Five Nuclear Weapon States Recognise Central Asia as Nuke-Free Zone, Guarantee Not to Use Most Powerful Weapons Against Region

ASTANA – Representatives of the five recognised nuclear weapon states signed the Protocol to the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (CANWFZ) Treaty in New York on May 6, signifying a major positive development in the global non-proliferation efforts.

Diplomats from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States signed the document on the margins of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee Meeting at the United Nations.

The CANWFZ Treaty was signed on September 8, 2006 in Semipalatinsk by the five Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It entered into force on March 21, 2009.

Since 2012, as chair of the CANWFZ Treaty, Kazakhstan has led the negotiations with the nuclear “five” on behalf of its Central Asian neighbours. The signing of the Protocol is seen as a significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy.

For the nuclear-weapon free zone to be recognised internationally, it also has to receive the so-called negative guarantees from the five nuclear weapon states, meaning guarantees not to use nuclear weapons against the states parties of the treaty and not to use the threat of the use of nuclear weapons against them. The Protocol signed on May 6 in New York provides just such guarantees.  The Protocol still has to be ratified by the parliaments of the signing states to enter into effect.

According to a May 6 press release from the U.S. Department of State, the CANWFZ Treaty complements the NPT and enhances the international nonproliferation regime by prohibiting, among other things, the development and testing of nuclear weapons within Central Asia. Under the CANWFZ Treaty, the five Central Asian zone states may not allow the stationing of nuclear weapons within their territories. The Central Asian states are also required to adopt the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol, which provides the IAEA with expanded access and authorities to ensure that all nuclear activities are used only for peaceful purposes.

“The United States is not eligible to be a party to the CANWFZ Treaty itself, but as an NPT nuclear weapons state is eligible to join the Treaty’s Protocol,” the U.S. Department of State said. “The Protocol provides legally-binding assurances not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against CANWFZ Treaty parties. The United States understands the importance of such negative security assurances to states that have foresworn nuclear weapons and abide by their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”

There are four other nuclear-weapons free zones in the world today, other than the one in Central Asia, including in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South-East Asia and the South Pacific. The difference of the Central Asian zone from the other four is that it is the only such zone fully located in the northern hemisphere, the only zone bordering  two nuclear weapon states, Russia and China, and the only one that had on its territory nuclear weapons, until Kazakhstan renounced the weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State said in a press release, that “the Administration is satisfied that the CANWFZ Treaty is consistent with U.S. and international criteria for such zones. The United States believes that such zones, when fully and rigorously implemented, contribute to our nonproliferation goals and to international peace and security. The United States has concluded that the CANWFZ Treaty and its Protocol will not disturb existing U.S. security arrangements or military operations, installations, or activities.”

“The CANWFZ Treaty and its Protocol will also promote regional cooperation, security, and stability and provide a vehicle for the extension of legally-binding negative security assurances, consistent with the strengthened negative security assurance announced in the 2010 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review,” the press release said.

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