The UN General Assembly on Tuesday overwhelmingly adopted the first-ever treaty to regulate the $80-billion-a-year conventional arms trade.
The assembly voted 154-3 for a resolution that will open the treaty for signature from June. Syria, North Korea and Iran – which had blocked the treaty last week – voted against it. Twenty-three nations abstained.
The first major arms accord since the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty would cover tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, as well as small arms and light arms.
It would aim to force countries to set up national controls on arms exports. States would also have to assess whether a weapon could be used for genocide, war crimes or by terrorists or organized crime before it is sold. The treaty will not control the domestic use of weapons in any country.
The vote capped a more than decade-long campaign by activists and some governments to regulate the global arms trade.
Every country is free to sign and ratify the treaty, which will take effect after the 50th ratification from among the 193 UN member states, which could take up to two years.
(AFP, AP, Al-Akhbar)
23 countries, including China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and India abstained.
Russia and China – which both abstained during Tuesday’s vote – said that the vague criteria defined in the document may lead it to being manipulated for political ends, with various hostile countries defined as “human-rights abusers”. Russia also wanted the document to ban the supply of arms to non-state actors, such as rebels in the recent Arab uprisings.
India, another country that refused to endorse the treaty, and a major importer of arms, claimed the treaty gave excessive leverage to exporting states, who would be allowed to unilaterally break contracts for supposed ethical violations.
The United States’ weapons sales tripled in 2011, reaching to a record high of USD 66.3 billion, with Persian Gulf Arab countries as the main customers, a new Congressional report said.
A new report from the Congressional Research Service said that the country’s weapons sales in 2011 was an “extraordinary increase” over the USD 21.4 billion in deals in 2010.
The report also said that the figure was the largest single-year sales total in the history of US arms sales.
The former high record was in 2009, when the country’s arms exports reached to USD 31bn.
Saudi Arabia was the largest customer of the US arms, as it bought USD 33.4bn worth of weapons, including 84 advanced F-15 fighters, ammunition, missiles and logistics support.
The Kingdom’s arms deal with the US also included dozens of Apache and Black Hawk helicopters and upgrades of 70 of the F-15 fighters in the current fleet.
The United Arab Emirates spent USD 3.49 billion to purchase a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, which is an advanced anti-missile shield containing radars. The Arab nation also bought 16 Chinook helicopters for USD 939 million.
Oman also spent USD 1.4bn last year to buy 18 F-16 fighters.
Other significant customers for the US arms were India with a USD 4.1bn deal for 10 C-17 transport planes and Taiwan with USD 2bn for Patriot antimissile batteries, that has angered Chinese officials.