The five official nuclear-weapon states are divided in their support of a proposed Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone treaty and an additional protocol, known as the Samarkand text, that outlines their responsibilities under the agreement, according to an official familiar with discussions they held December 17 at the United Nations.
China and Russia suggested that they would endorse the protocol—which stipulates that the nuclear-weapon states respect the zone’s absence of nuclear weapons, refrain from acts that might violate the treaty, and pledge not to use nuclear weapons against countries in the zone. France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, however, continue to express reservations about the Samarkand text formulation.
Their concerns include transit issues for fissile materials in the region, the pact’s relationship to other existing security agreements, and the special status of countries sharing the zone’s borders—Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, among others—that could later accede to the treaty. (See ACT, November 2002.)
Yet, the Central Asian states—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—remain firm in their commitment to the draft treaty text, the official noted in an interview January 7, and they will likely stand by it and the Samarkand agreement. “The Central Asian countries don’t want consultations prolonged forever,” he said, adding, “The disputed issues are matters of principle and not matters of compromise.” He confirmed that the Central Asian states intend to sign the treaty in April 2003 to establish the zone.
The five nuclear-weapon states are expected to submit their written comments about the treaty and the Samarkand text to the United Nations by mid-January. Further consultations among the Central Asian countries and nuclear-weapon states might be scheduled prior to the expected signing date.