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Sweden joins call for UN arms trade treaty

France, Britain, Germany and Sweden called Monday on the United Nations to quickly draw up a comprehensive arms trade treaty that will reduce what they called "a growing threat to humanity".

The appeal came as UN member states were set to launch talks later Monday in New York on drafting the first comprehensive arms trade treaty, which activists say is all the more necessary given the mounting bloodshed in Syria.

“There is a clear case for governments to act now,” said Sweden’s trade minister in a joint statement with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain.

“Every year, millions of people around the world suffer from the direct and indirect effects of the poorly regulated arms trade and the illicit trafficking of arms,” they wrote in the statement published in European newspapers.

They said that hundreds of thousands of people were killed or injured, many were raped or forced to abandon their homes, while others lived their lives under a constant threat of violence.

“Coupled with a growth in the illicit trafficking of arms, we are facing a growing threat to humanity,” they said, noting that as some of the largest exporters in Europe, their countries bore “a special responsibility in this matter”.

The ministers wrote that the arms trade treaty should be legally binding, but nationally enforced.

“This will ensure the global consistency required to make the treaty effective, while maintaining state signatories’ right to decide on arms transfers,” they said.

The ministers also stated that they believed that the arms trade treaty should cover all types of conventional weapons, notably including small arms and light weapons, all types of munitions, and related technologies.

“It is also of great importance that the treaty includes strong provisions on human rights, international humanitarian law and sustainable development,” said their statement.

Russia and China are Syria’s main allies at the UN Security Council, and have routinely opposed international efforts to slap sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the wake of a crackdown on dissent that activists say has killed over 15,800 people since March 2011.

They are set to join other governments, like Iran, that are friendly with Syria in opposing plans for the Arms Trade Treaty, which seeks to set criteria to halt the transfer of arms and other equipment that can be used against civilians or to stoke a conflict.

The United States – which produces six billion bullets a year – wants to exclude munitions from the treaty, while China does not want it to cover small arms, which it exports en masse to developing countries.

According to a UN working draft, India – the world’s biggest arms importer – Japan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia insist they must be free to equip their armed forces at will.

China, Russia and Arab countries say the accord’s criteria are subjective and politically motivated, while South Korea does not want to hinder technology transfers.

Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s arms control chief, said diplomats face an “enormous task” as they try to wrap up the accord by the end of July, and said the final text could be watered down in the interest of consensus.

If all goes well, he said the treaty could come into force in late 2013, after some three dozen countries ratify the document.

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UN

‘The war must end now’: UN Sec-Gen meets Swedish PM in Stockholm

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres met Sweden's Prime Minister in Stockholm on Wednesday, ahead of the conference marking the 50th anniversary of the city's historic environment summit .

'The war must end now': UN Sec-Gen meets Swedish PM in Stockholm

After a bilateral meeting with Magdalena Andersson on the security situation in Europe, Guterres warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to a global food crisis that would hurt some of the world’s most vulnerable people. 

“It is causing immense suffering, destruction and devastation of the country. But it also inflames a three-dimensional global crisis in food, energy and finance that is pummelling the most vulnerable people, countries and economies,” the Portuguese diplomat told a joint press conference with Andersson. 

He stressed the need for “quick and decisive action to ensure a steady flow of food and energy,” including “lifting export restrictions, allocating surpluses and reserves to vulnerable populations and addressing food price increases to calm market volatility.”

Between the two, Russia and Ukraine produce around 30 percent of the global wheat supply.

Guterres was in Stockholm to take part in the Stockholm 50+ conference, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. 

The conference, which was held on the suggestion of the Swedish government in 1972 was the first UN meeting to discuss human impacts on the global environment, and led to the establishment of the UN Environment Program (UNEP). 

At the joint press conference, Andersson said that discussions continued between Sweden and Turkey over the country’s continuing opposition to Sweden’s application to join the Nato security alliance. 

“We have held discussions with Turkey and I’m looking forward to continuing the constructive meetings with Turkey in the near future,” she said, while refusing to go into detail on Turkey’s demands. 

“We are going to take the demands which have been made of Sweden directly with them, and the same goes for any misunderstandings which have arisen,” she said. 

At the press conference, Guterres condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine as “a violation of its territorial integrity and a violation of the UN Charter”.

“The war must end now,” he said. 

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