MEDIA RELEASE
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS - ALEXANDER DOWNER

FA 21 - 27 march 2000
 

25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the first multilateral treaty to outlaw completely an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.

While the entry into force of the BWC has established an international consensus against biological weapons, the treaty does not have a verification mechanism. Countries have been working hard to negotiate a Protocol which would provide for verification of the ban on biological weapons. Australia plays an active and important role in the Ad Hoe Group negotiating the protocol, and is Vice-Chair of the negotiations.

The Ad Hoc Group is currently meeting in Geneva and, given the importance of this anniversary, I have instructed the Australian Ambasssador for Disarmament, Les Luck, to impress upon the group the need to focus on our common goal and resolve the outstanding differences that are delaying progress.

This Government will persist in doing all it can to expedite these negotiations and ensure the effectiveness of the final protocol. In an era of rapid advances in the field of biotechnology, it is now easier than ever to develop, produce and conceal biological weapons. Their use, even only once, would be devastating and this lends weight and urgency to the need to conclude negotiations. A robust verification protocol will further enhance global security and ensure our investment in the BWC pays security dividends for Australia.


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