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Central Asian States Postpone Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Meeting

By Mike Nartker

Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON — Efforts to create a nuclear weapon-free zone in Central Asia have been delayed once again because of lingering differences among the five countries involved in negotiating the agreement, a senior U.N. disarmament official told Global Security Newswire yesterday (see GSN, July 22).

The five Central Asian nations — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — had been expected to meet in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent last month to develop a joint response to comments on a draft zone treaty previously provided by four of the five declared nuclear weapons states. The Tashkent meeting has been postponed, however, because the Central Asian countries have been unable to agree on how to respond to the various comments, said Tsutomu Ishiguri, director of the U.N. Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.

The postponement of the September meeting has further delayed a process that had been expected to be completed in October of last year. The five Central Asian states had also expected to sign the zone treaty in April. While the five nuclear weapons states cannot prevent the creation of the zone, the Central Asian states have requested that they sign a protocol to the treaty stating that they agree to respect it.

Ishiguri said that a new approach had been proposed to the Central Asian states to help resolve the differences among them regarding the comments proposed by the nuclear weapons states. Under the new approach, the Central Asian countries would agree to revert back to the draft treaty text, taking into account advice that has been offered by the U.N. Office of Legal Affairs and the International Atomic Energy Agency, if they could not all agree to accept a particular comment, thereby rejecting it, he said. A meeting is being planned for either late January or February to see if this approach is acceptable to the Central Asian states, Ishiguri said. 

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