Together toward a Safer World
The Foreign Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Spring is of course, a time of renewal and new hope. This Spring, Kazakhstan and other countries of Central Asia have given the whole world a new hope – a hope for a safe world without a nuclear threat.
Signed on September 8, 2006, in Semipalatinsk, the Agreement for a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia went into effect on March 21, 2009.
Thus this unique historical document has led to the culmination of the efforts of five Central-Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), which for nine years have worked to create a zone free of nuclear weapons.
The road to a nuclear-free Central Asia began on February 27, 1997, when the leaders of the aforementioned countries signed the Declaration of Almaty, in which they had fully accepted the idea of creating a nuclear-free zone in Central Asia. It was a decision that determined the fate of the entire region, which has suffered so much due to the nuclear tests carried out by the USSR.
It is very symbolic that the Semipalatinsk Agreement was signed in eastern Kazakhstan, which has for 40 years been the largest nuclear test site in the world. With this, the military nuclear cycle of the region, which began with atomic testing on August 29, 1949, in Semipalatinsk, has decisively come to an end. The creation of nuclear-free zones is one of the most effective methods to achieve the overall goal – global atomic safety. Similar nuclear-free zone exist in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and in the Southeast Pacific. Encompassing over a hundred countries in total.
An important factor of the successful realization of the initiative to create a nuclear-free zone in Central Asia was the fact that it developed with the participation and under the protection of the United Nations. In October of 2006, after the Agreement was signed, also in 2008, the UN General Assembly passed by a majority vote the resolution supporting the Central Asian nuclear-free zone.
The Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Mun, announced the Agreement has gone into effect and noted that this will be the first nuclear-free zone created in a region where there were once nuclear weapons.
In accordance with the Semipalatinsk Agreement, the signatory countries have agreed to not produce , acquire or place nuclear weapons, their elements, or any other atomic explosives in the region. Nuclear-free zones are meant to make impossible any endeavors concerning atomic weapons in specific regions of the world, as well as to increase the common effort to develop peaceful uses for atomic energy. The Agreement does not ban the development of peaceful atomic programs in individual countries, and the world atomic powers will not use or threaten to use atomic weapons against any of the countries that have joined the Agreement.
“The Cracow Initiative”
There is a similarity of purpose between the Central Asian nuclear-free zone and the “Cracow Initiative” announced in Cracow in 2003 by the President of the US, George Bush. The initiative is meant to prevent illegal exchanges and smuggling of materials connected with weapons of mass destruction, as well as components used to manufacture them.
Currently support for the idea of the “Cracow Initiative” has come from over 90 countries, including Kazakhstan and Poland. The countries participating in the “Cracow Initiative” have agreed to intercept illegal shipments of weapons of mass destruction as well as components used to manufacture them. Kazakhstan has joined the “Cracow Initiative” in July of 2005 and considers it a significant addition to the international agreements concerning the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Kazakhstan is located in the center of the Eurasian continent, near important sites of destabilization and where international land and air routes cross. All this makes our country a significant element in the system of controlling and combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other dangerous materials. Therefore, the importance of the “Cracow Initiative” to our region cannot be overstated. Kazakhstan effectively develops cooperation with other countries that are part of the “Cracow Initiative”. We receive technical support from them, as well as special equipment used to detect sources of radiation in transports crossing our border.
Kazakhstan is located in a region that is complicated from a geopolitical standpoint. Many of our neighbor countries do not hide their nuclear ambitions and continue to expand their atomic potential, ignoring the warnings from the international community. Among these are Iran, Pakistan and North Korea, the contribution of which to the trade of radioactive materials is well known. One can imagine the terrible consequences were political extremists able to acquire radioactive materials. In order to prevent this, the efforts of the international community, the control and monitoring of radioactive materials, must be increased. That is the purpose of the “Cracow Initiative”.
That is why we consider Kazakhstan’s participation in the “Cracow Initiative” and the creation of the nuclear-free zone in Central Asia important elements of the international flight to stop proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and our country’s important contribution to the strengthening of global security.
How is the nuclear-free zone in Central Asia unique? What differentiates it from the other analogues zones in the world?
– Among the member countries of the heretofore existing nuclear-free zones, there is not a single one that has an atomic arsenal.
– The nuclear-free zone in Central Asia is the only one to be landlocked and located in the northern hemisphere. This is the only zone to directly border powerful atomic nations – Russia and China.
– For the first time in history, the agreement to create a nuclear-free zone contains an obligation for the member countries to never test nuclear weapons and to adhere to the additional protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, the agreement requires the countries of Central Asia to meet the international standards regarding the safety of their nuclear installations.
– The agreement concerning a nuclear-free zone in Central Asia calls for the support of the recultivation of areas that have had their environment polluted as a result of nuclear programs carried out during the Cold War.
I would like to emphasize the fact that, during a stagnation of the global process for atomic disarmament, the agreement of the Central Asian countries is a real and important contribution of the region to the realization of the goals of the agreement concerning the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, as well as the strengthening of the regional and international security.
Kazakhstan’s contribution to the reinforcement of a nuclear-free world
Already at the threshold of its independence, the Republic of Kazakhstan had announced that its foreign policy would be aimed at building peace, creating an atmosphere of mutual thrust and cooperation with all countries and international organizations, in the name of ensuring safety, stabilization and progress.
On August 29, 1991, President Nursultan Nazarbayev had signed a historical decree to close the atomic testing site in Semipalatinsk. The decision was in accordance with both the expectations of the Kazakh nation and the interests of humanity as a whole.
Since the very beginning of the atomic era – and especially following the use of atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 – it has been obvious that it poses a threat to the safety of people, and even the very existence of our civilization. That is why the issue of fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has become key, and for decades has been taken into consideration when creating methods to ensure security on both a global and a regional scale.
The Kazakh leader’s awareness of the responsibility for the fate of humanity was the basis for the strategic decision made at the beginning of the 1990’s to transform Kazakhstan into a nuclear-free country. The decision was implemented, despite the temptations tied with possessing a lethal atomic weapon and the fact that many of our neighbors in Asia had begun active efforts toward acquiring atomic potential.
Kazakhstan had become the initiator of a global process to cease the testing of atomic weapons and thus had saved millions of people all over the world from the risk of suffering diseases resulting from radiation.
On May 23, 1992, in Lisbon, Kazakhstan had declared that it is joining the Agreement on the non-proliferation atomic weapons, as a country that does not possess atomic weapons. Thus, our voluntary forfeiting of the fourth largest atomic arsenal in the world was confirmed by law.
The Agreement on the non-proliferation of atomic weapons was passed by the UN General Assembly on June 12, 1968, and presented to be signed on July 1, 1968, in Moscow, Washington and London, France and the People’s Republic of China had signed the Agreement in 1992.
To this day, the Agreement has been ratified by over 180 countries.
The Agreement on the non-proliferation of atomic weapons plays a significant role. Its mission is to increase global security by combating the proliferation of atomic weapons and the technology used to manufacture them, as well as by developing cooperation for using atomic energy for peaceful purposes while maintaining strict international standards that make abuse impossible.
On December 5, 1994, during the OSCE summit in Budapest, Russia, the United States and Great Britain had signed a guarantee of safety for Kazakhstan as a result of our country joining the Agreement on the non-proliferation of atomic weapons. The signing of this document indicated that the international community had agreed that Kazakhstan had fulfilled its obligation to remove atomic weapons from its territory. Soon after, such guarantees were given by China and France as well.
Since the day the Agreement on the non-proliferation of atomic weapons had been ratified, Kazakhstan has been consistently adhering to its obligations. We are proponents of atomic disarmament carried out by fulfilling the obligations of the Agreement on the non-proliferation of atomic weapons by all of the countries that had ratified it – the ones that possess atomic weapons, as well as those that do not.
“Ambassador” magazine, #5, 2009 ( Poland)