’s official line was in favor of ratification, five of its deputies voted against it. PASOK hardliner Yiannis Kapsis, who abstained, argued that it was not enough for Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem to say that his country would accede to the convention. ND’s Ioannis Varvitsiotis, a former defense minister, criticized what he called Greece’s unseemly haste, noting that Turkey does not have land mines on its border with Greece but uses them on its border with Iraq. The deputy defense minister assured the committee that Greece’s defense would not suffer and the borders would remain secure.

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