November 19, 1998

Mexico and Canada are to sponsor a regional seminar to promote the Convention to Ban the Use, Storage, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Destruction. The seminar is scheduled for Mexico City next January 11 and 12.

Making the announcement today to a special meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council, Mexico’s ambassador Claude Heller said the meeting is open to all states of the Americas. Its aim is to provide a forum for the countries to discuss the anti-personnel mine problem in the region and the feasibility of mechanisms set up under the 1997 Convention to deal with the problem. The OAS mine-clearing experience will also come up for discussion.

The Mexican diplomat outlined to the Council the process of negotiations leading up to adoption of the so-called Ottawa Convention, saying "political support from the Organization of American States was crucial." He said strengthening and developing international humanitarian law and disarmament efforts "have always been part of Mexico’s international thrust."

Turning to the involvement of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) with Mexico and Canada on an important program to rehabilitate landmine victims in Central America, Ambassador Heller said the foreign ministers are also to sign a memorandum of understanding at the seminar, to implement the PAHO program. He added that the OAS and PAHO will have a prominent role in the meeting.

Ambassador Heller noted that the devastating effects of mines on civilians were raised anew after Hurricane Mitch recently "displaced thousands of landmines that had already been located--another obstacle to the mine-clearing work."

Ambassador Peter Boehm of Canada stressed how important the joint endeavor was, adding that his country and Mexico had been actively seeking to ensure a fruitful seminar, in which several international organizations will also take part. Among them are the International Committee of the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations engaged in mine-clearing work.