Kanat Saudabayev Event

NOTE: Minister Saudabayev spoke in Russian.  The text of his remarks below is transcribed from a translator’s audio.


  • Frederick Kempe, President and CEO, Atlantic Council
  • Senator Chuck Hagel, Chairman, Atlantic Council
  • Kanat Saudabayev, the Chairman-in-Office of OSCE and Secretary of State and Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan

February 3, 2010

FREDERICK KEMPE:  Welcome to the Atlantic Council.  It’s an enormous pleasure to welcome you all this evening to this special event with the former finance minister of Kazakhstan, Kanat Saudabayev.  And it’s a double pleasure, of course, tonight that he’ll be introduced by our chairman, Sen. Chuck Hagel.

I want to give a special thanks, first of all, to News Desk Media Group and their president and CEO Alan Spence for supporting this event.  You’ll see his publication that he did together with the government of Kazakhstan:  “Outside Investment in Kazakhstan.”  Next to it, you will see something that he also produced with the Atlantic Council on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Both are excellent publications and we thank News Desk Media Group for those as well.

The Eurasia Discussion Series – and this is part of it – is an initiative to bring together the smartest executives, policymakers, economic thinkers of Eurasia.  And speaking about Eurasia, it’s part of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center efforts.  This center was opened a year ago almost this month and people ask me why did you decide at the Atlantic Council to create a center totally focused on Eurasia.

And the answer is pretty easy:  I think you just have to look at a map.  We will be holding the second of our major conferences in the region – because we do consider this to be one of the most important regions in the world – in Istanbul, September 29th – October 1st.  The whole aim is to bring together the countries of the Caspian, the Black Sea, Central Asia – to discuss their issues.

With that, let me introduce and pass to Sen. Hagel.  We have a great history at the Atlantic Council of introducing the introducers.  Sen. Hagel, of course, is chairman of the Atlantic Council.  He is also, perhaps a wee bit more importantly, the co-chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.  He’s also a member of the Defense Policy Board.  He’s a man who knows a great deal about this region from his time on the Hill and where he served on the Foreign Relations Committee, intelligence committee.

But beyond that he’s maybe one of the few senators who ever has been to Kazakhstan.  And in fact, he’s been to every country in the region.  He’s a long-time friend, acquaintance of the foreign minister.  We just had a very lovely conversation before we came in here.  He knows the region intimately; he knows the importance of the region.  And it’s a great honor to have you here tonight, Sen. Hagel, to get us started.  (Applause.)

CHUCK HAGEL:  Fred, thank you.  And to our guests, welcome.  We are very pleased that you are here.  And we are particularly pleased that our friends from Kazakhstan are here.  And as I introduce our special guest, my dear friend, the foreign minister and state minister – although he says he has two jobs but only one paycheck.  That is selfless public service and we appreciate it.

I want to also thank the United States ambassador to Kazakhstan who does a remarkably effective job and is much-admired and respected.  And for you, Ambassador, thank you for what you are doing and please convey to your colleagues in the embassy how much we appreciate their good work.  To your colleague here in Washington, we also appreciate your good work and your efforts have not gone unnoticed, Ambassador.  And we know that it was not easy to follow the distinguished foreign minister.  But you have done that and in private company I will critique his performance – (chuckles) – versus yours.  And Ambassador Idrissov, thank you for your service and to all of your colleagues as well.

Fred and I – because I’m following a rich tradition of introducing everyone and saying nice things about everyone, I would be remiss and unfair if I did not acknowledge the work that Fred Kempe is doing and his colleagues here at the Atlantic Council.  I am immensely proud to be associated with this institution and I know of not any institution that really reaches beyond our borders that is more important at this time in world affairs than the Atlantic Council.

It has nothing to do with me.  It is an institution that is so much bigger than any of us.  And at a time when the Atlantic Council is reaching to new areas of the world like putting a premium and a focus on Central Asia because it does have a rather clear and relevant connection to Euro-Atlantic-Asian issues, this area of the world is going to become more and more critically important to global affairs.  And not just because of the Caspian and not just because of energy.

And I think that’s somewhat reflected in the chairmanship of our distinguished guest tonight of the OSCE which has been a particularly important institution as we have known it to be and I think will continue to play a rather significant role.

Fred mentioned that I have had the honor and I might say pleasure of getting to know the minister, Saudabayev, over the years and those times that he would come to my office and inquire as to my health and he would always somehow know if I had not been swimming for a day or two.  And I always admired his medical critique beyond his foreign policy expertise.

It is a true pleasure, once again, and an honor to have the minister with us and to have an opportunity for him to address not just this forum but well beyond the walls of this institution and listen to what he has to say tonight.  So with that, we are grateful that you would make time to come and we are looking forward to your remarks.  The foreign minister of Kazakhstan, ladies and gentlemen, Kanat Saudabayev.  (Applause.)

[NOTE: Minister Saudabayev’s remarks were translated.]

KANAT SAUDABAYEV:  Thank you for your kind words, Chuck.  For all intents and purposes, I am very happy to see you here today already in your new capacity as the head of this outstanding organization.  I recall with pleasure the years of my work in Washington as the ambassador of my country; and, will always be grateful for your support of our efforts to strengthen the partnership between Kazakhstan and the United States.  And certainly that is what there is now, successful and good human relations.

This is yet another testimony, that every year a growing awareness in your country and ours, that a further strengthening relationship between the two countries, not just in the required level of importance, but now there is no other alternative, and just, perhaps, you in your new capacity may be able to address a number of other issues, and strengthen our strategic partnership.  Thank you and much success!

I would like to observe that the bulk of such responsibility in today’s demanding audience are the people who know are deeply aware of the state and conditions, as well as the opportunities in international affairs.  Your organization has played, and plays an important role in these processes; in addition to that, a number of leaders and members of the organization have important roles today in politics in Washington.  By this I mean the current national security adviser, James Jones; the U.S. permanent representative to the U.N., Suzanne Rice, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, and many others.

At issue here are very important topics, international topics, often closely related with Kazakhstan.  In the year 2009, my country has adopted a new foreign policy concept, which confirms the inviolability of our external political principles, based on the values of our internal development of the rule of law, in promoting democracy, in a civil society, towards a market economy, and for more efficient governance.

In this regard, I would like to stress that Kazakhstan fully shares with you the fundamental principle that long-term security can only be achieved through the development of a democratic state governed by laws, and with strong social institutions.

That is the reason why, on the 29th of January of this year, in his address to the nation, President Nazarbayev has defined as a top priority – the further and continuous upgrading of the legal system of our political system, aimed at decriminalization and humanitarian legislation to reform the law enforcement system in accordance with the highest international standards.

To this end, parliament by this year intends to consider legislation that would provide for strict public control, as well as parliamentary control over the activity and the accountability of all law enforcement agencies.  Along the same lines, I would like to mention to you that in autumn of the year 2009 that we are adopting a national action plan on human rights for the years of 2009 to 2012, and the concept of legal policy for the years 2010-20, which also demonstrates a strong commitment to consistently and purposefully moving towards the building of a democratic Society.  I would like to emphasize that this is the scope of all of the years of an independent Kazakhstan in building an important platform in the relations between our countries.

Kazakhstan has always been and shall remain a firm supporter of the ideas of a world free of the spread of nuclear weapons as well as disarmament.  You all know that our country is still at the beginning of its independence, and under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev has voluntarily given up the fourth largest nuclear missile armament in the world and shut down the world’s largest nuclear proving ground.

That is why we support all the new initiatives of President Obama aimed at reducing the nuclear threat. Perhaps in this regard, President Obama, in his congratulatory message last December to our head of state, on the occasion of the last Independence Day, emphasized that Kazakhstan’s leadership to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons is highly commendable.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also stressed that Kazakhstan earned the respect and recognition of the struggle for peace in all corners of the world, in its decision to abandon its nuclear arsenal, thus becoming a leader in the area of non – proliferation.  The invitation of our president to President Obama to participate in the global summit on nuclear security in April of this year also recognizes the great contribution of your country towards Kazakhstan in the area of nonproliferation.  Clearly it can be seen that the activity in non – proliferation has allowed our country to become one of the most active and important players in the field of nuclear energy.

Last year, our country has emerged as one of the top in the world in the extraction of uranium.  Today it this has amounted to reached 13,500 tons.  The USA recently announced the construction of a number of new nuclear power plants. I think that this opens up yet another opportunity for our cooperation.  It is well-known that the United States has viewed as positive, the expression by our head of state on his willingness to consider placing the international nuclear fuel storage on the territory of the country.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) has stated that from a political and technical point of view, Kazakhstan is an ideal candidate to host the first fuel storage facility.  It has commended our initiatives in the ideal standing of the situation of Kazakhstan in the area of nonproliferation.

In April of the last year, in Astana, Iranian President Ahmedinejad had said that the proposal to establish nuclear fuel storage under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency on the territory of Kazakhstan was a good idea.  I think that such an initiative could help to find a compromise solution to the problem of the nuclear program of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  What is more, some experts believe that such a project could help to firm up the U.S.-Iranian relationship.

Ladies and gentlemen, today, energy security has become a major factor in world politics, and in this regards the Kazakh-American cooperation demonstrated its credibility and decisiveness predictability.  Such that, Barack Obama’s energy program is fully correlated with the strategy and vision of President Nazarbayev for the providing of global energy security. Given the impressive reserves of hydrocarbon and uranium resources in our country, it is difficult to overestimate the role of Kazakhstan in the solution of these problems.

As a major producer of grains, ranking fifth in the world on the basis of its exports, Kazakhstan could also provide a worthy contribution to the joint initiative of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Department of State Secretary Hillary Clinton in providing of food security in and around the world.

Our country fully participates and supports the significant U.S. initiatives to stabilize Afghanistan, reducing the nuclear threat, as well as tolerance. Today, we view them as points of breakthrough in our overall foreign-policy agenda. Ample proof of the optimistic prospects of the Kazakh-US strategic partnership can be seen in a statement by Hillary Clinton on the 14th of December last year, to wit that we are working closely together to improve economic ties and promote a responsible and reliable energy future, safeguarding regional security and reducing the threat of nuclear weapons.

In general, as reflected in years of successful cooperation between our two countries, a strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and the United States is in the best interests of our peoples.  Many prominent politicians and experts point out that today Kazakhstan’s youth and dynamic democracy are developing regional state leaders, which effectively translate between successes in the internal developments to the rest of the world, and also contribute to providing regional and global security.

As stated by U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the United States is counting on the continued international leadership of Kazakhstan, when the country will head the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I am before you speaking not only as head of the foreign affairs department of country, but also as the acting chairman of the OSCE.  We regard Kazakhstan’s presidency in such an authoritative international organization as the recognition by a neutral international community of the impressive success of the country, after not so many years of independence, and in the socioeconomic and sociopolitical development of our worthy contribution to regional and global security.

However, we consider it as the desire of the organization to build trust and understanding between the countries to the west and east of Vienna again, and to adapt to modern realities.  At the 14th of January meeting of the OSCE’s Permanent Council in Vienna, in his video address, President Nursultan Nazarbayev outlined the strategy and priorities of our presidency of the OSCE. First of all, we are firmly committed to its founding principles and values that will work for the interests of all participating countries.

Our most important task is to strengthen the organization throughout the world, to promote its efficiency, and its ability to respond to modern challenges and threats. The implementation of our priorities will largely depend on whether it falls to us to overcome the crisis of confidence generated by its unfortunately continuing existing in the OSCE of divisive borders and the rudiments of the Cold War.  In this regard, we look forward to continuing the process of Corfu, which revealed dissatisfaction with the actual state of affairs in the area of organizational accountability.

In 2010, the year of our chairmanship in the OSCE was marked by several remarkable anniversary dates.  This is a 35th anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act, the 65th anniversary of the end of World War 2, the 20th anniversary Charter of Paris for a New Europe, and the 20th year of the Copenhagen Document.  It will also be 11 years from the last day of the OSCE summit in Istanbul.

Unfortunately, the first decade of the new century has not shown our world to be either safer or better.  As such, the tragedy of September 11, 2001, changed the standard concepts of the enemy and of war.  In the face of international terrorism the world has faced an enemy without a location or nationality, which has altered the security architecture in Europe.  Despite years of efforts by the international community, Afghanistan continues to remain a source of international terrorism and a major supplier of drugs.

Not only is there an abundance of protracted conflicts, but unfortunately there were even new ones. We have witnessed and are continuing to reap the consequences of the most serious of global financial crises.  Even in the seemingly prosperous countries of Europe, there is a high level of tension in the issues of tolerance – ethnic and religious tolerance, and all of these are basically taking place in the area of responsibility of the OSCE.

These are glaring issues that urgently call for the attention and the consideration of the assembled leaders of the participating states in the OSCE. This is the reason why President Nursultan Nazarbayev has sent a proposal to hold a 2010 summit for our entire organization. Specific recommendations for the summit have already been laid out in the Smith documents in Athens and supported by the permanent council in Vienna.

Leaders of several countries, including: France, Italy, Spain, the Vatican, Russia and other CIS countries, as well as the EU leadership have not only supported the proposal, but have also been actively involved in the work of filling in a substantive agenda for the summit. Kazakhstan also intends to continue the fine tradition laid down by our predecessor in Greece, and in so doing invite the foreign ministers of OSCE member states at an informal meeting in Alma-Ata this year, in which they may continue to freely exchange views on current issues, and ideally reach a consensus on the summit agenda and its timing.

To this audience, I would like to emphasize that as a result of a long absence of the U.S. at meetings of the OSCE at the higher levels, the organization has been in some imbalance. Many of the processes of the OSCE are stalled, and it becomes all the more difficult to find a consensus.  The OSCE needs the proper level of attention from one of the key countries that had laid the foundations of this organization.  Full, active participation will give the organization’s activities such needed power today.

I am sure that the idea of the summit fully meets the noble goals and the consistent efforts of the United States on providing broad-based, united, reliable security, and confidence-building cooperation throughout the OSCE area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.  On this occasion as the OSCE chairman, I ask you, honorable members of the Atlantic Council, to exercise your inherent strategic vision, political will and leadership and foresight to support such a summit that is needed today in the interest of security and development of our peoples.

Dear colleagues, many of the causes of contemporary conflicts are deeply rooted in the geopolitical confrontation between the Eurasian and Euro-Atlantic theater in the years of the Cold War Today Kazakhstan is hoping to make a significant contribution to the establishment mutually productive and well-balanced dialogue between the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian players. Eurasia plays an important role in relations between European society and the emerging Asian security structure.

As you know, some OSCE member countries are located in Asia, and three of them, including Kazakhstan, are in both Europe and Asia simultaneously.  As a bridge state between the two continents, Kazakhstan plays a special role in forming new structures and strengthening existing mechanisms for security in this vast arena.  During the ’90s, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s strongly pushed his initiatives towards Eurasian integration.  All of the initiatives and solutions of our head of state are dictated by regional interests and the pragmatic approaches that meet with the interests of our partners.

In 1992, a still as yet unknown president in an unknown country announced an initiative from the rostrum of the United Nations to establish a workshop on confidence-building measures in Asia. Today, this organization assembles its third summit to be held in the summer of this year in Istanbul.  This organization is composed of 20 countries that are home to more than 3 billion people, and which produces one-third of world’s total output.

We hope that this meeting could be the first time to be able to carry out joint activities of the CICMA and the OSCE, since the CICMA is the Asian counterpart of the OSCE, and a dialogue of European and Asian security structures can enhance the prospects of general security and cooperation on the vast Eurasian continent. Given that a coalition has not yet been fully formed by the Central Asian States, President Nazarbayev has put forward an initiative to establish a customs union.  And today, as of this year, the customs union shall to work, which should, as it is comprised at this moment, include:  Russia, Belarus, in which we have a market of 170 million people.  It will have very positive implications for the future economic development of Kazakhstan.

As of today, the practical content of the Eurasian idea is taking particular root in the designated framework and other authoritative organizations. Eurasian countries are becoming closer to Europe, where today they have achieved the highest level of progress, technology, science and in the standards of living of the people.  That is why, in Kazakhstan, on the initiative of the head of our government, we have established the special government program called “the Road to Europe.”

In this same direction, the EU has formulated a strategy for relations with Central Asia. Playing an important role in the development of the integration of Central Asia players, over the last 1-and-a-half to 2 years are the strategic partnerships between Kazakhstan and France, Spain, Italy; and we hope during the fall to the visit of Chancellor Merkel in Kazakhstan in which a strategic partnership agreement will be also be signed with Germany.

In the context of the dialogue between Europe and Asia, Astana also plays an important role in the strategic partnership with Turkey, with which we have historical fraternal relations, with India, the largest democracy of the world, and with Japan – a traditional ally of the United States and Europe.

In Eurasia, as in other regions of the world, geopolitics plays a closely intertwined role with that of economic interests. Kazakhstan has consistently pursued economic policies so as to best create an enabling environment for wellbeing of countries in the region.  At present, the transformation of Central Asia, is taking place from being a peripheral space in the region, to one which occupies a key position in the system of geopolitical areas of Eurasia.

One of the major factors contributing to the increasing importance of the region and defining its new geopolitical role is supported by the potential of the transportation sector and the transit components, as well as the integration of the region in the world economic space.

Opening up the Afghan and Iranian issues corresponds to the fundamental long-term interests of our republic as the largest landlocked country, and the opening of the southern routes to the huge Indian market is an effective way to provide for further sustainable development of my country.  This may be the historic mission of the United States in our region.

Dear colleagues, for the duration of its 35-year history, the OSCE has created the counterpart system of collective, broad-based and unified security.  However, as has been rightly pointed out, by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the positive and historic resources of the OSCE has its limits and it is not permissible to continue the endless and trust – reducing practice of so – called red lines in a zero-sum game.  I am convinced that our common goal is that, in the light of new challenges and threats, the OSCE has to become even more marketable, useful and effective.

At the conclusion of this speech, I would like to thank you all for your attention to my country and hope that you will make a worthy contribution to the successful chairmanship of the OSCE, and to the strengthening of the strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and the United States.  Thank you for your attention.  (Applause.)

FREDERICK KEMPE:  Mr. Minister, let me first say that we thank you for that enormously important message.  And I think what you said in substance was important, but between the lines you captured the centrality of Kazakhstan to so many issues of common interest.  And it’s even hard to pick up what of the many issues you touched on that one should talk about – certainly, nuclear proliferation, energy security, the very fascinating notion of the historical mission of opening to the south, and also the idea of an OSCE summit and a reinvigoration of the OSCE.

But let me start with a question and then I’ll go to the audience right away.  We have roughly 20 minutes here – 15, 20 minutes – for some questions.  Last week, Secretary Clinton delivered a major policy address on European security.  And she responded to President Medvedev’s security plans for Europe.  She articulated U.S. principles but she effectively rejected President Medvedev’s proposals.  And she said that we have the institutions we need for this – institutions such as the OSCE and the NATO-Russia Council.  So I wonder if you could tell us where do your ambitions for the OSCE fit together with Medvedev’s proposals and how would you respond to Secretary Clinton’s speech?

MR. SAUDABAYEV:  I think you must be talking about the proposal that was put forward by President Medvedev on signing the new European security treaty.  And I think taking into consideration that over the last few years the security architecture in Europe has undergone drastic changes, we think that there is a lot of basis to view Russia proposals seriously and to give it due consideration.  I think the principle of our organization implies that all member-states have equal rights to present their vision, to come up with their proposals that need and must be considered by all other member-states.

MR. KEMPE:  Perhaps you could respond to Secretary Clinton’s concrete proposals for the OSCE in three areas last week:  military, economic, environmental and human rights.  Rather than listing these, you know very well what they are but do you see this as a new emphasis of the United States on the OSCE?  You made a very impassioned call upon the Atlantic Council to embrace your idea of a summit.  Do you see Secretary Clinton’s proposals also as an indication that the U.S. might embrace this idea of a summit to reinvigorate the OSCE as well?

MR. SAUDABAYEV:  In my speech, I was trying to emphasize the point that we will unequivocally adhere to the basic founding principles of the OSCE.  In other words, we would like to make sure that there is a balanced approach to all three dimensions in the activities of this organization, including the so-called “third basket,” which is the human component of our activities.  And this basket, I think, is going to be the major priority for us and our aspirations and activities are driven by this.

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you, Mr. Minister.  I’ll turn to the audience and I may get two or three questions at a time.  Please, if you could identify yourself, too, as you ask your question.

Q:  Erica Marat, Voice of America.  According to Greenhouse, the rating of Kazakhstan is peculiar because it’s the first country that has a low rating in the human rights respect that is heading the OSCE.

MR. KEMPE:  Should I take one or two questions and then come back?  Harlan Ullman, please.

Q:  Mr. Minister, I’m Harlan Ullman with the Atlantic Council.  Thank you for your comments.  As you know, NATO is in the process of writing its new strategic concept.  I wonder if you could help us out and tell us what you think the value and future of NATO ought to be, from your perspective.

MR. SAUDABAYEV:  And now with respect to the first question, first of all, vis-à-vis the rating issue, you know, we may agree or disagree with the rating.  I think it’s the right of the organization that conducted the poll, or conducted its evaluation.  But I can tell you that the fact that 55 countries could participate in the OSCE on the 30th of November of 2009 in Madrid agreed unanimously to grant Kazakhstan the right – that was in 2007, sorry.  That in 2010, Kazakhstan will be the head of this influential international organization that focuses its activities on human rights, I think is very significant.

You can say that 55 states acknowledged the fact that our country is a young democracy but it’s a valid democracy and I’d like to stress the point that we are trying to develop the democratic processes in our country.  And we’re doing that so the situation improves overall, but we’re not trying to please – or, we’re not trying to do it for the sake of approval or improving our rating with some international organization.

Now, with respect to the second question, just a few days ago, I participated in the meeting with the new secretary-general, Rasmussen, in Brussels.  And I think the efforts that were undertaken within the framework of the international coalition acting in Afghanistan right now speak in favor of the fact that this country has a very serious capacity that is being used in the way it should be used in order to provide for the stability in Afghanistan.

Without the stability in Afghanistan, one can hardly talk about stability not only in our region – I’m talking about the countries who are bordering on Afghanistan – but also the whole OSCE area of responsibility and the whole Eurasian area of responsibilities – or, space.  So my position is I think going along the lines with what this organization is doing in Afghanistan.

MR. KEMPE:  Can you also pick up what you said during your speech on the historical mission of opening us up?  How does this hang together with Afghanistan?  How do you endeavor – how will you endeavor to do that, as Kazakhstan is chairman of OSCE?

MR. SAUDABAYEV:  I’d like to say that, unfortunately, in order for us to really be able to provide for secure economic ties, today we’re facing this huge region that kind of fell out from this whole structure.  I’m talking about Afghanistan.  I’m talking about the actual siege of Iran that is happening.

We are a continental, landlocked country that doesn’t have access to any seas.  So in view of the fact that we have vast natural resources, it’s of utmost importance for us to have efficient and diverse transport routes of transit that we could use.

Currently, we have to use only our northern routes that are going through Russia.  And in the years of our independence, we opened up two more routes leading to China, going through China.  And now we have the system operational for the Baku–Ceyhan pipeline but of course if this area opens up for us, it would be economically from the standpoint of economics of this whole process, it would be the most worthwhile situation.  And I think this potentially presents a good opportunity for economic rehabilitation of Afghanistan, as well.

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you.  I see two questions:  one here and one here.  Please.  And please identify yourselves as well.

Q:  Mr. Minister, Ariel Cohen, the Heritage Foundation.  It’s great to see you here, back in town, sir.  My question is about the statement President Nazarbayev made, I believe, last year, with regards to Iran.

Iran is clearly important to Kazakhstan as a transit direction to the south.  President Nazarbayev made Kazakhstan an example for Iran, for President Ahmadinejad, in terms of denuclearization – the military part of denuclearization.  Kazakhstan is unique because it has a very good relationship with Russia and with China, and the United States is likely to bring the proposal for sanctions for the Security Council.

How do you see the role of Kazakhstan in advising China and/or Russia with regards to the sanctions, and how do you view the resolution of the nuclear problem that we’re facing vis-à-vis Iran?  Thank you.

MR. KEMPE:  Excellent question, and in general, Kazakhstan’s role in dealing with Iran.  One more question we’ll take, please.

Q:  Bill Courtney, former U.S. ambassador in Kazakhstan.  Kazakhstan has emphasized the importance of the security basket and the OSCE under Kazakhstan’s leadership.  From a U.S. and Western perspective, the spreading violence in the Northern Caucasus and the potential for violence spreading north from Afghanistan into the front-line states of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are particular security concerns in the OSCE area.  Under Kazakhstan’s leadership, do you think the OSCE can make progress in either one of those areas?

MR. SAUDABAYEV:  Both of these questions are the topic of large and serious and deep study.  And they require very serious analysis.  As far as the question of Ariel Cohen, I’d like to say that Kazakhstan as no one else has the moral right to tell Iran that having nuclear ambitions is a wrong way.

But at the same time, we are saying that Iran absolutely has the right to develop peaceful energy, and our president stated that many times to the leaders of Iran.  He stated that if they don’t have such a problem and if they have the wish to develop peaceful energy, they should do that according to the international norms.  They should do it openly with transparency and in cooperation with the countries that are involved in such a process.

And this is our firm position and President Nazarbayev made statements about that during the meetings with the leaders of these countries.  He stated that from many different podiums.  And during the meetings of leaders with nuclear countries, he also stated that you cannot win develop of the peaceful energy.  It has to be supported and encouraged but it needs to be done according to the international norms and according to IAEA, et cetera.

If Iran will comply with these norms, then we should support and encourage it.  And in this regard, the proposal of creation of international nuclear fuel bank – and Kazakhstan is ready to host such a bank – this is a very important help in development of peaceful nuclear energy in various countries.

As far as the question of my colleague is concerned, in reality, our chairmanship falls on not such easy times in the time of OSCE that has to do not only with new conflicts, the majority of which – at least three of them – are in the post-Soviet space.  I think that of course we will continue the efforts that were taken by our predecessors and we will continue working with all the partners in the organization that are involved in this process.

We have certain resources that we would want to engage; the knowledge of many countries who are parties of this conflict, the mentality, the history.  And what’s also very important is the high credibility, the trust and the respect that enjoins the head of our country of our president with all the parties of the conflict.   And that’s why my first trip to the region, which is going to start on February 15, I will do my best to consider the situation and to meet with people who are involved in this process.

MR. KEMPE:  Mr. Foreign Minister, I see other questions.  I also have many questions of my own yet to ask, but we’ve run out of time.  And so on behalf of the Atlantic Council and the audience, I want to thank you, but I also want to say something.

The value of someone like you coming to Washington is you give us an idea of what the world looks like from your part of the world.  And the world – you live in an interesting neighborhood.  And you’ve given us a very rich idea, both of the complexities of that neighborhood, but also of the ambitions of how Kazakhstan hopes to make it a more welcoming and more economically and politically cooperative neighborhood.

We at the Atlantic Council are devoted to that.  We’ve created the Eurasia center to promote that.  So I look very much forward to working with you and your country as we go forward, and I want to thank you for taking the time tonight for this important message and this interesting discussion.  Thank you, Mr. Minister.  (Applause.)

Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.

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