New Emphasis in Foreign Policy of Kazakhstan
"Our foreign policy priorities remain unchanged. Kazakhstan will always be a responsible and reliable foreign partner" – president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
(from the state-of-the-nation address, March 2006)
Since its independence, Kazakhstan has joined the system of international relations with its own foreign policy and foreign affairs concepts. In the early 1990s the state administration suggested the 'Eurasian bridge' concept, which specified Kazakhstan's geographical situation, culture, history and civilisation as belonging to both Europe and Asia. In the late 1990s this concept was further developed into the so-called 'multi-vector diplomacy' with its aim of conducting foreign policy in all key directions including the CIS, Central Asia, Europe, Asia, Islamic countries, Asia-Pacific region, and industrial states.
Kazakhstan's participation in world community affairs in 2005 was mature and developed dynamically in its traditional directions. The latter included participation in regional organisations or co-operation with them, and the deepening of bilateral relations. In addition, 2005 had a specific characteristic: Kazakhstan's international status was influenced by an internal factor – namely, presidential elections.
Geopolitically the foreign policy of Kazakhstan was marked by Astana's participation in the processes influencing the strategic situation in Central Asia, CIS, and Eurasia. These included the SCO summit held in the capital city of Astana in July 2005, the new, unprecedented level of Kazakhstan-Russian relations, and a breakthrough in Kazakhstan-American contacts.
Regional and international security protection is a key issue for Kazakhstan, and Astana conducts this policy both on bilateral and multilateral levels within the activities of the SCO, UNO, OSCE, and NATO. Thus a meeting of the UN Security Council Counterterrorism Committee was held in Kazakhstan in late January to discuss the topical issues of antiterrorist protection. In addition, within the framework of the meeting, the Kazakh government and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) approved five draft documents concerning technical and consulting assistance in actions against narcotic addiction and drug trafficking. Kazakhstan and the United Nations co-operate in the spheres of poverty reduction, coordinating their activities in population and environmental rehabilitation, and in the economic development of the Semipalatinsk oblast.
Within the framework of its foreign policy, Kazakhstan places significant emphasis on the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation. As its chair country, Kazakhstan convened a meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers in late February 2005 to discuss the issues of maintaining stability in the SCO territory and its international activity. This caused the activation of Tashkent's initiative in establishing the partners' network of multilateral entities in the Asia-Pacific region. The second meeting of the SCO Security Council secretaries was held in Astana in June to discuss the issues of regional security and stability, and the strengthening of co-operation between the SCO members in combating terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
The SCO 10th anniversary meeting held in Astana on 5 July became a major international and geopolitical event. India, Pakistan and Iran were admitted into the SCO with observer status. During the course of the meeting, seven documents were signed, including the co-operation strategy for terrorism, separatism, and extremism counteraction. The main outcome of the meeting was the SCO's declaration that raised a question about a deadline of the US military presence in the territory of SCO member countries. It evoked a serious response and determined new geopolitical realities in the Asia-Pacific region.
Kazakhstan's relations with the OSCE in 2005 were manifold. It is noteworthy that Kazakhstan unilaterally liberalised visa formalities for some of the OSCE member countries. It is no secret that some steps are taken towards reforming the Organisation. As an active member, Kazakhstan participated in the drawing up of recommendations for reform prepared by a group of notable statesmen from seven OSCE countries.
Alongside that, from the beginning of 2005 the issue of altering Kazakh electoral law assumed a distinct international character. The OSCE Permanent Council requested that the state administration make the law closer to the Organisation's standards. The National Security Law adopted in Kazakhstan in April last year also caused a critical response from the West. According to the OSCE and European Commission, the amendments could contribute to the violation of individual rights and thus failed to meet internationally accepted democratic standards. Kazakhstan's intention to take the chair in the OSCE in 2009 caused additional pressure – the US permanent representative in the OSCE indicated that Kazakhstan should hasten its political liberalisation process in return for the chair.
In recent years, Kazakhstan's relations with NATO have assumed great importance. For example, the NATO Partnership Work Programme planning conference in 2005 was held with Kazakh participation. In late June of the same year, our country submitted the Individual Presentation Document stating the plan of co-operation between NATO and Kazakhstan. It contained Kazakhstan's basic conceptual approaches to the development of relations with NATO, including those in the sphere of international and regional security and the issues of practical co-operation in strengthening the defence capability of our country. Representatives of the NATO member countries gave a high estimate for the achievable level of co-operation with Kazakhstan and mentioned its leadership in the promotion of regional stability.
Robert Simmons, NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, visited Kazakhstan in early October 2005. In his opinion, Kazakhstan's effective application of NATO experience in military training and interoperability enhancement set the pattern for other NATO partner countries. It is noteworthy that a special emphasis in Astana-Brussels relations is placed on military reform and on the strengthening of Kazakhstan's defence capability.In October, Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the Law On Ratification of the Security Agreement between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation aimed at protecting sensitive information shared within the framework of the NATO Partnership for Peace programme.
The international symposium 'Kazakhstan: Strengthening International Co-operation for Peace and Security' held in Ust-Kamenogorsk in October should be mentioned as one of Kazakhstan's activities towards the promotion of international security. Senior representatives of the USA, NATO and international foundations participated in the symposium.
The partnership with Asian countries is of primary importance to Kazakh national security. Kazakhstan remains the centre for preparing the next Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA). In the middle of December 2005, a meeting of the Special Working Group was held in Almaty to introduce the CICA confidence-building measures in economic, humanitarian and ecological aspects and with regard to new challenges and threats. The suggestions worked out during the meeting were consolidated and accepted as a basis for the report to the CICA Committee of Senior Officials.
Co-operation in the energy industry remains one of the main directions for the Kazakhstan's foreign policy. It is developed within the framework of bilateral relations with Russia, the USA, PRC and the CIS…
Kazakhstan and Russia
"The Russian vector is the main priority for Kazakhstan foreign policy. Kazakhstan and Russia have no problems that cannot be resolved by means of constructive dialogue and consideration of mutual interests. It is related to both political and economic issues", Nursultan Nazarbayev stressed in his presentation of the state-of-the-nation address on 1 March 2006. His words were supported by the unprecedented activity in Kazakhstani-Russian relations during 2005. They were mostly of a strategic and geopolitical nature, as Moscow and Astana intended to work out a mutual decision on the future of the Common Economic Space (CES) in view of the new Ukrainian policy. If the CES is realised, the geo-economical and geopolitical map of the CIS would change shape. In addition to the issues of integration, Kazakh and Russian leaders settled other important bilateral points in the course of their numerous strenuous meetings. The most essential and historical document signed last year was the Russia-Kazakhstan border delimitation agreement.
Apart from the delimitation problem, which was finally settled in June last year, Kazakhstan and Russia signed four agreements in the energy sphere (during the SCO summit in July) and continued active co-operation in the military sphere, particularly in the use of four Kazakh test sites by the Russian armed forces. This factor has a direct influence on the strategic military situation in Eurasia and adds geopolitical characteristics to their relationship.
In the course of bilateral co-operation, Kazakhstan adopted a foreign policy principle: Russia is Kazakhstan's permanent strategic partner and permanent neighbour. Russia pledged the same.
Kazakhstan and the USA
Relations between Kazakhstan and the USA are characterised by a wide range of co-operation areas. Both countries have a common outlook toward the international control of energy security, combating terrorism and religious extremism, and further democratic reforms. It may be said without exaggeration that Kazakhstan-American relations, which became more active on official levels during the second half of 2005, influenced the geopolitical situation of the Central Asian region in general. During his visit to the USA in August 2005, the Kazakhstan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kasymzhomart Tokayev, conducted negotiations with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Their dialogue brought about a real breakthrough in bilateral relations, when the USA declared their absolute support for the full-scale socio-political reforms announced by the president of Kazakhstan. Washington believes this programme to be the optimum development model for other Central Asian states. The USA came to the conclusion that Kazakhstan has all the necessary components to play the key role in Central Asia. In addition, the parties defined prospects for further development of their co-operation in the political-military sphere, in the arrangement of regional conflicts, the promotion of security and stability in the region.
In early autumn, the US ex-president William Clinton paid an unexpected visit to Kazakhstan, which many treated as a sign of Washington's support for Kazakhstan policy. The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice followed him in October; her visit focused on the discussion of regional policy issues and some economic points. According to Condoleezza Rice, Kazakhstan is situated in a troublesome region, but the USA believes that it can be used as the basis for development of Central Asian states.
The former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who made a private visit to Astana last year declared the US' favourable view of Kazakhstan's efforts for further democratisation and emphasised significant economical and political progress in the country's development. Among other noteworthy strategic contacts were the visits of the commander of the US Central Command John Abizaid and the CIA director Porter Goss.
On the one hand, these events confirmed that Kazakhstan still holds a prominent place in US geo-strategy in Central Asia, and on the other hand they showed that Washington supported the domestic and foreign policies of Kazakhstan.
China and Kazakhstan
A review of Kazakhstan's participation in geopolitical processes can not be called complete without analysing Kazakhstan-Chinese relations. Relations began in May with consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both countries and the meeting of the China-Kazakhstan Co-operation Committee. Within the framework of the official visit of the PRC president Hu Jintao in early July, the parties signed the Declaration of Strategic Partnership. The leaders of both states agreed to create favourable conditions for the further deepening and development of bilateral co-operation in the spheres of commerce, economics, the power industry, transportation and finance. Beijing supported Kazakhstan's intention to enter the WTO. Thus, China's status as a strategic partner was officially recorded in Kazakhstan foreign affairs during 2005.
The CIS and Kazakhstan
Last year was marked by the activation of Kazakhstan's relations with the CIS countries that had experienced the so-called "coloured revolutions": Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. These states are interested in co-operating with our country, mostly due to their concerns about the energy sector. In the course of dynamic Kazakhstan-Ukrainian talks, Nursultan Nazarbayev indicated that the issues that concerned Kiev (oil and gas supply) can not be decided without the participation of Moscow. The Joint Statement and Roadmap signed by the presidents of Kazakhstan and Ukraine were meant to strengthen co-operation in transportation area, agricultural sector, aerospace industry, and the fuel and energy sphere.
The president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, visited Kazakhstan in May 2005. The presidents' negotiations resulted in the signing of several intergovernmental agreements. The cornerstone of the countries' bilateral relations is co-operation in the development of their fuel and energy sectors. It is noteworthy that the leaders of Kazakhstan and Belarus made an announcement that should Ukraine withdraw from the CES establishment, this process will continue without Kiev.
Kazakhstan-Georgian relations developed under the influence of finishing the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project. Astana and Tbilisi issued a joint communiqué to express their mutual intent for further co-operation within the framework of the BTC pipeline project, gas supply to Georgia, effective use of the Caspian Aktau port and Poti and Batumi ports in the Black Sea. The key issue was the price of Kazakh gas, which required additional discussion between Georgia and Russia.
Kazakhstan traditionally maintains friendly relations with Azerbaijan. In May 2005 the states signed an agreement of strategic partnership and alliance relations. In addition, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan updated the agreements about the basic principles of co-operation in oil engineering and their free market.
Kazakhstan played a key role in the stabilisation of the political situation in Kyrgyzstan and rendered emergency economic assistance after the change of leadership in March 2005. Astana and the new Kyrgyz authorities have concluded an agreement about co-operation in power sector and the management of shared water resources.
Generally, Kazakhstan holds an active position in the post-Soviet territory, just as before. In June 2005, Kazakh representatives participated in the meeting of the EurAsEC leaders in Moscow to discuss the establishment of the Community's common customs tariffs and coordinate negotiating positions related to joining the WTO. In late August, Kazakhstan took part in the summit of the CIS leaders in Kazan.
In early October, the Central Asian Co-operation Organisation held a meeting in St Petersburg. The leaders of member countries came to a decision about joining the Central Asian Co-operation Organisation with the Eurasian Economic Community. Kazakhstan supported Uzbekistan's intention to enter the EurAsEC.
It is noteworthy that in 2005 Kazakhstan's interests in the post-Soviet territory shifted from the CIS to smaller integrated units: the EurAsEc and CES. The new approach to relations with the CIS continued in 2006 and received support in the president's state-of-the-nation address in March 2006.
Within its foreign policy, Astana combines bilateral and multilateral contacts. In addition to the CIS and SCO, this approach is realised in Kazakhstan's relations with Europe. The third meeting of EU – Kazakhstan Subcommittee on Law and Justice was held in Astana in February last year. The fourth meeting of the Kazakhstan – EU Co-operation Committee in Brussels in April was devoted to interaction in the energy and transportation spheres and TACIS programmes. The EU Special Representative for Central Asia, Jan Kubis, visited Kazakhstan in late October. His meeting with the president of Kazakhstan was devoted to the discussion of developing trade and economic relations, Kazakhstan's entrance to the WTO, and the forthcoming presidential elections.
On 10 November 2005 a Kazakh delegation participated in debates in the European Parliament. The discussion was focused on the political situation, freedom of press, and development of the civil society institutions in Kazakhstan. Summarising the results of the debates, the European Union welcomed Kazakhstan's intention to hold free and just presidential elections.
Alongside maintaining relations with the European Union as an entity, bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and European countries continued in 2005. In March, the British Department of Trade and Industry pledged to support the development of the Nuclear Technology Park in Kurchatov. A Kazakh parliamentary delegation, headed by the Majilis speaker Ural Mukhamedzhanov, visited London in September, and a delegation of a British-Kazakh parliamentary group returned the visit in October.
A delegation from Poland visited Kazakhstan in April, followed by Kazakh-Polish economic forums in Almaty, Kokshetau and Astana. These activities suggest that Kazakhstan has become Poland's most important economic partner in Central Asia. The number of Polish companies interested in establishing their business in Kazakhstan is growing. At the same time, Polish businessmen have noticed certain obstacles in accessing the Kazakh market.
Relationship with Asian Countries
The Asian direction in Kazakhstan's foreign policy is traditionally divided into relations with the Asia-Pacific region, South-East Asia, South Asia, Middle and Near East. Economic co-operation is of great importance. Thus, in November 2005 Kazakhstan and Japan signed a protocol for the completion of bilateral negotiations about access to the Kazakh market. It marked the end of their negotiations about Kazakhstan's accession to the WTO.
Within the framework of the official visit of the Turkish prime-minister Recep Erdogan to Astana in May, both parties signed an intergovernmental agreement on co-operation in combating international terrorism. Following the results of bilateral talks in Geneva in June 2005, Kazakhstan and Turkey achieved agreement in completing the negotiation process concerning Kazakhstan's entrance to the WTO.
The King of Jordan Abdullah II Ben Al Hussein paid an official visit to Kazakhstan in November. During the course of the meeting, the parties decided to set up a bilateral economic commission and signed bilateral documents – mostly concerned with co-operation in cultural sphere.
Within the framework of its Asian politics, Kazakhstan also participated in the Asia Co-operation Dialogue. In April 2005 the country joined the Islamabad Declaration and Islamabad Initiative on Economic Co-operation in Asia. In addition, during his visit to Islamabad, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tokayev held bilateral meetings with Thailand vice premier Surakiat Satiratai, and the heads of the foreign departments of Pakistan, China, Japan, Vietnam, Oman, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka.
Summarising the results of Kazakhstan foreign policy in 2005, we should note that it was conducted in accordance with previously accepted basic principles and approaches. Its cornerstone is the multi-vector concept, which is flexibly applied to the changing international situation.
Thus, we can say that Kazakhstan remains an influential regional state closely connected with the major great powers, regional and world organisations; it maintains active bilateral and multilateral relations in various spheres of world politics, pursues a dynamic foreign policy and has deserved authority in the world.
By Murat Laumulin
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