”As you rightly mentioned, Terje, we will mark the 20th anniversary of independence in December this year, and we believe there is a great deal to celebrate,” Yerzhan Kazykhanov, the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, told Terje Rød-Larsen, the President of the International Peace Institute (IPI), in a morning appearance at IPI on September 23rd.
He mentioned a number of accomplishments, including Kazakhstan’s successful exit from the Soviet Union with sustained stability and ethnic accord “unlike some other countries in our region, and you know that well.” Kazakhstan, he noted, was a multi-confessional country with more than 130 ethnic groups.
He applauded his country’s good relations with two large neighbors – Russia, with whom it shares a border of 7,500 kilometers, and China, where the frontier stretches 2,000 kilometers. Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world and the ninth largest country in the world in landmass.
As evidence that his country represented a bridge between East and West, he noted that construction was underway on a highway called Western China/Western Europe, 3,000 kilometers of which would be on Kazakh territory. With what he called a “multi-vector pipeline policy,” Kazakhstan ships oil both East and West, and, as a downstream country with only 60% of its water resources, it has to draw the remaining 40% from outside its borders.
Kazakhstan is a major participant in multi-lateral diplomacy and trade agreements, forming a customs union with Russia and Belarus, and having chaired both the Shanghai Cooperation Council and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It currently holds the chairmanship of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at a moment of tremendous change in that region.
Mr. Kazykhanov said that his country also has a special program of assistance to Kyrgzstan, where there have been interethnic clashes and where elections are to be held on October 30th. As for the UN, Kazakhstan has put its name forward for non-permanent membership on the Security Council in 2016.
This year marks not only 20 years of Kazakh independence but 20 years since the country renounced its nuclear program and closed the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. With its massive reserves of oil and gas, the economy has expanded by a factor of 12 during that period and should reach 7% growth in gross income this year, Mr. Kazykhanov said.
Mr. Rod-Larsen, who moderated the discussion, thanked Mr. Kazykhanov for “a tour of a truly amazing and unique country.”
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