Kazykhanov’s European Trip Boosts Ties with Brussels, London and Berlin

July 22. MFA

Kazykhanov’s European Trip Boosts Ties with Brussels, London and BerlinKazakhstan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Kazykhanov visited Brussels, London and Berlin on July 18-20, making his first formal bilateral visit abroad since appointment in April.

His visit to Brussels began with a meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme, which covered cooperation in the economy, energy, and nuclear non-proliferation.

During the meeting, Kazykhanov handed over the letter from President Nursultan Nazarbayev to King Albert II, in which the Kazakh President congratulated the country and its leader on the Belgian National Day and outlined Astana’s approaches to future development of bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

Speaking about the Kazakh-Belgian partnership in trade and economy, Leterme and Kazykhanov agreed the potential is far from being realised fully which gives reasons to actively promote and support further activity to expand cooperation in energy, including nuclear, as well as in small and medium sized businesses.

In terms of nuclear non-proliferation, Kazykhanov said this year Kazakhstan is commemorating the 20th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and is willing to host an international nuclear fuel bank under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He also stressed Kazakhstan possesses relevant experience and is interested in playing a bridging role between the Islamic world and the West.

“While chairing the OIC in 2011-2012, the country will make specific efforts to protect the rights of religious minorities elsewhere and advance economic development of the vulnerable Muslim nations,” the Kazakh Foreign Minister said.

Later in the day, Kazykhanov took part in the annual ministerial meeting of the OSCE Troika with the European Union. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the First Vice-President of the European Commission Baroness Catherine Ashton, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Andronicus Azubalis and Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore as well as OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier participated in the meeting. They reviewed issues relating to the upcoming OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers to be held in Vilnius in December 2011, as well as the resumption of the “5+2” negotiations over Transdnestria, measures to support the democratic processes in the Southern Mediterranean and a wide range of other problems.

Kazykhanov held a series of bilateral meetings within the OSCE-EU consultations. With Catherine Ashton, Yerzhan Kazykhanov discussed further development of cooperation between Kazakhstan and the European Union, specifically in the context of agreements reached by President Nursultan Nazarbayev and President of the EU Council Herman Van Rompuy in 2010. They considered the prospects of partnership in trade and economic sphere and Astana’s initiative to simplify visa regime for European countries. Ashton noted she was amazed by the “breathtaking array” of initiatives Kazakhstan assumes onto the international arena.

“Kazakhstan is a key economic and political partner for the EU. The start of these negotiations for an enhanced agreement is an important milestone in our efforts to further advance relations and strengthen the EU and its Member States’ cooperation with Kazakhstan,” Ashton underscored in a statement distributed later by her press service.

During her meeting with the Kazakh Foreign Minister, Ashton welcomed the launch of negotiations for a new enhanced partnership and cooperation agreement between the EU and Kazakhstan on 27 June 2011 in Brussels.

“As was outlined in the Joint Statement endorsed by the EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council in November 2009, I reminded that “closer and stronger bilateral ties must go hand in hand with adherence to the common values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights”. I am confident that the process of negotiating and concluding this new agreement will prove to be an important stimulus for the EU and Kazakhstan to cooperate further on ensuring progress on political reforms,” she said.

The current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) of 1999 between the EU and Kazakhstan will continue to remain in force until the new enhanced agreement replaces it.

During meetings with Azubalis and Zannier, Kazykhanov reviewed the state of implementation of the Astana Declaration adopted at the OSCE Summit in the Kazakh capital last year and the pace of preparation for the upcoming OSCE CFM in Vilnius. The negotiators paid particular attention to perspectives of deepening cooperation between the OSCE and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that Kazakhstan is currently chairing. It was noted that both organisations are sharing concerns about the situations in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as the problems of religion, which provides the ground for further joint work in this direction.

On the second day of his European tour, Kazykhanov visited London where he held talks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Astana and London share a lot of common positions in various fields, including in political, trade-economic and humanitarian spheres, they noted. Kazykhanov extended the invitation from President Nursultan Nazarbayev to British Prime Minister David Cameron to pay an official visit to Kazakhstan, the first for any sitting head of the British government, which would raise bilateral cooperation to a qualitatively new level.

During the meeting, Kazykhanov and Hague reviewed the steps taken in Kazakhstan and the UK to overcome the global financial crisis. The Kazakh Minister noted that the United Kingdom remains one of the leading investors in Kazakhstan’s economy. The parties agreed that in order to maintain and strengthen close partnership ties they need to focus on implementing the arrangements reached in the course of high-level bilateral meetings and visits.

The Kazakh-British Trade and Industry Council, to be held in Astana in September, and the Kazakhstan Growth Forum, to be held in London later in the fall, should give a new impetus to the development of mutually beneficial cooperation.

Kazykhanov and Hague also stressed there exists “tremendous potential” for further development of cooperation between the two countries in the sphere of education. Today, the British universities are working closely with the Kazakh partners, including within the “Bolashak” scholarship programme and Nazarbayev University.

On the same day, Kazykhanov took part in a roundtable discussion in the House of Lords. The prospects of the Kazakh-UK cooperation in political, investment, technology, trade and economic spheres, as well as a wide range of other issues of international concern were considered. Kazykhanov explained to the participants Kazakhstan’s priorities during its OIC chairmanship and the Astana’s efforts to help Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Speaking to his German counterpart, Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Berlin on July 20, Kazykhanov noted that since the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Germany the pace of cooperation between the two countries is advancing steadily, while the political dialogue and interest in the spheres of security, energy, technology, trade and investment, culture and education is increasingly gathering pace.

Kazykhanov and Westerwelle discussed the implementation of the agreements reached during the visits by Federal President Horst K?hler and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and considered the upcoming visit of President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Berlin, meant to provide further incentive to the Kazakh-German cooperation.

Both foreign ministers expressed their interest in developing comprehensive and mutually beneficial dialogue between Astana and Berlin. The negotiators talked over the Agreement on Strategic Partnership which remains one of the most pressing issues on the bilateral agenda.