by H.E. Mr. Kassymzhomart Tokaev, Minister of Foreign Affairs
of the Republic of Kazakhstan
at Asia Society’s International Business Conference
(June 15, 2005)
Dear Mr. Richard Holbrooke,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen!
It’s a great honour and privilege for me to address this distinguished audience and welcome you all in Almaty.
Let me at the very outset to say how we greatly appreciate the idea of the United States Asia Society to hold its conference in Kazakhstan to exchange views on some acute problems of the economic development as well as the main aspects of the foreign policy of my country.
Yesterday evening, President Nursultan Nazarbayev addressing the participants of this Conference outlined all major points and principles of both internal and external policy of Kazakhstan. As Minister, I have little to add to this comprehensive overview. However, taking this opportunity, I would like to share with you my views on some acute issues that are still on our agenda. Those issues need to be taken into account and properly addressed as a matter of critical importance.
First. Despite all concerns and doubts expressed by well-known politicians in the beginning of 90’s last century about the future of Kazakhstan, as a sovereign state, this country emerged as one of the most successful states not only among post-soviet but post-socialist countries as well.
Why all this happened? The answer is: because of the strong political will of the President and his adamant supporters to accomplish this unique mission. It happened because of our strong determination to pursue liberal reforms, first of all in the economic area, to build a solid basis for democracy and civil institutions.
Second. Our firm commitment to the more secure world. Kazakhstan made a crucial decision to renounce its nuclear arsenal and to accede to two major treaties – NPT and CTBT. Unfortunately, until now, there has been no unified and fare approach in the international community to the most pressing issues of non nuclear proliferation. Nuclear weapons have become a subject of alleged possession by non-state actors and terrorists. We, in Kazakhstan, strongly believe that there must be no bargaining on the issues of nuclear non-proliferation. There must be no excuse for nuclear weapons trade. There must be no mercy for the countries engaged in production or sales of nuclear weapons. There must be no differentiation for the so called “good” and “bad” countries as far as nuclear proliferation is concerned.
Third. Building up stable and predictable relationship with immediate neighbours, first of all, Russia, China and Central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan. It was not an easy task given the fact that we had no experience in conducting international relations, specifically with big powers. In this respect, the historic importance of demarcation of the borders with all neighbouring countries has to be underscored since Kazakhstan for the first time in its history has legally fixed its 14 thousand km. long border, established a legal framework for relationship with those countries thus significantly reducing any challenge to our security.
Fourth. From the very beginning of our independence we have been relying upon the support of the United States of America. We shall always keep in our historic memory the undeniable fact that it was the US Government which in fact underwrote, politically and legally, Kazakhstan’s sovereignty.
Therefore, despite the fact we had some reservations regarding the production of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, we, nevertheless, made a difficult decision to send our military contingent to this country to express our solidarity and support of the US struggle to build democracy and civil society in Iraq.
We also believe that the time has come to put aside the international debate on the legitimacy of the military operation in Iraq and to join our efforts to make this country a success story in creating democracy in this region.
We greatly appreciate the fact that it is the United States which made fifty percent of all our foreign investments. On our side, we stand ready to legally and politically protect financial and economic interests of the United States in Kazakhstan. We strongly believe in sanctity of contracts with major American companies and will not change this position in any circumstances.
However, our commitment to the cooperation with the United States is not driven by dollars only; we view our ties with the United States in much broader context. For that reason we joined without any preconditions the antiterrorist coalition and opened our space to the US military aircrafts involved in the operations in Afghanistan. We have close contacts with the US relevant agencies dealing with security and other sensitive issues.
We appreciate the consistent dialogue with the United States Government and civil institutions on the issues of democracy-building in our country. We need good advice and guidance, we need support and understanding.
Fifth. Despite the fact that Kazakhstan has never known traditions of Western style democracy, the civil society building in our country has become an irreversible process. The main accomplishment is that democracy has already taken root in Kazakhstan and can not be stopped by anyone. Although there are certain reservations and concerns in the West about democracy in our country, Kazakhstan is still making a gradual progress in this area surpassing all the neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile, the international community should clearly understand that democracy-building is a very challenging process for us given the existing geopolitical surrounding. We are all aware of what is happening in all major neighbouring countries. We are aware about their political trends that might have a direct impact on our political and economic stability. I am not going to exaggerate the role of external factors, I don’t support those who argue on the so called “export of democracy”, but we have to admit that while taking up an obligation to democracy-building Kazakhstan is facing a serious challenge to its stability and safety.
Despite all the difficulties and complicated circumstances our commitment to the political reforms and democracy will remain unchangeable.
Sixth. Kazakhstan wants the regional cooperation to be really developed and strengthened. It is a difficult process bearing in mind the existing discrepancies in Central Asia. We clearly understand that Kazakhstan can not be a prosperous country while having poor and unstable neighbours in the region. We urge all our Central Asian partners to make joint efforts to combat religious extremism, illicit drug trafficking and arms flow, illegal migration and human trafficking. We also urge our Central Asian partners to be seriously involved in pursuing economic reforms, in creating jobs thus improving the living standards in their relevant countries. It will greatly contribute to addressing the problems of terrorism and extremism.
We are very much hopeful that trade and economic cooperation in Central Asia will become a serious factor of regional stability and security. Kazakhstan is actively involved in promoting close cooperation and bridging the differences between the states of the region. Central Asia itself is a big market. Once consolidated, it could create good opportunities for attracting huge investments. Central Asia has every reason to become a vibrant society, an active player in the international trade. In this respect, we believe that regional organizations such as the Organization of Central Asian Cooperation and Shanghai Cooperation Organization may give a strong impetus to the regional cooperation. We support the dialogue between Central Asia and Japan and wish to be actively involved in this process. We also value the framework agreements signed between the USA and Central Asian governments on regional cooperation.
Seventh. Kazakhstan insists on reasonable solution of the legal status of the Caspian Sea. We are strongly convinced that this complicated issue has to be solved strictly in accordance with the international law. We look forward to signing a multilateral Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea as soon as its possible, and stand ready to continue negotiations among five littoral countries as well as pursue bilateral talks including those with Iran. We also believe that the Caspian Sea must be the sea of friendship, cooperation and dialogue, the Caspian region must be free from rivalry and arms race. Kazakhstan attaches special importance to addressing ecological problems that unfortunately do exist in that region and that might have a negative impact on the future of the sea.
Eighth. From our point of view, drastic measures should be taken to renew the CIS to make the Commonwealth more adequately respond to new threats and challenges. This Organization needs to be reformed, otherwise it will fail to meet up expectations of the people who used to live together in the same state for decades. Specifically, new independent countries need more cooperation in the humanitarian and cultural areas, they need open borders and free trade. It is a matter of big concern that there are problematic issues between certain countries of the CIS that have not been solved yet. We expect the upcoming Summit of the Commonwealth in August this year to adopt crucial decisions on the reforms. We also believe that various groups and organizations that have been established in the CIS might and should closely cooperate and interact to address common problems, to pursue common objectives. In this respect we value major principles and goals of GUAM, the organization which includes Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova.
In conclusion, I wish to express my sincere hope that this Conference will produce tangible results in promoting dialogue with the United States’ intellectual community on the wide-range issues concerning attraction of investment and the role of my country in Central Asia and in the world.
Once again, I welcome Richard Holbrooke, an outstanding and skillful diplomat who played a crucial role in building peace and security in Central Europe. We appreciate him as a reliable partner and a friend of Kazakhstan.
Thank for your attention.