MAYORS FOR PEACE OPEN OFFICE IN SEMEY
Astana, March 20: Twenty years ago, Kazakhstan impressed the world with its decision to close down the nuclear test site and remove all the nuclear weapons. To present day, the country remains committed to the global process of non-proliferation and reduction of nuclear weapons, using all available platforms, including international organisations, to urge the world do the same.
Forming new alliances and promoting the cooperation within the Mayors for Peace organisation has become Kazakhstan’s most recent step in this direction. On March 17, the centre of the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, the town of Kurchatov, hosted an international conference arranged jointly with the Mayors for Peace. As a result, nine more cities in Kazakhstan joined the Organisation and a representative office of the organisation opened in Semey. Also, the government of the East Kazakhstan region and the Secretariat of the Mayors for Peace signed a joint action plan.
The conference, entitled “New Generation for A Nuclear Weapons Free World” was organised by the regional administration, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the newly established scientific, research and educational institution, the Nazarbayev Centre.
To participate in the Conference, the European delegation of Mayors for Peace, including mayors of several cities in Belgium, Croatia, and Norway, paid a three-day visit to the East Kazakhstan region. Akims (mayors) of several cities of Kazakhstan and members of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement, youth organisations, and representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in the country also participated.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev sent a welcoming message to the participants of the Conference, which was read out by Kanat Saudabayev, chair of the Commission on Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) under the President and the Director of the Nazarbayev Centre.
“Since the first days of independence, Kazakhstan has consistently pursued a policy of building a world free from the nuclear weapons. The closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, the renunciation of the world’s fourth largest nuclear and missile arsenal, and active promotion of the idea of a nuclear weapons free world constitute a significant contribution of our state to the process of nuclear disarmament,” the President’s message said.
“We consider nuclear safety as consisting of three integral components. It is not only about the protection of humanity from nuclear weapons, but also about counteracting potential nuclear terrorism and ensuring the safety of nuclear energy. Kazakhstan shares and supports the noble goals of the international organisation Mayors for Peace,” the Kazakh President stated as he pledged stronger cooperation for giving an additional momentum to the process of global nuclear disarmament.
In his remarks to conference participants, Saudabayev outlined Kazakhstan’s achievements in supporting the non-proliferation regime. He stressed the regime must be further enhanced, while the number of WMDs reduced.
“Only a steady decrease in the number of nuclear weapons, a total rejection of horizontal and vertical proliferation by all members of the international community, control over proliferation and non-discriminatory use of nuclear energy and technology for peaceful purposes under the complete supervision of the IAEA is the way ahead. There is no alternative,” Saudabayev said.
Since the closure of the nuclear test site on August 29, 1991, the East Kazakhstan region, including Kurchatov, has undergone dramatic changes. In particular, Kurchatov has begun to use its extensive scientific and technological potential for peaceful purposes and progress.
Prior to the conference, the participants visited the National Nuclear Centre, where they were shown the thermonuclear material studying reactor Tokamak KTM and the research and experimental facility EAGLE, all placed in Kurchatov. The delegation also visited the Park of Nuclear Technologies.
“Holding a conference of a high level like this in the science town of Kurchatov, which uses the atomic energy for peaceful purposes only, will be an important step in promoting non-nuclear initiatives. Today, we can confidently say that we have gone from a national tragedy to the national pride,” Governor of the East Kazakhstan region Berdibek Saparbayev said at the conference.
“The present-day Kurchatov is engaged in the development of nuclear industry, also addressing the issues of energy security and protection of public health and environment,” Saparbayev said. “We plan to create a Centre for complex dosimetry to conduct comprehensive analyses and to provide objective assessment of the impact of the testing on the region’s population,” he said.
Mayor of Hiroshima and President of the Mayors for Peace Organisation Matsui Kazumi also sent his welcoming message to the participants of the conference. The address was read out by the Mayor of Belgian city of Ypres, Luc Dehaene.
“It is highly symbolic that several cities in Kazakhstan will join “Mayors for Peace” during the special ceremony to be held at the epicenter of nuclear testing,” Dehaene read.
“I believe that the time has come to learn from all the hibakusha [the surviving victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki] what they experienced and their desire for peace. Then, we must communicate what we learn to future generations and to each and every person around the world,” Kazumi wrote in his message. “Beyond doubt, the opening of a “Mayors for Peace” office in Semey would enhance our joint efforts to achieve genuine global security.”
The opening of the Mayors for Peace Office in Semey took place on March 16. In addition, the European delegation held a ceremony of laying flowers to the “Stronger than Death” monument, dedicated to the victims of Semipalatinsk testing. Also, the memorial stone of Mayors for Peace, which unites 5,136 cities in 153 countries and regions, was unveiled on the same day. The events took place at the Polkovnichiy Island in Semey, which gathered several thousand people, mostly youth. Afterwards, the delegation visited the Semey Medical University, the Institute of Radiation Medicine and Ecology, and the Regional Oncology Clinic.
“Yesterday, our Mayors for Peace delegation from Europe witnessed first-hand the intense desire of the people of Semey, of Kazakhstan, of Central Asia, indeed of the entire world for the elimination of the nuclear threat to humanity,” Luc Dehaene said during the conference in Kurchatov.
“As the location of the Mayors for Peace commemoration stone so well symbolised and the welcome from your youth so enthusiastically expressed, we feel we have been taken into your hearts,” he said.
He called upon the participants of the conference to continue to promote the unity of purpose and “cooperate in good faith and with real dedication.”
“We must strive together to determine what each of us can contribute to this great cause and how we can most effectively work in concert to realize it,” Luc Dehaene said.
Young people of East Kazakhstan actively participate in all events promoting ideals of peace and harmony. Speaking before the conference participants, the leader of a regional youth association “Salauat” (Forgiveness) Bakhyt Toptayeva thanked the delegation of the Mayors for Peace organization for the 2020 Vision Campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons by 2020 globally and, in particular, for the “Cities Are Not Targets” (CANT) project.
The CANT Project collects signature petition forms from citizens around the world demanding assurances from nuclear weapon states that no cities are targeted for nuclear attack. The Salauat association shares the noble goals of this project, and in support of it has collected 5,500 signed petitions from young people around the region, Toptayeva said. Asking Luc Dehaene, who acts as a Chairman of the 2020 Vision Campaign, to accept the collected signatures as East Kazakhstan’s contribution to the CANT, Toptayeva said the number of signed petitions is consistently growing, as young activists are actively engaged in raising people’s awareness about the threat nuclear weapons pose to cities.
Closing the conference, Luc Dehaene presented membership certificates to the mayors of nine cities in Kazakhstan. The East Kazakhstan regional administration and the Secretariat of Mayors for Peace signed a joint action plan.
In Semey, the mayors of Semey and Ypres also signed a Memorandum on cooperation and the establishment of twin city relations, since the cities experienced similar tragic events in the past. During World War I, the city of Ypres saw the first use of chemical weapons of mass destruction. Now it hosts the Secretariat of the Mayors for Peace organisation.
“Ypres and Semey have the full and moral right to be the leaders in the movement against weapons of mass destruction. The tragic history of our cities and the memory of our victims oblige us to do so,” Akim of Semey Aibek Karimov said at the meeting with the European delegation.
“With its history, Semey sets an example for us in the struggle for a nuclear weapons free world. We place great hopes on it in the international movement for nuclear disarmament and in engaging the public, especially the youth,” Luc Dehaene said after signing the Memorandum.
As part of the programme, the European delegation also traveled to the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk, the capital of East Kazakhstan, where they visited the exhibition and information centre of the Ulba Metallurgical Plant, Kazakhstan’s flagship plant in uranium and tantalum production.