WikiLeaks cable: NZ, cluster munitions, and interoperability

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

May 8, 2008
New Zealand, cluster munitions, and interoperability

date:2008-05-08T03:13:00
source:Embassy Wellington
origin:08WELLINGTON157
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CCCCC ZZH O 080313Z MAY 08 FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON TO RUEHC/SECSTATE
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classification:CONFIDENTIAL
reference:08STATE47101
?C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000157

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/ANP, PM
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/08/2018
TAGS: PARM, PREL, KTIA, MOPS, NZ...
?C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000157

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/ANP, PM
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/08/2018
TAGS: PARM, PREL, KTIA, MOPS, NZ
SUBJECT: NEW ZEALAND, CLUSTER MUNITIONS, AND INTEROPERABILITY
REF: STATE 47101

Classified By: Pol/Econ Counselor Margaret McKean; Reason 1.5 (b) and (
d)

1. (C) Summary. New Zealand considers interoperability to be one of two key issues (the other issue being the definition of a cluster munition that causes unacceptable humanitarian harm) for resolution in Dublin at the upcoming cluster munitions convention meeting beginning May 19.
However, MFAT indicates that New Zealand's approach will be to develop more specific language regarding interoperability as opposed to deleting clauses 1 (b) and (c) of the draft convention. MFAT does not want the issue of interoperability to preclude New Zealand's participation in the types of peacekeeping and international security roles it is involved in now with the UN as well as the United States. New Zealand, however, may be constrained from becoming a party to the convention, as the Oslo signing event will come after the New Zealand election. MFAT has acknowledged that if the opposition National Party wins the election, it is unclear if National will support the convention. End Summary.

Definition/Interoperability Critical at Dublin

--------------------------------------------- -

2. (C) Pol/Econ Counselor met with Jillian Dempster, head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Disarmament Division on May 5 to provide demarche points and discuss GNZ views on interoperability concerns. Dempster will be joining New Zealand head of delegation Ambassador Don MacKay and some his Geneva-based staff in Dublin, along with members of MFAT's legal division and several Ministry of Defense representatives. Dempster noted that 105 countries have now signed the Wellington Declaration, which would permit their participation in the Dublin negotiation process that will begin on May 19. She acknowledged that the GNZ views interoperability as one of two key issues to be resolved at the two-week session. The GNZ is aware of concerns among the like-minded states as well as the US on this issue, and for that reason hosted a special break-out session on interoperability at the February 2008 meeting in Wellington. However, Dempster complained that many of the delegations were unprepared for detailed, substantive discussions and the session made little progress. She offered that a similar session would be likely in Dublin, although it is not clear if Ireland (as host) will lead off with a plenary and then break out into smaller working groups, or if working groups will operate simultaneously with an ongoing plenary discussion.

3. (C) The other major issue for resolution, according to Dempster, will be the definition of where to draw the line on cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. Although NGOs continue to call for no exceptions, Dempster predicted that there would not be a total ban, and a possible exemption on high-tech cluster munitions with better guidance systems and self-destruct mechanisms. She acknowledged that an exemption would only account for less than 5 percent of cluster munitions in use, but it was important to realize that there would likely be some level of flexibility on the part of NGOs.

Interoperability: "Tricky but Manageable"

------------------------------------------

4. (C) Pol/Econ Counselor provided the USG points on interoperability and asked if New Zealand would consider deleting clauses 1 (b) and (c) of the draft convention. Dempster acknowledged that the two clauses had been lifted from the Ottawa Landmine Convention and had proven problematic in the past due to the ambiguity surrounding the language. Instead of deleting the clauses, New Zealand favored adding greater clarity to the language. Pol/Econ Counselor stressed that the likely envisioned workarounds to mixing treaty and non-treaty nations in coalition forces in the future would add to the cost, may discourage
participation, and could result in operational delays putting lives at risk. Dempster insisted that the interoperability hurdle remains a "tricky but manageable" issue, but one that she foresees will be resolved.

What Happens After Dublin?

--------------------------

5. (C) Dempster briefly discussed the dissatisfaction felt by many of the like-minded delegations during the Wellington meetings in February, but offered strong criticism of those states' behavior -- and in some cases -- their methods. She acknowledged that having a convention acceptable to the like-minded states would enhance the credibility of any convention. If only states that do not produce, use, stockpile, or transfer cluster munitions sign the convention, it will not have the weight of a convention that includes European countries and the likes of Canada and Australia. However, Dempster noted that the decision to sign the convention will be made at the political level, so even if some like-minded delegations are again dissatisfied with the results in Dublin, they may be overruled by their political leaders.

6. (C) Ironically for New Zealand, Dempster noted that New Zealand may not be in a position to attend the signing ceremony in Oslo in December 2008 depending on how the New Zealand election later this year plays out. (Note: There are no date set for the election but the Prime Minister must call for an election no later than mid-November. End Note.) Dempster offered that in the pre-election period, the government may not enter into new agreements; if the opposition National Party were to win, any Labour caretaker government would also be constrained during the time it would take for the transfer of power. National has not asked for a briefing on the draft convention, nor has anyone from MFAT engaged with any other political party on the issue. Pol/Econ Counselor asked about the Green Party and Dempster corrected herself, saying that the Greens have been kept in the loop regarding the ongoing Oslo Process. (Comment: We are not sure of the accuracy of Dempster's statements; our initial soundings on the question suggest that the government could indeed sign the agreement in the pre-election period as it would not be "new business;" if countries would be allowed to sign before the official signing ceremony in December is another question. We also understand that even if National won the election; a caretaker Labour government could attend the signing ceremony in December and sign if National were consulted and agreed. End Comment.)

Comment

-------

7. (C) MFAT had already forwarded its policy paper to Ministers before this demarche arrived. However, New Zealand has long been aware of the significance of the interoperability issue and the concerns of like-minded states. The Australian High Commission has told us that they have little confidence in the reassurances from MFAT and MOD interlocutors; they say the Australian Minister of Defense may call his New Zealand counterpart (Phil Goff) during the Dublin meetings. However, Goff is dual-hatted as both Minister of Defense and Minister for Disarmament -- and although he has flagged interoperability as a concern -- his disarmament leanings may ultimately override practical
military considerations. End Comment.

MCCORMICK

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