New Delhi, Sept.2 ANI | 1 year ago

Kazakhstan has always been at the forefront of the global denuclearisation campaign, said that country's Ambassador to India, Doulat Kuanyshev, while addressing representatives of the media on the occasion of the United Nations International Day Against Nuclear Tests recently.

Elaborating on this view, Ambassador Kuanyshev said that as far as Kazakhstan is concerned, it was a significant day in the year, as time is taken out to remember the victims of nuclear-related tragedies. It was also significant from Kazakhstan's point of view, as it was on this day 23 years ago that President Nursultan Nazarbayev officially ordered the closure of the country's biggest nuclear testing site located west of the town of Semipalatinsk.

The briefing that took place at the Embassy of Kazakhstan in New Delhi was opened with a moment of silence on the occasion of the UN International Day Against Nuclear Tests in memory of all victims of nuclear weapons testing.

The Semipalatinsk Test Site (STS or Semipalatinsk-21), also known as "The Polygon", was the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons. It is located on the steppe in northeast Kazakhstan, south of the valley of the Irtysh River, near the border of East Kazakhstan Province and Pavlodar Province.

Kazakhstan, which initiated the August 29 Day Against Nuclear Tests, knows well those catastrophic human consequences. From 1949 to 1991, the USSR conducted more than 450 nuclear weapons tests at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in eastern Kazakhstan, causing the illness and premature death of more than 1.5 million people and contaminating a huge area of the region.

According to Ambassador Kuanyshev, approximately one-and-half-million people were affected by the nuclear tests, as the full impact of radiation exposure was hidden for many years by the Soviet authorities and only came to light when the test site was closed in 1991.

Ambassador Kuanyshev said that the denuclearisation of the Semipalatinsk Test Site was a major technical and diplomatic challenge for independent Kazakhstan, and took all of four years, i.e. 1991 to 1995 to dismantle with U.S. help. At that time, he said, it had the world's fourth largest nuclear weapons arsenal.

Since the U.N. had taken the decision to adopt the resolution against conducting of nuclear tests on December 2, 2009, on the intiative of Kazakhstan, he said several steps have been taken to increase awareness and educate the world population about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions, or any other type of nuclear explosion, and the need for their cessation to ensure a nuclear weapons free world.

On August 29 two years ago, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev addressed a major international parliamentary conference in Astana and launched The ATOM Project as a way to generate global popular support for a permanent end to nuclear weapons testing and, ultimately, the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The ATOM Project is an international petition campaign designed to unify support for an end to nuclear weapons testing and world free from nuclear weapons.

The project puts a human face on this global issue by telling the stories of the survivors of nuclear testing. To this day, children are born with severe deformities, illnesses and a lifetime of health challenges as a result of exposure generations ago to nuclear weapons tests.

Additionally, President Nazarbayev's appeal to end nuclear testing was welcomed and supported by the heads of the "nuclear five" states.

Kazakhstan has made a significant contribution to the establishment of a Central Asian zone free of nuclear weapons. After the signing of theCentral Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty (CANWFZ) in 2006 in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan has been making practical efforts for the institutionalisation of the treaty.

We have developed and agreed with the states parties of the treaty on a single position paper on approaches to the interpretation of the treaty's provisions. Kazakhstan as a chairman of the CANWFZ treaty for 2012-2014, held meetings with the countries of the nuclear five, discussing the conditions of signing the protocol. In total, more than 20 formal bilateral and multilateral meetings and negotiations in the capitals of the nuclear countries and on international platforms, both at the expert level, and at the level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan have been conducted.

On May 6, 2014 in New York, representatives of the "nuclear five" - Britain, China, Russia, the United States and France - signed the protocol to the treaty on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia.

Under the protocol, the nuclear-weapon states have provided negative security assurances and committed themselves not to use nuclear weapons against CANWFZ and threaten countries that are parties to the CANWFZ treaty. After the ratification of the protocol by the parliaments of the signatory countries, these commitments will be of a legal nature.

The signing of the protocol to the CANWFZ treaty undoubtedly was an important event in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. However, it is important, but only the first step in the process of institutionalisation of the treaty. We hope for an early ratification by nuclear countries.

The international agenda in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation is saturated, and we have a lot of work to do on promotion of Kazakhstan's initiatives aimed at achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. In October, our delegation will take part in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York, where the adoption of the next UN General Assembly resolution of a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia will be discussed.

We very much hope that this time will be the first time when the resolution is adopted by consensus. We will continue to work on the text of the Universal Declaration on achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. We also plan to attend in October the first meeting on the preparation of the Nuclear Security Summit in 2016 in Washington and in December in Vienna will host an international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons tests, where a delegation from Kazakhstan will also participate.

Together with interested governmental bodies, work also continues on the agreement and its technical annexes on conditions for the creation of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) international bank of low-enriched uranium in Kazakhstan.

Within the framework of the IAEA General Conference in September this year in Vienna, meetings of representatives of a Kazakh delegation with the organisation's Secretariat to discuss the agreement to place the bank in Kazakhstan is also scheduled.

Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are among the key priorities of the foreign policy of Kazakhstan, and in the case of election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2017-2018, Kazakhstan will actively promote them in this important UN body.

(Posted on 02-09-2014)

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