No clear mandate for negotiations on outlawing “killer robots”

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An international push to set limits on the use of autonomous weapons systems – so-called killer robots – is to continue next year after the latest round of talks achieved no concrete progress.

In the face of opposition from Russia, the US and other countries, a Geneva meeting on Friday failed to produce a mandate for negotiations on a treaty or other legally binding instrument.

The discussions were led by the 125 states parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

They can only decide unanimously. They merely decided to let the expert working group set up back in 2014 continue to work. There is no concrete goal for the talks.

“This result is of course a compromise that cannot completely satisfy everyone, including us,” said German disarmament ambassador Thomas Goebel. “We understand the decision as a mandate to the government expert group to agree on concrete measures in dealing with such weapon systems next year.”

Dozens of countries want a ban on autonomous weapons. These are systems – missiles or drones, for example – that are not decisively controlled by human hands and learn to target and attack with the help of artificial intelligence.

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