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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Wednesday 17 March 2004

CENTRAL ASIA: Regional conference on arms proliferation underway

ANKARA, 17 Mar 2004 (IRIN) - A regional conference on small arms proliferation taking place in the Kazakh commercial capital, Almaty, focusing on problems surrounding the illegal trade in weapons in Central Asia, is proceeding as expected, according to a Kazakh government spokesperson.

The "Regional Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons" is taking place from 16 to 18 March under the auspices of the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, and in close cooperation with the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

"The government of Kazakhstan is very concerned about the illegal trade in weapons in the country and the rest of Central Asia, so the authorities of the Ministries of the Interior, Defence and Foreign Affairs are now discussing this problem in order to reduce the illegal trade in weapons throughout the country and also throughout the territories of the Central Asian countries," Zhannat Zagiyeva of the Foreign Ministry told IRIN on Wednesday.

The Foreign Ministry stated that during the 1990s, small arms and light weapons predominated in 47 out of 49 major conflicts globally, which claimed the lives of 50 million people.

The five Central Asian countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - along with Afghanistan, are taking part in the conference, the first in the region.

"As small arms/light weapons is a very important issue for Kazakhstan, because the government is very concerned about security issues, Afghanistan was invited to the conference due to the fact that it is a neighbouring country," Zagiyeva said.

She also explained that due to the geographical location of Kazakhstan, "there are huge illegal flows of weapons, drugs and also terrorism, because this country is surrounded by many others and is a transit territory between Afghanistan and Europe."

The United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs reports that the conference is focused "on issues such as security and regional trends in small arms and light weapons in Central Asia; challenges in the implementation of the Programme of Action; international and regional cooperation; and the sharing of experiences and lessons learned. In addition, a workshop will be held to train participants on the preparation of national reports on the implementation of the Programme of Action."

In addition to representatives from each Central Asian country, experts from private and public organisations worldwide are attending the event. "We have participants from the Australian Committee for Security Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific, representatives from the Intelligence and Security Agency of the Indonesian Police, and also participants from international organizations such as the OSCE, UNDP of Geneva and UNODC [United Nations office on Drugs and Crime]," Zagiyeva noted.

The cost of the conference has been met by contributions from the UNDP and the governments of Kazakhstan and Japan.


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