GENEVA: As a critical meeting on the subject begins in Geneva, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged for new laws governing the use of autonomous weapons. For the past eight years, UN negotiators have been debating restrictions on deadly autonomous weapons, or LAWS, which are totally machine-controlled and rely on cutting-edge technology like artificial intelligence and facial recognition. However, pressure has risen in part as a result of a UN panel study released in March, which claimed that the first autonomous drone assault may have already taken place in Libya. “I encourage the Review Conference to agree on an ambitious plan for the future to establish restrictions on the use of certain types of autonomous weapons,” Guterres said at the start of the five-day talks. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons has 125 parties, including the United States, China and Israel. Some participating states such as Austria call for a total ban on LAWS, while others, including Washington, have been more reticent and have pointed to potential benefits of such weapons which might be more precise than humans in hitting targets. Amnesty International and civil society groups are calling for countries to start negotiating an international treaty and will present a petition to negotiators later on Monday. “The pace of technology is really beginning to outpace the rate of diplomatic talks,” said Clare Conboy of Stop Killer Robots. “(This) is a historic opportunity for states to take steps to safeguard humanity against autonomy in the use of force.” France’s Disarmament Ambassador Yann Hwang, who is president of the talks, called for “key and vital decisions” to be taken this week. However, diplomats say the body, which requires consensus, is unlikely to reach an agreement to launch an international treaty, with Russia among others expected to oppose such a step. “At this point, there isn’t enough support to begin a treaty,” a diplomat involved in the talks said, “but we believe some principles may be agreed upon for national implementation.” If no agreement can be reached, countries may move negotiations to another forum, either within or outside the UN.