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At UN, Finnish leader calls for continued efforts to agree on treaty for conventional arms trade

President Sauli Niinistö of Finland.
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
President Sauli Niinistö of Finland.

At UN, Finnish leader calls for continued efforts to agree on treaty for conventional arms trade

While expressing regret over the failure of recent negotiations for a treaty to regulate the conventional arms trade, the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, today told the United Nations General Assembly today that it is important that efforts towards this goal continue.

“Conventional weapons trade clearly needs better global regulation. It is regrettable that the negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty ended without the desired outcome. The goal is in sight, however. It is important that the process continues within the UN context,” President Niinistö said in his statement at the Assembly’s General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York.

“As one of the co-sponsors, Finland continues to reach out for a substantive and as nearly universal treaty as possible,” he added.

At the four-week long Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), held in New York in July, representatives of the 193 UN Member States failed to reach agreement on a treaty that would have set common standards to regulate the international trade in conventional arms.

The treaty was seen as the most important initiative ever regarding conventional arms regulation within the United Nations. According to media reports, some countries had indicated they needed more time to consider the issues.

In his statement, President Niinistö also drew attention to other types of weapons – nuclear and chemical – noting that weapons of mass destruction remain an existential threat to international peace and security.

“Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, disarmament and the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy are all necessary parts of the whole,” he said, adding that Finland is prepared to host a conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free from nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction this year.

“The task has been described as difficult but rest assured, we will do our utmost to fulfil it. Nuclear material cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands,” the President said. “National measures and international cooperation are both needed to stop nuclear terrorism. As a user of peaceful nuclear energy, Finland is strongly committed to continue the process.”

The Finnish President noted that while chemical weapons were banned some years ago, the relevant treaty is not yet universal. He offered the expertise of the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, or VERIFIN, to the international community should the need for it arise in the Middle East.

At the same time, the Finnish leader recognized that poverty reduction is the “ultimate means to secure the peace in many parts of the world,” and that, above all, economic growth and a level playing field for all are required for this.

“Development cooperation can assist, especially in the least developed countries. Those countries that already suffer the effects of climate change are particularly vulnerable and in need of our support,” President Niinistö said, adding that despite budgetary pressures within the Eurozone, Finland has increased its outlay for development assistance over the past years to an annual level of around $1.5 billion.