Cross-party MPs say Australia must play an active role in ending the nuclear arms race

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Australian lawmakers from across the political spectrum urged the Albanian government to join a landmark treaty banning nuclear weapons, declaring that weapons “fundamentally undermine our peace and humanity”.

In a statement to Guardian Australia, a cross-party group of lawmakers warned of “increasing nuclear threats and provocations from nuclear-armed states” and said Australia must play an active role in ending the nuclear arms race.

According to Labor MP Josh Wilson, Liberal MP Russell Broadbent and Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John, the new deal is a chance for Australia to stand alongside its neighbors in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Related: Australia drops opposition to treaty banning nuclear weapons in UN vote

Speaking on the second anniversary of the UN agreement’s entry into force, lawmakers said the agreement was supported by “a clear majority of our regional neighbors with whom we share a common goal of peace, cooperation and security”.

They called for Australia to “sign and ratify in a timely manner”.

“Members of this cross-party group are ready to work constructively with the Albanian government to ensure that Australia becomes a party to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty,” the lawmakers wrote.

The United States and other nuclear-armed countries strongly oppose the treaty, which imposes a sweeping ban on the development, testing, stockpiling, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons or assisting other countries in such activities.

However, the agreement currently has 92 signatories, of which 68 have officially ratified, and the agreement is strongly supported by neighbors such as Indonesia and New Zealand.

The opposition Labor Party committed to signing and ratifying the agreement, but only after “calculating” a few key factors, including the need for an effective validation and implementation architecture and working to gain universal support.

Gem Romuld, Australian director of the Nobel-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said the organization hopes the cross-party statement will “encourage the Albanian government to fulfill its pre-election commitment”.

“Nuclear disarmament is an urgent humanitarian issue beyond party politics,” said Romuld.

“We cannot count on any of the nuclear-armed leaders to do what is responsible and lay down their arms; The pressure from the global majority of the nations that use the nuclear weapons ban treaty is crucial to move forward.”

Lawmakers said the agreement aims to create a new international norm on the illegitimacy of nuclear weapons. They said history has shown that “ban treaties on weapons of mass destruction are necessary to facilitate progress towards their elimination”.

Wilson, chair of the joint standing committee on the accords, said Australia’s peace and security “improved greatly when we helped establish and develop a non-proliferation and disarmament framework”.

He said the Albanian government “wasted no time in starting a serious and stable re-engagement” with both the long-standing non-proliferation treaty and the more recent nonproliferation treaty.

Related: US warns Australia not to join treaty banning nuclear weapons

Australia participated as an observer at an important meeting held in Vienna in June. In a symbolic move in October, Australia changed its voting position on the annual UN resolution on the agreement, abstaining after five years of “no”.

In November, the US embassy in Canberra warned that the ban treaty “would not allow the United States to have extended relations of deterrence still necessary for international peace and security.”

This was a reference to Australia’s reliance on American nuclear forces to deter any nuclear attack – the so-called “nuclear umbrella” – against Australia, despite not having any of its own atomic weapons.

But Indonesia’s ambassador, Siswo Pramono, said Australia’s positive change in the deal would “encourage others to believe we are on the right track” in the pursuit of a nuclear-free world.

Foreign secretary Penny Wong told the UN general assembly last year that Australia would “double up its efforts” towards disarmament because Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “weak and hopeless nuclear threats underline the danger that nuclear weapons pose to us all.”

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