Strengthening international security is one of the top priorities of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan pursues its primary mission – strengthening the sovereignty, territorial integrity, national security and defense of the nation – through consistent efforts to strengthen regional and global security, by making a substantial contribution to the establishment of a fair and democratic world order and by promoting the peace-building initiatives of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
A new step in this direction has been the signing on May 6, 2014 at the UN headquarters in New York by representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council (P5) – China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA – of the Protocol to the Treaty on the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ). The signing of the Protocol became a significant step in the legal process of establishing the zone, whereby the five nuclear powers provided guarantees not to use nuclear weapons against the five Treaty participants.
This event is a considerable achievement of multilateral diplomacy in nuclear disarmament and will have a substantial impact on regional and global security.
Being a recognized leader in nuclear disarmament on a global scale, Kazakhstan has made a meaningful contribution into signing the Protocol. Delivering his speech at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague in March this year, President Nazarbayev called on all countries to pursue comprehensive nuclear disarmament which is the only warranty for the nuclear security. The President stated: “We expect the early signing by the ‘nuclear five’ of the Protocol on negative guarantees to the countries-signatories of the Treaty on the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.”
Our ministry has been consistently pursuing the so-called negative security assurances from the nuclear weapon states (i.e. the guarantees not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons) by holding negotiations on behalf of all Central Asian states with the nuclear powers.
Among the sizeable list of Kazakhstan’s practical contributions to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament to date are renouncing the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal, closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and the elimination of its infrastructure, the creation of the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia, the President’s initiatives on the Universal Declaration on Achieving a Nuclear Weapons Free World under the aegis of the United Nations, offer to host the IAEA low-enriched uranium bank, and the ATOM Project, as well as providing a platform for negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme.
By signing the Protocol to the Treaty on the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, the region – located in the very heart of the Eurasian continent – will considerably strengthen stability in a vast geopolitical space. Taking into account that the region faces instability and threats from terrorist organizations, this act is of vital importance. Furthermore, the Central Asian states neighbour the two recognised nuclear powers – the Russian Federation and China, – as well as India and Pakistan, both known to possess nuclear weapons.
The establishment of the Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia has become possible due to the common constructive efforts of all five Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – to ensure security, stability and peace in the region.
The initial political impetus for these efforts was the summit of the heads of the Central Asian states in Almaty on February 28, 1997. At this summit, the region’s leaders agreed on the Almaty Declaration, a document pledging support for the idea of creating a nuclear weapon-free zone in Central Asia.
It is symbolic that the Agreement on creating the Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone was signed on September 8, 2006, in Semipalatinsk where in 1991, by a decree of President Nazarbayev, the nuclear test site was shut down. The agreement came into force on March 21, 2009, heralding an important step on the way to creating the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.
Under the Treaty, the member states of CANWFZ committed themselves to obligations to ban the production, acquisition and development of nuclear weapons and their components, and other nuclear explosive devices on their territories. They also committed themselves to a total ban on nuclear tests and the burying of radioactive waste on the territory of CANWFZ.
The parties of the Treaty also agreed to facilitate efforts on the ecological rehabilitation of the region and to closely collaborate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This included a commitment to sign with the IAEA an agreement on negative security guarantees in accordance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its Additional Protocol as well as to take measures on the physical protection of nuclear material and equipment.
On June 12, 2012, Kazakhstan accepted the Chair of the CANWFZ Treaty and the authority to hold negotiations on behalf of all Central Asian states on the signing of the Protocol of negative security guarantees with the nuclear states. Over the past two years, Kazakhstan has held intensive consultations and negotiations with representatives of the P5 to agree on the signing the Protocol and the undertaking of obligations to provide negative security assurances.
During 2012-2014, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan has held more than 20 meetings and negotiations with representatives of the P5 and member states of the Treaty, in both bilateral and multilateral formats and on different levels.
Drawing on Kazakhstan’s proposals to provide negative security assurances to the Treaty parties, a joint position document was developed entitled “On the position of the signatories of the Treaty on the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia on providing negative assurances to the Treaty”.
On October 9, 2013, during the UN General Assembly in New York, a principal agreement on the signing of the Protocol was reached by representatives of the P5, accompanied by interpretative statements from the states. By signing the Protocol on May 6, 2014, the nuclear weapon states undertook obligations not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the states participating in the Treaty.
The interpretative statements are conditions under which a nuclear weapon state may cancel the negative security assurances. The interpretative statements allow nuclear weapon states to free themselves of their commitment not to use nuclear weapons against the nuclear weapon-free zone members in the event of an aggression committed by a Party to the Treaty supported by a nuclear weapon state, involving the use by such a state of the territory and defence system of the parties and their allies.
Interpretative statements by the P5 apply to all Treaties on Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones: the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga), the Treaty on the South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (Bangkok Treaty), the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (Treaty of Pelindaba) and the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (Semipalatinsk Treaty).
All Central Asian states parties to the CANWFZ Treaty have acknowledged the right of the P5 to reserve the interpretative statements to the Protocol in accordance with their national legal systems and established international practice. When making the decision on signing the Protocol with the interpretative declarations, the Treaty member states prioritised the importance of the speedy institutionalization of the Treaty and the strengthening of the international security. This imperative was announced at the ceremony of the signing of the Protocol to the Treaty in New York.
With regards to the Treaty on the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, all nuclear weapon states, excluding China, made interpretative statements on different provisions of the Treaty. I would like to emphasize the firm position taken by China, which signed the Protocol without any reservations and supported a comprehensive ban and the destruction of nuclear weapons and the member states’ commitment to ensuring security in the region.
It is essential to underscore the role of the UN in both the framing of the Treaty and the efforts to promote its institutionalisation. In this vein, the UN General Assembly adopted a number of resolutions to support the Treaty. The resolutions emphasised that creating the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia is an important step towards the strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime, the encouragement of cooperation in the process of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the ecological rehabilitation of the territories affected by radioactive contamination, the strengthening of regional peace and security, as well as an effective contribution to the fight against international terrorism and the prevention of the acquisition of nuclear materials and technologies by non-governmental subjects, primarily by terrorists.
Kazakhstan continues to make a considerable contribution to strengthening peace and security, including important work on securing nuclear materials. As highlighted by President Nazarbayev at the recent Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, “After closing the Semipalatinsk test site and renouncing the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal, Kazakhstan, jointly with the USA and Russia, eliminated the infrastructure of the testing site. The works on ensuring security on the site are still underway. Kazakhstan’s nuclear activities are under the comprehensive IAEA safeguards. We supported the IAEA initiative to establish the international low enriched uranium bank and are about to finalise negotiations on its location on our territory”.
The signing of the Protocol to the Treaty, actively facilitated by Kazakhstan, constitutes clear proof of our country’s successful efforts in nuclear disarmament and its growing reputation on the global stage.
Indeed, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon has praised Kazakhstan’s actions in the area of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. During a visit to the Semipalatinsk Test Site in April 2010, he commented: “In 1991, soon after the independence of Kazakhstan, President Nazarbayev showed an extraordinary leadership by closing the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site and banishing nuclear weapons from Kazakhstan. It was a visionary step, a true declaration of independence … I call on all nuclear weapon states to follow suit of Kazakhstan.”
We expect the recently signed Protocol to be ratified by all nuclear states before the 2015 NPT Review Conference. This will formally institutionalise the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and become our common solid contribution to the strengthening of the NPT regime and the success of the 2015 NPT Review Conference.
Kazakhstan will continue to promote the ideals of a world free from nuclear weapons and actively participate in international events and initiatives to reach this goal. This is an absolute priority of the foreign policy of the President of Kazakhstan. If Kazakhstan is elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2017-2018, we will actively promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in this important UN body.
The author is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan.