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The World Needs a Strong Legal Framework for Complete Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Viewpoint by Kairat Abdrakhmanov

Photo: Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, addresses the Security Council meeting on the maintenance of international peace and security, with a focus on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. 26 September 2018, United Nations, New York. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Following are extensive excerpts from the statement by Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan at the High-level Meeting of the UN Security Council on "Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Non-proliferation of WMD" on 26 September 2018 in New York.

NEW YORK (IDN) – Countering the spread and use of WMD: This goal is close to Kazakhstan’s heart, and is one of the key priorities of my country’s foreign policy. Kazakhstan’s firm and unwavering commitment to international peace and security commenced upon our independence in 1991.

Our Head of State, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, took the daring and bold decision to renounce our nuclear arsenal and close the Semipalatinsk nuclear weapons test site, the fourth and second largest in the world, respectively.

The international community acknowledged these actions as unprecedented and laudable by instituting the very date of the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site, namely 29 August, as the International Day against Nuclear Tests. This year, on 6 September, the UN community commemorated the Day in a new official high-level format, at which the international community reinforced its plea for more effective steps to rebuild trust between nuclear and non-nuclear countries.

Earlier this year in January, the signature event of Kazakhstan's Presidency of the Security Council was devoted to the importance of confidence building measures in achieving non-proliferation of WMD. CBMs succeeded in stopping the arms race and prevent a nuclear catastrophe in the past century. Today, the world expects, from the nuclear powers, a repeat of the same visionary actions, which unfortunately not being fully realized and acknowledged today.

President Nazarbayev, at the January meeting, as well as, in his Manifesto "The World. 21st Century" noted that the largest nuclear powers should be at the vanguard in the advocacy for a nuclear-weapon-free world, and lead by example in reducing their WMD.

Past conflicts have showed that we cannot ensure our own security by undermining the security of others. President Nazarbayev has therefore urged all that only the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and disarmament would be the absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. He thus called upon all UN Member States to build a nuclear-weapon-free world by 2045.

We see some good examples of CBMs, as in the case of the “Inter-Korean thaw”, and the Singapore Summit, due to successful personal efforts of President Trump. These can inspire other positive outcomes of goodwill and sincere collaboration. Kazakhstan fully supports such promising beginnings and is ready to share its practical experience and expertise, if necessary.

However, just trust by itself cannot guarantee sustained success unless supported by strict implementation of all existing regulatory legal instruments, and Security Council resolutions on sanctions.

Without diminishing the role of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), it is clear that the world needs a stronger international legal framework against WMDs. Presently, the non-asymmetric implementation of the Treaty is impeding the trust between nuclear and non-nuclear countries. Nevertheless, the NPT should not lose its effectiveness and relevance amid such skepticism.

The early entry into force of the CTBT should also become one of the most important and necessary building blocks of the global architecture of non-proliferation. This treaty, when fully operative, will definitely help foster mutual trust and confidence.

Kazakhstan actively cooperates with the CTBTO and annually conducts high-level international events aimed at implementing effective practical steps to achieve a world without nuclear threats, as the natural outcome of our commitments.

To realize this goal, we must first and foremost establish a final ban on nuclear testing. Secondly, Atoms for Peace should remain our important moral compass. However, in the meantime, we should not stop struggling for a legal ban on nuclear weapons, keeping in mind our paramount goal of accomplishing a nuclear-weapon-free world.

By inaugurating the IAEA Low-Enriched Uranium Bank last year Kazakhstan made another contribution towards strengthening the non-proliferation regime as well as safe and reliable use of uranium for peaceful purposes. We are grateful to all donors – the United States, the European Union, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Norway and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) – whose generous financial contributions have made this project possible. We also thank China and Russia for their cooperation regarding transit of LEU and equipment for the Bank through their territory.

How can we enforce non-proliferation and disarmament through the measures of the Security Council?

Firstly, the Council must maintain its unity and common understanding to give the world a clear and unambiguous signal of our strong stance on these issues. It is vital to create the conviction among all that sanctions are interim measures and not an end in themselves. Their effectiveness should be measured by the degree of progress towards reaching political solutions peacefully.

My President had also suggested withdrawal from the NPT should be made extremely difficult by possibly, crafting a special UNSC resolution, with serious implications for countries in breach of the Treaty.

President Nazarbayev also proposed developing a legally binding system of guarantees to be given by nuclear powers to those states, who would voluntarily renounce their nuclear weapons as well as those with non-nuclear status, as an incentive for the latter not to acquire such weapons. This is a fair step to be undertaken without significant expenditures.

Nuclear-weapons-free zones remain one of the effective measures to combat the spread of nuclear weapons. Thus, my President had proposed strengthening cooperation between nuclear-weapons-free zones by organizing a High-Level Inter-Zone meeting in Astana next year. «P-5» countries should encourage the expansion of such zones by providing them security guarantees. We therefore hope that the Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone will be endorsed by the last remaining «P‑5» country.

Given the criticism of a considerably weakened non-proliferation regime in Syria, Kazakhstan is firmly convinced that the Council has to be united in tirelessly seeking a comprehensive solution on the issues of attribution and prosecution without transferring such prerogatives to other structures, subjecting them to further polarization and politicization.

The political resolution of the Syrian conflict will also help eliminate the vacuum that allows chemical weapons to be used with impunity. For our part, Kazakhstan will continue to provide the Astana platform of ceasefire and confidence building measures  as a complement and support to the Geneva Process under UN lead.

Regarding the JCPOA, this multilateral document has fulfilled its primary mission by putting Iran on a nuclear-free path, with the IAEA confirming that Iran has fulfilled all its nuclear obligations.

Kazakhstan, with its reputation as an honest broker, hosted two sets of talks during the negotiations that led up to the Agreement. As the world’s top uranium exporter, Kazakhstan contributed significantly by supplying 60 tons of raw uranium to Iran in exchange for Tehran sending over 300 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to Russia. All the parties to the Agreement had acknowledged this measure as “significant milestone”, with this action constituting the first start of JCPOA's implementation.

Notwithstanding the certain complications related to the obligations by some parties to this Agreement, we hope for its further implementation. We propose to consider new concerns and challenges through all possible means of diplomacy, without destroying the previous hard-won achievements.

Finally, it is necessary for all in the Council to demonstrate responsibility, political will and wisdom to make a quantum leap forward of great historical significance. We need the moral compass to go from narrow national interests to a greater vision of a safe and secure world. [IDN-InDepthNews – 28 September 2018]

Photo: Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, addresses the Security Council meeting on the maintenance of international peace and security, with a focus on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. 26 September 2018, United Nations, New York. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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