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UPDATE: Arms Trade Talks Conclude Without Treaty

UPDATE: After a month of negotiations, the Arm Trade Treaty Conference will conclude without a signed treaty. The failure comes on the heels of the United States and the Russian Federation coming together at Turtle Bay, a rarity these days. Each expressed a desire for more time to consider the document before approval, essentially running out the clock on today’s proceedings. While these two states are at the forefront, several other countries remained opposed to the current version as well.

From here, the document will revert back to the General Assembly, whose resolution in 2009 spurred the conference in the first place. Discussion will take place under the auspices of the First Committee of the General Assembly, Disarmament and International Security, following the opening of the 67th Session in the fall. The United States will be more able, it’s thought, to accept and sign onto an Arms Trade Treaty following the elections in November. That said, it will be harder for states to block action in the fall, as the consensus mechanisms of the Conference will be in the past; instead, only a 2/3rds vote will be enough to open the text for signature. The original content of this post follows.
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Last night, what was deemed the “final version” of the Arms Trade Treaty’s text was sent around to the delegates, having taken into consideration the day’s deliberations. The reaction from the combined states proved that consensus is still a long way away as a midnight deadline loomed heavily over the proceedings. Among the top issues of concern were: the continuing lack of ammunition being covered in the scope of the treaty; the inclusion of gender violence in the criteria for limiting arms sales; and the concept of self-determination.

The Holy See, relegated to an Observer role, was none too pleased at the inclusion of gender in the text, railing against the ‘ideologicisation’ of the final document. The African Group, however, has been warmly welcoming the language on gender-based violence, while pushing still for adding ammunition to the items covered by the Treaty. Saudi Arabia, speaking for the Arab Group, said that the current text does not reflect Arab Group’s thoughts on self-determination. Their suggestion of the insertion of language clarifying the right to repel “foreign occupation” has been strongly rejected by Canada and others for ‘politicizing’ the treaty. The phrasing as suggested may have been able to apply to Israel, a red-line for the United States and Israel. The United States and Russia have both said in any case that they need ‘more time’ to consider the treaty as it stands.

As if those actual issues aren’t enough, last night Mali brought up the ‘problem’ that English has been the only the working language throughout these talks. Several legitimate grievances still exist from delegations, while other concerns may turn out be brinksmanship to achieve a better outcome over the risk of scuttling the entire treaty. In any case, if the delegates are unable to reach consensus in the next nine hours it will be a major setback, as they will be returned to square one in the First Committee of the General Assembly in the fall.


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