UNITED NATIONS (PA) – Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday that the use of improvised explosive devices is increasing as conflicts urbanize and armed groups proliferate, and he urged nations to work together to reduce the threat of these weapons as well as land. mines and other remnants of war.

The UN chief told the Security Council that in the previous three years, UN funding has made more than 560 square kilometers (215 square miles) safe from IEDs in hot spots from Afghanistan and Iraq to Cambodia and Colombia. That’s an area 10 times the size of Manhattan that can now be used for buildings, agriculture, markets, schools and roads, he said.

But he added that despite the progress made by the UN and other organizations, “the challenges have intensified”, notably due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting access to demining operations.

Guterres said IEDs pose the greatest threat to African Union peacekeepers in Somalia and Mali. He said mines and other explosive remnants of war hamper the mobility of UN peacekeepers in South Sudan and that “new explosive threats” are emerging in the Central African Republic and Congo.,

The secretary general said 164 countries are party to the 1997 international treaty against landmines, which bans their use, stockpiling, production and transfers and demands their elimination.

He called on the 33 UN member states that have not ratified it “to do so without delay”. Among the countries that have not ratified are the United States, Russia, China, North Korea, South Korea, Myanmar, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

Vietnam holds the presidency of the Security Council and hosted Thursday’s virtual meeting, chaired by its new foreign minister, Bui Thanh Son.

“Each year, landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices claim nearly 10,000 lives, mostly civilians, and children in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen, but also alarmingly in places like Cambodia, Laos and my own country, Vietnam, where wars ended decades ago, ”Bui said. “It’s a reminder of the long-term destabilizing effects on post-conflict peacebuilding and lasting peace.”

Bui said that “nearly a fifth of Vietnam’s land is still contaminated with unexploded ordnance” and that if mine clearance efforts continue at the current rate and with current resources, it “will take another hundred years to complete” .

Vikas Swarup, India’s Deputy Foreign Minister, said he was deeply concerned that terrorist groups, including the Islamic State movement, “have resorted to landmines and IEDs as inexpensive and effective options. to sow terror and threaten innocent civilians ”.

“We must strongly condemn and take effective action to counter this trend,” Swarup said.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield noted that according to the Landmine Monitor’s 2020 report, 5,554 people, most of them “innocent civilians”, were killed or injured around the world in 2019 by landmines, handguns. cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war.

Thomas-Greenfield said US President Joe Biden “thinks we need to reduce the use of landmines” and made it clear that he intends to roll back the policy of the Trump administration.

The Pentagon said this week that it will maintain a Trump-era policy in place that allows the use of certain anti-personnel landmines that were restricted under former President Barack Obama while he conducts a review.

The Security Council adopted a presidential statement calling for enhanced international action against mines, remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, particularly in conflict zones.

Council members called on all parties to armed conflicts “to put an immediate and definitive end to all indiscriminate use of explosive devices in violation of international humanitarian law”.

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