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At the Birmingham Summit, the G8 leaders will likely reiterate their support for the Irish peace agreement and discuss measures to curb fundraising for terrorist activities in their respective countries. Terrorism will not receive as much attention at the Birmingham Summit as it has in the past. Since the Denver Summit, there have been a number of significant developments on terrorism. The most important development was the peace agreement finally reached in Northern Ireland on 10 April 1998 after thirty years of conflict between Protestant loyalists and Catholic republicans. The agreement will be put to referendums in Northern Ireland and the southern Republic of Ireland on 22 May 1998.
On 15 December 1997, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing Offences. To date, Canada and Russia are signatories to the agreement. Under this new counter-terrorism Convention, countries agree to recognize a new international offence, namely targeting public places, government or infrastructure facilities, or transportation systems with explosives or other lethal devices, with the intent of causing death or serious injury, or the extensive destruction of property. The Convention also obliges countries to take jurisdiction, in some circumstances, over offences committed abroad, and to prosecute offenders or extradite them. Suspects will not be able to escape extradition solely because their crime is based on political motives. Finally, the Convention contains provisions on mutual legal assistance and information exchanges.
Over the past year, the United States has taken several counter-terrorism initiatives. They include preventing terrorist use of electronic or wire communications, expanding of the scope and quality of counter-terrorism information exchanges via central authorities, intensifying exchanges of operational information on suspect persons or groups, acting to accelerate exchanges of information; and rewarding information preventing acts of international terrorism. The US government has equipped major US airports with high-tech machines that can detect virtually any type of bomb, and the US Secretary of State has designated thirty groups as foreign terrorist organizations. Furthermore, the US has taken measures to deal with terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process.
Britain and Japan have also taken measures to combat terrorism. The British government introduced permanent counter-terrorism legislation. There was a Japan-Asean Counter-terrorism Conference on October 7-8, 1997, which focused primarily on strengthening cooperation between Japan and Asean with respect to terrorism and counter-terrorism.
Amidst these developments, there are several priorities that should be addressed at the Birmingham Summit. Chemical and Biological terrorism is an extremely important issue as this type of terrorism has increasingly become a serious threat in many countries. Since there has not been sufficient progress in this area, it should be adequately discussed among the G8 leaders.
Measures to deter terrorist attacks on electronic and computer infrastructure should also be addressed at the summit because there have been tremendous advances in information technology, and terrorists have quickly learned to take advantage of the increasing number of communications systems, transportation systems and public encryption to further their purposes. G8 leaders should discuss measures to improve information exchanges on terrorism via central authorities. It is important the leaders strengthen cooperation among their countries to effectively combat international terrorism and to isolate those movements that still resort to the use of violence.
It is likely the leaders will achieve success on terrorism issues because the international environment is increasingly moving towards peace. Fresh from the success of the Irish peace agreement, Tony Blair is attempting to transfer the momentum to the Middle East to jump-start the previously stalled peace process. Blair has invited Arafat and Netanyahu to a meeting in May 1998. Strengthening the peace process, opening it up to more progressive negotiations gives it an expanded inclusiveness and sense of positive outcome.
Document prepared by: Litza Smirnakis
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