28 Jul 2012

Talks on tackling conventional arms trade break down

8:30 pm on 28 July 2012

Negotiations to establish the first international treaty on the conventional arms trade have ended without agreement.

First the United States and then Russia and China said they needed more time.

Under the proposed United Nations treaty, signatories would have to evaluate whether any weapons they exported could be used to violate human rights or fall into the hands of organised criminals.

The BBC's correspondent at the UN says it's a disheartening end to a month of intense negotiations.

Some delegates accused the US of bowing to domestic pressure from the powerful gun lobby in the run-up to presidential elections. On Friday a bipartisan group of 51 US senators threatened to oppose any agreement that infringed on the constitutional right to bear arms.

Despite the setback, conference chairperson Roberto Garcia Moritan said the eventual adoption of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was inevitable.

"I don't have any doubt, because there is a need," he said.

Amnesty frustrated by delay

The negotiations were the result of a six-year campaign by a coalition of non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International and Oxfam.

Amnesty secretary-general Salil Shetty has expressed frustration at the delay.

"With one person dying every minute because of armed violence, there is an imperative for powerful states to lead," he says.

"President Obama has asked for more time to reach an agreement. How much more time does he want?"

The text of the draft resolution is now likely to be sent back to the UN General Assembly in the autumn.

The global arms trade is estimated to be worth at least $75 billion a year.

About 750,000 people are killed by illicit weapons each year.