SHARE
COPY LINK

MILITARY

Germany joins call for arms trade treaty

Being the world's third biggest arms exporter did not prevent Germany from joining France, Britain and Sweden to call on the United Nations to draw up a new arms trade treaty to reduce what they called "a growing threat to humanity."

Germany joins call for arms trade treaty
German-made rifles in the hands of the Somali police. Photo: DPA

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 German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in a joint statement with the foreign ministers of France and Britain, and Sweden’s trade minister.

“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.”

Germany is a massive beneficiary of the worldwide arms trade. Though the government has a policy of not approving exports to war zones or regions where human rights could be abused, concerns have been raised over recent reports of a deal with Saudi Arabia for up to 800 German-made Leopard tanks.

Campaigners also say that German small arms trades are not properly controlled. It emerged last year that state-of-the-art assault rifles made in Germany by the firm Heckler and Koch were used by Libyan troops under dictator Muammar Qaddafi against opposition forces.

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.

AFP/The Local/bk

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

MILITARY

US Congress moves to block Trump’s withdrawal of troops from Germany

US lawmakers have announced a bill that would delay the withdrawal of US troops until after President Donald Trump has left office, thus opening a door to a reversal of a decision announced by Trump in the summer.

US Congress moves to block Trump's withdrawal of troops from Germany
A US soldier in Grafenwöhr, Bavaria. Photo: DPA

The National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), which still needs to pass through the US Congress, specifies that a troop withdrawal can only happen 120 days after the defence secretary presents a report to Congress analysing whether the troop withdrawal is in the US national interest.

In June, President Trump announced plans to withdraw close to 12,000 of the 36,000 US troops based in Germany, citing Berlin’s failure to meet its NATO spending commitments.

As Trump is to leave office on January 20th, to be replaced by Democrat Joe Biden, the bill casts doubt on the entire troop withdrawal.

READ ALSO: Trump 'to withdraw thousands of US soldiers from Germany by end of 2020'

Trump still has the chance to veto the bill, something he indicated that he would do on Wednesday, although the objections he cited in a Twitter post did not reference the block on his troop withdrawal plans. A two thirds majority in Congress could then overturn his veto.

Trump's plans met with criticism from the US military top brass, as well as from his own Republican party. In Congress, both Democrats and Trump's Republicans announced their opposition to the plans.

The bill now states that Congress continues to value Germany as a strong NATO partner. The presence of the “approximately 34,500 members of the U.S. armed forces stationed in Germany” serves as an important deterrent against Russia's expansionist ambitions in Europe, it states. 

The bill further states that the U.S. troops in Germany are of central importance for supporting U.S. missions in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan.

A few weeks after Trump's announcement, the now dismissed US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper made it clear that the plans were to be implemented “as quickly as possible”. As yet though, there has been no troop reduction.

A good half of the 12,000 soldiers were to be recalled to the USA, while 5,600 were to be transferred to other NATO countries.

Three locations in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate would be particularly hard hit by the plans: Stuttgart, Vilseck and Spangdahlem.

SHOW COMMENTS