The Treaty creating a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia entered into force 21 March 2009, a step welcomed by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Five countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - are parties to the Treaty.
The IAEA issued the following statement:
"The Director General welcomes the entry into force of the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ). The zone is an additional contribution to our efforts for a world free from nuclear weapons and is an important regional confidence-building and security measure. The Director General notes with appreciation that the Treaty creating the zone requires the Treaty States to have both a Safeguards Agreement and an Additional Protocol. The combination of these two legal instruments would enable the Agency to not only provide assurances about declared nuclear activities but equally, also, assurances about the absence of possible undeclared nuclear activities in the zone."
The CANWFZ is the first of its kind comprising States of the former Soviet Union, and is the first such zone in the Northern Hemisphere. It 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. It joins three other active nuclear-weapon-free-zones (NWFZs) covering Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and Southeast Asia. In view is a fifth zone, covering Africa, known as the Pelindaba Treaty, which is nearing entry into force.
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 of nuclear and radioactive materials in the region. Furthermore, all Treaty Signatories must comply fully with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which outlaws all nuclear test explosions.
The Treaty also encompasses an environmental component which addresses concerns unique to the Central Asian region. Each of the five States hosted former Soviet nuclear weapons infrastructure and now confront common problems of environmental remediation damage resulting from the production and testing of Soviet nuclear weapons.