Nuclear Disarmament a Top Priority of Kazakh Foreign Policy, Official Says

On the eve of the Aug. 29 International Day against Nuclear Tests, The Astana Times talked with the Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Barlybai Sadykov about the most important initiatives of the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.3342

It is generally known that the issues of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are among the top on the international agenda as they directly impact the security of all states without exception. That is why the international community attaches great importance to policies and measures taken by countries to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. In your opinion, what is the current situation in the field of nuclear disarmament and which are the most important events that took place in 2014, and which measures undertaken by Kazakhstan to eliminate the threat of the use of nuclear weapons are most significant?

Two thousand fourteen saw a number of major events in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. This year we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Kazakhstan’s accession to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear state when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev handed a copy of the ratification diploma of the treaty to the President of the United States Bill Clinton in 1994 as one of the depository countries of the treaty. Kazakhstan’s policy aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons and strengthening the regime of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has earned the recognition of the international community and strengthened the global leadership of our country in the field of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear security. Certainly, the Nuclear Security Summit in March 2014 in The Hague with the participation of our President has become one of the major events in this area. At the forum, the President gave an objective assessment and pointed out the real way out of the crisis situation in the world. He stressed that the root cause of the crisis of global security is the lack of political will to put an end to the practice of “double standards” and the selective application of international law. There was made a call to focus efforts on the most important areas, such as general and complete nuclear disarmament, which is the only guarantee for nuclear security, combating nuclear terrorism and eradicating its foundations and establishing zones free from nuclear weapons. He also noted that the way to a fair, transparent, multi-polar, constructive world order is through the participation of all countries in the discussion and the search for political, rather than military solutions, to global problems. An important event in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation was the third session of the Preparatory Committee for the Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT) of 2015, which took place in April – May 2014 in New York. The session once again showed how polar may be the approaches of non-nuclear states and nuclear states in matters of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. At the mentioned meeting, all the countries of the “nuclear five” declared “significant progress” in nuclear disarmament and stressed the importance of a phased approach to reduce nuclear weapons. However, calls to eliminate the threat or use of nuclear weapons from the military doctrines of security, to conclude a comprehensive convention prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons were not supported by the nuclear countries. It is noteworthy that the majority of the world’s states believe that any threat or use of nuclear weapons is a violation of the principles of international law, in particular international humanitarian law. Nevertheless, calls for the speedy abolition of nuclear weapons and providing legally binding negative security assurances to all non-nuclear-weapon states have also remained unheard by nuclear countries. In this regard, the initiative launched by the head of our state on the acceptance of a Universal Declaration on achieving a world free of nuclear weapons in the UN framework is particularly relevant. In conditions of global security crisis, it is crucially important to restore confidence both in the global process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and in responses to international and regional issues. Therefore, the efforts of the foreign ministry are directed toward the development of such a document.

This year marks five years since the adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution, on the initiative of Kazakhstan, on the International Day Against Nuclear Tests. Could you tell us what is being done to implement this resolution?

Of course, the first step towards the development of a future non-proliferation policy of Kazakhstan was the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site on Aug. 29, 1991. It was the first case of closing a nuclear test site in the history of the world at the will of the people. After the closing of the Semipalatinsk test site, other major test sites in Nevada, Novaya Zemlya, Lop Nor and Moruroa fell silent. In the past four years in Kazakhstan and many other countries around the world, in order to remind the world about the terrible consequences of nuclear testing, conferences, seminars, exhibitions and other events that called for the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) have been conducted. This year, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the resolution, the following events were and will be held: a conference on Aug. 27-29 in Astana and Semey by the International Physicians for the Prevention of the Nuclear War, a conference in Semey dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the anti-nuclear movement “Nevada-Semipalatinsk,” a special session on Sept. 10 in New York of the UN General Assembly and an international conference on Sept. 15 in Washington devoted to the International Day Against Nuclear Tests. The CTBT isone of the key elements of international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and that is why it is so essential to take measures on its early entry into force. For five years since the adoption of the resolution, through collective action, there has been a great increase in the number of countries who have joined and ratified the treaty. Today, the treaty has been signed by 183 and ratified by 162 states, including three recognised nuclear powers: Russia, Britain and France. And, as known, its entry into force depends on the signature and ratification of the eight countries mentioned in the so-called Addendum II to the CTBT, which have nuclear weapons or the potential for the production and testing of nuclear weapons: Egypt, North Korea, China, Israel, India, Iran, Pakistan and the United States. Although today all the powers of the “nuclear club” observe a moratorium on testing, de jure global ban on nuclear testing is not currently valid. And for Kazakhstan to achieve the CTBT entry into force is one of the country’s most important priorities.

Could you explain more about The ATOM Project? What has been done and what are the future plans?

The ATOM Project is a new initiative of our President, which continues the policy commitment to achieve global nuclear disarmament. The ATOM Project is an international campaign designed to provide information about the threats and consequences of nuclear weapons testing. The project aims to involve civil society, non-governmental and youth organisations in the struggle to end the testing of nuclear weapons, promotes the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and, finally, a world free of nuclear weapons. Within the framework of the project, any person on the planet, who opposes nuclear weapons, can sign the online petition to the leaders and governments of the world calling to abandon forever nuclear tests and to achieve the early entry into force of the CTBT. During the two years since the announcement of the initiative, a lot of work has been done to promote it. Presentations of the project, as well as exhibitions of the paintings of famous artist and Honorary Ambassador of the ATOM Project Karipbek Kuyukov, have been held in The Hague, Geneva, Washington, Oslo, Moscow, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Berlin and at UN platforms in New York and Vienna, including the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO. Currently, the total number of signatories to The ATOM Project petition at  www.theatomproject.org is approximately 100,000 people from more than 100 countries. In addition, last year on Aug. 29 a minute of silence was observed by many people around the world in honour of the victims of all nuclear tests. This year, the event will take place again, and we encourage everyone to take part in it. We firmly believe that the stronger the public support that will be generated by The ATOM Project through its education and outreach efforts and its international campaign to collect signatures for a petition against the testing of nuclear weapons, the more effective will the project be as support to the efforts of non-governmental organisations, parliamentarians and activists. Ultimately, this will help influence the leaders of leading countries to take the necessary steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

In his speech at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the head of our state appealed to the “nuclear five” to speed up the signing of a protocol on the provision of negative security assurances to members of the treaty on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia. What is the current situation with the agreement?

That’s right, President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the Summit made such an appeal, and his appeal has been 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 the Central 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.

What are the challenges in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation facing the foreign ministry?

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.