On the 4th of April, the International Mine Awareness Day is commemorated. Belarus has made a significant contribution to the process of the anti-personnel mines destruction. On the 5th of April, the last batch of the anti-personnel mines PFM-1 was destroyed at the Belarusian military engineering base near the town of Rechitsa. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Valentin Rybakov told the BelTA correspondent about the peculiarities of this project and the cooperation of Belarus with the international partners in the framework of fulfilling its obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.
Mr Rybakov, which obligations did our country undertake by acceding to the Convention?
The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention is one of the key instruments for ensuring regional and global security. The aforementioned Convention provides for the complete prohibition of the anti-personnel mines use, the cessation of their production and stockpiling, as well as the destruction of the remaining stockpiles. Belarus acceded to the Convention in 2003. The most important obligation for our state was the destruction of the stockpiles of the two types of the anti-personnel mines that we inherited from the Soviet Union: TNT-based anti-personnel mines (about 300.000 units) and anti-personnel mines PFM-1 with a liquid explosive (more than 3 million units).
The assistance in this process was provided by the international organizations. How do you assess the cooperation with the foreign partners?
When Belarus was signing the Convention, we requested the assistance of the international community in the process of the destruction of this type of weaponry. And the help has been provided. The TNT-based anti-personnel mines were destroyed in 2006 with the assistance of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency. The disposal of the PFM-1 mines - that required a special technological approach - was of particular complexity, owing to their hazardous nature.
All this time, the anti-personnel mines destruction process was the center of attention of the international community and key non-governmental organizations from all over the world. The reports on the work performed in Belarus in this regard were regularly sent to the UN and reviewed at the “anti-personnel mines” conferences.
Today, almost 13 years after the beginning of the mine utilization process in Belarus, we have the feeling of deep satisfaction with work that we have accomplished together.
The project “Elimination of stockpiles of PFM-1 munitions in Belarus”, implemented with the financial assistance of the European Commission with an overall amount of $4 million, allowed us to fulfil our international obligations under the Convention. Moreover, it is an important element of furthering the establishment of the mutually beneficial partnership with the European Union.
Under the assumption that the cooperation in this area was a success, is there a possibility that our partnership with the European Union in such complex projects will be continued?
The successful implementation of the project demonstrated that, with political will, clear goals and readiness for constructive work, Belarus and the European Union are ready to implement complex projects, including those from strategic areas.
The Belarusian side would like to reiterate its gratitude to the European Commission for the financial assistance in the implementation of the project, as well as to the Spanish company “Expal” that managed to carry out the process of mine destruction - using a unique technology - at the highest professional level.