SCO Marks 10 Years at Astana Summit: Wraps Achievements, Plans Future
Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states converged at the Palace of Independence in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on June 15 to discuss the organisation’s achievements over the past decade and plan the course for the SCO’s future.
“Over the past 10 years, the SCO has evolved significantly and transformed itself into a powerful and influential group of nations that can no longer be classified just as a regional organization. The challenge is to maintain this momentum and to make the SCO a valuable global actor, converting its huge potential into real influence on world events,” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev wrote about the organization’s role in his op-ed that appeared in The Moscow Times on the day of the Astana Summit.
The 10 year anniversary summit concluded with signing of the Astana Declaration by leaders of the six SCO member states, including Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Hu Jintao of China, Roza Otunbayeva of Kyrgyzstan, Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, Emomali Rakhmon of Tajikistan, and Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan.
The event was attended by the SCO observer states’ representatives such as Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, Indian Foreign Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, and Mongolian Chief of Presidential Staff Dashjamts Battulga. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan was a special guest of the host country.
Secretary General of the SCO Muratbek Imanaliyev, Eurasian Economic Community Secretary General Tair Mansurov, United Nations Under Secretary-General and Director of UN Office for Drugs and Crime Yuri Fedotov, Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha, Commonwealth of Independent States Executive Secretary Sergey Lebedev, and Director of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) Dzhenisbek Dzhumanbekov were also present at the forum.
“We have built a solid contractual base and the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, maintained close contacts between competent bodies, conducted counterterrorism exercises, and exchanged corresponding information on persons and organisations relevant to extremist, terrorist and separatist activities,” Nazarbayev said. “Besides, we witness enhanced cooperation in the fight against drug and arms trafficking, transnational crime, and illegal migration,” the President added.
“Kazakhstan has made all the necessary preparatory works. Our chairmanship is finishing and now it is China’s turn. We have held 110 events, prepared important documents for signing and had all their clauses and provisions approved,” Nazarbayev said.
At the summit, a number of important decisions has been approved and signed, including the Antidrug Strategy for 2011-16, the Action Plan for implementation of the Antidrug Strategy, memorandum of obligations of a country applying to obtain the status of the SCO member state.
During the event, President Nazarbayev put forward several proposals, such as the establishment of an SCO council for settling territorial and regional conflicts, the creation of an SCO Emergency Situations Centre, the creation of an SCO Antidrug Centre, the development of common transport and power space, the creation of a new SCO mechanism for closer economic cooperation and further financing of joint projects.
“I call for the establishment of an SCO Council for settling territorial and regional conflicts and using it to carry out preventive measures in potential hot spots in the area of its responsibilities. In the past years we have witnessed two serious political conflicts and coups in the neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, and our Organisation did not and could not take any measures,” the Kazakh leader emphasised.
“We have oil, gas, resources in our countries. It is important to unite our interests, form an integral Eurasian system of pipelines and electric power grids,” Nazarbayev said.
In the context to the recent disaster in Japan, thePresident of Kazakhstan called to create an SCO Emergency Situations Centre, and in regards to food and fresh water security issues, Nazarbayev proposed to create a new SCO Water and Food Commission at the level of heads of respective national authorities.
Another proposal was to establish a prognostics institute.
“It is time to create a permanent supranational prognostics institute and work out a united vision of development of the SCO. Joining our forces, we will be able to develop SCO-2030 and SCO-2050 forecasts. This is important for countering the global crisis,” Nazarbayev stated.
The leaders of SCO member states exchanged views on the results of the assembly’s functioning in ten years, its prospective development, and discussed topical issues on regional and international agendas. Their common stances found reflection in the Astana Declaration of SCO’s Tenth Anniversary.
Following the meeting of heads of member states the Summit continued in presence of leaders of observerstates, the invited nation (Afghanistan) and international organizations, all of whom expressed their views on the SCO’s relevance in Eurasian political, economic, and humanitarian realities.
Within the forum, a protocol of understanding was signed between the Executive Committee of the RATS SCO and the CSTO Secretariat on June 14. According to CSTO Secretary General Bordyuzha, the document will facilitate and more effectively coordinate joint efforts in combating extremist activity.
“We have the ability to exchange information, to improve our work, increase efficiency, particularly of the law enforcement services,” Bordyuzha highlighted.
Last but not least, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the SCO Secretariat and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which provides for cooperation in several key areas of fighting transnational organised crime.
“It is impossible for any single country to defend against the threats posed by drug trafficking, organised crime, and terrorism by itself. Criminals do not recognise state borders, and our response should be the cooperation at the regional and international level,” Executive Director of the UNDOC Yuri Fedotov resumed.
Hispano-Kazakh Economic Cooperation to Expand as Zapatero Visits Astana
Spain and Kazakhstan made a notable step forward today to expand the economic base of bilateral relations as Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero paid an official visit to Kazakhstan.
On June 17, Zapatero held high level bilateral meetings in Astana, at which matters of bilateral cooperation were considered. The visit resulted in signing of a number of bilateral inter-governmental and business agreements.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev today received the head of the Spanish government in Akorda.
“You arrived accompanied by a large business delegation… I hope they sign contracts and agree on many things. This year we mark 20 years of our independence, All these years we have had good relations. And now we need to expand economic cooperation,” the Kazakh leader said. He also added that he looked forward to King Juan Carlos’ future visit to Astana as well.
“The purpose of this visit is to expand and strengthen the relationship between the leading country in Central Asia, your country, and Spain. We have developed very good political relations over the past 20 years, and now we need to expand our economic and trade relations...” Zapatero confirmed in his turn.
Earlier, Zapatero expressed the same idea during his talks with Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Karim Massimov. In order to expand the economic base of cooperation between the two countries, Spain wishes to continue investing in Kazakhstan and strengthen joint work in the energy sector, engineering, infrastructure, environment, and information, Zapatero said.
Representatives of major Spanish companies attended the meeting of the two Prime Ministers. Karim Massimov called on them to actively participate in joint projects in various fields.
“I believe Spanish industry is very competitive. The arrival of your companies in Kazakhstan, the formation of cooperation, and creation of joint ventures will help further development of Kazakhstan, as well as stimulate the development of the economies of both countries,” Massimov said.
His Spanish counterpart said Astana and Madrid can confront the global economic challenges together by creating joint enterprises and implementing joint projects.
“We are strongly willing to succeed in projects that have been proposed by the your Government,” Zapatero said.
On the sidelines, Ambassador of Spain in Kazakhstan Albert Anton and Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan Askhat Daulbayev signed a Convention between Kazakhstan and Spain on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Cases.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, this agreement would allow the authorised bodies of both countries to provide each other with legal assistance, including procedures such as providing information, assistance in criminal investigations, joint investigation, and more.
In the area of energy, Kazakhstan’s national oil and gas company KazMunaiGas signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a major Spanish oil company, Repsol.
“The agreement concerns the right of Repsol to conduct exclusive geological and geodetic studies in the Adai fields, which are in the Kulsaroi district of the Atyrau region,” the head of the KazMunayGas Kairgeldi Kabyldin said. Kabyldin highlighted that in case of finding commercial oil reserves the two companies may sign an agreement on further development of the area. Repsol, in turn, will provide KazMunayGas with an opportunity to participate in its international projects, including in countries like Iran and Iraq.
Other documents signed during the visit include an inter-governmental agreement on cooperation in combating crime and a memorandum of understanding between the Kazakhstan Institute of Diplomacy and Academy of Civil Service and Diplomatic School of Spain’s Foreign Ministry.
In addition, Kazakhstan’s national company “Kazakhstan Engineering” and Spain’s Indra concluded an agreement on cooperation in defence and security. Kazakhstan’s National Economic Chamber “Atameken” and Confederation of Spanish Business Organisations also signed a memorandum of understanding and an agreement to establish a Kazakhstan-Spanish Business Council. The Kazakhstan Institute of Oil and Gas and Spanish company Tecnicas Reunidas concluded a memorandum of understanding as well.
Relations between Kazakhstan and Spain have been ever since the establishment of diplomatic ties in February 1992. Spain is the second European country with which Kazakhstan signed a strategic partnership agreement.
Dynamics and maintenance of meetings at high level demonstrate the special nature of bilateral partnership. The countries have held a series of visits and meetings at the highest level since 1994. Foreign ministries of both countries have also established and maintained regular contact.
Kazakhstan and Spain were able to form fruitful economic relations, as well as strong cooperation in culture, education, and sport.
Today, the volume of trade between the two countries is growing. From January to March 2011, the trade turnover between Spain and Kazakhstan reached more than US$ 294 million, which is 65 percent greater than in the same period last year (US$ 177.5 million). Meanwhile, the volume of bilateral trade totalled US$ 1.021 billion in 2010, which demonstrated a 45 percent increase from 2009 (US$ 700 million).
The total amount of Spain’s investments in Kazakhstan is estimated at US$ 115.2 million.
Astana Conference Reviews Caspian Sea Environmental Safety, Legal Status
Environmental security in the Caspian Sea, its legal status, and international cooperation in developing its natural resources were in focus at the first conference entitled “Development of the Caspian Shelf” that was held in Astana on June 16-17.
Kazakhstan’s Association of Oil-Gas and Energy Sector Organisations (KazEnergy) and the Energy Exchange Company organised the event. The conference brought together senior managers of oil and gas companies involved in Caspian fields, relevant ministers and experts from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Russia, the press service of KazEnergy informed.
The conference began with a discussion of environmental security on the Caspian Sea. Kazakhstan’s Minister of Environment Protection Nurgali Ashim said the country was considering a creation of a state regional Caspian online monitoring system of subsoil users.
“There should be a constant video surveillance... Results of continuous monitoring should be placed at the central control station of Kazhydromet (national hydro-meteorological service),” Ashim said.
The Minister called on subsoil users on the Caspian Sea to invest in the breeding of sturgeon. He reminded that the official sturgeon catch has decreased 20 times compared to 1975.
A separate meeting held within the conference looked at the legal status of the sea and inter-state cooperation in developing its natural resources.
Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kairat Sarybai noted littoral states continue active negotiations to develop a Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.
“In general, we can say with optimism that the general attitude of the “Caspian Five”--constructivism, willingness for convergence, active integration processes in the region, contacts at the level of heads of state and government—all these give hope the issue of the legal status of the Caspian Sea will be resolved in the near future,” he said.
In turn, Kazakhstan’s Vice-Minister of Oil and Gas Berik Tolumbayev spoke about the national strategy in the development of the Kazakhstan sector of the Caspian Sea (KSCS).
“The Kazakh sector has the largest proven oil reserves. As a result of geological and geophysical studies, experts identified more than 120 potential structures whose probable reserves are estimated at 8 billion tonnes of standard oil, including 4.5 billion tonnes of oil,” he stated, reminding that by now Kazakhstan has signed 201 contracts on subsoil use.
The state programme on the development of KSCS consists of three stages and is designed for 2003-15. Currently, eight oil and gas projects are being implemented in this sector, the Vice-Minister informed.
Speaking about the prospects of the Caspian shelf oil and gas development, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Geology and Subsoil Use of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Industry and New Technologies Kudaiberdi Orak said that “by the volume of forecast hydrocarbon reserves in the depths of the Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan is one of the leading countries among the Caspian states.”
The main themes of the conference’s second day included subjects such as the development of the western Caspian Sea, the development of transport routes for oil, and the use of innovative technologies in the development of hydrocarbon resources of the Caspian Sea.
Peacekeeping Mission in Iraq Fostered KAZBAT, Commander Says
KAZBAT, Kazakhstan’s peacekeeping battalion had participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom from August 2003 to late 2008. During that time, the country sent close to 300 soldiers to Iraq in nine detachments.
The commander of KAZBAT, Major Shaikh-khan Zhazykbayev had served in Iraq twice. For his courage and professionalism, he was decorated with Kazakhstan’s Order “Aibyn” (Valour) and a medal “For Mine Clearance,” both of which are highly respected among professionals. He also received awards from American and Polish troops.
In his recent interview with Liter daily, Zhazykbayev said he considered himself a war labourer rather than a hero.
Zhazykbayev’s way to Iraq started from the moment he decided to become a professional soldier. “My mother used to tell me that a real man has either his chest full of medals or head in the bushes. For some reason I remembered that. I did not want to sit in the bushes,” Zhazykbayev joked. “So after graduating from school, I enrolled in the Penza Artillery Engineering Institute (in Russia). I studied military science with pleasure.”
After graduation, Zhazykbayev was eager to join the KAZBAT and his dream came true. This unit was created in Kapshagay, 70 km north of Almaty, on January 31, 2000. Iraq mission became its first combat one. In Iraq, the KAZBAT was tasked with mine clearance and water purification.
Kazakhstan’s contingent was located at Base Delta, situated in the province of Kut. Over nine shifts, the base camp became a familiar territory for Kazakh soldiers, Zhazykbayev said.
“You cannot call it a house, but it is a thoroughly habitable area. Separated from the rest of the world with gabions, this camp looked like a fortress, in which all members of the international force had their location. Since the summer of 2003, Delta was headed by the Ukrainian contingent, and later by the Polish,” Major Zhazykbayev said.
Kazakhstan peace-keepers conducted their service in a very professional manner, according to the command of coalition forces in Iraq. The Ukrainian and subsequently Polish sappers conducted engineering reconnaissance and reported to the base once they found explosive items, caches of ammunition or weapons. After that, the forces carefully designed operations to destroy the discovered arsenals and carried them out. Kazakhstan soldiers participated in those operations.
“As a sapper, you always try to avoid risks. I used to clearly clarify the problem, assess the situation, and only then make a decision to send a demining team on a mission. Conspicuous heroism and haste bring no good results, especially in our business,” Zhazykbayev said.
Our engineers would usually set off for mine clearance at 5 am guarded by Ukrainian and later Polish contingents. They would get to work only after 22 submachine gunners formed a perimeter defence in readiness to repel attacks of militant and other rebel groups, the Major explained.
“When you see mountains of rusty shells or half-buried unexploded bombs in front of you, first, you have to gather all your fear and will, patience and mind into one fist. The head must always remain cool,” Zhazykbayev said. “For the most dangerous and difficult tasks I used to go myself.”
In Iraq, Zhazykbayev turned into a real commander and the one who was able to return officers and soldiers alive back to their families. Fortunately, all combat trips of the eighth shift that he commanded underwent well. During their time on the mission, the sappers of his shift disarmed and destroyed more than 60,000 mines and bombs.
All in all, the KAZBAT soldiers destroyed more than 4.5 million explosive devices in Iraq in five years. Meanwhile, specialists in water purification did a great job as well.
“It would be unfair to forget about the work of our other specialists. All my subordinates have proved themselves excellent in their work. Everyone did not only act professionally during combat operations, but also trained specialists of Iraqi army and transferred them their skills. Thus, every one of us was enriched not only with combat experience, but also with experience in communicating with the military of other countries. This is important,” Zhazykbayev said.
Also in the News:
* On June 14, Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a Presidential Decree setting the next elections for the half of the Senate seats for August 19. According to the election law, candidates are put forth at the sessions of oblast, regional and city Maslikhats (local representative bodies). Political parties and social unions file their nominees for Senate seats through their representatives in Maslikhats. Self-nominated candidates are also allowed. Senators are elected by the electors, Kazakh citizens who are Maslikhats deputies. All the electors have equal rights and each of them has only one vote. The Senate includes 47 deputies, 32 of them are elected by electors from each of the 16 regions of the country (14 oblasts plus Astana and Almaty cities), while 15 of them are appointed by the President. Senators are elected for the term of six years. Half of the Senate is re-elected every three years.
* On June 16, President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a law “On Ratification of the Agreement on Preferential Terms of Delivery of Special Equipment and Special Means for Provision of Law Enforcement Bodies and Special Services of the Member States of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO)”. The Agreement, signed in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in October 2007, calls for interaction between CSTO members in organising the supplies of special equipment for law enforcement agencies on preferential terms.
* On June 17, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Massimov held a meeting on issues of socio-economic development of the city of Almaty. According to Prime Minister’s website,the participants reviewed a set of measures on development of transport system of the city, development of the regional financial centre and tourist infrastructure. Issues regarding construction of campuses for students, ensuring access for children, youth and students to sport facilities, improvement of quality of public and other services as well as measures on small and medium business development, and a number of other questions were on the agenda.
* A number of documents are to be signed during the Third Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Tehran Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea which will take place in Aktau on 10-12 August, Kazakhstan’s Environment Minister Nurgali Ashim said on June 16. According to him, there are two protocols to be signed, including “On Regional Preparedness, Response and Cooperation in cases of incidents which cause oil pollution”, and “On Environmental Impact Assessment in a Trans-boundary Context”.
* The former Kazakh Ambassador to Austria Rakhat Aliyev has been indicted in the murder of top managers of Nurbank Zholdas Timraliyev and Aybar Khassenov, who went missing in 2007, Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor General Askhat Daulbayev and Minister of Interior Kalmukhanbet Kassymnov reported to President Nazarbayev on June 15. According to them, over 20 expert studies have been carried out, more than 30 witnesses have been questioned, and there is other evidence which conclusively proves the fact of murder. The President has tasked law enforcement agencies to redouble their efforts to get Rakhat Aliyev extradited back to Kazakhstan. Until recently, he was believed to have been living in Austria.
* Kazakhstan’s exports of oil and gas condensate increased 9.4 percent in January-April 2011, compared to the same period of 2010, and made 24.2 million tonnes, Kazakhstan’s Statistics Agency reported on June 14. According to the data, the exports amounted to US$ 16.9 billion which is 44.4 percent more than in January-April 2010.
* The total volume of placed interbank deposits in Kazakhstan increased 16.3 percent in May compared with April 2011, reaching KZT 3.11 trillion (KZT 145.7 = US$ 1), the National Bank of Kazakhstan announced on June 15. According to the data, the volume of placed interbank KZT denominated deposits increased by 4.2 and amounted to 1.5 trillion or 47.7 percent of the total volume of deposits. The volume of placed US$ deposits increased by 42.8 percent to US$ 9.8 billion, which is 48.7 percent of the total volume of deposits. The volume of deposits in euros in May decreased by 42.2 percent to EUR 600 million, which is 4.1 percent of the total volume of deposits. Overall, the volume of deposits of the National Bank increased 1.6 percent in May compared to April, making KZT 1.4 trillion.
* Kazakhstan and China hope to complete the construction of the third gas pipeline Turkmenistan-China by 2013, Interfax.kz cited head of National Company KazMunayGas Kairgeldy Kabyldin as saying. According to the data, earlier Kabyldin reported that the capacity of the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China pipeline can be increased by another 20 billion cubic metres of gas a year with the construction of a third thread. Currently, two lines have been completed and put into operation, providing the capacity up to eight billion cubic metres of gas per year.
* 2,487 cars and 307 trucks were assembled in Kazakhstan in January-May, 2011, which is 3.5 times and 25.6 times more than in the same period of 2010. In five months from the beginning of 2011 sales of cars assembled in Kazakhstan made 2,382 cars, which is 5.7 times higher than last year. The share of cars produced in Kazakhstan on the market of new cars grew from 11.6 percent in January-May 2010 to 20.5 in the same period of 2011. The largest manufacturer in the country is Asia Auto which assembles cars of such brands as KIA, Chevrolet, Lada, and Skoda.
* The National Medical Holding was transferred to become part of the Nazarbayev University. The National Medical Holding includes the National Research Centre of Mother and Child, National Children’s Rehabilitation Centre, Medical University of Astana, Scientific Centre of Neurosurgery, National Diagnostics Centre, National Research Centre of Emergency Care, and Cardiac Centre.
Things to Watch:
* The 38th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers will be held in Astana on June 28-30. More than 1,000 participants from 61 states and 70 international organisations are expected to attend the session.
* An International Opera and Ballet Festival to mark the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence will take place at the Abai Kazakh State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre in Almaty on June 22-26. The event is expected to be attended by prominent musicians from Russia and Italy, including Nina Kaptsova, Ruslan Skvortsov, Zlata Bulycheva, Daniela Schillaci, Leonardo Gramenia, Aldo Caputo and others. The programme of the festival includes Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Verdi’s Aida, and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
* A large international exhibition to mark the 20th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will take place in Moscow, Russia, from June 28 through July 3. The aim of exhibition is to demonstrate the CIS member states’ achievements in priority areas over the two decades of independence. The Committee of Commerce of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Kazakhstan is among the organisers of the event.
* The Kazakh capital will host Astana Mining & Metallurgical Congress 2011 on July 4-6. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakh and foreign officials, heads of large industrial enterprises, international investors, and scientists will participate in the event. The list of official partners of the Congress includes the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies of Kazakhstan, the Astana City Major’s Office, ArcelorMittal, ENRC and Kazzinc.