Remarks by H.E. Mr. Erlan Idrissov Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan at “Expanding Economic Connectivity on Greater Central Asia” event at Asia Society September 23, 2014, New York
Sept 24. MFA
First of all, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Asia Society for organizing this event. The Asia Society has always been focused on promoting understanding of building strong educational, business and cultural ties between Asia and the United States.
Kazakhstan enjoys its partnership with the Asia Society. We have had a number of joint events in recent years. Through the Asia Society, the United States has become to know Kazakhstan even better, exploring its rich heritage, diverse culture, long and proud history. I am sure other Asian countries benefit from cooperation with the Society in the same way.
Our view on today’s subject is clear. We support the idea of revival of the Great Silk Road as a historical basis for cooperation among Asian countries.
New Silk Road
As the world’s 9th largest country, Kazakhstan stands to gain from the implementation of various Silk Road projects, as it is a land bridge between East and West, South and North. As you know, Central Asia is one of the least integrated regions in the world. And the region is the biggest land locked one. To be prosperous, we need to act as bridges and build bridges. Through connectivity, the region will be land-linked, rather than land-locked. That is exactly what is taking place right now.
Under new political and economic course for Kazakhstan in a fast changing world – the Strategy “Kazakhstan 2050” – we continue to develop our infrastructure. Over recent years we have launched a number of major infrastructure projects that includes highways and railroads, pipelines, logistics centers, terminals, airports, train stations and ports.
All of these projects have created jobs for many citizens of Kazakhstan and integrated us into the regional and global economic system.
Creating the main transport corridor called “Western Europe – Western China” we are reviving the “Silk Road”. All construction works will be fully completed by 2015. Kazakhstan is on track with the plans to implement Western China – Western Europe corridor. It is supported by the World Bank, EBRD, ADB etc. with the funds totaling up to 6 billion US dollars. And it will take only 10 days for goods to reach Europe from China through the new highway comparing to 45 days via sea. We are also expanding our internal network of motor roads connecting cities and region never previously connected to each other.
We have opened access to the Gulf and Middle East countries by having built the “Uzen – Turkmenistan border” railroad. Having put together the “Korgas – Zhetygen” railway, we have opened the “eastern gate” paving the way towards the markets of China and all of Asia.
Last month we commissioned the new “Zhezkazgan-Shalkar-Beineu” and the “Arkalyk-Shubarkol” rail links with the total length of more than 1,200 km, 17 major stations and 31 junctures. These new railroads will be a shorter route to get from the East to the Caspian and further to the Caucasus and Europe, while making it possible to move eastward all the way to the Lianyungang port on the Chinese Pacific coast.
This is only a part of the greater linkages that are crisscrossing our region. I am sure there will be more such success stories in infrastructure building, taking place in our neighbors. There are major flagship projects such as TAPI, CASA-1000 and TUTAP.
These projects, when implemented, will open up additional markets for our goods, boosting economic growth, creating opportunities and pockets of prosperities along highways, railways, pipelines and other lines of communications.
For us, the New Silk Road, is not just about construction of railways, highways, pipelines or broadband across the region, but also the linkages between people. I think the human interaction is much more powerful and enabling in the age of globalization, instant messaging and smart devices.
Kazakhstan is one of the few countries, which wholeheartedly supported New Silk Road and Northern Distribution Network. Kazakhstan played a crucial role in stabilization efforts by providing logistical support.
We provide humanitarian as well as technical assistance to Afghanistan. Kazakhstan provides scholarships to 1,000 Afghans to train them at the best Kazakh universities under $50 million educational program. Also, we supply food and finance infrastructural projects (repairing highway Kunduz – Talukan, building a school in Samangan, a hospital in Bamian) and are committed to support Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) from 2015.
Today, we are establishing Kazakhstan Agency for International Development, with the focus on Afghanistan and Central Asia. As it succeeds in its mission to provide technical assistance to these countries, the geography of the Agency’s activities might expand over time.
Announcement of President Obama about gradually reducing the troops to 9,800 in 2015 and further reduction afterwards (4,900 at the end of 2015, small military presence at the U.S. Embassy at the end of 2016) provides a clear message that the United States intends to leave Afghanistan in a responsible way. At the same time, military withdrawal should be compensated by the increase of international assistance to Afghanistan to give the Afghan people a chance to build their future on their own, with the support of the international community.
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
In conclusion I would like to encourage the United States and the global community to remain involved in our region by engaging our nations in trade, investment, scientific and cultural cooperation.
I would like to thank once more the Asia Society for bringing together this respectable group of decision-makers to further promote the Silk Road cooperation in the 21st Century for the benefit of all our nations.