Statement by Alexei Volkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, at the plenary session of the OSCE Ministerial Council (December 4, 2014 – Basel)

Dec 05. MFA

Dear Mr. Chairman,

Dear Secretary-General, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Statement by Alexei Volkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, at the plenary session of the OSCE Ministerial Council (December 4, 2014 - Basel)Allow me to extend a welcome to all of you heretoday anda sincere thanks to our Swiss colleagues for the warm welcome in Basel.

Exactly one year ago, the OSCE Ministerial Council gathered in Kiev to discuss plans to further the comprehensive and collective security of all our countries andreaffirm the importance of preventing new dividing lines in our community.

This past year, however, has demonstrated that security in Europe cannot be separated from the wider regional context or events around the world. We have seen how an imbalance in one of the regions of the OSCE can pose a serious challenge to thestability of the entire Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security system, to which our leaders committed in the Astana Declaration of the OSCE Summit in 2010.

Today, as the OSCE region faces increasing divisions, new international threats are emerging. The Ebola virus, the so-called Islamic State and the growth of violent extremism are just some of the challenges that are testing the strength of the international security architecture and our collective ability to effectively respond and address emerging threats.

And, despite significant efforts to find common ground, the crisis in Ukraine continues to pose a grave challenge not just to the OSCE family but the entire international community.

Throughout this difficult period, Switzerland, represented by Mr. Didier Burkhalter and his team of professionals, has sought to harness the potential of the OSCE to bring an end to the fighting and promote a comprehensive solution to the crisis. The OSCE has been active in encouraging and establishing dialogue, but it has also provided very practical support including missions to monitor military activities, presidential and parliamentary elections, border crossing points and the human rights situation in Ukraine.

So, despite the many questions this crisis has posed to our Organisation, we should acknowledge the important role and positive impact the OSCE has had in Ukraine. Without the organisation and the tireless work of its people – from Head Office through to the frontlines – the tragedy could and would have been far worse.

I would, therefore, like to express my great gratitude to our Swiss partners, the institutions and all the staff of the OSCE family for your hard work.

Mr. Chairman,

For Kazakhstan, relations with Ukraine have always occupied a special place. We are connected by a common history and close economic and cultural ties. The Ukrainian diaspora is one of the largest in Kazakhstan, numberingmore than 330 thousand people. For all these reasons, Kazakhstan wants to see Ukraine remain a sovereign, stable and independent state.

From the outset of the crisis, Kazakhstan’s President,NursultanNazarbayev, has made efforts to stabilise the situation. Our country continues to believe a solution will only come through peaceful dialogue and constructive mediation.

Achieving a lasting peace will require all sides to appreciate the interests and positions of others and be ready to make mutual compromises and concessions. This puts a special responsibility on Ukraine(and its new coalition government), on Russia, the European Union and the United States.

The OSCE has an indispensable role to play in this process. Kazakhstanfully supports the initiatives of the Swiss Chairmanship to resolve the conflict, including the Roadmap and Minsk process and theextension of the mandate of the OSCE Special monitoring mission in Ukraine. Kazakhstan was proud to participate in the mission and provide financial support.

Unfortunately, the Minsk agreements–which remain the best route to a rapid restoration of peace and stability – have not become a reality. I believe we will not achieve a lasting solution to the crisis until we see full compliance with these existing agreements.

With continuing casualties and the dire economic situation inDonbass, we believe a complete cease-fire, the defining of a demarcation line and the demilitarisation of the area should be the priority, as well as addressing the wider humanitarian catastrophe in the east of the country.

For ourpart, Kazakhstan has also provided humanitarian assistance to citizens living in some of the worst affected areas in Eastern Ukraine.

Given the negative impact of sanctions on many OSCE economies including Kazakhstan, we believe the next step should be an end to sanctions and the vicious tit-for-tat propaganda war we are witnessing. The imposition of sanctions is strictly the prerogative of the UN, and should only be used in exceptional cases.

One potential channel to re-establish and rebuild the relationship is the proposed launch of a dialogue between the European Union and Eurasian Economic Union. Kazakhstan wishes to see Europe and Asia come together as a single space and market, which would greatly enhance ourshared objective of building a common Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community.

Closer ties between Europe and Eurasia are already becoming a reality. Indeed, just a few months ago, Kazakhstan and the EU completed negotiations on a new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which provides a firm basis for full-scale strategic cooperation in future.

Kazakhstan’s proposals are grounded in a firm belief in the importance of strengthening trust and dialogue between all parties – one of the central tenets of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy.

The launch of a national conciliation dialogue in Ukraine is a priority. All sides need to have the courage to move away from the ‘mud-slinging’ and sit down at the negotiating table. Wisdom and responsibility must prevail – that is the only way we will find a compromise acceptable to all parties.

And once a peaceful settlement can be found, the international community must look to support the long-term economic recovery of Ukraine.

We support Switzerland’s intention to continue to mediate and seek a resolution to the Ukrainian crisis afterthe end of its OSCE chairmanship, as well as the creation of the Panel of Eminent Persons on European Security.

Mr. Chairman,

The modern world is diverse and multipolar. Differences of political views should not be a cause for conflict between countries and peoples.

Any attempts to set people against other – through incitement, intimidation, direct and indirect threats in international relations –is a road to nowhere and an attack on the democratic values we seek to cultivate in our societies.

In Kazakhstan, a country with over 130 different ethnic groups, we believe our unity and strength is in diversity. I believe this is a formula for all to abide by.

The crisis in Ukraine has underlined the pressing need to enhancethe Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security system. Achievinga genuineand indivisible security across the OSCE area will be difficult. But despite all the challenges, we believe the “Helsinki +40″framework presents a path to strengthen the OSCE’s effectiveness and bring about its transformation into an international organisation with a relevant and meaningful Charter.

Mr. Chairman,

While we have focused significant attentionthis year on mitigating and resolving the crisis in Ukraine, we cannot ignore the many other challenges emerging around the world.

We must continue to improvemechanisms to coordinateactions and share best practices in the fight against terrorism. The rise of the so-called Islamic State – and the foreign fighters its warped ideology attracts – has magnified the threat of terrorism to all countries. With the withdrawal of the international coalition troops from Afghanistan, the threat represents a growing concernto Central Asia.

The future of Afghanistan is one of the most important issues on the international agenda and we welcome the efforts of the country’s new president and prime minister to mobilise global support to help build peace and prosperity for their citizens. The OSCE must continue to make its own contribution to the process of building a stableand democratic Afghan society. For ourpart, Kazakhstan confirms its readiness to continue to provide support and assistance to the process of peaceful national dialogue and reconstruction.

And I believe there are other areas where the OSCE can bring its experience to bear in Central Asia. We mustwork closely with other multilateral organisations like the UN, CICA, CSTO, SCO and NATO tostep up efforts to strengthen the capacity of border services of the Central Asian states, as well as the fight against drugs in the region.Effective coordination and cooperation, through the development of multilateral mechanisms will both enhance the capabilities of the OSCE and avoid duplication of effort.

The OSCE can also play an important role in promoting the development of the transit and transport potential of the OSCE region – a key driver of economic growth. It is an area to which Kazakhstan attaches great importance and we seek become a business, transit and logistics hub in Central Asia – a bridge between Europe and Asia.

On November 11 this year, President NursultanNazarbayev announced Kazakhstan’s transition to a new economic policy “NurlyZhol”, which means “Bright Road” in Kazakh. The development of large-scale infrastructureand major transit and transportation projectsis at the heart of this policy. We plan to deliver and expand projects linking Western China – Western Europe, to create a logistics hub in eastern Kazakhstan and develop maritime infrastructure in the Caspian Sea.

But as all countries pursue stronger economic development, we must also consider the long-term consequences and sustainability of our actions. The Aral Seais recognised as one of the ecological disasters of the 20th century and remains a pressing issue in our region. This once great inland sea has lost three quarters of its volume and its high salt concentration now threatens a second disaster.

The Aral Sea is a stark reminder that water scarcity remains major problem in Central Asia. Stronger coordination is needed to ensure better environmental protection and water management and to address the inter-connected issueof energy securityacross the region.

Kazakhstan is seeking to overcome these challenges by moving to a “green economy”. It is an important agenda we are promoting internationally through Expo 2017 in Astana, which will focus on the theme “Energy of the Future.” We hope our OSCE partners will support us and join in efforts to promote the “green economy”, bothamong member states and around the world.

In recent years,Kazakhstan has taken great pride in its growing role in Central Asia andglobal affairs. We are no longer a beneficiary of support; we are becoming a nation who gives it.

This has included establishing a UN regional hubin the city of Almaty, which will cover a wide range of issues, including Afghanistan. Kazakhstan will also soon be launching KazAid, our first official overseas developmentbody which will provide supportinitiallyto Central Asian states before extending its reach.

This transformation in our regional and international role is why we have put ourselves forward for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2017-2018. Our campaign is focused on four pillars – nuclear, energy, food and water security. With our experience of leadership in international organisations, we are confident we can make a lasting contribution to regional and global security in these critical areas.We hope that the OSCE member countries will support our candidacy.

Finally, I would like to touch on one more important issue.Since Kazakhstan began its cooperation with the OSCE, the country has undergone fundamental political and socio-economic change. The transformation and modernisation of Kazakhstan has opened up great new opportunities for cooperation with the OSCE field presence. We believe it is time – indeed it is well overdue – forthe OSCE Centre in Astanato be transformed into anOSCE Program Office. This will help formalise and strengthen the effectiveness of OSCE programmes in Kazakhstan.

Unfortunately, however, our well-intentioned proposal to transform the Centre into a Program Office has received a cool reception from some partners. We believe the OSCE – and other international organisations – have played and should continue to play an important role in our nation’s development. Despite our significant progress, there are still many areas where their guidance and expertise can make a real difference.

However, the OSCE’s current setup in Kazakhstan no longer meets the needs of the country. This is why I regret to report that, in the absence of a consensus on its transition to an OSCE Program Office,this situation may lead to the termination of Center’s activities from 1 January 2015, despite our desire to preserve the OSCE presence in Kazakhstan.

In conclusion, I would like once again to thank the Swiss Chairmanship for the warm hospitality and highly professional management of the Organization in 2014.

I also want to welcome the future presidency of Serbia and express hope that Serbia, together with Switzerland, will continue efforts to normalise the situation in Ukraine in this anniversary year for the OSCE. We hope that the 40th Anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act and the 5th Anniversary of the Astana Declaration will underline both the importance of this organisation and its ability continually to modernise so it strengthens its effectiveness at a time of great global change.

With this ambition firmly in mind, we also welcome and support Germany’s and Austria’s candidatures for OSCE chairmanship in 2016 and 2017.

Thank you for your attention.