Arms Trade Treaty in Last-Minute Jeopardy?: Russia, North Korea, Cuba and USA Try to Stall Negotiations

Speaking this morning in a plenary of the Diplomatic Conference of the Arms Trade Treaty, the USA, Russia, Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba hinted that they wanted to leave the month-long negotiations (supposed to end this evening) without an agreed text. This is despite the broad consensus of most states around the world that the current draft is close to a strong and robust treaty, which would tighten global regulation of the trade in conventional weapons, currently less regulated than the trade in bananas

“The Arms Trade Treaty text issued Thursday evening can and should be adjusted today to close loopholes and clarify its protections against illicit arms transfers of all kinds, but there is tremendous momentum to conclude a sound text now. Today is the day to resolve remaining issues and questions,” said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association in a statement rapidly issued to the media.

Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba have been consistently skeptical of the negotiations. Perhaps trying to stall the progress toward a final text, North Korea said they wanted to make “a strong recommendation to have more time.” Similarly, Cuba said “we need more time to continue to work” and that the chair should give “serious consideration” to not having a final session.

Russia, which has been generally quiet in the negotiations said it found the draft text “unsatisfactory”, and wanted to ask the UN General Assembly to “extend the mandate of this conference for another two to three weeks.”

These authoritarian skeptics were, surprisingly joined by the USA, which said “at this point my capital does not have the time that is needed” to address what it saw as problems in the text.

“President Obama must lead and not further delay this important and long-running process to help reduce human suffering as a result of irresponsible international arms transfers and arms brokering,” said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association in a statement rapidly issued to the media.

“The conclusion of a sound Arms Trade Treaty would represent an important step forward for U.S. security and international security that President Obama and the U.S. Congress should embrace.”

For further analysis of why the USA often ends up in the strange company of authoritarian states when taking positions on the global regulation of arms, read my article “Unlikely Bedfellows: US and Iranian Shared Positions on the Emerging Global Laws of War” posted in Global Policy’s online comment and editorial section in March.

UPDATE: Read this excellent piece by the New York Times on the final push to the Arms Trade Treaty.

UPDATE 3.55pm: The chair of the negotiations has suspended the final plenary for “further consultations” before “concluding” the conference. We await further news. “The mood is tense and despondent,” tweeted @AmnestyATT

~ by Matthew Bolton on 27 July 2012.

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