United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Semey, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday, 6 April, on the last leg of a week-long tour of Central Asia.
From Semey, the Secretary-General flew by helicopter to the city of Kurchatov, 130 kilometres away. There, he visited the Nuclear Test Site Museum and the “Tokamak” installation which consists of a thermonuclear test reactor.
The Secretary-General then went to the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, and flew over Ground Zero. He then landed near the site and was briefed by the head of the National Nuclear Centre. There, he spoke to the press, noting that more than 450 nuclear bombs were tested there with terrible effects on people and nature. He said that the closing of the test site in 1991 and the banishment of all nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan had been a visionary step.
“Today, this site stands as a symbol of disarmament and hope for the future,” said the Secretary-General. He urged all the leaders of the world, particularly nuclear-weapon States, to work together with the United Nations to realize the aspiration and dream of a world free of nuclear weapons.
That night, the Secretary-General travelled to Astana, the Kazakh capital, where he attended a dinner hosted by Kanat Saudabayev, Secretary of State and Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan.
The next morning, Wednesday 7 April, after meeting with the United Nations country team, the Secretary-General held a formal meeting with the Foreign Minister. He also met representatives of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, which plays a consultative role to the President, at the Palace of Peace and Accord. Addressing the members of the Assembly, he said that by preserving minority languages and nurturing ethnic cultures and traditions Kazakhstan was laying the foundations for lasting stability. (See Press Release SG/SM/12833)
The Secretary-General then met with the Chairman of the Senate as well as Members of the Parliament of Kazakhstan.
Later, the Secretary-General met Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at Akorda, the Presidential Palace. After being conferred the National Dostyk (Friendship) Award, the Secretary-General held a brief joint press conference with President Nazarbayev. He said the two of them had discussed Kazakhstan’s role in ensuring the peace and stability of the region, including the President’s proposals for improving conditions in Afghanistan. The Secretary-General also said they talked about on Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and about the importance of regional cooperation on sustainable economic development, conflict prevention and resolution, good governance, drug trafficking and counterterrorism.
The Secretary-General said he further urged the Government to implement the recommendations put forward by Member States during the Universal Periodic Review in February 2010, including the establishment of an independent human rights institution. “A robust and engaged civil society -- with full guarantees of free speech and media, and tolerance for ethnic and religious diversity -- is a powerful force for modernization,” he said.
The Secretary-General then attended a lunch hosted by the President before leaving Astana in the afternoon for Vienna, Austria.