Following Obama Victory, U.S. Backs New U.N. Arms Treaty Talks

Guns (AP/ Contrib)

Just hours after President Barack Obama secured a second term in the White House, the United States supported the U.N. in its bid Wednesday to reignite talks over an international treaty regulating the $70 billion global conventional arms trade, according to Reuters:

U.N. delegates and gun control activists have complained that talks collapsed in July largely because Obama feared attacks from Republican rival Mitt Romney if his administration was seen as supporting the pact, a charge Washington denies.

The month-long talks at U.N. headquarters broke off after the United States – along with Russia and other major arms producers – said it had problems with the draft treaty and asked for more time.

A U.S. official said Washington’s goals have always been the same.

“We seek a treaty that contributes to international security by fighting illicit arms trafficking and proliferation, protects the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade, and meets the concerns that we have been articulating throughout,” the official said.

“We will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of our citizens to bear arms.”

According to Reuters, U.S. officials have also acknowledged — albeit in private — that the treaty would not infringe on domestic gun ownership or sales and would only affect exports. Reuters adds:

The main reason the arms trade talks are taking place at all is that the United States – the world’s biggest arms trader accounting for more than 40 percent of global conventional arms transfers – reversed U.S. policy on the issue after Obama was first elected and decided in 2009 to support a treaty.

The U.N. General Assembly’s disarmament committee wasted no time after Obama’s re-election to approve a resolution calling for renewed talks March 18-28. The votes to hold new talks passed overwhelmingly. Diplomats allege that the vote was actually slated to take place prior to the U.S. presidential election but was delayed due to Hurricane Sandy.

Is a deal a mere months away? According to Reuters, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Belarus, Cuba and Iran all abstained from voting on the treaty. China, however, voted in favor. Meanwhile, Britain, France and Germany joined China and the U.S. in support of the measure, which is expected to pass during a vote by the General Assembly.

Jeff Abramson, director of the gun control advocacy group, Control Arms, urged members states to sign on to stringent provisions, according to Reuters.

“In Syria, we have seen the death toll rise well over 30,000, with weapons and ammunition pouring in the country for months now,” Abramson said. “We need a treaty that will set tough rules to control the arms trade, that will save lives and truly make the world a better place.”

Brian Wood of Amnesty International said:

“After today’s resounding vote, if the larger arms trading countries show real political will in the negotiations, we’re only months away from securing a new global deal that has the potential to stop weapons reaching those who seriously abuse human rights.”

What’s more:

The treaty would require states to make respecting human rights a criterion for allowing arms exports.

Britain’s U.N. mission said on its Twitter feed it hoped that the March negotiations would yield the final text of a treaty. Such a pact would then need to be ratified by the individual signatories before it could enter into force.

The National Rifle Association has vehemently opposed the treaty.

Delayed negotiations on the part of the Obama administration likely point to political reasons that could have hindered his re-election bid.