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Negotiations on "cut-off" treaty on fissile material



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M ED IA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

-L. AUSTRALIA w

FA109 12 August 1998

NEGOTIATIONS ON "CUT-OFF" TREATY ON FISSILE MATERIAL LAUNCHED IN CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT

I warmly welcome the decision by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to commence negotiations on a "cut-off1 treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons purposes.

The decision is a constructive and forward-looking response by the international community to the recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan and will serve to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime.

These negotiations are a vital step for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in the post-testing environment.

In my address to the Conference on Disarmament in February this year I called on the Conference to adopt a decision to begin negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty agreed in 1995 that it should be the next step for multilateral nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament endeavours after the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The Federal Government has always made the conclusion of a "cut-off treaty one of its major foreign policy objectives and yesterday’s decision to start negotiations is a vital first step towards achieving that goal.

A "cut-off' treaty will also constitute an important security and confidence building measure in South Asia if India and Pakistan were to become parties to it. I welcome the agreement by these two countries to participate in the negotiations.

The Conference is the international community’s leading arms control treaty negotiating forum. It has a proven track record in negotiating effective, verifiable global disarmament and non-proliferation treaties which have helped to reduce the threat of weapons of mass

destruction, including in Australia’s area of primary strategic concern.

The decision to proceed with these negotiations demonstrates the continued strength and relevance of the Conference as a key institution in addressing issues vital to international, regional and Australia’s security.

Media Inquiries: Ministerial, Innes Willox: 0419 206890

Departmental, Kirk Coningham: 0418 623 327

Media releases and speeches are available from DFAT via the internet, http://www.dfat.gov.au/