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Australia reasserts OPCW support with technical agreement signing

Australia reasserts OPCW support with technical agreement signing

Australia has reinforced its support for the vital work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by signing a technical agreement in Canberra today.

Australia has reinforced its support for the vital work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by signing a technical agreement in Canberra today.

Defence’s Chemical Agents Analysis Facility (CAAF) will play an integral role under the agreement, supporting the OPCW efforts to investigate and verify the alleged use of chemical weapons.

Fernando Arias, director-general of the OPCW, and Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist, Professor Tanya Monro AC, signed the agreement as part of ongoing efforts to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons.  

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Australia is committed to supporting the OPCW and its global network of designated laboratories, according to Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite, including its mandated role to investigate alleged use of chemical weapons.

CAAF is one of only 15 laboratories in the world designated to undertake both biomedical and environmental sample analysis for the OPCW.

In 2019, DST scientists actively supported international efforts to obtain a total and comprehensive ban on the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.

At the time, efforts included providing scientific advice to diplomats from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade during the negotiation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and later supporting the OPCW, the international agency tasked with the implementation of that convention.

Leader of DST’s chemical and biological verification team, Dr Craig Brinkworth, further explained that in order to become designated, nominated laboratories are required to participate in rigorous proficiency testing.

To achieve and maintain designated status for biomedical samples, we must successfully complete annual proficiency testing across two consecutive tests. Failure of any subsequent test results in loss of this status," Dr Brinkworth said at the time.

Having achieved designated status for biomedical samples, DST had been working towards achieving designated laboratory status for the analysis of environmental samples.

“Unlike biomedical samples where we are measuring for evidence of exposure to a small number of select agents, when we analyse environmental samples, we are measuring for the possible presence of a large number of different chemical warfare agents and their related products,” Dr Brinkworth explained.

Today, this work continues and will now ensure overseas laboratories maintain the highest standards to analyse samples to detect the use of chemical weapons. 

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts has backed the support of the international investigative effort on chemical weapons.

Australia strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons.

We’re working hard internationally to support all efforts to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons — and attribute responsibility,” Watts said.

[Related: US approves Australia’s request for Seahawk sustainment equipment]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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