ASTANA – April 10 marked the 24th year of bilateral relations between Israel and Kazakhstan. Israel was among the first nations to recognise Central Asia’s newly-emerged independent countries, including Kazakhstan.
“It is truly remarkable what has been achieved during this short period of time,” said new Israeli Ambassador in Kazakhstan Michael Brodsky. “Relations between Kazakhstan and Israel are based not only on mutual interests, but they are also based on deep mutual respect and deep mutual sympathy between our people. In the next year, we will mark the 25th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. From the very beginning of our relationship it was very important for us to create a strong and meaningful bond with Kazakhstan for many reasons, such as appreciation for your country as a big regional power and as a moderate Muslim country.”
Brodsky added Kazakhstan served as a way for Israel to provide diversity for its energy sources.
“We have been buying oil from Kazakhstan for many years, worth more than $1 billion per year. Of course, now this number went down, because of prices for oil,” he explained.
“Today we have meaningful relationships in many different fields: political, economic and cultural and we managed to make these connections very strong,” he said.
Agriculture, health, industry, education, science and high technology are the most important fields of Kazakh-Israeli cooperation. Hundreds of companies in Kazakhstan operate with Israel’s participation. The fields of cooperation are diverse, as Israel has a presence in many areas of Kazakhstan’s economy, not just agriculture and security.
“Speaking about bilateral trade, of course, the numbers went down, but this is not a unique situation. It is correct for many countries. Israel’s economy is also facing difficulties because of the overall economic crisis. I believe that the economic crisis will create new opportunities,” said Brodsky.
The ambassador noted Israel plans to help develop the Kazakh agricultural field, with several Israeli companies starting work in the South Kazakhstan region. They aim to produce products not only to sell in local markets, but also export to Russia, China and other countries.
“We have established an experimental drop irrigation farm in Ushkonyr, close to Almaty. The idea is to represent Israel’s capabilities in the field of drip irrigation and to bring farmers to learn, to share our experience. I know that in Kazakhstan there is much appreciation of Israel’s achievements in agriculture. Last year, President Nursultan Nazarbayev noted the quality of Israeli strawberries and he said that such strawberries should be grown in Kazakhstan. We are happy to assist using high technologies and Israel’s experience,” he said.
Brodsky added that despite being a free market economy, Israel is still an idealistic country, a characteristic that has deep roots in the nation’s values.
“We have a centre of international cooperation (MASHAV) where we share our technologies and knowledge free of charge with as many countries as possible. Over the last decade, we brought a few hundred experts from Kazakhstan to the centre. I am happy to say that more than 1,000 doctors did internships in Israel and all of them came back and all of them are working in different hospitals of Kazakhstan. I am sure that they benefit from the experience they got in Israel,” he said.
The ambassador has three priorities during his term: reaching out to the younger generation, creating trilateral relations among Kazakhstan, Israel and China, and promoting cooperation in agriculture and water management.
“The Israeli Embassy works with Bolashak graduates, because it considers that it is very important to reach out to this group of young people by different means. Israel aims to establish good relations with young people today, then to establish the relations with them in the future. The Embassy invites young people to explore Israel; the so-called ‘Startup Nation’ plans to organise different courses and cultural activities in public diplomacy. For example, [I can point to the] participation in the Almaty Jazz Festival, where a prominent Israeli pianist participated. Young people liked him very much,” he said.
Brodsky also stressed the importance of the new Silk Road, a corridor connecting China with Europe.
“Israel is sure Chinese involvement in Kazakhstan’s economy will become more and more significant and obviously the new Silk Road initiative will require great investments, which China is planning to make in Kazakhstan. So we truly want to be part of it. Israel’s technologies can be required,” he said.
He also noted the importance of exchanging ideas in the financial field.
“One of the major events in our relations is the second round of negotiations concerning double taxation, which took place in Astana. A group of Israeli experts visited the Kazakh capital recently and soon Kazakhstan experts will visit Israel,” he said.
Although official relations between the two nations began in 1992, Brodsky noted they in fact started much earlier.
“I should mention one episode which is very important in the relationships of the Kazakh and Jewish nations. Thousands and thousands of Jewish people were evacuated from Europe and different regions of the Soviet Union to the Central Asian region. Thanks to the hospitality of local people they not only survived, but they found a new home here. Many of them stayed here. Israel will always remember this,” he said.
The Embassy used the new March 1 holiday, the Day of Gratitude, as an excellent opportunity to again thank the Kazakh population for its hospitality and warm attitude towards the Jewish people.
“I have lived here for four months and I really feel the atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance of everyone. This is very important. We have a Jewish community in Kazakhstan. I meet them regularly and all of them say that they feel comfortable and secure here. That is the spirit of Kazakhstan,” said Brodsky.