Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (CANWFZ)
Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone
The Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (CANWFZ) made formerly-Soviet Central Asia, a Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone under the Semipalatinsk Treaty.
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Opened for signature
8 September 2006
Entered into force
21 March 2009
About the Treaty
- Depository: Kyrgyzstan
- Organs: None
The idea of a CANWFZ dates back to the 1992 initiative by Mongolia declaring itself a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ), in which Mongolia also called for a regional NWFZ. The first formal CANWFZ proposal was made by Uzbek President Islam Karimov at the 48th session of the UN General Assembly in 1993. Additional proposals by Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan followed in 1994-1996, but none made any headway owing to a lack of regional consensus on the issue. However, the crucial step was taken on 27 February 1997, when the five presidents of the Central Asian states issued the Almaty Declaration endorsing the creation of a CANWFZ. Experts from all five Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) agreed on the text of a treaty establishing a Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone (CANWFZ) at a meeting held in Samarkand in Uzbekistan from 25-27 September 2002. The agreement concluded five years of talks that began in 1997. On 8 February, 2005, the five Central Asian states adopted a final draft of the treaty text at a meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Under the treaty, Central Asian states undertake not to research, develop, manufacture, stockpile, acquire, possess, or have any control over any nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device; not to seek or receive assistance in any of the above; or assist in or encourage such actions. The receipt, storage, stockpiling, installation, or other form of possession of any nuclear weapon or nuclear explosive device on the territory of the member states is not allowed. Each party pledges not to carry out nuclear weapon tests or any other nuclear explosion and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its control. Member states agree to conclude with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and enforce a Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol within 18 months after the treaty’s entry into force. Parties must also introduce export controls wherein they will not provide source or any special fissionable material or related equipment to any non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS) that has not concluded an IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreement and Additional Protocol. Further, the states agree to maintain physical protection of nuclear material, facilities, and equipment that are at least as effective as outlined in the IAEA recommendations and guidelines by the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPNNM). The treaty does not affect rights and obligations of the parties under other international treaties concluded prior to the entry into force of the CANWFZ. This clause has become a point of contention between the Central Asian states and some of the nuclear weapon states (NWS). The treaty may be amended by consensus.
Verification and Compliance
The terms of the Treaty itself buttress the nonproliferation regime as they oblige the Central Asian States to accept enhanced International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on their nuclear material, and require them to meet international standards securing nuclear facilities. The CANWFZ draft Treaty does not provide for the establishment of an organization/commission to oversee implementation and compliance/verification as do Bangkok, Pelindaba, and Tlatelolco, Treaties which establish NWFZs, or “control systems” as in the case of the Bangkok, Rarotonga and Tlatelolco Treaties. It does, however, provide for annual consultative meetings to review compliance, but no direct linkage exists between this function and IAEA safeguards. The agreement between the Central Asian states is also the first of the NWFZ treaties to require its members to comply fully with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs postponed the fourth Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia until 2021.
On 29 April, the Kazakh Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Ashikbayev delivered a statement at the 2019 NPT Preparatory Committee on behalf of the states party to the Semipalatinsk Treaty celebrating the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the CANWFZ. Ashikbayev further congratulated the cooperative efforts of the Central Asian States to establish the CANWFZ, and called for further collaboration towards the common goals of regional and global peace and security and sustainable development.
At the 2019 NPT Preparatory Committee, the Kazakh (3 May) and Kyrgyz (1 May) delegations delivered statements referencing the Semipalatinsk treaty as evidence of their commitment to the global disarmament and nonproliferation regimes. Both states further encouraged the United States to ratify the protocol on negative security assurances without delay.
On August 28 and 29, the Seminar on Fostering Cooperation and Enhancing Consultation
Mechanisms Among the Existing Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones was held in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. The Seminar sought to address the existing challenges and discuss ways to improve coordination and achieve more robust inter-zonal cooperation, as well as substantively contribute to the Fourth Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia. In the Chair’s Report, submitted to the UN Conference of Disarmament and circulated as an official CD document, a number of suggestions were submitted by the Republic of Kazakhstan in its national capacity as the Chair of the Seminar, designed to foster further cooperation among NWFZs to exchange relevant ideas and best practices in areas of mutual interest
On August 29, Kazakhstan ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
On 5 December, the UN General Assembly adopted 63 resolutions and 4 decisions related to disarmament, including a draft resolution titled “Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone in Central Asia.” The draft resolution celebrated the treaty’s entry into force in 2009 and the signing of its protocols by 4 countries in 2014, and called for the completion of the ratification process.
On 29 August, the storage facility of the IAEA LEU Bank officially opened at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan. The LEU Bank will be operational once LEU is purchased and delivered to the facility.
President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev wrote an article for the Budapest Times concerning the continuing problems of the 21st century, including the problem of nuclear weapons. President Nazarbayev highlighted the importance of NWFZs, particularly the CANWFZ, in helping eliminate weapons and war in the 21st century.
On 1 June, The IAEA announced that the IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank under construction in Oskemen, Kazakhstan, will be operational by September 2017.
On 28 June, Kazakhstan was elected to the UN Security Council for 2017-2018.
On 30 January, the United Kingdom ratified the Protocol to the CANWFZ Treaty.
On 14 April, Kyrgyzstan submitted a working paper to the 2015 NPT Review Conference on behalf of the CANWFZ. The paper detailed the importance of the CANWFZ Treaty, which is the first of its kind to volunteer for an IAEA Additional Protocol. It also detailed the importance of the P5 signatories to the CANWFZ Protocol, and urged the signatories to ratify quickly so that the Protocol can enter into force.
On 27 April, President Obama submitted the Protocol to the CANWFZ treaty for ratification to the U.S. Senate. If ratified, the Protocol would “obligate the U.S. not to use or threaten to use” nuclear weapons against the State parties of the CANWFZ treaty.
On 27 August, the IAEA and Kazakhstan signed an agreement establishing a low-enriched uranium fuel bank in Oskemen, Kazakhstan. The fuel bank’s security and safety will be monitored by Kazakhstan and the IAEA through its obligations under the CANWFZ treaty. This agreement holds symbolic significance in showing the peaceful use of nuclear technology by a state that has willingly disarmed.
On 7 December, the UNGA, during its plenary session, approved the Kazakhstan-proposed Universal Declaration for the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World. Kazakhstan first called for this Declaration in a statement to the First Committee of the 70th Session of the UNGA.
On 6 May, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia all signed the Protocol to the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty at the margins of the NPT PrepCom in New York.
On 17 November, France ratified the Protocol to the CANWFZ treaty, becoming the first signatory to do so.
On 6 February, the 12th Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was held in Cairo, Egypt. The final document that was adopted contained support for the CANWFZ and the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, Erlan Idrissov, stressed the importance of further cooperation between the Treaty and the OIC.
On 21 March, the Non-Aligned Movement submitted a working paper on nuclear-weapon-free zones to the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). This paper affirmed nuclear-weapon-free zones like CANWFZ as a positive step towards nuclear disarmament.
The NPT preparatory committee convened in Geneva from 22 April to 3 May. On 23 April, Kazakhstan gave a statement affirming the Treaty of Semipalatinsk (CANFWZ) as an important contribution to peace and security and expressing hope that the “practicability and effectiveness of the Treaty will be ensured soon through consultations which have started among Central Asian states and the P5.” Kyrgyzstan’s statement on the same day lauded the innovative features of the CANWFZ which remediate environmental damage to the region.
On 27 May, the Foreign Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization issued a statement advocating the strengthening of multilateral mechanisms for disarmament, nonproliferation and arms control and expressing support for Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.
In 22 September, a roundtable titled “Central Asia: nuclear free zone” was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Organized by the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Uzbekistan for the 20th anniversary of the proposal of the creation of the CANWFZ, representatives of analytical centers, research and education institutes, ministries and departments of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan attended this conference, discussed pressing issues of the Central Asian region, including nuclear trafficking/smuggling, the challenges and threats to nonproliferation and the nuclear free trade zone.
On 8 October, Kazakhstan made a statement to the UNGA First Committee 68th session in it expressed its hope for constructive consultations among involved parties on the issue of the CANWFZ and its associated protocol.
On 3 May during the 2012 PrepCom in Vienna, Kazakhstan reiterated the commitment of the Central Asian states to the Semipalatinsk (CANWFZ) treaty. Kazakhstan also called for the P5 to sign the protocol on negative security assurances for states in the CANWFZ.
On 2 May, President Obama submitted the protocols to the ANWFZ and the SPNWFZ to the U.S. Senate for ratification. In a statement about the protocols, the White House also declared its intention to work with parties to the CANWFZ to sign its protocols as soon as possible.
On 21-22 November in Vienna, the delegation of the Republic of Uzbekistan on behalf of CANWFZ gave an address on the experience of establishing the Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East. The Uzbek delegation is willing to support the establishment of such a zone.
On April 30, the Second Conference of States Parties and Signatories of Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia and Mongolia was held in New York. The conference adopted the Outcome Document which reiterated the final declaration of the 2005 Conference and welcomed the entry into force of the African and Central Asian NWFZs as well as the efforts of Mongolia to institutionalize its nuclear weapons free status. It further called on the nuclear-weapons states to sign all relevant protocols and withdraw existing reservations.
On 3 May, at the Eighth NPT Review Conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States was willing to continue consultations with CANWFZ Parties to resolve disagreements concerning provisions of the treaty.
On 4 May, Uzbekistan addressed the NPT Review Conference on behalf of the States Parties to the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty. The statement introduced a working paper that high-lighted the novel aspects of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, including the obligation of participating States to implement the provisions of the IAEA Additional Protocol and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
On 20 February, Kazakhstan became the fifth country to submit an instrument of ratification.
In accordance with the provisions of article 15 of the treaty, the CANWFZ entered into force on 21 March, 30 days after the date of deposit of the fifth instrument of ratification. The UN Secretary General welcomed the entry into force of the CANWFZ and, in order to ensure the effective implementation of the treaty, urged the states concerned to address any outstanding issues. The IAEA Director General also welcomed the entry into force of the treaty and noted with appreciation the obligation of the CANWFZ member states to conclude an Additional Protocol.
In accordance with article 10 of the treaty, the state parties will hold annual compliance review and implementation meetings. The rules of procedure for the implementation of article 10 specify that the first annual consultative meeting will take place in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, no later than 2 months after the treaty’s entry into force.
A meeting of focal points for NWFZs was held 27-28 April in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. In his concluding statement, the chairman of the meeting welcomed the entry into force of the CANWFZ and noted it was the first in the northern hemisphere and covered an area where nuclear weapons were previously based.
At the 4-15 May third session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT PrepCom), the five parties to the CANWFZ issued a common working paper suggesting positive language welcoming the entry into force of the treaty. The first draft statement proposed by PrepCom chairman Chidyausiku welcomed the establishment of the CANWFZ. Negotiations on the text watered down the statement to “note” the CANWZ in the second draft. The third draft used the term “recognize.” However, the PrepCom could not achieve consensus on a final document and none was issued.
As of 25 May, the Dushanbe meeting had been postponed to later in the year due to more urgent internal issues confronting some of the member states.
On 15 October, the States Parties to CANWFZ held their first consultative meeting in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Representatives of the five Central Asian states discussed measures necessary for Treaty implementation and appointed Uzbekistan to represent the CANWFZ States Parties at international forums. The participants “noted the need for progress in narrowing the gap between the positions of the States in Central Asia and the nuclear-weapon States on the issue of negative security assurances.” It was agreed that the next consultative meeting would take place in Uzbekistan.
On 19 April, Turkmenistan ratified the CANWFZ.
On 17 October, the UNGA First Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.1/63/L.37 on the establishment of an NWFZ in Central Asia. The resolution welcomed the ratification by Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, noted the readiness of the Central Asian countries to continue consultations with the nuclear-weapon States on a number of provisions of the Treaty, welcomed a conference to be held in 2009 in Bishkek, and decided to include in the agenda for the next meeting an item dealing with the CANWFZ. The resolution was adopted 129 in favor, 3 against, and 36 abstentions. France, the United Kingdom, and the United States voted against the resolution. Russia and China voted in favor.
On 12 November, Tajikistan ratified the CANWFZ. According to Tajik legislation, the law entered into force after the parliament’s approval. On 26 November, the Kazakh lower house of the parliament (Majlis) approved the ratification of the CANWFZ. Ratification of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty was completed on 11 December after action by the upper house (Senate) of the parliament of Kazakhstan.
On 22 March, Kyrgyzstan deposited the first instrument of ratification for the CANWFZ. Just weeks later, Uzbekistan deposited the second instrument of ratification necessary for entry into force of the CANWFZ on 2 April.
The treaty establishing the Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone was signed by the five states on 8 September 2006 in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. Foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, and foreign ministry officials from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan attended the ceremony in the city of Semipalatinsk near the former Soviet nuclear weapons test site with the same name. The United States, Great Britain, and France objected to the signing of the treaty because of concerns that previous security agreements may take precedence over the provisions of the CANWFZ treaty. In particular, the P-3 are concerned that, under the 1992 Tashkent Collective Security Treaty, Russia will still be able to transport nuclear weapons through Central Asia or deploy them in the region in the future. The Kazakh foreign minister commented that the issue remained open to interpretation. On 1 September 2006, the C-5 sent a note to the NNWS, indicating their willingness to continue the consultations. The Protocol to the treaty has not yet been opened for signature by the P-5.
The United Nations was represented by the UN resident coordinator in Kazakhstan who delivered a statement on behalf of the secretary-general. The UN Department for Disarmament Affairs was represented by the director of the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, Mr. Ishiguri.
On 30 October 2006, the UNGA First Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.1/61/L.54/Rev.1 on the establishment of an NWFZ in Central Asia. The resolution welcomes the establishment of the CANWFZ and recognizes it as an important step toward strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime, promoting cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and in the environmental rehabilitation of territories affected by radioactive contamination, and enhancing regional and international peace and security. It also states that the establishment of the zone is an effective contribution to combating international terrorism and preventing non-state actors from acquiring nuclear materials and technologies. The resolution notes the readiness of the Central Asian states to continue consultations with NWS on a number of provisions of the treaty. It does not, however, note the readiness of the P5 to continue consultations, nor does it call on the NWS to sign and ratify the protocol and provide negative security assurances. Due to the controversy surrounding the treaty, the draft resolution was adopted by a vote rather than consensus (128 in favor, 3 against, and 36 abstentions).
The Conference of States parties and Signatories of Treaties that Establish Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones in Tlatelolco, Mexico, took place April 26-28, 2005. At this general meeting, which is intended for all states of all nuclear-weapon-free zones, the Central Asian states were commended in their effort to agree upon and sign the treaty. Uzbekistan issued a statement discussing the significance of the agreement, emphasizing the fact that member state Kazakhstan once possessed the fourth-largest nuclear arsenal in the world.
On 7-9 February 2005, the group met in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where they adopted the text of a treaty establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone. The treaty will be opened for signature in Kazakhstan. A signature date has not been finalized, but may take place as early as July. The depository selected will be located in Kyrgyzstan. The countries will gather for their first official meeting in Tajikistan after the treaty opens for signature.
The final draft of the text is almost identical to the text agreed upon at the Samarkand Meeting, containing only a few minor changes. Included in the text is an additional clause to allow the transportation of low- to medium-level radioactive waste in accordance with IAEA guidelines. In addition, a clause allowing for the extension of the treaty to neighboring states was removed. There was no change to the text to answer the criticism that this NFWZ might conflict with treaties already enacted between the member states and other states.
On April 26 representatives met in Tlatelolco, Mexico for the Conference of States Parties and Signatories of Treaties that establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones. During the conference the contribution to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons regimes by NWFZ was a key topic as well as mechanisms to strengthen the political coordination among NWFZ’s.
On 8-19 April, at the 2002 NPT PrepCom, the five Central Asian States submitted a Working Paper calling on the Preparatory Committee to reflect in its report the progress made in the process of drawing up and agreeing on a draft treaty on the establishment of a CANWFZ. The Working Paper also noted the support provided to the Central Asian States by the UN, in particular the Secretary-General, the Department for Disarmament Affairs, the UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in drafting the document. This progress was acknowledged in the 2002 NPT PrepCom Chairman’s Summary, which states that “support was expressed for the efforts among the Central Asian countries to establish a NWFZ in their region.”
On 27 September 2002, at the UN-sponsored Expert Group meeting held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, diplomats from the five Central Asian states agreed on the text of the Treaty and concluded five years of talks that began in 1997.
On 8 October 2002, the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs organized the first consultative meeting between the five NWS and the five Central Asian states on the CANWFZ Treaty in New York. The purpose of the meeting was to facilitate the agreement by the NWS on the Protocol annexed to the Treaty regarding negative security assurances.
On 25 October, 2002, the 57th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Resolution A/RES/57/69 by consensus welcoming “the decision by all five Central Asian States to sign the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty as soon as possible.” It also invites “all five Central Asian States to continue consulting with the five nuclear-weapon States on the draft treaty and its protocol for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in Central Asia.”
On 20 November, 2000, the 55th UNGA session adopted Resolution 55/33W on the establishment of a NWFZ in Central Asia. In the resolution, the UN Member States expressed their conviction that the establishment of a NWFZ was conducive to the achievement of general and complete disarmament and welcomed the desire of all five Central Asian States to finalize work on the establishment of the regional NWFZ and the concrete steps that they had taken to prepare the legal groundwork for the initiative. The resolution called upon all five Central Asian States to continue their dialogue with the five NWS on the establishment of the regional NWFZ. Prior to this resolution, the UNGA had adopted by consensus Resolutions 52/38S (1997) and 53/77A (1998) in support of the CANWFZ initiative. The initiative was also endorsed in the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference.
On 5-8 October, 1999, and from 3-6 April, 2000, the UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific and the Japanese government sponsored expert group meetings held in Sapporo, Japan to further discuss and negotiate the draft text of the CANWFZ.
On 9-10 July, an expert working group meeting, held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and attended by representatives from the five Central Asian States, the five NWS, the UN and IAEA, issued the Bishkek Communique. The Communique, issued at the conclusion of the meeting, recognized that the Central Asian States had made some progress in drafting the legal document on a NWFZ and that working consultations on basic elements of the future NWFZ were necessary. The five Central Asian States submitted a document entitled “Basic elements of the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia.” At the meeting, the participants exchanged opinions on the document and considered further steps towards establishing a NWFZ in Central Asia. The Central Asian States also acknowledged that continued consultations of experts from the NWS on the establishment of a NWFZ would be very useful.
On 27 February 1997, the Presidents of the five Central Asian States issued the Almaty Declaration endorsing the creation of a CANWFZ. They agreed to call on all States concerned, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the former Soviet Union nuclear weapons test site at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, to support the idea of proclaiming Central Asia a nuclear-free zone. The declaration placed the establishment of the NWFZ in the context of the environmental challenges faced by all five Central Asian States.
On 7-18 April 1997, at the session of the NPT Preparatory Committee, five Central Asian States (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) agreed to form a working group of foreign ministry officials to coordinate activities related to creating a CANWFZ. The group has held meetings in Almaty, Bishkek, Geneva, New York, Sapporo, and Tashkent. These meetings resulted in preparation of a draft text of the Treaty for a NWFZ in Central Asia.
On 14-16 September, an international conference on “Central Asia—A Nuclear Weapon Free Zone” was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The Tashkent conference, arranged by the five Central Asian States and attended by experts from the four existing NWFZs, considered lessons learned during the creation of these zones, which may be useful for the drafting of a CANWFZ treaty. Following the meeting, the Foreign Ministers of the five Central Asian States issued the Tashkent Statement, reaffirming their commitment to the establishment of a NWFZ and requested that the specialized agencies of the UN establish a group of experts, with the participation of experts from the region, to elaborate the forms and elements of preparation and implementation of an agreement on the establishment of a NWFZ in Central Asia.