MEDIA RELEASE

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
ALEXANDER DOWNER



FA 129

1 NOVEMBER 1996

ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION

I welcome the achievement, on 31 October 1996, of the conditions required for triggering entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

The achievement of a total ban on chemical weapons has been a long-standing objective of Australia's foreign and security policy, and a central pillar of our global and regional disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. The CWC is the first comprehensively verifiable multilateral treaty which outlaws an entire class of weapon of mass destruction. It promises the abolition for all time of a weapon which has killed tens of thousands of people this century, and caused long-term harm to the health of countless more, including many Australians who were the victim of such weapons in World War I.

Australia ratified the Convention in May 1994 and was the sixth country to do so.

I would continue to urge all countries which have not yet done so to ratify the CWC quickly to ensure the Convention has the widest possible membership when it enters into force. It is particularly important that the United States and Russia - the two declared possessors of chemical weapons - ratify. I regret that the US Senate recently deferred consideration of the question of US ratification of the CWC, and hope that it will authorise this step as soon as possible to maintain US support for the process. In Russia, the Convention is yet to be submitted for consideration by the Russian Parliament. I urge both Washington and Moscow to work to ensure early action to ratify.

The CWC was opened for signature in January 1993, following 20 years of negotiation. The Convention stipulates that it will come into effect 180 days after the so-called "trigger point" of 65 ratifications is reached. Hungary was the 65th country to ratify, on 31 October 1996 in New York. The Convention will therefore enter into force on 29 April 1997.