30 March 2009

Press Conference on Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty

30 March 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Kazakhstan –- home to the notorious Soviet-era nuclear test site Semipalatinsk -- had signed, along with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the Treaty on the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia as a logical step in promoting regional and international peace and security, that country’s Ambassador said today of the pact that entered into force on 21 March.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference that also featured the Permanent Representatives of the Treaty’s other four signatories, Byrganym Aitimova said that Kazakhstan, which had once possessed one of the world’s largest nuclear weapon stockpiles, had long ago realized that such weapons were a danger that would not bring about peace and security.  From the very start of its independence period, Kazakhstan had declared a peaceful internal and foreign policy, she added.

Therefore, working intensively within the region on non-proliferation issues and subsequently signing the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty had been an extension of the Kazakh Government’s “right choice” to pursue sustainable social, economic and environmental development, she said, adding that Semipalatinsk had been chosen as the site for the signing ceremony on 8 September 2006.  That date was also the fifteenth anniversary of the test site’s closing.

Highlighting some details about the Treaty, Nurbek Jeenbaev ( Kyrgyzstan) said this was the first nuclear-weapon-free zone to be established in the northern hemisphere and the first to encompass an area where nuclear weapons had previously existed.  Moreover, it was the first such pact between countries that shared common borders with major nuclear Powers, in this case, the Russian Federation and China.  The five countries had reached their agreement, not because of political pressure, but out of a desire to promote regional and international peace and security.  Central Asia now joined the four other nuclear-weapon-free zones: Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, South-East Asia and Africa.

He said the agreement prohibits the nations from researching, developing, producing or keeping nuclear weapons.  It also mandates that each of the five countries follow the requirements of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and ratify the Additional Protocol to its nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“The establishment of [the zone] is recognized as an important step towards continuing the nuclear non-proliferation regime,” Mr. Jeenbaev said, also stressing that the Treaty promoted peaceful uses of nuclear energy and rehabilitation of areas that were blighted by nuclear storage, testing or waste.   Kyrgyzstan would be the Treaty’s depositary.  Each party also undertook to apply measures of physical protection to nuclear material and nuclear facilities within its territory at least as effective as those called for by the 1987 Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

He went on to note that the Protocol to the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia was open for signature by the five nuclear-weapon States -- China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States -- and provided for negative security assurances, whereby parties to the Protocol undertook not to use or threaten to use a nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices against any Treaty party.

Sirodjidin M. Aslov ( Tajikistan) said obligations under the Treaty required annual meetings between the five parties to discuss issues regarding the pact’s full implementation.  The fist consultative meeting, to take place no later than two months after the Treaty’s entry into force, was set to be held in May in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.  The Treaty parties intended to invite representatives from the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia, as well as representatives of IAEA and other international agencies.

Hailing the Treaty as a collective contribution to and an essential element of regional security and development, Aksoltan T. Ataeva ( Turkmenistan) said that, while each of the five nations had its own identity, they also shared a common history.  The Central Asian region was rich in resources and, with the “long-awaited” Treaty in place, it could begin to develop those resources to enhance the lives and livelihoods of its people, she said.

Murad Askarov ( Uzbekistan) agreed, but added that the signing and quick entry into force of the Treaty was also a clear indication that all five countries were fully aware of their role in maintaining international security and contributing to a more stable world.  All the signatories had been working intensively since the idea had been formally proposed in 1993 by Uzbek President Islam A. Karimov at the General Assembly.  He hoped the accomplishment of the Central Asian region would set an example for others.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.