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Kazakh Capital Hosts Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Delegates

By Ramesh Jaura

Photo (L-R): The ATOM Project Honorary Ambassador Karipbek Kuyukov, Kazakh Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Ashikbayev and UNODA Deputy High Representative Thomas Markram. Photo credit: inform.kz.

BERLIN | NUR-SULTAN (IDN) – Representatives of five Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZs) and Mongolia have been exploring ways of inter-zonal cooperation and further coordination at a seminar in the Kazakh capital, co-organized by the Government of Kazakhstan and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). [2019-08-31] 

Inputs from the seminar are expected to contribute to preparations for the discussions at the Fourth Conference of the State Parties to Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones on April 24, 2020 in New York.

The following treaties form the basis for the existing NWFZs: Treaty of Tlatelolco —Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean; Treaty of Rarotonga — South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty; Treaty of Bangkok — Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone; Treaty of Pelindaba —African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty; Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia.

Mongolia's self-declared nuclear-weapon-free status has been recognized internationally through the adoption of UN General Assembly resolution 55/33S on "Mongolia’s international security and nuclear weapon free status"

Representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) joined the delegates of the five NWFZs and Mongolia in the seminar marking the International Day against Nuclear Tests commemorated every year on August 29.

“Inter-zonal cooperation and further coordination between such zones over the next five years is extremely urgent,” UNODA Deputy High Representative Thomas Markram said in his opening remarks.

The lack of constant interaction prevents the full realisation of the potential of nuclear-weapon-free zones, he said, adding: "A longer-term goal is to create a reliable platform for the exchange of views and coordination between such zones."

On August 29, Kazakhstan officially accepted 20 instruments that are important for ratification of the nuclear ban treaty. Kazakh Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Ashikbayev said: “For many years, Kazakhstan has supported the initiative on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and disarmament, as well as working closely with its partners. The First President, (Nursultan) Nazarbayev expressed hope for the renewal and new impetus of partnership in this area, so we are now hosting [since August 2017] a bank of low enriched uranium under the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) auspices.”

UNODA helped organise the seminar that aligns with the tenth anniversary of the International Day against Nuclear Tests. It is the day when in 1991 Nazarbayev decreed to close the Semipalatinsk Test Site. The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted in December 2009 a resolution proclaiming August 29 as the International Day against Nuclear Weapons Testing.

UNODA's Markram pointed out that strengthening inter-zonal cooperation is not a new concept, it has been reflected in various fora, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons review cycle and the Conference on Disarmament (CD).

But little progress has been made. For this reason – and others – it was included in UN Secretary-General António Guterres' Agenda for Disarmament, Securing Our Common Future.

“In becoming a ‘Champion’ for this particular action item of the Secretary-General’s agenda,” Markram went on to say, “Kazakhstan has further demonstrated its proactive attitude and genuine commitment to the issue of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones, but also to the cause of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

As described by the Secretary-General in his Disarmament Agenda, "Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones are 'landmark instruments' that represent an excellent example of the synergy between regional and global efforts towards a world free of nuclear weapons". Although Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones should not be considered ends in themselves, each of these regional agreements adds significant value to collective efforts to achieve a more peaceful and stable world, said Markram.

“The purpose of the seminar is to once again remind people of what such tests lead to. Especially in our time, when the intensity is getting higher. It’s scary to imagine what will happen if some kind of weapon gets into the hands of terrorists. I always say that I am proud to live in a country that was one of the first to give up nuclear weapons. I think this is a worthy example,” The ATOM Project Honorary Ambassador Karipbek Kuyukov said at the event.

Click image above to watch video.

The ATOM Project is a civil society initiative proposed by Nazarbayev in 2012 to help bring about a permanent end to nuclear weapons testing and ultimately a nuclear-weapons-free world. 

Kuyukov was born without arms as a result of his parents’ exposure to Soviet-era nuclear weapons tests at the Semipalatinsk test site. He has, however, become a renowned artist who has dedicated his life and art to the cause of non-proliferation.

Click image below to watch video.

In parallel to the seminar, an exhibition was held of Kuyukov’s paintings showing the consequences and horrors of nuclear tests.

Note: This report incorporates in part an article in The Astana Times. [IDN-InDepthNews – 31 August 2019]

Photo (L-R): The ATOM Project Honorary Ambassador Karipbek Kuyukov, Kazakh Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Ashikbayev and UNODA Deputy High Representative Thomas Markram. Photo credit: inform.kz.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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