8 June 2018
The forty-two Participating Countries of the Australia Group and the European Union met for the 33rd Plenary meeting in Paris this week. The Australia Group was established after the use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war. The work of its participants aims to ensure that legitimate trade in sensitive dual-use goods and technology is not diverted to the production of chemical or biological weapons, through coordinated export controls, information sharing and outreach.
Australia Group (AG) participants reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening chemical and biological weapons-related counter-proliferation efforts. Among the measures agreed by the Group at the 33nd Plenary were:
- issuing a consensus statement expressing the Group's grave concerns about the re-emergence of the use of chemical weapons, in Syria, Iraq, the United Kingdom and Malaysia;
- agreement to several amendments to the Syria Specific Control List for use by AG participants;
- reinforcing efforts to stay ahead of potential proliferators by increasing awareness of emerging technologies, the potential exploitation of the cyber sphere, and scientific developments that could be used for chemical and biological weapons production and delivery;
- a general discussion on Novichok agents and their precursors was required as more technical information became available; Participants agreed there was merit in participating in a discussion before the next Plenary;
- intensifying Australia Group focus on preventing the proliferation of goods, technologies and information to terrorists and non-state actors that could enable the production or delivery of chemical and biological weapons or attacks;
- sharing approaches to challenges posed by intangible technology transfers, proliferation financing, procurement, transhipment and broader proliferation networks, including through enhanced engagement with industry and academia;
- renewed commitment to work collaboratively and cooperatively with non AG members such as China, and to share experiences in enforcing export controls, information, outcomes of investigations and operational activity, including a possible workshop on "catch-all controls"; and
- agreement to enhance outreach to non-members and continued efforts to encourage all states to implement robust export controls and to adopt Australia Group export controls as the model for international best practice.
Licensing and enforcement experts again exchanged experiences and ways to prevent the proliferation of sensitive dual-use chemicals, biological materials and related equipment.
The Group shared approaches for keeping pace with rapidly evolving technologies and discussed the challenges posed by increasingly complex proliferation financing and exploitation of the cyber sphere. Participating experts continued their work to refine controls applied to the chemical and biological items on the Australia Group Control Lists and agreed to enhance efforts to safeguard laboratory security.
Control Lists and the Australia Group Guidelines are available at http://www.australiagroup.net.
Participants welcomed expansion of the Group's focus and ongoing efforts to enhance engagement with non-members, and agreed to continue an active program of international outreach and engagement in 2018-19. Participants agreed on the importance of further enhanced coordination to prevent the proliferation of goods, technology and information that could be used to enable chemical and biological weapons attacks, whilst not hindering trade. Participants reinforced the importance of outreach to industry and academia, noting the rapid development of new technologies and scientific developments.
Following on from the highly productive Australia Group Dialogue with African countries in London in March 2018, AG participants agreed to greater follow up with previous Dialogue partners and continue to encourage all states to implement robust and effective national export controls and to adopt Australia Group export controls as the model for international best practice.
The Australia Group welcomed current and future membership applications from several countries and undertook to engage with them further. India was welcomed as the Group's newest member in January 2018.
The Australia Group reaffirmed its commitment to encouraging declarations of adherence and the importance of adoption of Australia Group Guidelines and control lists by as many countries as possible. Participants agreed to engage, as a priority, countries with developing export control measures and key transit and transhipment hubs, recognising that adherents will be afforded a broader range of information and support from Australia Group participants to assist them in implementing global best practice in export controls.
Country Situations and Australia Group Statement on the use of chemical weapons
Several AG participants urged the Chair to issue a consensus statement from the Group, highlighting the significant risks to the CWC from recent events and the need to protect and uphold the international rules based order. In response, 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.
Participants again 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. AG participants also urged 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.
Participants 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 again voiced concerns about the DPRK's chemical and biological weapons capability. The use of VX nerve gas to kill Kim Jong-nam in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February 2017 demonstrated the need for action to address the threat of chemical weapons.
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 their mandate.
AG participants also stressed the CWC Review Conference in November 2018, would 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.
Australia Group participants saw use in one or more Intersessional meetings to be conducted before the next Plenary to include discussions on more effective implementation, catch all controls and the possible listing of nerve agents, such as Novichok, and its precursors. A call for a volunteer to host the next meeting was issued.
Australia Group participants accepted France's offer to host the 2019 Plenary in Paris on 3-7 June.
Further information on the Australia Group is available at www.australiagroup.net.