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Estonia presented its letter of approval of the international Arms Trade Treaty


Estonia presented its letter of approval of the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the United Nations.

Foreign minister Urmas Paet stated that the entry into force of the Treaty would be a notable achievement, since it is the first legally binding international treaty which regulates the export, import and transit of trans-national conventional arms. "When the agreement comes into force, it will increase the responsibility of countries regarding arms supplies, which will contribute to peace and security," the foreign minister said. "It will also help decrease the illegal arms trade and the loss of life and suffering that accompanies it," he added.

According to the foreign minister, armed conflicts kill over 500 000 people each year, most of whom are civilians, including 66 000 women and children.

The ATT prohibits the supplying of conventional weapons, ammunition and weapons parts, if they are in violation of UN arms embargos or other relevant binding international obligations, or if the weapons may be used to commit crimes against humanity or war crimes. In making decisions regarding supply, countries must take into consideration the impact of these movements for peace and security. States will also have to ensure that the weapons will not be used for international humanitarian law or human rights infringements, or to contribute to international organized crime or terrorism. The possible risk of movement of weapons on the illegal market must also be taken into account.

Foreign minister Paet stated that the Arms Trade Treaty is important to Estonia for several reasons . "The treaty asserts more control over larger arms suppliers, including states with aggressive intentions, as opposed to smaller countries focusing on self-defense," Paet said. "As a result of the agreement, the illegal arms trade and number of civilian casualties in conflict zones, especially in Africa, is expected to decrease and international security should increase," he added.

Paet also noted, that it is useful for Estonian entrepreneurs if export control is uniformly strict the world-over, thereby creating a more level playing field. "As a country with tight import and transit restrictions, it is important in terms of Estonia's internal security that other countries have similarly tight restrictions," he added.

The ATT will not bring major changes to Estonia's strategic goods control regime since Estonia's regulatory environment in the given sector, as well as practical arrangements, already comply with the best international practices. Estonia is ready, either bilaterally or through European Union aid programs, to share its experiences and knowledge in implementing the ATT with other countries of the world, who are just beginning to establish their own national strategic trade control system.

In addition to Estonia, Bulgaria, El Salvador, Spain, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, France, Romania, Germany, Finland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Great Britain, Denmark and Hungary presented their instruments of ratification to the UN Secretary-General in New York on April 2.

So far, 13 countries have ratified the ATT. For the treaty to entry into force internationally, it requires ratification by 50 countries.

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