NATIONAL

Kazakhstan gains from disarmament, diplomacy, democracy

By Korea Herald

“We express our deep concern over the nuclear weapons states that have not taken decisive actions to denuclearize, while nonnuclear weapons states have adhered to the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT).”

  • Published : Mar 20, 2017 - 17:32
  • Updated : Mar 21, 2017 - 08:28
As a country that renounced the world’s fourth-largest atomic arsenal, Kazakhstan condemns North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and urges its return to the six-party talks for denuclearization, according to its top envoy to Korea.

In an interview with The Korea Herald, Kazakh Ambassador Dulat Bakishev underlined his country’s path of disarmament and subsequent progress in diplomacy and commerce as a strategic country in Eurasia.

On Aug. 29 1991, Kazakhstan voluntarily relinquished its military nuclear capacity by closing down the Semipalatinsk test site, a primary experiment ground for the Soviet Union’s atomic arsenals. By terminating 1,400 nuclear warheads at the time, the country has since established a nuclear weapons free zone in Central Asia with its neighbors. 

Kazakh Ambassador to Korea Dulat Bakishev (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

“Nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation are the main priorities of our foreign policy,” the ambassador stressed. “We express our deep concern over the nuclear weapons states that have not taken decisive actions to denuclearize, while nonnuclear weapons states have adhered to the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT).”

Regarding North Korea, the envoy said Kazakhstan stands opposed to the use of military force in resolving the international security dilemma, adding only diplomacy and pressure would secure peace and stability.

Astana contributed to curbing Iran’s nuclear program by hosting two rounds of talks in Almaty in 2013. The “P5+1” countries -- the United Nations Security Council permanent members, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France and China, plus Germany and the European Union -- engaged in intense diplomacy in Almaty.

Astana also hosted three rounds of negotiations for peace in war-torn Syria, the latest of which ended Wednesday without substantive discussions as Syrian rebels boycotted the event. Astana was chosen to host the talks because the Kazakh government was considered neutral by all involved parties, according to Geopol Monitor. 

Syria's UN Ambassador and Head of the Government Delegation Bashar al-Jaafari (fourth from left), Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad (third from left) and other delegates attend the third round of Syria peace talks in Astana on March 15. (AFP PHOTO)

The previous two rounds of talks -- dubbed “Astana 1” and “Astana 2” -- occurred on Jan. 23-24 and Feb. 14-15, respectively. The first meeting focused on establishing a trilateral mechanism between Moscow, Ankara and Tehran to monitor a precarious cease-fire put in place since last December, while the second meeting produced an agreement to set up the monitoring group as well as draft provisions on exchanging detained persons.

The last event in Astana involved Turkey, which backs the Syrian opposition rebels, and Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with both parties trying to extricate themselves from the war that has dragged on for six years. Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to hold the next meeting in Astana on May 3-4.

The Astana talks is a “parallel endeavor” to the United Nations-led negotiations in Geneva between the Syrian government and its opposition.

“The Astana talks are intended to complement and integrate with the Geneva meetings in facilitating a political solution to the conflict,” according to the Kazakh Embassy in Seoul. “Despite the whole process laden with uncertainties and violence, the Astana process has proven to be the only one holding the cease-fire in Syria.”

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks to journalists as he arrives to attend the talks on Syrian peace, in Astana, Kazakhstan on Feb. 23, 2017. De Mistura reconvened talks between government and opposition delegations in a bid to end the catastrophic six-year war. (AP PHOTO)

Having joined the UN in 1992, only a year after its independence from the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has striven to play a neutral and mediating role in international affairs, with strong commitment to peaceful resolution of conflicts, protection of civilians and sustainable development of societies worldwide, Bakishev said. Kazakhstan is also a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council for 2017-18.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the country since 1989, recently presented a proposal to reform the country’s constitution to reduce presidential powers and strengthen those of lawmakers and the cabinet. The reform bill was passed by the Kazakh parliament on March 6.

“The reform corresponds to our country’s societal and historical development and modernization,” according to the ambassador. “It would strengthen our democracy and people power, with more autonomy given to the executive branch and parliament.”

In the economic sphere, Kazakhstan has embarked on an ambitious nationwide program of “Third Modernization,” aimed at transforming the country into an innovative powerhouse. 

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (AP PHOTO)

The first scheme centered on transitioning its centralized planned economy to a market economy, and the second strategy -- dubbed “Kazakhstan 2030” -- has targeted harnessing political stability, national security, an effective bureaucracy, an internationally integrated economy, social welfare, energy security and efficient infrastructure.

In preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Kazakhstan is incorporating cutting-edge advances in information communications technology, mobile banking, electronic government, automation and digital services.

Between June 10 and Sept. 10, Kazakhstan will host the Expo 2017 Astana on the theme of future energy, featuring solutions to global sustainable development and energy use challenges. It will also organize the Astana Economic Forum from June 15-16, a platform for regional and global dialogue on future energy, sustainable growth and human-centered innovation.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)