On March 31 and April 1 2016, in Washington, will be held the fourth edition of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS).[i] It is useful to remember that in 2009 U.S. President Obama delivered in Prague, Czech Republic, his major speech outlining his administration’s policies on nuclear weapons and nuclear security, during which, he called on world leaders to assemble one year later in Washington, DC, to work together to lock down thousands of tons of vulnerable nuclear materials spread across the globe to prevent it from getting into the hands of terrorists.[ii]
So, the first NSS held in 2010 was the largest gathering of heads of state in a half-century, and focused an important spotlight on the need to secure and eliminate weapons-usable nuclear materials.[iii] The Nuclear Security Summits – 2012 in Seoul and 2014 in the Netherlands – have resulted in significant progress in the effort to secure the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials. Among other achievements, the summits have helped convince 11 countries to take the single most significant step to protect against catastrophic nuclear terrorism: Eliminate their stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials.[iv]
But unfortunately, for instance, no common set of international standards and best practices exists, there is no mechanism for holding states with lax security accountable, and the legal foundation for securing materials is neither complete nor universally observed. So, without a comprehensive and effective global system in place, states’ approaches to nuclear security vary widely, and this situation creates weak links for terrorists.
That is why, this year, heads of state from more than 50 countries and the leaders of four international organizations will be in Washington for the fourth NSS to improve nuclear security protocols around the world. Azerbaijan is one of states to participate to this internationally important event. Indeed, it is not for the first time, because Azerbaijan had already participated two last Summits in Seoul and in the Netherlands. What we will discuss at this article is to find why Azerbaijan participates to this event, as it is not a nuclear state.
The reality is that Azerbaijan participates actively to the process of nuclear security. Azerbaijan deposited its instrument of ratification to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism on 28 January 2009. Azerbaijan is also a state-party to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material since 19 Jan 2004.[v] Azerbaijan recently ratified the 2005 Amendment to the CPPNM.[vi] At present, national authorities are examining the Amendment in light of its conformity with domestic legislation and necessary requirements to be fulfilled once the Amendment is ratified.
Azerbaijan recognizes also the key role of the IAEA in strengthening nuclear security measures and commends its efforts.[vii] Azerbaijan continues its cooperation with the IAEA on multiple aspects of nuclear security. Azerbaijan endorses the IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources and the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources[viii] and participates in international information sharing on illicit trafficking issues through contribution to the IAEA Incident and Trafficking Database.
Azerbaijan welcomes the efforts of the United Nations for strengthening nuclear security. This country submitted an updated report to the United Nations on further measures taken by Azerbaijan on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1540 adopted in 2004 to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery.[ix] The report includes further national measures on improving legislation, national practices and their implementation and strengthening international cooperation.
A high-level meeting of the Security Council held under the chairmanship of Azerbaijan and with participation of UN Secretary General on 4 May 2012 on “Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts: strengthening international cooperation in the implementation of counterterrorism obligations” provided valuable forum for exchange of views on counter-terrorism, as well as nuclear terrorism issues.[x]
At the same time Azerbaijan perceives the importance of taking effective measures for ensuring nuclear and radioactive security. In particular, Azerbaijan puts forth great efforts for the prevention of use of its territory as a transit route for illicit nuclear trafficking purposes. On this direction, in cooperation with international partners, Azerbaijan has developed a comprehensive national export control system with a solid legislation basis in line with international standards in order to ensure implementation of obligations emanating from international non-proliferation agreements to which it is a party.[xi]
Azerbaijan’s first “Maritime Security Strategy” defining proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery and related materials as one of the key threats against the maritime security, delineates roles and responsibilities of the relevant national authorities and identifies rules of conducting coordination and interaction, exchange of information, risk assessment and cooperation with littoral countries in the Caspian Sea.[xii]
Becoming a partner country to the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) by endorsing the principal document of the initiative, Statement of Principles, on March 19, 2012[xiii], Azerbaijan has been actively participating in several events organized within the framework of the GICNT including in Implementation and Assessment Group and 8th Plenary Meetings held in Mexico City on May 23-24, 2013.[xiv]
Azerbaijan organized also a number of seminars at the Baku Regional Office for Capacity Building of the World Customs Organization.[xv] Azerbaijani officials participated in and contributed to Workshops and other events on UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) and export control courses held with the support of EU, NATO, OSCE and national institutions in numerous countries.
Os course, Azerbaijan has also its own concerns regarding nuclear matter. Unfortunately, due to the continued occupation of 20 % of Azerbaijanian lands by neighboring Armenia, 130 km of its internationally recognized borders in the South and the substantial part of our borders with Armenia remain without any control. As a result of Armenian-Azerbaijani, Nagorno Karabakh conflict, these territories have already been occupied by Armenia for almost 20 years. Armenia ignores four resolutions of the United Nations Security Council that demand unconditional and immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from the territories of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan strongly supports the efforts to strengthen the security and safety of the civilian nuclear facilities in accordance with their geographical features and eventual trans-frontier consequences for environment. Recent worst experience in Fukushima nuclear plant caused by tsunami must be taken very seriously. As President Ilham Aliyev mentioned in his speech at Seoul Summit[xvi], Azerbaijan is very concerned by the outdated Armenian Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant, which started to operate in 1976. The Metsamor Plant carries potential catastrophic threat to the whole region and the immediate neighborhood. It is located in the highly seismic zone with shortage of water resources to cool its aging reactor. The EU has already classified the Metsamor’s reactors as the “oldest and least reliable” category of all the 66 Soviet reactors built in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The report calls Metsamor “a danger to the entire region”.
At the same time, Azerbaijan would like to see the practice of establishing regional nuclear security and safety regimes that will delegate obligations to the party wishing to build a nuclear facility. It can envisage such procedures as getting approval of its neighbors, exchanging information in a transparent manner on safety and security of these sites, receiving inspections and paying compensation for the risks.[xvii]
Dr. Turab GURBANOV