Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

CTBTO (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation) press conference

CTBTO Executive Secretary, Tibor Toth and Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith

Transcript, E&OE

Vienna

17 February 2010

Mr Smith's opening statement

MR SMITH:  Thank you very much.  And I'm sorry, I've got to go catch a plane, but Tibor and I thought it would be a good idea to give you a quick briefing. 

Firstly, it's my first visit as Australian Foreign Minister to Vienna.  In the course of the day I have obviously had contact with the Austrian Government on bilateral matters, but also with key regional and international institutions on regional and international matters. 

At the end of last year, Australia became an Asian Partner for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in

Europe (OSCE), so I visited the OSCE earlier this morning.  But Vienna of course is home to significant and important nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament institutions and also security institutions.  So this afternoon I've met with the Director General of the IAEA, and now with the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organisation.

Can I firstly say to Tibor that we've met on a number of occasions before, in Australia, in New York, and at the NAM summit at Sharm El Sheik, but it's a great pleasure to complete the circle and meet him formally in Vienna on CTBT soil. 

Australia was the first country to sign the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty.  We take very seriously our role as a country deeply committed to nuclear non-proliferation and to disarmament. 

And at the end of last year, two former Foreign Ministers - one from Australia and one from Japan - at Australia's and Japan's instigation, launched the Report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, which is a Report which we see as being a valuable and positive contribution in the run-up to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference later this year. 

Of course, we see the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty as one of the most fundamental things that the global community can do to reach the ultimate objective of the abolition of nuclear weapons, and to ensure, in the interim, non-proliferation and disarmament. 

We're now up to 151 ratifications.  Australia has worked very closely with the Organisation to help secure those ratifications.  There is more that we can do, so one of the conversations we've had today is how Australia can assist in encouraging other countries in our region, in the Asia-Pacific, to sign up to the Treaty and to ratify it.

Importantly also we had a discussion about how the verification systems are now able to be used for very important other objectives, such as early warning systems for tsunamis.  So very significant humanitarian, preventative and other mechanisms.  That's a very good, useful addition to the verification procedures and mechanisms of the Treaty. 

Australia regards itself very proudly as a country which has made a significant contribution to the Treaty, to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues, and we continue to be very active in the field. 

We continue to want to work very closely with the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organisation, and we hope that with enduring patience and persistence we will see the ratification and the entry into force of the Treaty.

And can I take this opportunity to compliment Tibor and his officers on the great work that they do.  It's always a great pleasure to meet and to work with Tibor, but it's also productive outcomes - and we've seen that again today with the conversation that we've had.  Thank you very much.

Partial transcript

MR TOTH: I would like to say a few words about the contribution of Australia, and then I am very much ready to entertain your questions if I can.

I called Australia a superpower for nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation for the way they have historically invested in this area.

Minister Smith did not mention the fact that it was Australia that took the Treaty from Geneva to New York. Australia played a significant role during the last decade or so, on promoting the Treaty as a coordinator for two years of the Ministerial Process, providing a Chair and helping us in many regions with universalisation, not just in the Pacific and Far-East Region, but also in other regions in supporting our efforts there.

On stations, Australia is a superpower as well. After the United States and after the Russian Federation the 21 stations Australia has is the highest contingent in monitoring facilities around the world, and it has a similarly high number of communications assets which are linking the stations with Vienna.

On tsunami warning, Mr Smith touched upon this issue, Australia was one of the first countries with whom we concluded a national tsunami early-warning arrangement and we discussed how to replicate that very positive experience with other countries in the region and with other regions - like the western Pacific coast of Latin America, the Caribbean region, the western coast of Africa - countries where we’d like to strengthen the tsunami warning arrangements.

So I just wanted to add these elements besides the recognition of the important role of the Evans-Kawaguchi Commission, which was sponsored by the two governments and supported by the two governments. The Report is providing an important menu for potential action. What was emphasised in the discussion was that we need not just ideas, but people who can implement these ideas. On our part as the Organisation, we would like to make a significant step forward on what we call capacity development to create additional knowledge, additional layers of people who are very skilled in verification monitoring, who understand the issues behind those technologies and who can help to carry out [inaudible].

So I will stop here. If you have any questions on the Australian aspects or other aspects — besides the report coming from the IAEA — I will be most ready to entertain your questions.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us some details about your talks today?  What global issues were discussed? 

MR TOTH: We had a discussion about how Australia can help what we call the universalisation of the Test-Ban Treaty. And Minister Smith alluded to it — practically right now we are facing a situation where we are waiting for the nine outstanding Annex II ratifications, and it’s not a secret that the US ratification would have to be a defining ratification — and there are complexities not just because of the CTBT issue, but because of the wider complications the administration is facing.

So the question was, in such a situation are we waiting, sitting on the fence or sitting on our hands? And we had a similar view that whatever we can do we will jointly do to try to see whether beyond the US ratification any other Annex II ratification would be possible and to work with different countries.

And there was a strong recognition that any ratification of this Treaty brings us closer to a universally-recognised norm. And here we have a story to tell, that yes, during a very challenging decade, this arrangement grew from 50 ratifications to 151 ratifications. I was referring in the discussions, even if you compared this arrangement to the Ottawa landmine treaty, which is considered to be a major success in terms of reaching out, I think we have a story to tell in terms of adding additional layers of support.

Australia will work closely with countries from the region, but it has a story to tell to other countries in other regions as well — a story about choosing and opting for a cooperative, regulation-based approach to questions of security, instead of using security as a military means or pursuing security through nuclear weapons.

[END]

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