The Australia Group

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

Statement by Australia Group Participants on the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention

30 June 2017

Upon the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Australia Group Participants reaffirm the unlawfulness of the use and development in any circumstances of chemical weapons.

Chemical weapons are extremely dangerous and inhumane weapons of mass destruction, whose existence and use can under no circumstances be justified. Their development and use is completely contrary to the international community's firmly held position that the development and use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances is absolutely unacceptable.

It is a century since over a million casualties arose from chemical weapons during World War I.  It is over 90 years since the Geneva Protocol of 1925 banned the use of chemical weapons.  It is 32 years since the Australia Group was established to harmonise national export controls to avoid contributing to chemical and biological weapons programs.

The Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force in 1997, prohibits the development, production, acquisition, retention, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical weapons.  Incorporating a strong verification regime, the CWC has 192 States Parties.  Its implementation is overseen by the independent Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in 2013.  The Australia Group strongly and unequivocally supports the Chemical Weapons Convention and the OPCW as cornerstones in the non-proliferation and disarmament of chemical weapons. The work of the Australia Group complements that of the CWC and OPCW in supporting international security efforts to stop the proliferation of chemical weapons.

Australia Group participants are determined to ensure that exports from their territories do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons.  Coordination and harmonization of national export control measures assists Australia Group Participants to fulfil their obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention to the fullest extent possible.  The Australia Group also welcomes non-members who wish to adopt the Group's control lists and best practice guidelines.

Australia Group Participants have long advocated and will continue to advocate for universal adherence to and effective implementation of the CWC and sought to support the Convention by preventing proliferation through the use of export controls on dual use items.  Australia Group Participants call on the remaining states to join the Convention in the interest of global peace and security.

Over recent years, Australia Group Participants have noted, with grave concern and regret, evidence and allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic as well as in the Republic of Iraq.  Australia Group participants called for all such use of chemical weapons to cease immediately.  The 4 April 2017 incident in the Khan Sheikhun area of southern Idlib in Syria is deeply disturbing.  The OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) has confirmed the use of sarin, a nerve agent, at the 4 April incident.  This is just one in a continuing series of chemical weapons use on which the OPCW has reported.

As well, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism in 2016 concluded there was sufficient information that several chemical weapons attacks in Syria were caused by both the Syrian Arab Armed Forces, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The reported use of the nerve agent VX as a chemical weapon in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on 13 February 2017 was an unlawful act that endangered innocent lives and represents a clear threat to international security interests.  The development and use of chemical weapons by any actor is unacceptable, and the perpetrators of this act must be held responsible.

Australia Group Participants greatly value the work of the OPCW in implementation of all of the elements of the CWC, including destruction of declared chemical weapons stockpiles, stopping proliferation of these weapons and investigating allegations of use of chemical weapons.  Australia Group Participants firmly support that all actors involved in any use of chemical weapons should be made accountable.

The Australia Group (AG) is an informal forum of countries which, through the harmonisation of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons. The Australia Group was established in 1985. Its participants are:    

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Cyprus, Republic of Korea, Republic of Turkey, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.