A month's worth of efforts by more than 170 countries to reach agreement on a landmark UN arms-trade treaty regulating the $60 billion industry has ended in failure. World leaders still hope for a treaty soon.
Delegates ended their negotiating efforts in disappointment late Friday as they failed to agree on a UN arms-trade treaty meant to help regulate the industry. Instead, the diplomats have opted for further talks and a possible UN General Assembly vote later this year.
"We feel that we could have agreed. It is disappointing that more time is needed. But an arms-trade treaty is coming - not today - but soon. We've taken a big step forward," said a spokesman for Britain's delegation.
While most of the delegates favored a strong treaty, some said there was a small minority of states, including Syria, North Korea, Iran, Egypt and Algeria, who voiced loud opposition to global arms control.
Ultimately, pro-treaty activists blamed the United States and Russia for the inability to reach a decision, as both nations said there wasn't enough time left to clarify and resolve their issues with the draft treaty.
"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, 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," she continued.
The draft treaty required countries to assess if a proposed arms export could be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian or human rights law.
The treaty would only have come into effect after it was ratified by 65 countries.
One person every minute dies from armed violence around the globe, and activists believe a treaty is needed to help prevent illegal guns from pouring into war zones.
Ninety countries - including all European Union members, and states from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa - signed the text, saying they were "disappointed but ... not discouraged" and vowing to soon finalize a treaty based on this week's draft.
A consensus of all 193 countries involved in the talks had been required to agree on the accord.
"We always thought this was going be difficult and that this outcome was a possible one," said Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritan, the conference chairman.
He predicted, however, that a treaty would soon be adopted. "We certainly are going to have a treaty in 2012."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed disappointment that the meetings were inconclusive but was encouraged by the efforts.
"There is already considerable common ground and states can build on the hard work that has been done during these negotiations," he said.
tm/ai (AP, Reuters)