Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Yerlan IDRISOV:
WIN-WIN IDEAS MAKE THE CORE OF KAZAKHSTAN'S FOREIGN POLICY OF DIVERSIFICATION
Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Yerlan IDRISOV summed up the results of Kazakhstan's chairmanship in CSTO, highlighted EXPO-2017 benefits for Kazakhstan, shared Astana's dream to open up a floor for dialogue for the OSCE, NATO, CSTO, SCO, CIS, and held his fingers crossed for a fast progress in signing the Kazakh-Russian Alliance Document for the 21st century.
CSTO: KAZAKHSTAN'S CHAIRMANSHIP REVIEW
- Astana is handing over its CSTO chair to Kyrgyzstan. How do you assess the contribution of Kazakhstan to the Organization?
- When we came in office, we had a specific agenda: the five proprieties aimed at strengthening security and predictability within the CSTO, with the emphasis on the Central Asian region. I believe that we have made a progress in all five priorities, and Kazakhstan's presidency has been effective, in general. Our initiatives have been upheld by Kyrgyzstan and found their way to its agenda for the presidency in 2013.
In particular, we have built a system of communication and exchange on cyber crime between the countries. Though, it's not a one-year problem, we put it on our agendaа and launched the related work. The functions and response of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force have been well-coordinated between the military agencies of the country-members.
We made a considerable progress in coordinating the operation ofа air defense systems. We have finalized all details of the Russian-Kazakh agreement on the Regional Air Defense System to have the document signed by the defense ministries of the two countries next year. This agreement will allow other Central Asian states, members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, to join in and make it the Central Asia's Defense System.
- What are the odds that the CSTO board may suspend Uzbekistan's membership in Moscow?
- Uzbekistan in June this year, informed us of the decision to suspend its participation in the CSTO, which implies suspension of the Charter of the Organization and international treaties. Tashkent has a legal right to do so.
The heads of states will be discussing the issue in Moscow along with the others on the agenda, but I donТt want to make any premature statements.
- Why do you think NATO has been consistently rejecting CSTO offers for cooperation? Those two organizations have a lot in common, donТt you think?
- Kazakhstan has clearly expressed its position this April, supporting CSTO's proposal to the NATO to start searching for common ground in the issues of mutual interest. The proposal is still standing.
CSTO and NATO are two credible regional security organizations that could effectively cooperate in the name of common goals such as strengthening of regional security and stability,а enhancing resilience to threats and challenges, such as terrorism and transnational crime.
Along with the aforementioned goals, the forthcoming withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan, formed mostly of NATO units, is an acute issue that demands equal attention of both organizations.
We are aware of the internal debate within NATO on whether to act on the idea of partnership with the CSTO, and hope that the desire to reach the common goals will prevail. Some NATO officials' statements sound reassuring. NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said during his visit to Washington in August this year, that NATO and the CSTO do have common grounds.
- Speaking of the regional associations, how do you assess the prospects of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine to join the Customs Union?
- The president of our country suggested that the EurAsEC countries - Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan join the Common Economic Space (CES).
Kyrgyzstan filed a formal request and had its CU admission plan approved in October 2012. Kyrgyzstan has made a serious step that will involve adjusting economic instruments, institutions and laws to the standards of the Customs Union.
Tajikistan generally welcomed the idea of joining the Customs Union, but has not confirmed it officially.
As for Ukraine, I would like to note that the principle of the Customs Union and Common Economic Space is very simple: we are open to membership and other types of interactions with third parties. If Ukraine finds it possible to commit to the principles of the organization, it will be mostly welcomed. Until now, Ukraine has not applied for Customs Union membership. However, Ukrainian is eyeing CIS Free Trade Zone.
I think, that Ukraine is pursuing two directions of economic cooperation and apparently searching for balance between them. On the one hand, it is trying to build a closer relationship with the European Union, but on the other hand, it is fully aware of the importance of the CIS and the Russian market. In this regard, I cannot ignore the robust dynamics of the Kazakh-Ukrainian trade and Ukraine's interest in the economic partnership with Kazakhstan.
EXPO-2017: OBVIOUS BENEFITS
- Astana will be hosting EXPO-2017. How will this event benefit the country's economy and raise its profile?а Plainly speaking, it is worth billions in public funds?
- I will be concise: it is defiantly worth it.
The very fact that our fledgling country won the right to host such global event and outrun Belgium, a highly-developed European country, is of great political significance. The final vote vividly demonstrated the recognition of Kazakhstan's achievements by the international community. For the first time in history, such prestigious international event as the EXPO will be held in the CIS.
EXPO-2017 will bring significant economic benefits to the country, in particular, large-scale investments in the development of infrastructure.
I would like to identify three important aspects:
First, our decision to devote EXPO-2017 to Energy of the Future was the right choice and helped Kazakhstan win the bid. The republic is going to switch to a Уgreen economyФ and the EXPO will help us here a lot. EXPO-2017 will be about efficient use of energy, knowledge exchange, research and technical development. The exhibition will offer Kazakhstan a unique chance to learn the best international practices, which will allow us to upgrade the economy and put it on a new track.
Second, EXPO will also draw attention to the whole Central Asia region. Traditionally, the exhibition has been hosted by developed countries. Kazakhstan has been working hard to win the bid and, being a young and developing state, is now sending an important message to the global community: УLook at us, our region, its problems and challenges. We have great potential.Ф
EXPO will allow Astana to become a regional exhibition center.
Third, the exhibition will benefit our economy as a great deal of new infrastructure will be built, including exhibition pavilions and Уthe smart cityФ, on a 30 ha land plot in front of the Nazarbayev University, right in the heart of the capital.
The project will stimulate such sectors in the capital as tourism, hotels, services and SME.
As our president said earlier, the independent Kazakhstan has had two national projects it can be really proud of: OSCE chairmanship and EXPO-2017.
KAZAKHSTANТS STRATEGIC INITIATIVES: A REPLY TO THE SKEPTICS
- In the last few years, Kazakhstan has proposed a number of international strategic initiatives, for instance a Universal Declaration of a Nuclear Weapons Free World and a G-Global Convention. What would you tell the skeptics who view these initiatives only as AstanaТs PR-projects which will never have any future?
- The history of building independence in Kazakhstan has been accompanied by a choir of skeptics. There was a lot of skepticism about moving the capital to Astana, about our Strategy-2030, Bolashak program, OSCE chairmanship and Asian Games. However, the great success of these projects has silenced all skeptics.
No wonder that KazakhstanТs international initiatives, such as the Universal Declaration of a Nuclear Weapons Free World that which would be an important step towards adoption of a Convention on Universal Nuclear Disarmament, are also taken skeptically. In my opinion, Kazakhstan has the moral right to propose such initiatives Ц we have proved it by having met all our commitments and by persevering with our antinuclear effort.
The Declaration is rather a philosophical document. Its ultimate goal is to free the whole world from nuclear armament. This is a very noble goal that is viewed as nearly-impossible-to-achieve these days. However, most of the countries in the world, especially developing ones, are fully supportive of our initiative. The world is not politically ready yet to become nuclear-free.
Russia and the U.S., as the worldТs largest nuclear weapon states, have their own approaches to the problem. We are well aware of their positions and quite realistic about the whole situation. Nevertheless, we will keep reiterating the idea that the world should become nuclear-free.
Kazakhstan is determined to continue working with all countries participating in the UN, and the nuclear weapon states in the first place, towards this goal.
The G-Global Initiative was proposed by our president in response to the global economic crisis. Both Astana Economic Forum and G-Global Initiative are to address the problems of the current economic situation in the world. Now we can see that the initiative is gradually gaining overall support and bringing together experts from all over the world to discuss the global economic challenges. You can visit G-Global website to make sure that this is true.
We invite all skeptics of УAstanaТs PR-projectsФ to a constructive dialogue and cooperation.
- Some Russian mass media outlets recently reported that Astana was going to create a sort of dialogue platform where the large security organizations such as the UN, OSCE, NATO, CSTO, SCO, CIS, CICMA could discuss international security problems. Are the reports true?
- It is not a certain plan or program but an idea to create a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security platform. It was proposed in the Astana Declaration at the OSCE summit. We clearly stated that the political dialogue about security issues should include the Eurasian dimension. We suggested organizing a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security platform that would incorporate all the dimensions and tell us that the political culture of a bipolar world as it was during Уthe cold warФ has become obsolete and so has the previous global security model.
We would like to create conditions for a constructive dialogue between the international organizations, including OSCE, NATO, CSTO, SCO. In our opinion, such a dialogue should take into account all interests and concerns of all parties. We all face the same challenges such as terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, illegal arms trafficking, and human trafficking. Russia, Europe, the U.S. or China are equally exposed to these threats. We want the previous dividing lines and confidence crisis to stay in the past.
The concept of win-win partnership is now very popular in the politics. We very much like the fact that it is being actively advocated by the U.S. and Russian presidents. Unfortunately, the zero-sum-game principle is today dominating the international relations.
All KazakhstanТs initiatives are aimed at creation of a win-win platform in the Eurasian region. We believe that the geographical location of our country Ц in the center of Eurasia Ц could greatly contribute to this end. Such a platform would enormously benefit all players and help resolve the security problems.
Kazakhstan is on the crossroad of the major powersТ interests. Russia, China, the USA and European countries have serious legitimate economic and political interests in our region. So, we consider that it would be great for all of us to jointly devise a win-win basis to benefit everyoneТs interests. We understand that it sounds quite naive and idealistic, but we want to pursue this goal. There is a Kazakh saying: "a kind word gets half the job done". So we believe in the power of kind words and kind ideas and they should not be wasted.
Kazakhstan is an active supporter of the win-win ideology and the multi-vector policy.
- President Nazarbayev has recently set a large-scale target: a goal-orientatedа way of raising investments into new technologies. How are you planning to achieve that?
- This is a long-term goal, as economics has always been part of the diplomatic job. Why is it in the spotlight now? The worldТs economic crisis forces us to re-group and focus on aа stable investment inflow. It is not an easy task to accomplish minding the competition in the global market. So, we must prove that Kazakhstan's investment terms and conditions are more attractive.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs teamed up with the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies and Kaznex Invest. We singled out approximately 20 countries, the potential investors, and have been trying to get our concrete proposals across to them. This is a number of European and American countries as well as China, India, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and several ASEAN members.
We regard KazakhstanТs co-operation with these countries as one of the key tools for implementing the long-term development programs, particularly the industrial and innovative program. Earlier the main criterion was a purely commercial factor, now investor's intent to contribute to our economyТs diversification is taken into consideration. We have succeeded to start promising projects with U.S., European, Russian, Japanese and Chinese companies.
With Chinese partners, in particular, we have been pursuing cooperation in the non-oil sector. The need of the Chinese economy to expand its transcontinental communication would spur growing trade between Chinese and European countries.
COOPERATOR WITH RUSSIA WILL NEVER GOES OFF TRACK
- Astana and Moscow are drafting a new treaty for allied relationship in the 21st century. When do you expect it to be ready for signing and what cooperation priorities of it will state?
- We are currently working on the draft document to set a new framework for our close interaction and alliance with regard of the 21st century challenges. Hopefully, our two ministries will get the job done soon andа finalize the document next year.
The ideal time for signing could be set at the annual Kazakhstan-Russia cross-border cooperation summit by the end of 2013. The next forum is set for the Russian city of Astrakhan.
The draft treaty will reflect all main bilateral cooperation aspects that have been already stipulated in the current bilateral documents. I think new aspects may arise to meet todayТs new challenges.
- The military and technical cooperation is an important part of the strategic partnership with Russia. However, in the recent years Astana has been adding up new defense projects with NATO and the USA and creating joint ventures with other countries in the weapons and military equipment industry. According to some experts, this trend can eventually push Kazakhstan off the cooperation track with Russia. Do you think these apprehensions are justified?
- These are mere assumptions and they are far from the truth: historically and geographically Russia and Kazakhstan have always been the closest allies.
While speaking of the military and technical cooperation one should keep in mind how global the arms market of defense technology is. Russia is one of key players in this market and its cooperation matters to Kazakhstan. RussiaТs extensive roleа in our bilateral military cooperation is supported by our mutual membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization that gives us special privileges.
Kazakhstan, like other countries, is trying to diversify the military cooperation with other players of the global arms market.а Of no less importance is Kazakhstan's intention to strengthen its military and technical potential by setting up its own defense enterprises and attracting the cutting-edge technologies in this industry. This would allow us not only to develop the domestic military industrial sector potential, but to raise investments, train our own personnel and boost the economy. To this end, the KADEX international military and technical exhibition has already been held twice in Astana.
- CSTO membership allows Kazakhstan to purchase Russian-made arms and military equipment on beneficial terms. How well Kazakhstan is using thatа opportunity?
- As a CSTO member, Kazakhstan fully uses it to its advantage along with multiple possibilities of training military personnel.а The sky is the limit and we hope for better results and quality of cooperation within the CSTO.
- Recently Head of Kazcosmos (KazakhstanТs Space Agency) Talgat Musabayev has stated that Kazakhstan and Russia are examining a possibility of terminating RussiaТs lease on some Baikonur space center facilities. Many overseas media have interpreted it as an attempt by Kazakhstan to take Baikonur back. Isn't it an obvious misunderstanding?
- Talgat Musabayev was misquoted by many media. All comments on this statement meant that Kazakhstan allegedly was wrapping up space cooperation with Russia. It is defiantly a misconception.
Kazakhstan hoped to expand its involvement in the Baikonur space center projects andа develop its own space potential, together with Russia, but not alone. It would be naive and unreasonable for us to miss out on the cooperation opportunity with a space superpower such as Russia, especially on our own ground. We will hopefully make our cooperation more effective and efficient for both sides.
- By the way, some analysts saw the U.S. alleged attempt to squeeze Russia out of Baikonur behind this move Е
- These speculations are so ridiculous and smelling ofа cold war stereotypes that they are not worth the comment.
-Thanks for the interview!
© 2018 Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency
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