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As ATT Is Signed, Arms to Syria "Inconsistent," ICRC Says, UK Wants Flexibility

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 3 -- Amid the hoopla on UN signings of the Arms Trade Treaty, Inner City Press asked the UK minister Alistair Burt, Costa Rica's minister, the Red Cross and Control Arms how the ATT's "Golden Rule" would apply to arming the rebels in Syria.

Alistair Burt replied that while the expiration of the EU's arms embargo on Syria provides "flexibility" that the UK wanted, no decision has yet been made; the goal was to increase pressure on Bashar al Assad.

But Christine Beerli of the International Committee of the Red Cross answered Inner City Press directly, that providing arms into Syria at this time would be inconsistent with the spirit of the ATT.

Control Arms' Anna MacDonald pointed out that the UK and France are already covered by the European Union's common position, requiring risk assessment. But how did that apply to France air-dropping weapons into the Nafusa Mountains in Libya?

Costa Rica's minister, meanwhile, said the situation in Syria is the perfect example to show why an Arms Trade Treaty is necessary. At least he took questions at the temporary stakeout in front of the Trusteeship Council Chamber. Mostly signers simply held signs congratulating themselves for making history. Fair enough.

The UN's Angela Kane was also on the panel, and afterward Inner City Press asked her a question about Syria. But that's another story. Watch this site.

Footnote: At the ATT press conference, the first question was taken by UN Correspondents Association president for 2013, Pamela Falk of CBS, who asked for a headcount of how many states signed but won't get ratification. (Can you say, USA?) As if to make the point, her first vice president, Louis Charbonneau of Reuters, re-asked the explicitly American question. 

 But during the morning, when the Security Council re-opened without the media workspace that existed before and during the relocation, and a small work table set up by the new Free UN Coalition for Access was seized by a "lady from DPI," Falk, Charbonneau and UNCA did nothing. We'll have more on this.

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