ASTANA – Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov met with his counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador Ricardo Patiño, who arrived in Astana on his first official visit on July 4.
The sides discussed a wide range of issues in bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation and signed a protocol on political consultations among the two foreign ministries. Ecuador’s foreign minister also announced his country’s support for Kazakhstan’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2017-2018.
The meeting had historical value as it was the first official visit of such scope in the history of bilateral relations between the two countries. The Kazakh foreign minister emphasised that Astana considers the Ecuadorian capital city of Quito an important political and economic partner in Latin America. Kazakhstan and Ecuador are bound by common priorities and share similar positions on many international issues, the foreign ministry’s press release said.
As Idrissov noted, Kazakhstan is constantly working on visa liberalisation for its citizens. In this context, both sides noted the importance of the early entry into force of the agreement on mutual visa-free travel between the two countries. In September 2013, the countries agreed on a visa-free regime; however, to enforce the agreement, internal state procedures will need to be followed through. Kazakhstan has fulfilled its procedures, while Ecuador is still working on its own.
Ecuador is already the fourth largest trade partner of Kazakhstan in Latin America after Brazil ($377.1 million), Mexico ($121.4 million) and Argentina ($40.1 million). Total trade between Kazakhstan and Ecuador reached $38.9 million in 2013, which is a 30 percent growth year on year.
“This is a good indicator, but it is obvious that we have considerable potential for expanding this cooperation,” Idrissov said.
An important outcome of the talks was the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador on ministerial political consultations, which will give an additional impetus to the development of comprehensive cooperation between the two countries.
In an informal Facebook post, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry also shared some interesting tidbits from the meeting between Idrissov and Patiño. As it turned out, the Ecuadorean minister “fell in love with Kazakhstan” and hopes that the Kazakhs who visit his country “fall in love with Ecuador.” Anavid Twitter user, Patiño posted his pictures of Astana online, drawing many complimentary comments from his followers.
The two ministers apparently also noted the major potential for cooperation in trading in agricultural products, such as bananas, roses, shrimp and coffee. Ecuador, one of the world’s largest exporters of roses, already ships some to Kazakhstan.
Ecuador supported Kazakhstan’s bid to host international specialised exhibition EXPO 2017 and is interested in participating in it.
During his visit, Patiño met with Chairman of the Kazakh Senate Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, who expressed interest in the enhanced partnership with Ecuador and invited Ecuadorian parliamentarians to visit Kazakhstan’s capital. Among other senior officials, the Ecuadorian delegation met with Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Massimov, Minister of Oil and Gas Uzakbai Karabalin and Minister of Environment and Water Resources Nurlan Kapparov.
During the meeting with Karabalin, also attended by Ecuador’s Deputy Minister of Hydrocarbons Jose Icaza, Deputy Minister of Environment Lorena Sanchez, Ambassador of Ecuador to Russia and to Kazakhstan Patricio Chavez and other officials, it was noted that Kazakhstan’s industrial sector and Ecuador’s agricultural sector complement each other. The two sides agreed to organise trade missions to help boost bilateral trade.
While in Astana, Patiño also visited Nazarbayev University, where he noted that Yachay University in Ecuador had been created along similar ideas and said that promoting education is the only way to create sustained economic and social development.
Diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Ecuador were established in January 2012. At the time, then Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Kairat Umarov stressed the similarity of the work the two countries had done to consolidate the welfare of their nations and the active efforts of both nations to develop after establishing relations with other countries around the world.
The two countries may have other connections that go back millennia. During a recent festival of ethnic music, The Spirit of Tengri, in Almaty, native American band Yarik Ecuador caused a furore of sorts with sparkling and moving compositions that resonated very well with locals. A scholarly theory exists that proposes that the first people came to the Americas approximately 10,000 – 12,000 years ago from the Altai region – so there is a possibility that native Ecuadoreans and Kazakhs are nomadic relatives.