UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote Tuesday on what would be the first U.N. treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar international arms trade after Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked its adoption by consensus.
Assembly spokesman Nikola Jovanovic said Monday that the resolution to adopt the treaty requires support from a majority of the 193 U.N. member states. Because the treaty had strong support when it was brought before U.N. members Thursday, its approval is virtually certain — unless there are attempts to amend it before the vote.
Many countries, including the United States, control arms exports. But there has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $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 organized crime.
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Hopes of reaching agreement at a U.N. negotiating conference were dashed in July when the U.S. said it needed more time to consider the proposed accord — a move quickly backed by Russia and China.
After two weeks of intensive negotiations, there was growing optimism that all 193 member states would approve the final draft treaty by consensus — a requirement set by the United States. But Iran, North Korea and Syria objected.
Iran said the treaty had many “loopholes,” is “hugely susceptible to politicization and discrimination,” and ignores the “legitimate demand” to prohibit the transfer of arms to those who commit aggression.
Syria cited seven objections, including the treaty’s failure to include an embargo on delivering weapons “to terrorist armed groups and to non-state actors.”
And North Korea said the treaty favors arms exporters who can restrict arms to importers that have a right to legitimate self-defense and the arms trade.
Both Iran and North Korea are under U.N. arms embargoes over their nuclear programs, while Syria is in the third year of a conflict that has escalated to civil war and is under U.S. and European Union sanctions. Amnesty International said all three countries “have abysmal human-rights records — having even used arms against their own citizens.”
If approved, the resolution asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as depositary of the treaty, to open it for signature by member states June 3. It calls on all nations to consider signing and then ratifying the treaty “at the earliest possible date.”
The draft treaty would not control the domestic use of weapons in any country, but it would require all countries to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms, parts and components and to regulate arms brokers. It would prohibit states that ratify the treaty from transferring conventional weapons if they violate arms embargoes or if they promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.