By Erlan Idrissov, Minister of Foreign Affairs Kazakhstan : –
(Astana – Kazakhstan) The state visit of the President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Kazakhstan was a real highlight. We enjoyed productive high level discussions, as well as the Kazakh-Turkish business forum. Trade between Turkey and Kazakhstan continues to strengthen. The volume of Turkish investments in Kazakhstan over the past ten years has exceeded $1.8 billion. We have implemented 35 investment projects, worth more than $3.5 billion. The volume of trade amounted to over $3.5 billion last year – an impressive amount that will continue to grow.
Our progress in trade is underlined by a joint program, “New Synergy”. Under the patronage of the Presidents of Kazakhstan and Turkey, the program is aimed at promoting a new concept of trade and economic cooperation and increasing trade turnover. During the visit, a protocol updating the framework of the program was signed which will help bring greater prosperity to both countries.
After meetings in Astana, our heads of state visited the town of Turkestan, known as the cradle of the Turkic world. There they visited the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yassawi. The presidents opened a newly built mosque and met with students of the International Kazakh-Turkish University.
A little earlier, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Kazakhstan. The meetings with the Hungarian Government were very cordial. Mr. Orban, speaking to reporters, said that relations between the two countries go far beyond simple collegiality and confessed that he feels at home in Kazakhstan. He noted that he sees no contradiction between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, and he is interested in establishing a dialogue between the two associations.
The two prime ministers expressed their intention to deepen cooperation in the oil and nuclear sectors, and build on progress in education and cultural links. During the visit, the prime ministers signed a memorandum on the establishment of the Kazakh-Hungarian strategic council. In addition, representatives of both countries signed a number of documents on education, agriculture and law.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’svisit to Astana was both productive and memorable. The arrival of my counterpart was accompanied by increased interest from the local and foreign media. Much of this interest was due to the timing of the visit – shortly after the talks in Lausanne, where Iran and the P5+1 group of international mediators achieved a political framework agreement on the Iranian nuclear program. For us it was also an important milestone: the resolution of Iran’s nuclear program by peaceful, political and diplomatic means strengthens security in our region and the world at large, and we cannot stand on the sidelines.
Kazakhstan has a strong commitment to non-proliferation. We voluntarily renounced nuclear weapons and made a practical contribution to the negotiation process. Our country provided a platform for holding two rounds of talks in February and April 2013, which significantly contributed to the creation of an atmosphere of trust between Iran and the group of international negotiators, and promoted a constructive dialogue.
During the meetings with Mr. Zarif, our leaders made clear that Kazakhstan stands ready to provide any necessary assistance to reach final agreement on this issue. While it is clear that the agreements made so far are not the end of the road, we sincerely hope that the political will of the countries participating in the negotiations will remain resolute. That determination to see the process through will be key to achieving a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program within the agreed timeframe.
Because of the need to be present at the negotiations in Lausanne, my colleagues from France and Germany, Laurent Fabius and Frank-Walter Steinmeier could not attend the joint conference of French and German ambassadors in Central Asian countries, Russia, China, Afghanistan and the EU. During the conference, which I attended, there was agreement on the need to expand cooperation between Germany, France and the EU with Central Asia. We agreed that greater cooperation was needed to address a number of regional issues, in security, economic ties, natural resources and environmental protection. There were discussions around the need to develop greater transportation infrastructure, and how to better integrate the region into the world economy. Our European partners welcomed the increasing involvement of Kazakhstan in addressing regional and global challenges and the growth of the country’s credibility as a responsible international partner.
At a meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, held on April 2 in Dushanbe, my colleagues and I focused on security issues. We noted with great concern that the terrorist organization, calling itself “Islamic State”, has been expanding its presence in the world. We know they are moving closer to our borders, as there is evidence their emissaries have been spotted in northern Afghanistan. Our absolute priorities remain combating terrorism and maintaining security in our country and in our neighbouring states. That will remain the focus of our joint efforts in the near future.
On April 3, I visited Bishkek, where I chaired the regular meeting of the Council of CIS Foreign Ministers. One of the most important and unifying events is a celebration of the Day of Victory in the Second World War in Europe. This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory against Nazism. Our heads of state plan to take part in the commemorations in Moscow, including in the informal meeting of the CIS, followed by the parade, on the 9th of May.
Looking forward, it is a time to take a quick look at upcoming events. On April 26, presidential elections will be held in Kazakhstan. The successful holding of elections requires lengthy and major preparations.
Sixty-five precinct election commissions have been organised in Kazakh diplomatic missions abroad. This is twice as many compared to the previous presidential election. All sites have been provided with the necessary infrastructure and election material. Our embassies hold briefings and other outreach activities.
We have already received ballot papers from the Central Election Commission, and our specially authorised and trained personnel have already started their delivery to all polling stations. We believe that about 20,000 of our citizens abroad can take part in the upcoming elections.
Our country, located in the heart of Eurasia, is an important and influential player on the world stage. So the upcoming presidential elections elicit a great deal of interest among foreign audiences. About 170 foreign journalists wish to travel to Kazakhstan and cover the election; they have received official accreditation from our Ministry. We have tried to create a comfortable working environment for them, including a fully equipped media centre, which will host briefings and interviews.
We intend to provide open, transparent and fair elections in accordance with the national law and the highest international standards. Our country is interested in constructive cooperation with international observers. More than 1,000 representatives from international organizations, including the OSCE/ODIHR, the OIC, SCO, TurkPA, CCTS, CIS, CSTO Parliamentary Assembly, as well as independent foreign observers from 37 countries will monitor the elections.
Monitoring the election is an important way of supporting democracy and human rights. Kazakhstan attaches great importance to the quality of the monitoring process, which is largely dependent on the composition of the observation missions for the elections. We are convinced that the Central Election Commission will ensure a high level of organisation of the vote, and we expect that observers will demonstrate impartiality and objectivity in their assessments of the electoral process in our country. We are convinced even more strongly that on April 26 the people of Kazakhstan will make another important step towards the consolidation of democracy and nation-building, strengthening socio-economic development in our state.
Photo by Phill Magakoe