Comment by Yerzhan Ashikbayev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
ASTANA, March 21, 2019 - Today marks 10th anniversary since the Central Asian Treaty on the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ) entered into force.
The treaty was signed by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan on September 8, 2006 in Semipalatinsk, which is deeply symbolic for the process of nuclear disarmament. Following the established practice of applying the name of an international treaty at the place of its signing, our zone is often referred to as the “Semipalatinsk Treaty".
The Central Asian zone free of nuclear weapons has a number of unique features. This is the first nuclear-free zone created in the northern hemisphere in the region, which once served as a testing ground for active deployment and testing of nuclear weapons. Moreover, the CANWFZ is essentially a nuclear-free island between the nuclear-weapon states. I mean both the official nuclear states - Russia and China, and those unrecognized from the point of view of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) - India and Pakistan. The Semipalatinsk Treaty lays down obligations for the ecological rehabilitation of uranium tailings and nuclear test sites.
As for the current activities, we, together with our partners in the zone, carry out consistent work on various aspects. Uzbekistan, as acting chairman of the zone in 2018, on behalf of the zone member states submitted a collective draft of the next resolution of the UN General Assembly on the CANWFZ. It was successfully adopted by consensus in December 2018 during the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Kazakhstan, in its capacity as the chairperson of the CANWFZ in 2019 plans to convene the next consultative meeting of the States Parties to the Zone in Astana. During the chairmanship, we plan to pay attention to strengthening coordination within our zone, as well as promoting the “Treaty on cooperation in preventing illicit trafficking in nuclear materials and combating nuclear terrorism of the Parties to the Central Asian Treaty on the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone".
An important component of the Semipalatinsk Treaty is the Protocol on Negative Guarantees, signed by representatives of all five nuclear states - the United Kingdom, China, Russia, the United States and France. Currently, all countries of the “nuclear five", with the exception of the United States, have ratified the Protocol. We regularly hold consultations with the United States of America on this issue.
In general, nuclear-free zones remain one of the effective tools in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Kazakhstan believes that the creation of new nuclear-free zones, including in the Middle East, in Northeast Asia and Europe, can expand the geography of a nuclear-free world so that our entire planet gradually becomes a single nuclear-free zone.
MFA of Kazakhstan is implementing the initiative of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Leader of the nation Nursultan Nazarbayev to strengthen the interaction between all existing zones free of nuclear weapons, and to this end a meeting of representatives of all existing zones in Astana is being worked out.