In the end, the United States and other countries succeeded in ensuring the treaty must be approved unanimously, so any one country can effectively veto a deal.
But the treaty may not be doomed if that happens. Wood said nations that support a strong pact could bring a treaty to the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly and adopt it with a two-thirds majority vote if there is no consensus in July.
There are deep divisions on key issues to be tackled in the treaty negotiations, such as whether human rights should be a mandatory criterion for determining whether governments should permit weapons exports to specific countries.
Arms control advocates say a strong treaty is long overdue.
“It is an absurd and deadly reality that there are currently global rules governing the trade of fruit and dinosaur bones, but not ones for the trade of guns and tanks,” said Jeff Abramson, director of Control Arms.
The treaty-drafting conference ran into difficulties at the outset when Egypt demanded that the Palestinian delegation have the status of a state, not merely an observer as is usually the case at U.N. General Assembly meetings.
Amnesty’s Wood told Reuters that if the Palestinians were granted status in the talks as a state, Israel and the United States would walk out, causing the negotiations to collapse. He said delegates were working hard to work out a compromise.
Such procedural bickering has been typical of the arms trade negotiations, diplomats say, as countries that would prefer not to have a strong treaty search for ways to prevents the talks from moving forward.