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UPDATE1: U.N. passes historic global arms trade treaty.

NEW YORK, April 2 Kyodo


The U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday overwhelmingly adopted a landmark arms trade treaty that will help regulate the global flow of conventional arms for the first time, despite its failure to be adopted by consensus last Thursday.

The resolution adopting the historic treaty was approved by 154 countries. North Korea, Syria and Iran, the three countries that blocked its adoption by consensus last week, voted against the decision, saying the final text was not balanced and favored the interests of major exporters.

Twenty three countries including the world's top exporters, such as Russia and China, and major importers, such as India and Indonesia, abstained from casting their votes.

"This is a treaty with teeth," Australian Ambassador Peter Woolcott, who chaired the intense and lengthy negotiations that began on March 18, told reporters."I think it will make a difference over time, I think it is a very good framework for states to work with."

As it is necessary for 50 countries to ratify the treaty before it comes into effect, Woolcott anticipated that the implementation process could take a year or two. It opens for signature on June 3.

While there have been mechanisms to curb the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, the international flow of conventional weapons has been poorly regulated. Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to be killed each year by conventional weapons, chiefly in conflict-torn areas.

Aiming to reduce human suffering, the treaty, covering eight categories including battle tanks, armored combat vehicles and small arms and light weapons, is expected to serve as a check to some degree on both exporters and importers of arms.

The treaty eliminates what many see as loopholes existing in global arms trading that make it relatively easy for illicit weapons to fall into the wrong hands, thus fueling deadly conflicts and perpetuating human rights abuses.

Among other things, the text calls for setting standards for the transparency surrounding the transfers of conventional weapons. It also requires a state to prevent the transfer of arms if it has knowledge that they would be used to perpetrate acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

Major human rights advocates and arms control campaigners have been pressing for nearly two decades to adopt such a treaty.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry supported the U.N. move, saying that the treaty's adoption could strengthen global security and simultaneously protect the right of states to engage in legitimate arms trade.

"It will help reduce the risk that international transfers of conventional arms will be used to carry out the world's worst crimes, including terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes," he said in the statement.

Japan was one of the seven co-authors of a U.N. General Assembly resolution in 2006 that paved the way for the treaty.

In his statement Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations Tsuneo Nishida said that Tokyo places a "particular importance" on improving transparency and strengthening accountability through reporting mechanisms.

"As the proponents of the Arms Trade Treaty repeatedly said throughout the negotiations, we now have the floor and not the ceiling," he said. "The process of creating the treaty may have ended today but the journey of perfecting the framework of regulating the global arms trade has just begun."

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon "wholeheartedly" welcomed the move, calling it a "historical diplomatic achievement."

"It will be a powerful new tool in our efforts to prevent grave human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law," he said in a statement. "And it will provide much-needed momentum for other global disarmament and non-proliferation efforts."

Every day 2,000 people lose their lives in armed conflict around the world and many more are injured, displaced and lose their livelihoods, according to data from Oxfam International.

"The world has been waiting a long time for this historic treaty," Brian Wood, Amnesty International's head of arms control and human rights said in a statement. "Despite Iran, North Korea and Syria's deeply cynical attempt to stymie it, the overwhelming majority of the world's nations have shown resounding support for this lifesaving treaty with human rights protection at its core."
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Apr 8, 2013
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