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Cablegate: New Zealand, Cluster Munitions, And

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHWL #0157/01 1290313
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 080313Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5223
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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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