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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 38, June 1999

Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons

Ceremony opening the Convention for signature, Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly, Guatemala, 7 June 1999

US Statement

Statement by James B. Foley, Deputy Spokesman, US Department of State, 7 June 1999

"The US is pleased with the action by the Organization of American States General Assembly which today adopted and opened for signature the Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions. ...

This Convention is a significant step to promote regional trust and confidence in defense and security dialogues in our hemisphere - foundations for hemispheric peace and prosperity.

The United States is proud to support this convention. Progress on transparency was a key factor in United States' decision in 1997 to amend our policy on arms transfers to the region. This convention confirms our assessment of the strong regional commitment to rational and transparent defense acquisitions.

The Convention will make it easier for countries in the region to evaluate their security situation, and will discourage unnecessary acquisitions of conventional weapons. The Convention promotes a new level of trust, confidence, mutual restraint, and a more mature and comprehensive security dialogue in the hemisphere.

The Convention is an unprecedented arms control accomplishment that concretely contributes to regional peace and security. We hope it will be emulated in other parts of the world."

Summary of Convention

'Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions,' US State Department Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, 7 June 1999

"On 26 May, 1999, the Organization of American States approved an Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions. This action brings to fruition two years of intense consultations in the hemisphere by the Governments of Brazil and the United States on a regional transparency agreement that will further contribute to regional peace and security. ... This unprecedented Convention puts in place a concrete mechanism for strengthening regional stability through mutual confidence and transparency and is a significant achievement for the OAS, the US and our hemispheric partners.

This Convention grew out of an OAS resolution adopted at the 1997 General Assembly that stipulated that the OAS would consider the desirability of a legal framework to provide advance notification of major arms acquisitions covered by the United Nations (UN) Register of Conventional Arms. The UN Register is a voluntary annual report by member states on their arms imports, exports and procurement through national production of one of seven categories of weapons - battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers.

The Convention imposes two sets of requirements on States Parties. First, each State Party is required to provide annual reports to the OAS Depositary on its imports and exports of conventional weapons covered by the Convention, which are identical to those covered by the UN Register of Conventional Arms. Second, each State Party is required to notify the Depositary of its acquisitions of covered conventional weapons, whether through imports or national production within 90 days after they are incorporated into the inventory of the armed forces. States Parties that have not acquired any covered conventional weapons during the preceding year are required to file a "nil report" no later than June 15 of each year.

In recent years, advances in the establishment and promotion of confidence and security building measures and transparency have strengthened military-to-military relations and decreased historic rivalries and tensions in the Western Hemisphere. This Inter-American Convention marks a further step in that process and is an unprecedented regional arms control initiative. With the Convention in place, countries in the region will be better able to evaluate their security situation in an environment that allows democratic governments to maintain and modernize defense forces without triggering suspicions that could lead to an arms race. The Convention establishes a new transparency norm that will foster greater dialogue and understanding about major conventional weapons acquisitions. Most importantly, adherence to the Convention by the OAS member states will further reinforce the environment of trust, confidence, and mutual restraint that has begun to characterize Western Hemispheric security relations."

Source: Text - US signs regional convention on weapons acquisitions, United States Information Service, 7 June.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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