President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev visited Kiev on Dec. 22 for talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko and other officials seeking to reinvigorate bilateral political and economic cooperation and find lasting peaceful solutions to the bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine.
This was the first visit for the Kazakh leader to Kiev since the change of leadership as the result of Euromaidan revolution and subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections in the fellow post-Soviet country.
Following the talks, the two presidents agreed to intensify the implementation of joint projects in the fields of engineering and agriculture, cooperation on the implementation of innovative technologies in the priority sectors. The two leaders also instructed the two governments to evaluate promising projects in renewable energy and “green” economy.
The presidents noted with satisfaction the implementation of current and future bilateral projects in the form of joint ventures in the fields of innovation and high technology, higher and vocational education.
“Twenty years passed since the signing of the Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation between our countries. From 2010 to 2013 our mutual trade had doubled. This year this number has fallen, which does not correspond to the existing potential, because Ukraine is an important trade and economic partner of Kazakhstan,” Nazarbayev said addressing Poroshenko.
“Kazakhstan widely uses Ukrainian agricultural and municipal machinery. Food is being imported and exported. The volume of trade that amounted to US$4 billion, [this year] fell by a third. However, we have the opportunity to return to previous levels,” he added.
Following the negotiations, the two countries have agreed on the intensification of cooperation in energy, mechanical engineering, aircraft, space and military-technical spheres. Nazarbayev expressed interest in the Ukrainian experience of building armoured vehicles.
“The experience and potential of the Ukrainian military-industrial complex will be used to increase defence capability of Kazakhstan,” Poroshenko said.
According to Poroshenko’s press service, the parties discussed the opportunity of combining capacities of the Ukrainian space enterprises, namely Pivdenne, Pivdenmash and Khartron, with the Kazakh ones, including Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Nazarbayev has called the cooperation in the sphere of energy mechanical engineering the most promising, particularly, in the context of using the products of Turboatom, Zaporizhtransformator, Zoria-Mashproekt for the construction of energy facilities in Kazakhstan. Ukrainian agricultural machinery and products also enjoy great demand in Kazakhstan.
The interlocutors also reached an agreement on the supply of coal from Karaganda and Ekibastuz coal basins to Ukraine, which is short on coal due to disruption in supplies from the eastern, conflict-torn part of the country.
Poroshenko expressed his sincere gratitude to Nazarbayev for his care for Ukraine.
“Thank you for immediate response to my invitation to come and support us in a very difficult time. I personally, the government and the Ukrainian people highly appreciate it. Indeed, we believe that the potential of bilateral relations between Ukraine and Kazakhstan is not used to the fullest. It is essential that relevant bodies conduct a serious work on this aspect,” he said.
In turn, Nazarbayev noted that he supports all measures aimed at peaceful resolution of the situation in and around Ukraine. He said he supports peaceful initiatives aimed at de-escalation of the armed conflict in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
“Now is the time to move from confrontation to compromise and to rebuild economic ties based on this,” Nazarbayev said. “The current situation benefits no one. We have friendly relations with all countries, and together with you we can work on this issue. I hope we can find some solutions and coordinate our actions.”
According to the Kazakh foreign ministry, Astana has been working towards normalisation of relations between Russia, Ukraine and the West. For this reason in order to start a dialogue on the Ukrainian crisis, Kazakhstan has worked with other countries to organise the meeting of leaders of the three countries of the Customs Union, Ukraine and the European Union in Minsk on Aug. 26.
There Nazarbayev called for all parties involved to refrain from using force and instead to address the challenges through diplomatic channels. The Kazakh leader urged to immediately resolve the humanitarian catastrophe in the east of Ukraine. He also called to ensure a large-scale humanitarian aid campaign to assist Ukrainian people, adding that the efforts should be supported by international organisations, including the Customs Union and the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States].
In the framework of cooperation with international organisations, Kazakhstan provided $40,000 to support activity of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, which paid special attention to realisation of agreements to stop hostilities. In October, Kazakhstan allocated $30,000 as a direct contribution for Ukraine’s humanitarian needs to the International Committee of the Red Cross. And on Dec. 19, the government of Kazakhstan passed a resolution allocating 69,727,875 tenge (US$377,000) worth of humanitarian assistance to eastern Ukraine, including canned meat, sugar, buckwheat, and vegetable oil.
On the sidelines of the Minsk summit in August, Poroshenko held his first bilateral meeting with Nazarbayev. At that time Poroshenko expressed hope for maintaining strong bilateral cooperation with Kazakhstan and thanked Nazarbayev for support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
During the Dec. 22 talks in Kiev, Nazarbayev and Poroshenko paid particular attention to the role of 330,000-strong Ukrainian Diaspora in Kazakhstan that acts as a “living bridge” linking the two countries by cultural and family ties.
The Kazakh leader also highlighted opportunities offered by the State Programme of Accelerated Industrial and Innovative Development, and the main directions of the Nurly Zhol new economic policy, and invited the Ukrainian business to participate in future projects within these programmes.
The two presidents also noted that in 2013 Kiev successfully hosted the Days of Kazakhstan’s Culture. The Days of Ukrainian Culture are planned to be held next year in Astana. One of the significant events of the culture days will be celebrations devoted to the 200th anniversary of the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko and the opening of his monument in Astana.
During his visit, Nazarbayev also met with Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk to discuss the current situation and prospects of development of the Kazakh-Ukrainian relations.
“According to the accepted agreement on free trade zone in the CIS, we should develop economic ties. Intergovernmental commission will work between our two countries. There is a Business Forum planned to be held for Kazakh and Ukrainian businessmen, so that they could find common ground,” Nazarbayev said.
Yatsenyuk noted that Ukraine and Kazakhstan have had close economic and political relations for a long time.
“We have two main areas of cooperation: trade and energy. This is where we can and must succeed. I am convinced that our bilateral economic cooperation should only improve, since the [current] figures are not the best. If we take the right and clear decisions aimed at increasing turnover, it will benefit both of our countries” Yatsenyuk said.