ASTANA – President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev met United Nations(UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Astana’s Palace of Peace and Harmony on June 10 to discuss the work of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions and other ways of cooperation.
Nazarbayev noted that the participation of the UN Secretary-General in the Congress, which has been taking place in the purpose-built Palace of Peace and Harmony since 2006, seriously increases the significance of the event.
“In spite of your busyness, especially in light of the difficult period in the economy, politics, inter-confessional issues, as well as preparation for the 70th anniversary of the UN, you came to our country. In addition, you supported our initiative on the closure of the nuclear test site, which is celebrated on Aug. 29 as the International Day against Nuclear Tests. We believe that through forums like this one, Kazakhstan contributes to the establishment of peace in the world,” he said.
In turn, Ban thanked Nazarbayev for the invitation to take part in the event, which brought together leaders of world religions.
“I would like to pay tribute to your vision and initiative to assemble this congress, which is really important in current times. You came up with this initiative 12 years ago, when the situation was radically different from the present. Today, when the whole world is suffering from religious extremism and terrorism, it is necessary that the voices of religious leaders that are calling to confront the hatred have been heard,” he said, as quoted by the presidential press service.
Following the meeting with the President, Ban and Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov attended the opening ceremony of a new UN building in Astana.
The building, renovated by the government of Kazakhstan, is the result of long-term and fruitful cooperation between the government and the UN.
“It is a great honour and privilege for me to carry out two important events today – first of all, I was very much privileged to open this new, very excellent United Nations House. This should be our common working place, and I would like to sincerely thank the government and people of Kazakhstan for their strong support for the United Nations,” Ban said.
Kazakhstan intends to continue supporting the United Nations, Idrissov said, noting the decision to allocate another building in Almaty for the needs of UN international agencies. Like the building in Astana, located on the bank of the Yessil River, the building in Almaty is situated in one of the most picturesque areas of the city and has a total area of 20,000 square metres. At the moment, construction and repair works are underway. When they are finished, the building will be transferredto the UN. Kazakhstan hopes the move will advance the issue of creating a UN regional diplomacy hub in Almaty, much like the ones in Istanbul and Bangkok.
“Kazakhstan is known for its championing role as a leading country in this region and also a global leader. The country has been promoting, as one of the leaders, nuclear nonproliferation, as well as peacebuilding in a variety of conflicts, including in Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan and many other places,” the UN secretary-general said.
“Kazakhstan has helped advance a global conversation between religious and political leaders about promoting tolerance and the universal right to freedom of religion and beliefs. I strongly believe that religious leaders have a critical role to play. This was also the subject of a United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting which I convened in late April for the same purpose,” he added.
During the event, President of Al Farabi Kazakh National University Galimkair Mutanov presented to Ban an honorary doctorate degree from the university for his contribution to peace and mutual understanding in the international arena.
Ban noted that he perceives it as a sign of respect to the whole system of the UN and its staff around the world, who are working tirelessly, day and night, for world peace and democracy and human rights, even under very difficult and dangerous circumstances.
“You are one of the oldest universities in Central Asia and I will do my best to preserve that kind of honour and legacy of your university. I know that you are celebrating 80 years [since you were founded]; for the United Nations, this is the 70th [anniversary] – you are 10 years older than the United Nations! We are similar in age and share a similar mission to build bridges of understanding and cooperation and global citizenry,” he said.
“Many centuries ago, your namesake Al Farabi wrote that it is impossible to achieve one’s goals in isolation. It can only be done by joining with others and now I am joining with your university, I am joining with the people of Kazakhstan, and that is the spirit in which I accept this honour,” Ban concluded.