ASTANA – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov reported on the preliminary results of the Foreign Ministry’s activity in 2013 focusing on relations with key international partners, trade and investment cooperation , the need to develop cooperation with new countries in Latin America and Africa and other topics at the Central Communications Service (CCS) briefing on Dec. 19.
Idrissov began by describing Kazakhstan’s close relationship with Russia and highlighted the signing of a new Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness and Alliance in the 21st Century, between the two countries. The agreement reflects all directions of Kazakhstan and Russia’s bilateral cooperation, not only reaffirming current agreements but also noting the new challenges and trends of the modern world. The agreement is currently awaiting ratification in Kazakhstan’s Parliament.
Idrissov commented on the new leadership in China. “It is important that we established a partnership and trusting dialogue with new Chairman Xi Jinping,” he said. “The leaders of Kazakhstan and China met twice in 2013 – within the Boao Forum and during the state visit of Xi to Astana, where he made a historical speech and first announced China’s foreign policy strategy towards Central Asia. An important outcome of the visit was the signing of 23 bilateral documents totalling more than US$35 billion.”
According to Idrissov, Kazakhstan’s Central Asian foreign policy is focused on the most pressing issues of ensuring regional security and enhancing economic cooperation among regional states based on mutually beneficial and friendly relations.
“In 2013, in Central Asia, we carried out four visits at the level of heads of state, two visits at the level of the prime ministers and three visits at the level of the foreign minister. We signed 12 bilateral documents, including a strategic partnership agreement with Uzbekistan, sectoral agreements, cooperation programmes and joint statements with Central Asian states,” Idrissov explained.
He also noted the continuation of the strategic partnership with the U.S. based on the institutionalisation of bilateral cooperation, which aims to systematise the relationship between the two countries. In July 2013 in Astana, a new mechanism of cooperation with the U.S., the Commission on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, was launched. He called the agreement on the issuing of five-year visas for citizens of Kazakhstan and the U.S. one of the important results of the year.
Regarding the EU, Idrissov said, “We continue to work on the conclusion of the partnership and cooperation agreement with the EU. In addition to innovation and technology partnerships, one of the important directions of the agreement will be the consistent work we are conducting on visa regime liberalisation.”
The foreign minister also noted that the dynamic growth of political and economic development in Asia requires the expansion of bilateral and multilateral relations with the Asia-Pacific region. Based on that, efforts are focused on the maximum use of trade, economic and investment technological cooperation potential with Asia and the Pacific and expanding the Kazakh presence in the region by identifying new markets for Kazakh exports and agriculture. With such developed countries as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, cooperation is focused on the exchange of the latest technologies, the import and introduction of energy- and water-saving technologies and personnel training.
“We intend to continue to actively involve the constructive potential of regional dialogue mechanisms such as Central Asia-Japan and Central Asia-South Korea. In general, the expansion of cooperation with the Asia-Pacific region will be one of the key priorities of the Foreign Ministry in 2014. Evidence of increased interest in the region was the opening of a Kazakh embassy in Vietnam and the transformation of the Kazakh diplomatic mission in Thailand into an embassy.
The minister also described two new directions for Kazakhstan’s foreign policy: Africa and Latin America. Two weeks earlier, President Nazarbayev signed a decree on opening an embassy in South Africa. One will be opened in Ethiopia next year.
For Kazakhstan, as described in the state-of-the-nation address and the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, one of the most important foreign policy priorities is the development of economic diplomacy, which includes several tasks, in particular the promotion of foreign investment in the production sector and the priority areas of Kazakhstan’s economy. Currently, Kazakhstan is one of the leaders in terms of foreign capital invested in the economy. From 2005 to the first half of 2013, Kazakhstan attracted US$173 billion in foreign direct investment, more than US$100 billion of which has come in the last five years. In other words, even during the global financial crisis, Kazakhstan’s investment climate and the macroeconomic situation in the country remained stable.
In the context of regional and global security, the foreign ministry paid special attention to Iran’s nuclear programme and the situation in Afghanistan. “In 2013, we hosted two rounds of international negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme in Almaty, during which the participants laid the basis for subsequent meetings in Geneva and the signing of a joint action plan between the P5+1 countries and Iran,” Idrissov said.
Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues have become part of the agenda of Kazakhstan’s political activities. Seeking to push this process on a global scale, Kazakhstan made a specific proposal for the adoption of the Universal Declaration on a Nuclear Weapons-Free World, which could become an important step toward the adoption of a Convention on the Prohibition and Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Kazakhstan’s international ATOM Project, aimed at taking decisive action on a final and irrevocable nuclear test ban, is getting increasing support in the world. This year, the Foreign Ministry held more than 50 events to promote the ATOM Project abroad, including events in cooperation with the Parliament of Kazakhstan and major international organisations such as the UN, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly and others. So far, the ATOM Project’s online petition has been signed by more than 70,000 people from 100 countries, and the number of signatures is steadily growing.
In accordance with modern requirements for improving the safety of travel documents, Kazakhstan began including biometric data and enhanced protection measures on diplomatic and service passports issued from Sept. 1 of this year.
At the briefing, hosted by CCS official spokesperson Altay Abibullayev, Idrissov also shared some interesting statistics. In 2013, eight foreign heads of state, six heads of government, 10 foreign ministers and seven heads of international organizations visited Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstan President visited five countries, the Prime Minister paid four bilateral visits, members of government paid 25 visits. At the same time, President Nazarbayev participated in nine international events, Prime Minister Akhmetov – in five, and Foreign Minister Idrissov – in 12.
According to Idrissov, currently, there are 67 embassies and foreign missions in Kazakhstan, as well as offices of 22 international organizations and 17 general consulates. Kazakhstan, in turn, maintains, 82 posts abroad, including 54 embassies, five permanent representative offices, three diplomatic missions, and 10 general consulates.