ASTANA - Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev assured his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres that his country would not assist Iran in advancing its nuclear program.
"I understand that this issue concerns you, as it does us," Nazarbayev said during a joint press conference with the visiting Israeli president in the capital Astana on Tuesday.
"There will be no flow of any nuclear substances from our territory."
Peres arrived in Kazakhstan following a two-day visit to Azerbaijan as the head of an Israeli delegation consisting of three ministers and some 60 businessmen. The president's tour marks the first visit by a senior Israeli official to the two Muslim countries since they had established diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
Iran reportedly recalled its ambassador to Baku in light of Peres' visit to Azerbaijan.
Nazarbayev told reporters that "nuclear tests had been conducted in Kazakhstan for 49 years (when the country was a part of the Soviet Union), but we closed the nuclear site in 1991 after a million people had suffered from it.
"Kazakhstan gave up on what was potentially the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world, but unfortunately this move did not influence a significant number of other countries to do the same," he said. "The Non-Proliferation Treaty lacks teeth."
Nazarbayev (L) and Peres in Astana Tuesday morning (Photo: AFP)
The Kazakh president continued to say that nuclear capabilities would not necessarily enhance Iran's security. "I recently met with (Iranian President) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I always explain to them that acquiring material for the production of nuclear arms will contribute nothing to (Tehran's) security, because any nuclear explosion will draw a response.
"We believe that we have boosted our security by relinquishing our nuclear arms program," said Nazarbayev.
Addressing Israel's security situation, the Kazakh president said "unfortunately, Israel is surrounded by neighbors who do not strive for peace," but added in a somewhat critical tone that "focusing on the shortcomings (of other countries) is easy. Here in Kazakhstan we have always sought peace and encouraged dialogue. We've been informed of the (peace) initiatives laid out by (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and (US President Barack) Obama – and we back these initiatives."
During his meeting with Peres, Nazarbayev praised Netanyahu's acceptance of the "two states for two peoples" paradigm, and assured the Israeli president that Kazakhstan would not supply Iran with any nuclear substances, including enriched uranium.
Later on in the day officials from both countries are expected to sign an agreement to cooperate in the satellite field. A year ago Israel successfully launched its Amos-3 communications satellite from the Kazakh city of Baikonur.