Statement by Australia Group Participants on Chemical Weapons
8 June 2018
At the 2018 Australia Group Plenary (4-8 June in Paris), Australia Group (AG) participants expressed their grave concern and alarm at the re-emergence of the use of chemical weapons, in violation of, and in challenge to the international laws and norms prohibiting the use of these abhorrent, indiscriminate weapons.
When the world came together in 1997 to bring the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) into force, banning the development, production, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons, we did so confident in the expectation that their use would then be consigned permanently to the 20th century. Since then, almost every nation has committed to abide by the Convention and its principles prohibiting any use of chemical weapons.
Recalling that the AG’s establishment in 1985 was impelled by the revelation of Iraqi use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War in violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, it is regretful that this confidence has proven premature with repeated use of chemical weapons since 2013 in Syria and Iraq, as well as the use of nerve agents in Malaysia and the United Kingdom.
Amidst multiple allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria, the independent and impartial OPCW–UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) investigated and attributed four attacks to the Syrian Arab Armed Forces and two to Daesh/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Use of such inhumane weapons in Syria as part of that country’s civil war continues to kill and inflict enormous suffering on large numbers of innocent men, women and children, including the attack on 7 April 2018 in Douma which is currently being investigated. We condemn this attack.
We urged the Syrian regime to respect its obligations under international law, to cease chemical weapons use and to fully declare and completely destroy its chemical weapons program pursuant to its obligations under the CWC. We urge all countries to fully respect their obligations under international law, not to use chemical weapons, and to fully declare and completely destroy their chemical weapons programs pursuant to their obligations under the CWC.
AG participants also expressed grave concern at the attack using a nerve agent in March 2018 in the United Kingdom, as confirmed by the OPCW Technical Assistance Visit report, putting innocent people and responding emergency services personnel in grave danger. AG participants welcomed the UK’s presentation of its thorough analysis of the incident, and looked forward to the further conclusions of the ongoing police investigation.
AG participants condemned the use of a nerve agent to assassinate a DPRK national in Malaysia in February 2017 in contravention of well-established international standards and norms against such use.
AG participants also condemned the reprehensible actions of those countries that have enabled or have continued to shield those who have used chemical weapons from being held to account in violation of their international commitments under the CWC.
At the same time, AG participants welcomed the convening of a Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the CWC on 26-27 June 2018 in The Hague, to allow all States Parties to be able to discuss and express their views on possible additional, stronger measures for upholding the CWC, and reinforcing the effectiveness of the OPCW and its Technical Secretariat in carrying out the mandate to which all have subscribed.
AG participants also stressed the upcoming Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the CWC in June, and the CWC Review Conference in November, will be crucial to ensuring no erosion of the global prohibition on any use of chemical weapons. AG participants expressed their support and appreciation for the professional, impartial and independent work of the OPCW Director-General and Technical Secretariat in upholding the CWC.
AG participants were briefed on the International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. Those not yet Participating States were invited to join the Partnership. Many AG Participants expressed support for the efforts made by Participating States to the Partnership to ensure that all those who develop or use these weapons are held accountable.
All AG participants reaffirmed their steadfast commitment and determination to continue working collectively and collaboratively, including to ensure that exports from their territories do not contribute to the development or use of chemical or biological weapons, and on other measures to help safeguard and strengthen the global non-proliferation arrangements that are intended to keep all countries more secure and safe.
All AG participants agreed that the use of any chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, cannot be tolerated under any circumstance.
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, India, 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.