U.S. backs away from supporting global arms trade treaty

The United States upended a major international treaty negotiation, telling foreign delegates at the final session today that they needed more time to consider the pact. Some diplomats said that Washington is seeking another six months, pushing off any decision on the politically sensitive treaty until after the U.S. election. Russia, Indonesia, and India also ...

By , a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy.

The United States upended a major international treaty negotiation, telling foreign delegates at the final session today that they needed more time to consider the pact. Some diplomats said that Washington is seeking another six months, pushing off any decision on the politically sensitive treaty until after the U.S. election. Russia, Indonesia, and India also asked for more time.

Thomas Countryman, U.S. deputy secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, informed representatives of the U.N.'s 193 member states that the United States still needed time to consider the text.

Arms controls advocates expressed dismay over the American move, saying it could undercut momentum that has been building to establish the world's first international treaty government the export of weapons. Before the U.S. speech, they were convinced that the United States and other big powers were on board.

The United States upended a major international treaty negotiation, telling foreign delegates at the final session today that they needed more time to consider the pact. Some diplomats said that Washington is seeking another six months, pushing off any decision on the politically sensitive treaty until after the U.S. election. Russia, Indonesia, and India also asked for more time.

Thomas Countryman, U.S. deputy secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, informed representatives of the U.N.’s 193 member states that the United States still needed time to consider the text.

Arms controls advocates expressed dismay over the American move, saying it could undercut momentum that has been building to establish the world’s first international treaty government the export of weapons. Before the U.S. speech, they were convinced that the United States and other big powers were on board.

We are "extremely disappointed about this outcome," said Daryl Kimball, the director of the Arms Control Association. The failure of this treaty is "in large part due to the failure of leadership by President Obama."

"Today the U.S. did not grab the golden ring: an international arms treaty that would have bolstered our country’s reputation as a elader on human rights," said Scott Stedjan, senior policy advisor for Oxfam. "Moving forward, President Obama must show the political courage required to make a strong treaty that contains strong rules on human rights a reality."

The United States told delegates that it did not have "core" objections to the draft treaty under consideration, but that it needed more time, saying that while the U.N. negotiations have been playing out since July 2, they only received the final text in the past 24 hours.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations was preparing a statement.

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch

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