For Immediate Release: September 8, 2006
(Washington, D.C.) Today, five former Soviet republics committed themselves to never acquiring, manufacturing, possessing, or testing nuclear weapons by signing a treaty to create a Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone. The nonpartisan, independent Arms Control Association (ACA) welcomed the move as a positive step forward in reinforcing a beleaguered nuclear nonproliferation regime and advancing the goal of nuclear disarmament.
Central Asia used to house part of the sprawling Soviet nuclear weapons complex. But now Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have broken with this nuclear past by signing the free zone pact at a former Soviet nuclear testing site, Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. Negotiations on the agreement started in 1997.
“Despite being surrounded by nuclear-armed neighbors, these five states have courageously and correctly concluded that nuclear weapons are not necessary for their future security,” declared ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball. “All states clinging or aspiring to nuclear weapons should heed this principled example and take their own steps to revive the lackluster nuclear disarmament process, which is the only sure way of protecting all countries against nuclear terror,” he urged.
France, the United Kingdom, and the United States declined to attend the signing ceremony today because of some reservations they have with the treaty text. “While the agreement may not be perfect, governments with legitimate concerns should find constructive ways to address them rather than acting in ways that cast aspersions on a laudable accomplishment,” ACA Research Director Wade Boese stated.
The Central Asian zone will be the fifth such arrangement. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific (Treaty of Rarotonga), Southeast Asia (Treaty of Bangkok), and Africa (Treaty of Pelindaba) have also banded together to create nuclear-weapon-free zones. Mongolia has also outlawed nuclear weapons on its territory and all countries are prohibited from stationing nuclear weapons in Antarctica, on the seabed, and in outer space.
For more information on nuclear-weapon-free zones and nonproliferation, please visit the Association’s nuclear proliferation resource page at http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/nup/, which includes an Arms Control Today article by Leonard Spector and Aubrie Ohlde of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) on the value of nuclear-weapon-free zones. Their colleagues at CNS have also published a September 5 paper on the history and current status of the Central Asian zone, which is available at http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/week/060905.htm.
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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting effective arms control policies. ACA publishes the monthly journal Arms Control Today.