Syria, Iran and North Korea stall agreement of arms trade treaty

Published: 29th March 2013

Aid agency urges States to finish the job next week

New York: International aid agency Oxfam condemns Syria, Iran and North Korea for blocking  agreement today of the Arms Trade Treaty, which would have saved lives and closed the many loopholes that unscrupulous arms dealers now navigate with impunity. Despite a courageous last minute attempt by Mexico, Japan and several countries to save the process, the President of the Conference reached a conclusion that consensus could not be achieved.

Oxfam, a leading member of the Control Arms Coalition, says the historic treaty is still within reach but that proceedings were delayed today when a handful of skeptical states used their veto power against the huge majority of states that want to see the treaty passed.

Kenya read a statement on behalf of 12 states, calling for the UN General Assembly to adopt the Treaty by vote as soon as possible. The earliest this can happen is 2 April, next Tuesday, when the President of the Conference, Ambassador Peter Woolcott, will be presenting his report. It is widely anticipated the treaty would then pass by majority enshrining in international law for the first time a set of rules to regulate the global arms trade.

Anna Macdonald, Oxfam’s Head of Arms Control, said: “The Arms Trade Treaty has been held up by three states. We have known all along that the consensus process was deeply flawed and today has shown that. It is outrageous that countries including Syria should try to block the rest of the world trying to bring the arms trade under control.

“We are determined to ensure this treaty will become a reality – it’s just a matter of time. We believe the fight for an Arms Trade Treaty is almost over and  we are close to the start of a new era. We have a clear message for human rights abusers and gunrunners – your time is nearly up."

Oxfam and the Control Arms Coalition have broadly welcomed the new draft text though they have criticised areas where there are still gaps in crucial areas.  Campaigners are concerned the list of weapons to be covered under the draft text is still too narrow and the criteria by which governments will assess whether to authorize an arms transfer is ambiguous. 

Oxfam is calling on states to see the treaty as a starting point, which sets new international standards.  Once passed, the agency wants to see states aim high in their implementation plans and to sign and ratify the treaty as soon as possible.

We are determined to ensure this treaty will become a reality – it’s just a matter of time.
Anna Macdonald
Oxfam's Head of Arms Control

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