Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan: Australian mine action support for Nato - landmine action week 2005

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Australia will contribute three Minelab mine detectors to a NATO project for clearance of hazardous unexploded ordnance in Azerbaijan, Australia's Special Representative for Mine Action, Mr Bruce Billson, announced today as part of Landmines Action Week (23-29 May).

"The mine detectors will make a significant contribution to local communities in Azerbaijan, where unexploded ordnance continues to take lives and cause casualties," Mr Billson said.

"During the April visit of Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Australia agreed to strengthen relations with NATO and the provision of mine detectors to the Partnership for Peace program, led by Turkey, is a positive step forward for the relationship.

"The NATO Partnership for Peace Trust Fund Policy assists NATO Partner Nations in the safe destruction of stockpiled anti-personnel landmines, munitions and small arms and light weapons. Trust Fund projects have so far been completed in Albania, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia," Mr Billson said.

"Australia was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the 1997 Ottawa Convention on Landmines and is a leading contributor to international mine clearance, awareness and victim assistance.

"The Australian Government has provided $100 million over the past decade to help countries in our region and around the world and is working closely with the international community, including UN agencies and non-governmental organisations, to help rid the world of landmines," Mr Billson said.

"Landmines cause almost 20,000 casualties each year in more than 80 countries with 85 per cent of victims being civilians. As well as the tragic loss of life and injury, there is also a significant impact on development as land becomes unusable and communities are faced with the long term burden of caring for victims.

"In Sri Lanka, Australia has also supported the clearance of landmines from more than 227,000 square metres of land, the equivalent of 35 soccer fields, and the removal of 6,656 anti personnel mines."

Activities planned to mark Landmines Action Week in Canberra include a display of photographs and demining equipment at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and an information and letter-writing stall held by the Australian Network of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines at the Australian National University on 26 May.

Minelab, based in South Australia, is a world leader in the development of mine detection equipment.