Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister on All Things Nuclear

Kazakhstan 2013

September 04, 2013

Also published by the Stanley Foundation

Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, Erlan Idrissov, spoke for an hour to ten journalists who participated in a reporting trip to Kazakhstan in August, a huge but little-known Central Asian country whose government has been active in global nuclear issues. The excursion was organized by the International Reporting Project in collaboration with the Stanley Foundation.

Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov.

Here are excerpts of the key nuclear topics discussed at the meeting, which was conducted in English. 

On Kazakhstan’s Views About Nuclear Weapons:

“We do not believe that the possession of nuclear weapons is a guarantee for your own security. On the contrary, the best security, on the long-term basis, is sustainable and well-thought social and economic development. That is the model we have chosen.”

On Possibility Dangerous Nuclear Material is Still in Semipalatinsk Test Site:

“This story started to unfold almost right after our independence, and we are talking here about the international cooperation involving the United States, the Russian Federation, other P5 countries [China, France, and the United Kingdom] in dealing with the aftermath of the nuclear testing at Semipalatinsk test ground. By now we can say that it is completely safe and secure. There was an important announcement at the last nuclear summit in Seoul made by Kazakhstan, the United States, and Russia about the completion of the project which will secure all the questionable areas in Semipalatinsk. By now, we can say that it is absolutely secure. There are no loose dangerous materials.”

On the Nuclear Security Summits and the Future of US-Kazakh Cooperation:

“President [Barack] Obama came up with the idea of calling nuclear summits to ensure global cooperation to offset potential dangers of dangerous material getting into the wrong hands. That’s basically the call of the nuclear summits therefore in the framework of nuclear summit priorities, there is a lot of scope for continued cooperation between Kazakhstan and the United States, and the program should be ongoing. For example, within that framework we are decommissioning the research reactor in Almaty and turning it from highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium, which is a program until 2015. Another big project, we are building a regional center for physical protection of materials and a training center in Kazakhstan, in Almaty. These types of projects are ongoing and should continue because unfortunately the world is still not secure. And with this global dangerous trend toward terrorism and extremism, of course we should be on check to make sure that governments are on alert on a permanent basis to make sure that their export control regimes and their other measures to secure dangerous materials make them inaccessible for dangerous groups of people. This is a huge agenda. This is not maybe as glamorous as doing away with nuclear weapons, still it is as important as those efforts.”

On His Personal Impressions of Visiting Semipalatinsk Site and What He Would Tell Countries That Have Not Ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty:

“I’ve been [to Semipalatinsk] two times myself, earlier on as a young diplomat and later on in the foreign ministry in my first stint as the foreign minister 12 years ago. Of course, when you understand the magnitude of the tragedy you are shocked. When you come there and you see this vast mass of land, basically which looks very peaceful, you don’t understand the magnitude of the tragedy, but when you go to places like … Balapan Lake, and other things when you see the silos, particularly when you see the victims of those nuclear experiments, you are completely devastated. Of course, Kazakhstan has a moral call to go nonnuclear; therefore, our call to the US government is to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty as soon as it is possible without political gaming. That is the need of the times.”

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