ForMin Visits Washington, Brussels to Strengthen Dialogue with US, Europe

Feb 03. MFA

ForMin Visits Washington, Brussels to Strengthen Dialogue with US, EuropeKazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov visited Washington, DC, and Brussels this week for talks with high level officials on ways to expand and strengthen the country’s multi-faceted relationships with the United States and Europe.

Nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan, and simplification of the visa regime were among the many issues Yerzhan Kazykhanov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed at a bilateral meeting in Washington on February 1. The meeting took place as part of Kazykhanov’s first official visit to the U.S. as the Kazakh foreign minister, which began on January 30.

Prior to the meeting, both Kazykhanov and Clinton expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved by the two countries in recent years in strengthening the bilateral strategic partnership.

“Kazakhstan and the United States have covered a lot of ground in the first 20 years of cooperation and we look forward to even stronger relationship in the future. Our two countries share commitments to fundamental values and principles of freedom and opportunity, peace and cooperation, dialogue and understanding,” Kazykhanov said before the meeting.

“I’m delighted to welcome my colleague, the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, a country with whom we have very friendly relations and work together on a whole range of issues, both bilaterally and regionally and globally,” Clinton said. “Kazakhstan has served in recent years as the chair of the OSCE, the chair of OIC, and has been very helpful in our efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. So I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss at length some of the issues that we’re working on together,” she said before they proceeded for a meeting behind closed doors.

During the talks, Minister Kazykhanov conveyed a reply message from President Nursultan Nazarbayev to President Barack Obama from last December, which expressed gratitude for the warm words of congratulations on Kazakhstan’s twentieth anniversary.

Looking ahead to the Second Summit on Nuclear Security in Seoul, Kazykhanov and Clinton discussed joint Kazakhstan – U.S. efforts to ensure global and regional security. They also agreed that President Nazarbayev and President Obama will have a meeting at the Summit. “We believe this meeting will be a milestone in cooperation between our countries,” Kazykhanov said following the talks.

To further facilitate travel between the two countries, the sides agreed to exchange, at the earliest, diplomatic notes on treaties to issue five-year visas and unify visa fees.

In addition, Kazykhanov and Clinton decided to transform the mechanism of bilateral political consultations into the “Kazakhstan – U.S. Commission on Strategic Partnership,” as it was defined most suitable for the increasing level and content of the interaction between the two countries.

The two officials also reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen dialogues on Afghanistan, democratization, and cooperation in security and nonproliferation, as well as energy, trade and investment. The United States will continue to remain among Kazakhstan’s major investors and trade partners, it was said.

Kazykhanov and Clinton also exchanged views on democratic developments in Kazakhstan. The sides agreed the recent election for the Majilis of the Parliament of Kazakhstan on January 15 which resulted in the creation of a multi-party polity, was an important step forward in Kazakhstan’s political development. Hillary Clinton also praised Nursultan Nazarbayev’s decision to hold elections in Zhanaozen despite its being under the emergency rule at the time, as well as the country’s commitment to an open and transparent investigation of the tragic events of December 2011.

Finally, the Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State discussed how to further expand educational ties and scientific and technological cooperation between the universities and research institutes of both countries.

As part of his visit, Yerzhan Kazykhanov also participated in the Atlantic Council Conference on January 31 dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence and Kazakhstan-US relations.

In his remarks, Kazykhanov went over Kazakhstan’s achievements in economy, politics, and foreign relations over the past 20 years. “Kazakhstan especially treasures its close and warm alliance with the United States. Our partnership is wide and deep. The U.S. was the first nation to recognize the new Republic of Kazakhstan 20 years ago. And in September 2010, the Department of State said, “Kazakhstan is the only country in Central Asia, with which the US has such a vast and saturated agenda of bilateral cooperation.” That’s still true today,” he said.

“Kazakhstan shares many of the same foreign policy goals as the United States. Like you, we are interested in nuclear non-proliferation, combating extremism and terrorism, and achieving energy security. We both also endorse the “New Silk Road” initiative that will make economic and roadway connections between South- and Central Asia and Afghanistan – very much like the Great Silk Road of ancient times,” Kazykhanov added.

He also highlighted common achievements in economic cooperation. “Trade is booming between our two countries. In the first 10 months of 2011, commodity sales between us rose 27 percent to $2.2 billion. Since 1993, direct investment by U.S. into Kazakhstan has totalled $20 billion. And there is plenty of potential for more.”

As part of the visit, during a special ceremony held in Kazakhstan’s Embassy in Washington, Kazykhanov presented state awards, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of independence, to prominent Americans who have contributed significantly to the strengthening of the Kazakhstan – American ties.

During the European leg of his trip, Minister Kazykhanov held a meeting with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Catherine Ashton in Brussels on Feb. 2.

“It is important to note that in 2011 the foreign trade turnover between the European Union and Kazakhstan has reached USD 50 billion,” Kazykhanov noted after the meeting, as he shared details on the discussions. These touched upon negotiations on a new enhanced partnership and cooperation agreement between Kazakhstan and the EU to replace the one from 1999. The Minister also called for the mutual simplification of visa regimes as mutually beneficial.

Baroness Ashton issued her own statement after the meeting, saying, “Kazakhstan is an important partner for the EU in Central Asia and the EU has good relations and dialogue with Kazakhstan, which are important to maintain for exchanging our views and concerns. My meeting with Foreign Minister Kazykhanov today provided for this opportunity.”

“We discussed recent developments over the last months in Kazakhstan. I recalled my concerns about violent clashes of December 2011 between striking workers and the police, and the ensuing arrests. I repeated my call for objective and transparent investigation of the events. We also discussed the recent Parliamentary elections. I encouraged Kazakhstan to maintain its aspiration to build an open and democratic society respectful of the fundamental rights and freedoms of its population. The EU stands ready to support Kazakhstan in this work,” Catherine Ashton said.

“We also discussed international issues, notably Syria and Iran, and Kazakhstan’s role as Chairmanship of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation. The EU is committed to strengthen its relations with Kazakhstan through the negotiations or a new enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement,” she said adding that progress in these negotiations will depend on progress on political reforms in Kazakhstan.