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UK and NZ to help Russia destroy chemical weapons

9pm - 8 July 2004
Media Statement

UK and NZ to help Russia destroy chemical weapons

New Zealand today joined a UK-led international project to help Russia destroy its stocks of lethal chemical weapons.

A joint UK – New Zealand Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Moscow, promising some NZ$1.2M (c. £450,000) to the programme, which the UK will manage on New Zealand's behalf.

Russia has the world's largest declared stockpile of chemical weapons - more than 40,000 tonnes - consisting mostly of modern nerve agents, stored at seven sites in the west of the country.

Destruction of these stocks is a key requirement of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and a key plank in the global fight against WMD proliferation.

The British and New Zealand Ambassadors to Moscow, Sir Roderic Lyne and Stuart Prior signed the Memorandum of Understanding.

British Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said:

"I warmly welcome this UK-New Zealand initiative as another important step in strengthening international co-operation for the destruction of chemical weapons. Countering the threats posed by the proliferation of WMD is a global challenge, and one the UK remains steadfastly committed to."

New Zealand's Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Marian Hobbs said participating in this partnership is one of the most practical ways New Zealand can contribute to global disarmament.

"Actually getting rid of existing weapons is the first part of what it is all about," Marian Hobbs said. "Increasing international cooperation and working with our partners, such as the UK and Russia, to reduce Weapons of Mass Destruction and to prevent them falling into the hands of terrorists, is an excellent example of New Zealand's commitment to disarmament and arms control in action."

British Ambassador Sir Roderic Lyne said:

"The UK is playing a key role in attracting other donors to help Russia destroy its chemical weapons stocks. Such arrangements benefit us all, and I look forward to working closely with our New Zealand and Russian colleagues in implementing this important project."

The New Zealand funding will be used to finance one or more projects to support the chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuch’ye, in the Urals. The UK is already working there with Canada, Norway, the EU and the Czech Republic.
The project will be managed as part of the UK Defence Ministry’s assistance programme, under the terms of the UK-Russia bilateral Agreement.

New Zealand announced this new commitment to the G8 Global Partnership against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction at the recent Sea Island G8 Summit.

This New Zealand-UK-Russia co-operation further demonstrates the need for global efforts to deal with the global problem of weapons of mass destruction.

Note to editors:
Chemical Weapons Destruction Assistance

1. The UK Government decided in 2000 to contribute up to £12M, phased over 3 years, for high priority chemical demilitarisation and biological non-proliferation projects in Russia.

2. Assistance with Russian chemical weapon destruction is a key element of the G8 Global Partnership against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction. The UK has announced that it will contribute up to US$750M over the ten years of the Global Partnership, and that up to US$100M (£70M) of this will be made available to assist Russia with the destruction of its chemical weapon (CW) stockpile.

3. Russia has the world’s largest declared stockpile of CW, with over 40,000 tonnes stored at 7 sites in western Russia, most of which consists of modern nerve agents in munitions. Destruction of chemical weapons stocks is a key requirement of the Chemical Weapons Convention, not least because of the risks of proliferation.

4. The priority for UK assistance is support for construction of Russia’s main chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuch’ye, in the Urals. Shchuch’ye will be the main Russian facility for the destruction of lethal nerve agents, including over 4 million artillery munitions.

5. The UK’s first project was the construction of the water supply for the Shchuch’ye destruction facility. This project was completed on budget in spring 2003 at a cost of over £2M.

6. The UK’s second project – the procurement of electricity supply equipment for a sub-station serving the Shchuch’ye CW destruction facility – is progressing well. It is being jointly funded by the UK, Norway, the EU and the Czech Republic at a total cost of over £7M (c. $10M).

7. The UK plans to carry out further projects at Shchuch’ye, jointly with Canada and other donors. These will include processing equipment for one of the buildings in which chemical warfare agents and munitions will be destroyed. New Zealand’s contribution will be used to fund one or more of this set of projects.

8. Several states are committed to providing support to Russia to help it meet its obligations to destroy its chemical weapons stocks, including the US, Germany, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, as well as the European Union.

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