Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov's Visit Further Strengthens Bilateral Dialogue
Foreign Minister Kazykhanov's Visit Reinforces Strategic Partnership: Annual Bilateral Consultations Become Strategic Partnership Commission
Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov paid his first official visit to the United States between Jan. 30 and Feb. 1. The Minister held talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries.
In her welcoming remarks at the Department of State, Secretary Clinton described Kazakhstan as "a country with whom we have very friendly relations and work together on a whole range of issues, both bilaterally and regionally and globally." She also underscored Kazakhstan's pro-active role on the international stage: "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."
In response, Minister Kazykhanov thanked her for inviting him to the U.S. and expressed confidence that the two nations will continue to work together "to strengthen our cooperation in the future."
The major outcome of the talks was that they agreed that the Kazakhstan-U.S. Annual Bilateral Consultations will become the Kazakhstan-U.S. Strategic Partnership Commission.
The two officials also agreed to exchange, at the earliest, diplomatic notes with regard to the Agreements on Issuing 5-Year Visas and Unification of Visa Fees. The initiative is aimed at improving citizen-to-citizen ties, the driving force for an enhanced relationship in the 21st century.
Looking ahead to the Second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, the two officials discussed a prospective meeting between President Nursultan Nazarbayev and President Barack Obama in March. Such summit-level discussions would focus on joint efforts to ensure global and regional security.
They also renewed their commitment to further develop their partnership through strategic dialogues on Afghanistan, democratization, security and nonproliferation cooperation, energy, and trade and investment.
They also discussed Kazakhstan and the U.S.'s shared interests and efforts for a stable, secure and prosperous Afghanistan to promote regional economic integration and stability.
Minister Kazykhanov and Secretary Clinton exchanged views on the importance of democratic development and Kazakhstan’s efforts to strengthen representative institutions, such as the multi-party Mazhilis, independent media, religious freedoms and civil society.
The Foreign Minister and Secretary also discussed how to expand educational ties, particularly scientific and technical cooperation between universities, research institutes and in the private sector.
Bilateral cooperation issues were also also on the agenda during Minister Kazykhanov's meetings with other high-ranking U.S. officials: Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Richard Lugar and Chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
At the Atlantic Council’s Conference on 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s Independence and 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan-U.S. relations, Minister Kazylhanov delivered a keynote address focusing on nation building and Kazakhstan’s strategic partnership with the United States.
In the speech, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake was effusive in his support of Kazakhstan. He explained how important an ally Kazakhstan is to the U.S. and the West and said our bilateral relationship is “dynamic and growing.” Kazakhstan has accomplished a lot, he said, and it is on path to accomplish even more.
In his speech, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman praised Kazakhstan's leadership role in non-proliferation and focused on successful energy partnership between the two countries. He expressed his confidence that "by wisely developing its natural resources, a strong, prosperous and democratic Kazakhstan can energize the global transmission of learning, trade and freedom across the steppes of Central Asia."
The participants pointed out that Kazakhstan has evolved in its independence, became the world leader in non-proliferation by getting rid of nuclear weapons, fueled its economic growth through efficient reforms and effective use of its oil and gas resources. One of the most important achievements over the last two decades was that the leadership was very successful in keeping the inter-ethnic harmony and religious tolerance in the society. Experts agreed that Kazakhstan is making progress toward good governance, rule of law, human rights and advanced democracy. On all of those issues, the United States will continue to be the strategic partner.
The Foreign Minister also had a luncheon discussion with the U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Association, attended by the executives of major U.S. companies with a presence in Kazakhstan: IBM, Сhevron, ConocoPhilips, Sikorsky Aircraft, Exxon Mobil, Shell, FedEx, Boeing, PFC Energy, Asia-Africa Projects Group, AGCO Corporation, CRDF Global. They discussed the investment climate and increased opportunities for business-to-business partnerships.
At the launch of Jonathan Aitken’s new book, “Kazakhstan: Stereotypes and Surprises after 20 Years of Independence” at Metropolitan Club on Feb. 1, 2012, the guests exchanged views on the stereotypes in the West about the democracy in Kazakhstan, which came up with many surprise solutions to the challenges facing the young nation.
Mr. Aitken, who is a former member of the British Parliament and a former cabinet minister, said that Kazakhstan is a vital and growing country that is a bright symbol of success in the post-Soviet world. He said that it is a “surprise” to many how modern Kazakhstan is; the nation too often suffers from negative stereotypes.
Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Umarov praised the book and its author. In his address, Umarov urged the audience to read the book because it was filled with useful facts, including some he did not know himself. Kazakhstan has come a long way in a short period, he said, and the book explains that progress well.
Overall, the visit provided a great boost to the Kazakh-U.S. strategic partnership. The Foreign Minister and U.S. high-ranking officials said they were pleased with the progress Kazakhstan and the United States have made in consolidating bilateral cooperation as partners.