What is the Role of Egypt in the Negotiations of the International Arms Trade Treaty in New York?

Press Release

17 July 2012

The 193 UN member states have been gathered at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York since the 2nd of July to negotiate an international treaty aimed at regulating and controlling the conventional arms trade. This historic treaty is supposed to be adopted on the 27th of July, but the obstacles are so many. On the one hand, the start of negotiations was delayed for two days due to the status of Palestine that claims its legitimate right of having a seat at the conference as a fully sovereign state. On the other hand, no considerable progress has been made in the negotiations in two weeks mainly because of the repeated interventions about procedural issues and the diverging points of view regarding the crucial issues.  

« The status of Palestine is of utmost importance and should not be exploited in the context of these historic negotiations: the continuous violation of international law by Israel in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not serve as an excuse preventing the adoption of a legally-binding document that would further enforce international law, not only in the Middle East, but also worldwide, » commented Fadi Abi Allam, President of Permanent Peace Movement – Lebanon.

For several months, Egypt has held an entrenched position, which appears to have been systematically undermining all the African attempts to adopt a common ambitious position in favor of a robust ATT. This disastrous situation weakens the expression of millions of people, mostly in favor of the ATT since they are the main victims of irresponsible arms transfers.

Hazem Ksouri, President of Free Tunisia Association added: «Egypt tries to largely impose its point of view within the Arab group. This situation seems to be acceptable to some delegations especially those that lack the logistic capacities, noting that this treaty requires a lot of technical details. However, states like Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon and Jordan that are in favor of an ambitious treaty capable of saving lives, should have enough courage to impose their positive points of view. »

The Arab states are clearly not on the same wavelength with regards to some aspects of this treaty such as the types of arms to be listed therein or the criteria to be respected in the transfer of arms, such as human rights. Moreover, their vote on the UN General Assembly’s resolutions shows the lack of cohesion regarding the idea of adopting this treaty.

Hakima Chaoui, Director of Woman Human Rights Center in Morocco noted: “The Arab League , and therefore Egypt, have clearly and openly expressed, in the case of Syria, the necessity of putting an end to the transfer of arms that fuel violence. The ATT should stipulate this and stop any transfer of arms that would lead to human tragedies.”

“Why not apply the human principles put forward in the case of Syria to all civilian populations threatened by the irresponsible transfers of arms? », she added.  

"For a year and a half, we have actively rallied to choose new leaders, to change the policy of our government in many areas, and to promote human rights. But, unfortunately, in fact, the Egyptian government's policy towards the ATT does not seem to have progressed: it still has doubts about the relevance in this treaty to preserve human rights and international humanitarian law in transfers of weapons. We cannot accept such a position that ditches the fruits of our struggle for dignity, freedom and justice,” commented Hisham Mubarak Legal Center in Egypt.

Joining, de facto, a group of states hostile to the treaty, formed of Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Syria by opposing the key components that could make the present treaty a real progress in international law and thus reduce human suffering, Egypt jeopardizes its credibility and causes the marginalization of its stand on the international scene, therefore leading to confused Arab stands towards an international Arms Trade Treaty that would keep peace and security in the Arab region.  

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights concluded: « Egypt highlights the issue of politicizing and manipulating the criteria of human rights and international humanitarian law by exporting countries. Priority is given to nuclear disarmament over the regulation of conventional arms trade. We cannot but question the skepticism of Egypt regarding this treaty and the real reasons behind this stand: Is it keeping this trade under cover and outside any democratic control or going on with doubtful and irresponsible exports to conflict-hit regions such as Sudan? ».

For more information:
Sonia Nakad, New-York, + 1646 65208740
Maha Maamoun, Cairo, + 201 00 11 67 054
Karim Medhat Anara, Cairo, + 201 22 34 12 078