The Australia Group

Fighting the spread of chemical and biological weapons. Strengthening global security.

Australia Group Meeting, 14 - 17 October 1996, Paris

Australia Group participants held informal consultations in Paris between 14-17 October 1996 to discuss the continuing problem of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) proliferation. Participants at these talks were Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States, with the Republic of Korea taking part for the first time.

Participants maintain a strong belief that full adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) will be the best way to eliminate these types of particularly inhumane weapons from the world's arsenals. In this context, the maintenance of effective export controls will remain an essential practical means of fulfilling obligations under the CWC and the BTWC.

All participants at the meeting welcomed the expected entry into force of the CWC[1], noting that this long awaited step will be an important, historic moment in international efforts to prohibit chemical weapons. Participants agreed to issue a separate statement on this matter, which is attached.

Participants also welcomed the progress of efforts to strengthen the BTWC in the negotiations taking place in the Ad Hoc Group of BTWC States Parties in Geneva. All Australia Group participating countries are also States Parties to this Treaty, and strongly support efforts to develop internationally-agreed procedures for strengthening international confidence in the treaty regime by verifying compliance with BTWC obligations.

Experts from participating countries discussed national export licensing systems aimed at preventing inadvertent assistance to the production of CBW. They confirmed that participants administered export controls in a streamlined and effective manner which allows trade and the exchange of technology for peaceful purposes to flourish. They agreed to continue working to focus these national measures efficiently and solely on preventing any contribution to chemical and biological weapons programs. Participants noted that the value of these measures in inhibiting CBW proliferation benefited not only the countries participating in the Australia Group, but the whole international community.

Participants also agreed to continue a wide range of contacts, including a further program of briefings for countries not participating in the Paris consultations to further awareness and understanding of national policies in this area. Participants endorsed in this context the importance of regional seminars as valuable means of widening contacts with other countries on these issues. In particular, Romania's plans to host a seminar on CBW export controls for Central and Eastern European countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States in Bucharest on 21-22 October and Japan's plans to host a fourth Asian Export Control Seminar in Tokyo in early 1997 were warmly welcomed by participants. Argentina will also host a regional seminar on non-proliferation matters, in Buenos Aires, in the first week of December 1996. France will organise a seminar for French-speaking countries on the implementation of the CWC. This will take place shortly before entry into force of the Convention.

The meeting also discussed relevant aspects of terrorist interest in CBW and agreed that this serious issue requires continuing attention.

Participants agreed to hold further consultations in October 1997.

[1] The CWC is expected to come into operation in April 1997 or soon thereafter, 180 days after the 65th instrument of ratification is deposited with the UN Secretariat in New York. The number of ratifications currently stands at sixty-four.