In Twitter Chat, Kazakh FM Covers Ukraine, Afghanistan, EXPO 2017, Visa Free Regime

ASTANA – Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov held a live Twitter chat with Internet users July 1 on the eve of the Day of Diplomatic Service.
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Announcements about the upcoming chat were posted in advance on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Twitter page. Users had a chance to directly ask Idrissov a wide range of questions at #ASKMFAKZ.

Answering the questions, Idrissov noted that Kazakhstan currently has 92 official representations operating abroad, including 57 embassies, three diplomatic missions, five representatives in international organisations, 11 general consulates and 14 consulates. Diplomatic relations have been established with 174 foreign countries,with 69 embassies physically located in Kazakhstan today.

A number of questions concerned the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Ukraine. In his comments, the minister said the situation in Afghanistan is not stable enough to secure steady development of the country. In his view, however, there is no reason to dramatise the situation. The Kazakh MFA monitors the situation in the country, taking into account the emergence of Daish in northern Afghanistan. Along with its international partners, Kazakhstan is developing various diplomatic and other means to respond to the potential threats, said Idrissov.

“The situation in Ukraine has long gone beyond that country and has acquired an international dimension. We are confident that the efforts of the international community, including Kazakhstan’s, on settlement of the conflict will succeed. We urge all parties to avoid the escalation and exchange of sanctions, as well as not to stop searching for peaceful ways to overcome the disputes,” he added in a series of tweets.

Answering questions about the relevance of Kazakhstan holding EXPO 2017 in Astana given the costs associated with hosting it, the foreign minister wrote that the exhibition would promote development of a green economy, tourism, hotel business, small and medium-sized businesses and the city’s infrastructure, as well as create new jobs.

“As of today, 30 countries have confirmed their participation in written form and15 more states declared their participation [verbally]. This is a satisfactory figure for the first year after the official recognition of EXPO 2017 and receiving the International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE) flag,” Idrissov tweeted.

Responding to a question for the justification for a developing country like Kazakhstan to create its own system of official development assistance, the minister explained that KazAID, as the still to be established aid agency is likely to be called, will not be a charitable organisation that provides funds at the disposal of foreign governments. Astana will offer targeted support to projects that can effectively contribute to the development of the regional economy, he emphasised.

The minister also commented on a new initiative, announced a few days earlier by President Nazarbayev at EXPO 2015 Milano that the government of Kazakhstan was expanding the number of countries included in a trial visa-free regime and extended that regime until Dec. 31, 2017. The list now includes 19 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UAE, the U. K. and the U.S. Citizens of these countries can travel visa-free to Kazakhstan for up to 15 days beginning on July 16, 2015. Up until then, the list of the trial visa-free regime included 10 countries.

Some users wanted to know about the spheres of economy and kinds of talents that Kazakhstan solicits when considering the issues of recruiting foreign specialists to work in the country. Idrissov described the types of individuals the nation seeks.
“Kazakhstan is open to foreign talent and we welcome [skilled] professionals in manufacturing and mining. In fact, there is a demand in all sectors and industries. The foreign [labour force] gets work permits within the yearly-identified quotas but in the near future we are planning to introduce a self-employment scheme [for them].

“Another focus is on attracting talented young foreigners to Kazakhstan. For these purposes, we are planning to introduce higher education grants for exceptional and talented young people. We are also keen on creating the necessary environment to make sure that thesetalented foreigners stay in the country beyond their education cycle and contribute to the economic development of Kazakhstan,” he added.

According to Idrissov, a package of documents reflecting Kazakhstan’s terms of accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was adopted June 22. The next step is adoption of those documents by all members of the organisation at the general council meeting. Accession to WTO certainly has its benefits, as Kazakh goods will receive access to the markets of more than 160 countries, Idrissov stressed.

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