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Small Arms, Light Weapons Smuggling in Middle East Growing: OSCE Spokesperson

RIA Novosti

01:43 02/11/2014

MOSCOW, November 2 (RIA Novosti) - Illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in the Middle East is growing, and joint effort is needed to prevent spillover effects, Thomas Greminger, Chairperson of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Permanent Council 2014, told RIA Novosti Saturday.

'The phenomenon of smuggling SALW in the Middle East Region is growing, fed by the spread of transnational terrorism, the advancement of technology, the growing porosity of borders, and the spreading of violence in some Southern Mediterranean countries after the so-called 'Arab Spring'. Terrorist organizations are now able to obtain weapons in greater quantities, longer range, larger variety and better quality. Thus, they are putting larger populations under threat, and are achieving more influence. The abundance of SALW in the region is a great threat if it falls in the hands of the wrong people,' Greminger, who is also an ambassador and permanent representative of Switzerland to the OSCE, told RIA Novosti in an interview.

The OSCE conference on the topic 'Illicit Trafficking in Small Arms and Light Weapons and Fight against Terrorism in the Mediterranean Region' took place on October 27-28 in Neum, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Commenting on the results of the conference, Greminger underlined that the OSCE has gained considerable expertise in dealing with excessive or illicit SALW, which is the knowledge that needs to be shared with the organization's Mediterranean Partners – Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.

'All of these challenges are too big for any single country or region to tackle alone. Co-operation and common actions are an absolute necessity to limit the negative spillover effects. Only a global approach with regional implementation to the problem of the illicit trafficking of conventional arms can have a tangible effect,' Greminger emphasized.

According to the chairperson of the OSCE Permanent Council, the current situation with SALW illicit trafficking is intertwined with the issues of illegal migration and foreign fighters, as more than 13,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 80 Member States of the UN have joined groups, such as Islamic State and the Al-Nusra, in the Middle East.

Among the measures that should be adopted to fight SALW illicit trafficking, Greminger cited more rigorous rules at the national level, international harmonization of such legislation, training of practitioners and raising awareness among the public.

The conference 'Illicit Trafficking in Small Arms and Light Weapons and Fight against Terrorism in the Mediterranean Region' was one of the major events of 2014 for the OSCE dialogue with its Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation. The OSCE participating States, the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia), international organizations and NGOs took part in the event. Thomas Greminger opened the conference together with the foreign minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, chairperson of the Mediterranean Group of Contact, and the head of the Serbian delegation.

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