Posted on June 11th, 2012 No comments
As I expected, May was very busy for Kazakh diplomacy here in DC as well as back home in Astana. I thought I’d briefly touch on some of the events designed to promote the Kazakh-US friendship and contribute to international peace.
Kazakhstan-US 20th Anniversary Conference
On May 18, the newly established Nazarbayev Center hosted a major international conference called “Kazakhstan – USA: 20 Years of Partnership for Security and Development,” which summarized the two decades of successful cooperation and was timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the first official visit of President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the U.S. in 1992 at the invitation of then-President George H.W. Bush. The first visit laid a solid ground for the steady growth of bilateral cooperation.
The event was well attended by the political leaders, ministers and CEOs of major national companies. More information on the event could be found here.
The conference covered all important aspects of the bilateral agenda and helped generate constructive ideas to further enhance the strategic partnership. Underlining the importance of the event, a number of important dignitaries spoke and sent their messages to the participants.
Some relevant materials are found here:
- President Nazarbayev’s Message;
- Director Saudabayev’s Remarks;
- Ambassador Fairfax’s Remarks containing the message from President G.W.Bush;
- Ambassador Courtney’s Remarks;
- Secretary Clinton’s Message;
- General Powell’s Video Message;
- Secretary Baker’s Video Message;
- Chronology of Kazakh-US Strategic Partnership.
Kazakhstan took part in the NATO Summit
Another major event which greatly advanced our cooperation was Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov’s trip to Chicago for the NATO Summit on May 21. There, he once again confirmed Kazakhstan’s commitment to support US efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. Most importantly, he was one of the few leaders to announce a decision to make financial contribution to support Afghan National Security Forces.
He highlighted the importance of developing regional trade and economic cooperation with Afghanistan. Kazakhstan will continue its support of Afghanistan’s economic and humanitarian recovery. This support will be done in a variety of ways, for example, through partnering with international organizations such as the FAO and WFP to increase supply of grain to Afghanistan. Kazakhstan also supplies fuel to Afghanistan, helps build social and economic facilities, trains its students at the best Kazakh universities, and promotes the participation of Kabul in regional trade, investment and infrastructure projects.
Kazykhanov called on Summit participants to strengthen efforts to combat drug trafficking from Afghanistan since “successful counter-terrorism is impossible without solving this problem.” In this regard, the Minister highlighted the work of the Central Asian Regional Information Coordination Center (CARICC), which was set up in Almaty with the U.N. assistance.
The situation in Afghanistan and Kazakhstan’s approach to it is elaborated in Foreign Minister Kazykhanov’s article “Stabilizing Afghanistan: the View from Kazakhstan,” (Real Clear World, May 18, 2012).
Many officials, including NATO Secretary General Rasmussen and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who had a separate meeting with Central Asian Foreign Ministers, expressed gratitude to Kazakhstan and other Eurasian countries for the logistical assistance to NATO. This crucial support was also recognized by the leaders of all 28 NATO members and reflected in the Chicago Summit Declaration: “We welcome the progress on transit arrangements with our Central Asian partners and Russia.”
Minister Kazykhanov held a working meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary Robert Blake. They discussed progress toward implementing the agreements reached at the meeting between President Nursultan Nazarbayev and President Barack Obama during the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in March 2012. They also underlined the importance of the recently established bilateral Strategic Partnership Commission, which covers the vast array of bilateral comprehensive agenda.
5th Astana Economic Forum
Astana is emerging as a dialogue platform not only for political gatherings, but also discussions on economic opportunities. One of such important events which gathered world’s leading financial experts, politicians , Nobel Prize winners was the 5th Astana Economic Forum , which took place on May 22-24 in our brand new capital Astana.
At the Forum, President Nazarbayev proposed a test of a new online dialogue format for the Astana Forum along the lines of the “G-GLOBAL” project which he initiated last year. The idea quickly received broad support from the political, expert and business delegates in attendance.
To ensure that developing countries have a stable and secure foundation for development, President Nazarbayev proposed five fundamental principles of international order:
- Evolution, not revolution
- Justice, equality, and consensus.
- Global tolerance and trust.
- Global transparency
- Constructive multilateralism
A major highlight of the Forum was the “Astana Invest 2012” investment forum, which showcased investment opportunities and future prospects for the Kazakh economy. Business agreements totaling USD $1.5 billion were signed.
Overall, Astana Economic Forum proved to be an important dialogue platform for decision makers, business executives and economic scientists. Their discussions contributed to the global discourse on the economic challenges, while international business leaders focused on vast investment opportunities fast growing Kazakhstan economy offers to not only major corporations, but also small and medium enterprises.
By tradition, the Forum was wrapped up by an Open Letter to the leaders of the G20 member states. Representatives of the Eurasian Economic Club of Scientists, the main organizers of the Astana Economic Forum, visited New York City and Washington D.C. on June 4-6 to deliver the Open Letter’s messages to the UN and G-20. Mr. Murat Karimsakov, Chairman of the Eurasian Economic Club of Scientists, and his First Deputy Mr. Serik Nugerbekov met with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and discussed the main provisions of the Open Letter. The Kazakh economic scientists also met with Lourdes Aranda, G20 Sherpa for Mexico, and Roberto Marino, Special Representative for Mexico’s G20 Presidency, to deliver the Open Letter and discuss the Forum’s recommendations. During the meeting, Aranda expressed his interest in holding a wrap-up conference in Astana to discuss the outcome of the Mexico’s G20 presidency and the upcoming Russian chairmanship of the G20. The Open Letter’s key messages include recommendations on ways to develop the global multi-polar governance system based on the principles of the G-Global; to reform international monetary and financial system; to support sustainable development; and to address energy-ecology and food security issues.
Foreign Investors Council discusses Growing Opportunities
Another major economic event was the the Foreign Investors’ Council meeting on May 22 chaired by President Nazarbayev. The meeting focused on trade, logistics and finances. Nazarbayev highlighted major economic achievements and improvement of the investment climate:
- Over the 14 years since the FIC’s founding, Kazakhstan’s economy has grown by more than 8.2 times to USD $181 billion. In 2011 alone, GDP growth constituted 7.5 percent.
- Over those two decades, 70 percent of the total foreign direct investment in Central Asia – almost USD $150 billion – was made in Kazakhstan.
- In two short years, about 400 new production plants were constructed, producing goods worth more than USD $3 billion.
- Last year, foreign investment in Kazakhstan totaled USD $18 billion.
It is interesting to note how many priorities of our two countries’ foreign and economic policies coincide. One of such convergence is restoring the Silk Way in Eurasia. We are all well aware of the US initiative on New Silk Way, which was supported by Kazakhstan. President Nazarbayev offered his vision for New Silk Road: “Kazakhstan should revive its historic role as the largest business and transit hub in the Central Asian region, serving as a bridge between Europe and Asia. Once implemented, the project will result in nearly a two-fold increase in cargo transit traffic through Kazakhstan by 2020,” he said.
During the meeting, the Kazakh officials and foreign investors discussed ways to better implement development projects to gain from the growth trajectory of the Kazakh economy. The Foreign Investors’ Council is an advisory body established to improve the investment climate of Kazakhstan. Its members include major investors such as GE, Delloitte, HSBC, Shell, Chevron, Total, ExxonMobil, British Gas, Conoco Philips, Credit Suisse Europe, TeliaSonera, Mitsubishi Corporation etc, with an overall membership of 30 global corporations.
In addition to political and economic overtures of our young capital, Astana is the center of global inter-faith dialogue. The 4th meeting of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, which meets once in three years, was hosted on May 30-31. It brought together Muslims and Christians, Jews and Buddhists, as well as representatives of Hinduism, Shintoism, and Zoroastrianism.
87 delegations from 40 countries traveled to Astana to participate. The U.S. religious community was represented by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of Cordoba Initiative, Reverend Robert Chase, founding director of Intersections International, a multi-faith social justice organization in New York; Reverend Leonid Kishkovsky, director of external affairs and interchurch relations, Orthodox Church of America; Rabbi Andrew Baker, special representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism in 2009-2011; Daisy Khan, Muslim women’s rights activist; and William Vendley, general secretary of World Conference for Religions for Peace.
The religious leaders talked about ways to spread the message of love and mutual understanding to overcome the negative emotions and hatred. They denounced the use of religion to gain personal, political benefits. They praised Kazakhstan’s example of building a tolerant society where all religious communities leave in peace and harmony. I would also encourage you to watch a thematic video , which covers the Congress and its significance.
Speaking at the Congress, Imam Feisal highlighted: “our role as religious leaders is to remind our political leaders and captains of industry, that it does not profit a man to gain the whole world in power and riches, if in the process we lose our souls”.
Religious leaders also discussed the role of women and young people in promoting moderate views, in strengthening interreligious tolerance and building bridges of understanding. Again, in women empowerment Kazakhstan can lead the way.
Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar said that different people and cultures can achieve peace only through dialogue and mutual respect. “The President and people of Kazakhstan have succeeded in this. Kazakhstan’s success in ensuring inter-confessional accord and tolerance is the example for the whole world,” the Rabbi said. “The Congress in Astana has provided such an opportunity as Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has created a “new UN,” that unites not only nations, but religions, cultures and societies with various ideologies and world-views.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev put forward a number initiative to foster the mutual trust among the religions. One of them is to launch an Internet-resource to enhancing global tolerance, where the religious leaders could interact with each other and place their lectures online. He also asked the spiritual people to mention Kazakhstan and its people’s eternal prosperity in their prayers. The closing day, May 31, coincided with Kazakhstan’s annual Day of Remembrance. In solidarity with their hosts, the participants took part in an opening ceremony for a new monument dedicated to the victims of the political repression and famine of 1932-1933, visited the ALZHIR museum located at the former Stalin’s GULAG camp and held a joint prayer in memory of the victims. The outcome document, the Congress Appeal, was adopted and can be viewed here. The next, 5th meeting of the Congress will be held in 2015.
Kazakhstan is also keeping up with its commitments to human rights, transparency and rule of law.
On May 21, the Court announced guilty verdicts for 11 of the 12 defendants accused of inciting riots in Shetpe. Five of those convicted were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment ranging from as little as a four year suspended sentence to seven years in prison. The Court also pardoned six of the 11 defendants, although initially they were sentenced to two year terms of imprisonment. As a result, they were released from their detention and walked out of court room right after the verdict was announced. One defendant was summarily released from custody for a lack of evidence of guilt.
On June 4, the Aktau City Court announced verdicts in the cases of 37 persons accused of wrongdoing during the unrest in Zhanaozen. The majority of those found guilty were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to seven years. Three defendants’ cases were dismissed and were ordered immediately released due to lack of evidence. Of the remaining 34 cases, 16 had their two-year sentences suspended and received pardons from the Court and were immediately released from custody. However, two of those 16 will not be permitted to travel outside of their towns of residence for that period.
Of those found guilty of more serious offenses, two were conditionally sentenced to 1 year of prison, three were conditionally sentenced to 2 years, six received 3 years terms in a standard regime penal colony. Of the most serious offenders, the sentences the Court handed down were longer: two got four years; one got five years; three were sentenced to 6 years and one received a 7 year term.
In addition to instigators, law enforcement officials were also found guilty of exceeding their authority, and inappropriate use of force and/or special equipment received sentences ranging from five to seven years.
To guarantee the transparency of the legal proceedings and ensure that the verdicts were open to public scrutiny, the court provided special facilities, including an anteroom with a live closed-circuit video feed of the proceedings and allowed for additional space for interested parties, including relatives of the victims and defendants, representatives of human rights organizations and international observers. The court also provides briefings of the proceedings following each day’s event. The briefings can be accessed at www.supcourt.kz/en/. For more information on what happened in Zhanaozen, the Government’s response to the unrest and what both sides can do to avoid unfortunate events like these from occurring again, please click here.
As you can see, May has been very busy. The Embassy has been very active, as it should be, to help promote true friendship between our countries, our political leaders, entrepreneurs and spiritual figures. Through the use of modern technologies including this blog, I am happy to share with you information about immense opportunities for investments, helping foster global peace and tolerance. It is also important to know how Kazakhstan has been a trusted and reliable partner of the US on such crucial issues as stabilization of Afghanistan and advancing women empowerment, modernization.
I will continue to keep you informed about landmark events related to Kazakh-US strategic partnership and important developments in my country.