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Central Asia: Towards a Nuclear-Free World

Map showing the five countries of the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Leaders from five Central Asia States – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – met this month to sign a treaty creating a nuclear-weapon-free-zone (NWFZ) in the region. The treaty was signed 8 September in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan – one of the former Soviet nuclear-weapon test sites that was closed in 1996. Mr. Yuri Sokolov, IAEA Deputy Director General, represented the IAEA as an observer at the signing ceremony.

The treaty signing concludes nearly ten years of talks that began in 1997 when the five presidents of the Central Asian States endorsed the Almaty Declaration on the creation of a Central Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ).

"By signing the document, the countries undertake commitments to ban production, purchasing and deployment of nuclear weapons, their components and other nuclear explosive devices," Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashikbayev said in briefing the press about the signing ceremony.

The treaty, the first of its kind comprising newly independent States of the Former Soviet Union, forbids the development, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition or possession of any nuclear explosive device within the zone. Peaceful uses of nuclear energy are permitted if placed under enhanced IAEA safeguards.

While the CANWFZ is the first nuclear-weapon-free zone located entirely in the northern hemisphere, it is the world´s fifth such NWFZ that foresees IAEA verification – falling in line behind those in Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Africa* (*not yet in force).

"The development of nuclear-weapon-free zones, over the past four decades, is a testament to what nations can do, region by region, to achieve common security objectives," IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei has said.

The CANWFZ is the first such treaty to explicitly oblige Central Asian countries to accept enhanced IAEA safeguards (which includes a comprehensive safeguards agreement and the additional protocol to that agreement) on their nuclear material and activities. The treaty also requires Parties to meet international standards regarding security of nuclear facilities – a move that could reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism or nuclear weapons smuggling in the region.

The treaty also encompasses an environmental component which addresses concerns unique to the region. Each of the five States hosted former Soviet nuclear infrastructure and now confront common problems of environmental damage resulting from the production and testing of Soviet nuclear weapons. To this end, all treaty Signatories must comply fully with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

Last update: 27 Jul 2017

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