D85

27 November 1996

BIOLOGICAL AND TOXIN WEAPONS CONVENTION

Australia has reconfirmed its commitment to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), and to current efforts to strengthen the Convention, at the Fourth Review Conference for the BWC currently being held in Geneva.

In a statement to the plenary session, Mr John Campbell, Australia's Ambassador for Disarmament said that "Australia attaches great value to the Biological Weapons Convention. We regard it as one of the key international agreements which underpin global security. The BWC stands alongside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention in providing the basis for the global legal and political norm against the spread of weapons of mass destruction."

Mr Campbell is a Vice Chair of an Ad Hoc Group established under the BWC which has been working since 1995 on improved compliance and verification measures for consideration by States Party to the Convention. Australia is also Western Group Coordinator in the BWC framework.

Mr Campbell emphasised Australia's strong commitment and active involvement in negotiations in the Ad Hoc Group and hope that these negotiations will produce effective machinery to verify the provisions of the BWC, including a mandatory declaration of relevant facilities and activities; on-site activities to reinforce the declarations regime, including routine inspections; and rapid and effective investigations of a compliance concern both at specific facilities and across a larger geographic area, such as would be needed to investigate an allegation of use of biological weapons.

Australia took the opportunity to urge all countries outside the regime to join the BWC as soon as possible. In this regard Mr Campbell recognised the growing support for the BWC in our region. "We particularly welcome the rat)fication of the BWC by our close neighbour, Indonesia, soon after the Third Review Conference - and the active and constructive contribution it is making to efforts to strengthen the BWC."

A copy of the Australian statement is available.

GENEVA