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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Nicos Anastasiades

Iran, Syria and North Korea block adoption of global arms treaty

The draft proposals could be put to a vote in the General Assembly as soon as Tuesday, however.

IRAN, NORTH KOREA and Syria have blocked adoption of a UN treaty that would regulate the multi-billion-euro international arms trade for the first time, saying it fails to ban sales to terrorists – but other countries have refused to let the treaty die.

The treaty’s adoption required agreement by all 193 UN member states, but some countries said last night they would ask Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to bring the final draft before the General Assembly for adoption by vote as soon as possible.

Observers said that vote could be held as soon as Tuesday.

“This is not failure,” British Ambassador Jo Adamson said. “Today is success deferred, and deferred by not very long.”

For more than a decade, activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to regulate the global arms trade – estimated to be worth $60 billion a year - and try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organised crime.

After two weeks of intensive negotiations, many delegates had been optimistic that consensus — which doesn’t require a vote — by all states was within reach, but Iran, North Korea and Syria announced they could not support the treaty.

Both Iran and North Korea are under UN arms embargoes over their nuclear programs, while Syria is in the third year of a conflict that has escalated to civil war. Amnesty International said all three countries “have abysmal human rights records — having even used arms against their own citizens.”

Third time lucky?

This was the second attempt in eight months to get countries with very different interests behind an Arms Trade Treaty.

Hopes of reaching agreement were dashed in July when the US said it needed more time to consider the proposed accord — a move quickly backed by Russia and China. In December, the UN General Assembly decided to hold a final conference and set Thursday as the deadline.

US deputy representative Dan Mahley said the United States supported the proposed treaty as “fair and balanced” and looked forward to its quick adoption by the General Assembly.

The United States, along with Britain, Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria and Norway, backed Kenya, which announced that because “the will of the overwhelming majority is clear” it was sending a letter to the secretary-general immediately asking him to bring the treaty before the General Assembly for adoption.

The secretary-general did not immediately address the request but expressed deep disappointment at the failure to agree on a treaty text.

“He is confident that the Arms Trade Treaty will come to pass and is encouraged by the shared determination to make this happen as soon as possible,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

Associated Foreign Press
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