NEW YORK, September 9, 2019– The UN General Assembly has held an official, high-level plenary meeting to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the International Day against Nuclear Tests.
The meeting was convened by President of the UN General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, and was held with the participation of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Special guests invited for the meeting included Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Lassina Zerbo, and former CTBTO Spokesperson, Annika Thunborg, from Sweden.
Ms Espinosa opened the plenary meeting by emphasizing Kazakhstan’s leadership in global nuclear disarmament and expressed solidarity with those who still suffer from the grave consequences of nuclear tests. “In 1991, you took a bold and necessary step to close down this test site and you have been a vocal proponent for nuclear disarmament ever since; also supporting the establishment of the Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone as well as the creation of this very international day,” she said.
The President of the UN General Assembly also stated that the world was moving through a dangerous period, one marked by tensions between nuclear arms states and that these differences could only be resolved through dialogue. Noting the importance of an early ban on nuclear weapons, Ms. Espinosa called on all countries to follow Kazakhstan's example in ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
In his speech, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recalled that the International Day was officially set for the 29th August, marking the closing of the nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk. “The purpose of the day is two-fold. First, to pay tribute to the victims of nuclear tests and, second, to raise awareness of the continued threats that such tests pose to the environment and international security”, the UN head emphasized. He called it a general moral obligation to ensure a legally binding prohibition on nuclear testing and nuclear weapons themselves.
Lassina Zerbo highlighted the historic decision of First President Nursultan Nazarbayev, which took great courage and leadership at that time, and thanked the people of Kazakhstan for their unwavering support for global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
The CTBTO head stated that the annual reviews of this memorable date served as a vivid reminder to the world of the catastrophic effects of nuclear testing on human health and the environment. “They also emphasize the role which Kazakhstan has played in ensuring that the issue of nuclear testing remains at the forefront of the global agenda,” Mr Zerbo said.
Other participants in the UN General Assembly meeting, including Permanent Representatives of more than thirty countries on five continents, expressed appreciation to Kazakhstan for its leading role in the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and noted the fundamental importance of constantly keeping this issue in the focus of the international community’s attention.
In his speech, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the UN, Kairat Umarov, discussed the increased threat of undermining collective efforts to establish a final ban on nuclear weapons. “Seeing the current geopolitical realities, we feel that the increased threat of the resumption of the nuclear arms race that could lead to a new cycle of nuclear testing,” the Ambassador emphasized.
Kairat Umarov called on member states to intensify and consolidate the efforts to complete what had been started. Firstly, this is the CTBT’s introduction of a complete, legal ban on nuclear weapons and the introduction of a dialogue on the development of an agreement on a nuclear-weapon-free world. He recalled that on 29 August, Kazakhstan submitted an instrument of ratification of accession to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to the UN, once again proving its strong commitment to a nuclear-free world.
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