New York: The United Nations member states on Friday failed to reach a treaty cracking down on the global, USD 60 billion business of illicit trading in small arms.
The move was aimed at curbing violence in some of the most troubled corners of the world.
Some diplomats and supporters blamed the United States for the unravelling of the monthlong negotiating conference.
Hopes had been raised that agreement could be reached on a revised treaty text that closed some major loopholes by Friday's deadline for action. But the US announced on Friday morning that it needed more time to consider the proposed treaty — and Russia and China then also asked for more time.
"This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line," said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Amnesty International USA. "It's a staggering abdication of leadership by the world's largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough."
A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, also blamed the US, saying "they derailed the process”, adding that nothing will happen to revive negotiations until after the US Presidential Election in November.
Chief US negotiator Thomas Countryman refused to talk to several dozen reporters when the meeting broke up.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement on Friday evening that the US supports a second round of negotiations next year.
"While we sought to conclude the month's negotiations with a treaty, more time is a reasonable request for such a complex and critical issue," the statement said.
The draft treaty would require all countries to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms and to regulate arms brokers. It would prohibit states that ratify the treaty from transferring conventional weapons if they would violate arms embargoes or if they would promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
In considering whether to authorise the export of arms, the draft says a country must evaluate whether the weapon would be used to violate international human rights or humanitarian laws or be used by terrorists, organised crime or for corrupt practices.
Many countries, including the US, control arms exports but there has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated USD 60 billion global arms trade. For more than a decade, activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organised crime.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "disappointed" with the failure to reach agreement on a treaty text, which he described as "a setback”. He said he remained committed to working with member states to pursue a "robust" treaty on controlling the conventional arms trade.
"A strong treaty would rid the world of the appalling human cost of the poorly regulated international arms trade," Ban said in a statement released late Friday in London where he was attending the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.
The UN General Assembly voted in December 2006 to work toward a treaty regulating the growing arms trade, with the US casting a "no" vote.
(With Agency inputs)
First Published: Saturday, July 28, 2012, 23:12