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A Kazakh Initiative towards a World Free From N-Weapons

downloadBy Marat Tazhin, Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan

On the occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of Termination of Nuclear Tests at the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Testing Site (SNTS) held on 18th June 2009, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev initiated a proposal to declare 29th August as the International Day of Renunciation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. He also made a proposal to work out a new universal “Treaty on Comprehensive Horizontal and Vertical Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.”

The new initiatives of Kazakhstan have been dictated by its aspiration for a more secure world, free from nuclear weapons, and its concern that this process is facing considerable obstacles.

Unfortunately, the global disarmament process has been passing through a very long period of stagnation. Due to lack of consensus and absence of political will, the international community has not been able to move further in deciding the cardinal questions of disarmament and non-proliferation.

In the first place, this concerns the ineffectiveness of the main tool of nuclear non-proliferation – the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

As of today, the NPT is devoid of effective levers to prevent proliferation of   nuclear weapons and emergence of new nuclear powers de facto. Inequality which is inherent in NPT is leading to destructive tendencies and a feeling of ‘injustice perpetuated by NPT’ in some regions of the world. Those countries which are not members of the recognized ‘nuclear club’ are aspiring to acquire the technology of nuclear weapons and create their own arsenal of such weapons. They consider this as a guarantee of not only their own security, but also as an assurance for safeguarding their foreign policy interests.

This has made the present-day world less predictable, and the problem of use of nuclear weapons has become more complex, as it now depends more on local players rather than global ones.

Our country has got the moral right to come out with new initiatives on this highly sensitive matter. The peoples of Kazakhstan have faced all the horrors of nuclear weapons. Between 1949 and 1991 a total number of 456 nuclear tests were carried out at the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Testing Site. These tests caused diseases and sufferings to several hundred thousands of fellow citizens and led to contamination of a huge territory with radiation.

Kazakhstan has closed down the largest nuclear testing site and has destroyed the entire military nuclear infrastructure. By doing so Kazakhstan has set an example of a very high sense of responsibility before the present and the future generations of mankind which convincingly demonstrates that it is the foreign policy of peace, internal stability, and sustainable economic and political development of the country which are the main components of security rather than any nuclear arsenal.

Realizing that there are serious problems in the implementation of NPT, the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev, in his address to 62nd Session of the UN General Assembly in the year 2007, had called upon the nuclear powers to move towards a world free from the nuclear weapons, and also to take measures to ensure effectiveness of NPT and to strongly regulate non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

It is necessary to create clear-cut mechanisms to encourage the countries in possession of nuclear weapons to act within the framework the NPT, and to prevent any signatory country to make an exit from the Treaty. It is necessary that all its participants should adhere to unconditional fulfillment of their obligations as embodied in the unity of its three fundamental components – non-proliferation, peaceful use of an atomic energy and disarmament.

The initiative for a new universal Treaty on Comprehensive Horizontal and Vertical Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is not meant to replace the existing agreements; it is not going to be a mechanical replacement of NPT by something new as a matter of principle. We are interested in strengthening the NPT, to make it really effective, to overcome its fundamental asymmetry and non-obligatory character of some of its provisions. One month or, possibly, even one year may not be sufficient to complete this task. We keep our doors open for a meaningful and fruitful dialogue with anyone interested in strengthening the regime of non-proliferation and disarmament.

Unfortunately, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has not yet come into force although it had been passed by the UN General Assembly in September 1996 by majority vote. It is hoped that the example of the new Administration of the United States which has declared that it is committed to the CTBT and is going to place it before the Congress for ratification will be followed by other countries whose participation will decide the fate of this Treaty.

Kazakhstan is making significant contribution to strengthen the regime of verification within the limits of the CTBT, and it is actively cooperating with its Preparatory Committee for setting up of a Global Monitoring Network. In order to strengthen and develop a system of inspection under the Treaty Kazakhstan had supported the initiative to carry out in September 2008 a wide-ranging Integrated Field Experiment in the territory of the former Semipalatinsk Nuclear Testing Site. Implementation of projects connected with CTBT will make it possible to use the infrastructure available in Semipalatinsk in such a manner so that it more and more acquires the role of an international testing site of peace, ‘a neutral belt’ for solving sensitive issues concerning non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Creation of nuclear-free zones can be one of the ways of reducing the threat of a nuclear war. In this direction a Central Asian Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty (CANFZT) was signed in the city of Semipalatinsk on September 8, 2006 which has come into force on March 22, 2009.

The CANFZT is a real substantial contribution of the countries of this region in the direction of achieving the goals of the NPT, and it also helps to strengthen regional and international security. If we compare the Central Asian zone with similar zones we will notice that it has several characteristic features. In particular, the Treaty envisages that all the participant countries must sign an Additional Protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to affirm that they do not intend to shift nuclear materials meant for peaceful use to military purpose.

This affirmation further proves that the countries of Central Asia have firmly decided that this region should remain nuclear-free in the future also. This is the first and the only zone fully located in the Northern Hemisphere where nuclear weapons had been placed in the past. Another special feature of the Central Asian zone is that it has common borders with two nuclear powers, i.e. Russia and China, and is very close to India and Pakistan who both possess nuclear weapons.
Symbolically, the Central Asian Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty was signed in Semipalatinsk – the place which has experienced in full measure the evils of nuclear weapons.

Today Kazakhstan has become a signatory to all the basic international documents on prevention of nuclear, biological, radiological and chemical weapons. We have been rigorously fulfilling the obligations of the UN Security Council Resolution No.1540 on non-proliferation of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction.

In July 2005 Kazakhstan joined the Proliferation Security Initiative which is better known as ‘Krakow Initiative’. Kazakhstan is also actively participating in the Global Initiative for Struggle against Acts of Nuclear Terrorism which was put forward by the Presidents of Russia and US in July 2006.

In 2004 Kazakhstan signed an Additional Protocol. All the nuclear objects of Kazakhstan fall under the guarantee of IAEA, and all the nuclear activities of Kazakhstan are being carried out in accordance with the rules and standards of the IAEA.

The day when the historical decision to close down the nuclear testing site at Semipalatinsk was taken marks the beginning of the process of complete liquidation of the fourth largest nuclear potential of the world – the nuclear heritage of the erstwhile Soviet Union.

The date of 29th August has historical significance not only for Kazakhstan but for the entire mankind too. The fact is that this testing site was closed own not for any technical reasons, but consciously, as a practical contribution to reduction of global nuclear threat. From the point of view of nuclear disarmament this was an unprecedented event of world-wide significance.

On 24th April 2009 the UN General Assembly passed the Resolution “International Cooperation and Coordination of Activities for the Rehabilitation of Peoples and Ecology and Economic Development of the Semipalatinsk Region of Kazakhstan”. It has been proposed to the member-countries to formally celebrate the Twentieth Anniversary of closing down of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Testing Site.

In this connection declaring the 29th August as the International Day of Renunciation of Nuclear Weapons within the format of UN may acquire very special symbolic significance and it may also help to achieve the goal of the world free from nuclear weapons.

Kazakhstan hopes to get support for this initiative from all the friendly countries when it is put forward before the UN General Assembly.