Galymzhan KOISHYBAYEV, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Central Asia: New Stage for Strengthening of Regional Partnership and Trust
Participation in the opening ceremony of the Year of Uzbekistan in Kazakhstan.
Astana, 15 March 2018. (Akorda.kz)
One of the main priorities of the external policy of the Republic of Kazakhstan confirmed in the Foreign Policy Concept for 2014-2020 is the strengthening of all-round ties with the countries of Central Asia.
We are tied with such fundamental factors as geography, history and culture. All the vital interests of Kazakhstan are focused here. We want stable development and well-being for our closest neighbours and strengthening of mutual trust.
It is worth mentioning that ever since the states of the region got their independence, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has been pushing for the policy of regional convergence. A row of integration initiatives put forward by the President aimed at building a secure, stable and prospering Central Asia and increasing its international attractiveness. Through all these years, there was a continuous search for optimum alternatives for multilateral interstate cooperation within the region. The majority of ideas of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Leader of the Nation are implemented, namely the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, integration in the frame of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and others.
Besides, during our chairpersonship in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010, in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in 2011, in the UN Security Council last January and generally during the current non-permanent membership on the UN Security Council, Kazakhstan was and still is purposefully defending the common interests of the states of Central Asia and promoting important issues on the various international platforms for successful and safe development of the region, such as the fight against terrorism and extremism, prevention of drug trafficking and organised crime, ensuring border security and the fight against illegal migration, creation of a Central Asian Zone Free from Nuclear Weapons and many more.
It should be noted that all these efforts contributed to the fact that for a quarter of a century of independent development, the countries of Central Asia managed to establish effective mechanisms for solving practical issues both at the bilateral and multilateral levels.
This process gets a new impulse that is connected to the significant increase of political dialogue between the states of the region and closeness and coincidence of positions on the majority of intraregional and international agenda issues.
The recent and becoming more and more frequent contacts among Central Asian countries' leaders in bilateral and multilateral formats indicate increased dynamics of interaction.
In the last year and a half, we observed a high tempo of bilateral cooperation with Uzbekistan in political, trade and economic, cultural, humanitarian and regional aspects.
The two presidents have held meetings seven times, five of which were visits of the head of Uzbekistan to Astana and two visits of the head of our state to Tashkent and Samarkand.
Arrangements at the highest level lead Kazakh-Uzbek relations to a qualitatively new level. As an outcome of two state visits, 27 bilateral documents of various levels were signed and two business forums were held with the participation of 400 companies, within which trade contracts and investment agreements were signed for a total of $1.2 billion. The ambitious goal is set to increase the volume of mutual trade to $5 billion by 2020. Today, there is a gradual implementation of tasks faced by the governments of the two countries.
The Year of Uzbekistan in Kazakhstan was launched on March 15, 2018 in Astana. Such an event is being carried out for the first time between our countries. The Joint Plan signed in the frame of this event totals more than 140 items. There are plans to organise a big number of large-scale events aimed at expanding economic and cultural-humanitarian cooperation, which are being implemented in almost all regions of our country. It is also foreseen to hold a meeting of the Business Council, exhibitions, fairs and business forums aimed at increasing the competitiveness of manufactured goods in the territories of the two countries with access to regional and world markets.
In accordance with the agreements reached between the heads of the two states, 2019 was declared the Year of Kazakhstan in Uzbekistan.
Kazakhstan attaches great importance to cooperation with Kyrgyzstan, which is developing in the spirit of friendship, good-neighbourliness and alliance.
Meetings and negotiations between Astana and Bishkek are held on a regular basis at high and highest levels. During the official visit of President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov to Astana on December 25-26, 2017, the Agreement on the Demarcation of the Kazakh-Kyrgyz State Border between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as the Agreement on the Regime of the Kazakh-Kyrgyz State Border between the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic were signed.
An agreement was reached on the establishment of a joint Working Group on the development of unified approaches to the rational use of water and energy resources and on increasing the volume of trade to $1 billion by 2020 and on the creation of the Kazakh-Kyrgyz Business Council.
Relations between Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have been developing in the spirit of friendship and partnership since the independence of the two countries.
Trustful and mutually beneficial dialogue between the states has recently become significantly more active. Following the official visit of President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon to Kazakhstan on March 14-15, 2018 agreements that determine the beginning of a new stage in the development of the Kazakh-Tajik strategic partnership and cooperation were reached.
A number of important documents were adopted, including the Joint Statement of the presidents of the two countries on further intensification of the strategic partnership and strengthening of good-neighbourliness between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Republic of Tajikistan and the Programme of Cooperation between the Foreign Ministries of the two countries for 2018-2019. In addition, three agreements on migration, as well as seven interagency documents, were signed.
The heads of state set the task to increase the volume of mutual trade to $2 billion in the next three-four years.
Cooperation with Turkmenistan is characterised by gradual development. The bilateral relations were given a significant impetus by the results of the state visit of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow to Astana on April 18-19, 2017. Historically important documents such as the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the Republic of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and the Agreement on the Demarcation of the Kazakh-Turkmen State Border between the Republic of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan were signed and thanks to this, the cooperation reached a qualitatively new strategic level.
The positive dynamics of relations were confirmed during the working visit of President Nazarbayev to Ashgabat in September 2017 to participate in the opening of the fifth Asian Indoor Games and Martial Arts.
Turnover between Kazakhstan
and the countries of Central Asia
Source: Committee on Statistics of the Ministry of National Economy of Kazakhstan
The process of regional convergence of the countries of Central Asia, which have a common history, geographical, cultural and religious affinity, has always been natural. Similar economic and political issues and traditionally established industrial and social ties create real prerequisites for closer cooperation.
It is noteworthy that Kazakhstan is one of the largest trading and investment partners of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. For instance, in 2017, Kazakhstan's trade with Central Asian countries grew by 19 percent and totaled $3.6 billion.
According to our estimates, over the past year and a half a significant breakthrough in regional relations has taken place. Since the beginning of 2017, the foreign ministers of the Central Asian countries have met in a pentalateral format in Tashkent and several times in New York, where they adopted the Joint Statement of the foreign ministers (Sept. 22, 2017) and on Nov. 11, 2017, in Samarkand they approved the Programme of Cooperation between Foreign Policy Agencies for 2018-2019.
We are witnessing positive trends in the development of dialogue in Central Asia on all major regional issues. The countries of the region have made considerable progress in the issues of international legal formalisation of state borders and have actively begun to address the problems accumulated in recent years.
The Working (Consultative) Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia, held on March 15 in Astana, became a historic event and the fact that the event took place on the eve of Nauryz, the common holiday of unity and renewal, emphasised our common cultural and civilisational identity.
The meeting was attended by President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Speaker of the Mejlis Akja Nurberdiyeva represented Turkmenistan on behalf of President Berdimuhamedow.
In the course of the first meeting in a great while in Astana, the heads of the states defined the basic priorities for regional cooperation and outlined plans for the future. It is possible to state with confidence the close or coincident positions of the Central Asian states on the conceptual issues of further regional interaction.
It was decided to coordinate efforts to ensure regional security and fight against terrorism, religious extremism and drug trafficking. To this end, it was decided to continue the effective practice of regular pentalateral inter-ministries of foreign affairs consultations on developing common approaches to solving regional and international issues.
A readiness was expressed to intensify trade and economic cooperation, including through the development of interregional and cross-border links and improvement of the investment interaction conditions, by means of the transition of economies to a new innovative digital platform, optimisation of the tariff policy and simplification of administrative procedures in transit transport.
Aiming at the promotion of the economic and cultural-humanitarian cooperation in Central Asia, an agreement was reached to establish a working group at the level of vice prime-ministers of the countries of the region.
In whole, the Central Asian states expressed their confidence that the solution of the whole complex of intra-regional issues can and should be implemented by the countries of the region on their own.
At the same time, the participants of the meeting drew attention to the lack of block orientation in the mechanism of consultations and of the objectives of opposing the region to external countries. The states of Central Asia have indicated their interest in developing cooperation with all partners, including with Russia, China, the USA, the European Union, etc.
The heads of state for the first time together congratulated the peoples of Central Asia on the holiday of Nauryz by adopting a Joint Statement.
It was decided to hold these meetings on an annual basis in a five-sided format on the eve of the general Nauryz holiday. The next consultations will be held in 2019 in Tashkent.
In general, the initiatives of President Nazarbayev on the contingence of the Central Asian states in the current conditions acquire concrete outlines and receive real support from the countries of the region. The first Working (Consultative) Meeting of the Heads of the States of Central Asia in Astana marked the beginning of a new stage in strengthening regional partnership and trust.
Constructive and mutually beneficial relations between the countries of Central Asia create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and cooperation for the search for joint efforts to solve common urgent problems.
The role of intra-regional economic relations, including rational use of water resources, joint solution of environmental problems and the implementation of projects of international transport corridors in the directions “North-South" and “East-West" is growing.
In its turn, Kazakhstan intends to continue making a significant contribution to the strengthening of stability and security in the space of Central Asia. The main guideline for us in this are the results of the first Working (Consultative) Meeting of the Heads of the States of Central Asia, which proved the faithfulness of the foreign policy course of President Nazarbayev, implemented for almost the whole period of independence on developing and strengthening regional cooperation.We are convinced that in Central Asia a model of a regional zone of peace, security, cooperation and development can be formed and tested on the basis of a harmonious combination of the concerns of all interested partners.