Secretary-General's remarks at press conference with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan
Astana, Kazakhstan, 7 April 2010Thank you, Mr. President, for this honour. I take this honour with a distinct sense of privilege, knowing that you are honouring the United Nations while honouring me. There is no greater honour than the strong support for the United Nations you have shown today. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
Let me say few words to the distinguished journalists.
Let me begin by thanking President Nazarbayev and the people of Kazakhstan for the warmth and hospitality they have shown to me and my delegation.
Yesterday, as the President said, I visited the former nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk. For decades it was the epicentre of the Cold War threat to humankind. Today, it is a powerful symbol of hope for the future, of a world free of nuclear weapons.
On this vital issue – one of my top priorities as Secretary-General – Kazakhstan has led by example. It has pioneered the Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone under the leadership and initiative of President Nazarbayev. Its advocacy for international cooperation on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation has been critical to recent progress.
I want to thank President Nazarbayev and express my deepest admiration and respect for his visionary leadership, extraordinary leadership, in this great human cause. And I believe we can look forward to next week's summit meeting on nuclear disarmament in Washington, D.C., with heightened optimism and fresh political will. I have encouraged President Nazarbayev that he is the leader with the strongest moral voice, as he has closed down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in 1991 under extremely difficult circumstances.
President Nazarbayev and I have just completed very constructive discussions on a range of regional and global issues, including the ongoing cooperation between the UN and Kazakhstan.
As I told the President, Central Asia is central to the world, a key player in addressing the many global challenges facing us. There are many global challenges facing us.
We discussed Kazakhstan's important role in ensuring the peace and stability of this region, including the President's proposals for improving conditions in Afghanistan. And I sincerely appreciate such a great contribution to the people of Afghanistan to help them stabilize the situation there.
In Central Asia, as elsewhere, regional cooperation is key to peaceful growth and development. Dialogue costs little, but it can bring big returns.
We discussed Kazakhstan's Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and my forthcoming briefing to the Permanent Council of the OSCE in Vienna. And I thank [Kazakhstan] for arranging such a great opportunity.
This is a milestone, not only for Kazakhstan, because Kazakhstan is going to take great leadership as the first Islamic country to hold such a Chairmanship and the first country from Central Asia. Kazakhstan is the first Central Asian country, the first former Soviet republic, to chair the world's largest regional security organization.
Again, we affirmed the importance of regional cooperation on sustainable economic development, and conflict prevention and resolution, good governance, drug trafficking and counterterrorism.
I thanked President Nazarbayev for his support for the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy. With the engagement of all five Central Asian nations, it can become a forum in the search for common solutions to shared problems.
We gave special attention to a matter of utmost importance: the region's management of natural resources, chiefly energy and water. The question is how to use these common resources for common prosperity among the nations, respecting the interests and well-being of all the nations in this region. That is why I am here. We have a collective responsibility, both the international community as well as the region's leaders, to deal with these urgent issues before tensions get worse.
In this context, we discussed the 2009 Summit of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea and its follow-up. I also want to thank the President for agreeing to nominate a focal point for regional engagement on these issues. I have asked President Nazarbayev to exercise and demonstrate his leadership in harmoniously resolving this issue as a leader of this region.
I have welcomed the Government's cooperation with the Human Rights Council in Geneva, including its decision to invite the organization's independent experts to visit Kazakhstan.
I 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. I am encouraged that President Nazarbayev and his Government are committed to establishing this. 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.
This morning I was very much encouraged to participate in [a meeting with representatives of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan]. This is very dynamic leadership of the diversity of Kazakhstan's society.
Finally, I'd like to invite President Nazarbayev to the summit meeting on the Millennium Development Goals which will be held in September in the United Nations. This will be an opportunity, a very crucially important opportunity, to offer concrete action plans on how, and what leaders of the world, to realize the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Reducing abject poverty and providing primary education to many children in developing countries and empowering women and providing all necessary assistance to sick people and working to eliminate HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis – all these are common responsibilities of international leaders.
I emphasized that the UN stands ready to work with President Nazarbayev and his Government, in every way possible.
Mr. President, finally, I thank you sincerely for this symbol of friendship and honour to me. There is a wonderful Kazakh proverb: “The strength of a bird is in its wings; the strength of a man in his friends.” Kazakhstan has a great role as a friend of the community of nations.
You have given the world an inspiring example in the march towards a world free of nuclear weapons. You are working with your neighbours for peace and stability and sustainable development. And you are working with the United Nations to create a modern, prosperous and tolerant and vibrant nation.
Let me state here today the United Nations is with you. Together we can help fulfil the promise of the United Nations Charter for all the people of Kazakhstan.