His Excellency Timur Urazaev, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Kazakhstan Republic in Armenia in his interview to ArmInfo speaks about the results of 25-year-long Armenian-Kazakh relations, prospects for economic and political cooperation between two countries, shares Kazakhstan's experience in implementing the largest economic transit projects on its territory. Enumerates the foreign policy, economic and civilizational priorities of his country, talks about the place and role of Kazakhstan in the modern international system of political coordinates.
Your Excellency, it's been 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. What has come over these years and the main thing, in which direction are Armenia and Kazakhstan today?
On August 27, the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Kazakhstan will pass it's 25th anniversary. But this is not the whole history of the relations between our two countries: an active period of cooperation was to be part of the one united Soviet state. To my opinion, today Armenia and Kazakhstan have reached a stage of development allowing to open and create new conditions for reintegration. After integration in the USSR, we tried to develop independently not only from each other, but also from the outside world, and found new vectors of cooperation. We have opened for ourselves the Western and Eastern world, Europe and America, Asia. We began to conduct our own, independent, first of all - economic policy. Yet Marx called the economic state of the country a basis, because without a powerful economy, it is almost impossible to promote foreign policy initiatives. Initiated by the president of Kazakhstan back in 1994, Eurasian integration faced a hard beginning, was in a state of constant analysis and elaboration in the 90s. And only with the implementation of the new policy of Russia in the issue of regional and intra-continental integration, we managed to realize the idea of creating a Eurasian economic union on the basis of the EEU first and then the Customs Union and the experience accumulated in them, and more or less successfully receive dividends from this.
During these 25 years, Armenia and Kazakhstan have created a single economic space in which goods, capital, services and labor resources are circulating free. In this light, I assess the establishment of the EEU as an obviously necessary and timely step. And here, agreeing with the thesis of Vache Gabrielyan, the Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia , I note that without EEU the situation would have been much worse. Only thanks to the common rules of trade in the overall economic space compared to 2015, we increased the trade turnover between Armenia and Kazakhstan in 2016 by 46%, and for the first half of 2017 by another $ 2.7 million . So here to you to see the direct effect. Within the framework of the EEU, a unified mechanism of pension provision, general rules of traffic, registration of migrants have been created. More than 30000 Armenians live in Kazakhstan today, about 40% of them are labor migrants from Armenia. Kazakhstan occupies the third place after Russia and the US in terms of the volume of private transfers to Armenia. And only in the first half of 2017 labor migrants transferred from Kazakhstan to Armenia almost a year's volume of transfers for 2015 - about $ 23 million. And this opportunity was given to the people by the unified rules of the EEU. At the same time, in the regional and global context, both Kazakhstan and Armenia conduct a very calibrated policy, which is also an achievement of the 25-year development. I know how effectively Armenia's cooperation with Iran and Georgia is being built today. Kazakhstan is a leader in such matters as the anti-nuclear movement, nuclear non-proliferation, the fight against extremism and terrorism. I think that the current membership, and next year Kazakhstan's chairmanship in the UN Security Council, will give new breath to many of our global international initiatives.
At the ceremony of regular flight of SCAT Kazakhstan airline Astana-Yerevan-Astana opening on May 31, you expressed confidence that the opening of the air communication stimulates business connections between Armenia and Kazakhstan. What progress and prospects could be noted in this direction today?
According to the information provided by the airline, the flight is very cost-effective, and the cragts arrive in Yerevan from Astana almost filled. This indicates the availability of demand for Armenia by Kazakh tourists, citizens of Kazakhstan of Armenian origin. There is also an exchange of students. More than 30 students from Kazakhstan study in Yerevan universities. I think that this is an opportunity to communicate directly with the motherland also for them. On August 16, at the opening of Armenian pavilion at EXPO-2017 in Astana, the chairman of the State Committee for Tourism of the Ministry of Economic Development and Investments of Armenia Zarmine Zeituntsyan highlighted tourism as a priority vector of cooperation between our countries. Yes, one way or another, the restrictive policy of Western countries regarding the largest member of the EEU - Russia, affects our capabilities. And in the absence of a common land border, Armenia and Kazakhstan are forced to find the ways of non-material trade in service to pursue an investment policy with a view to achieving a visible economic effect from activities within a single economic space. In this light, tourism for Armenia is a tangible article of the budget's profitability.
Recently, the plenipotentiary minister of the Chinese Embassy in Russia Zhang Di, noting that the now revived "Silk Road" from China to Europe is "not a road with camels," described the project as "a path to growth and excellence." Does Kazakhstan feel this growth already today, what are its prospects for achieving excellence, and does its membership in the EEU interfere with its progress towards this perfection?
I'll start with the end of the question. EEU Membership not only does not hinder, but also helps developing the idea of an economic Silk Road. Armenia and Kazakhstan mainly play the role of transit countries. Kazakhstan - for China, Russia and Central Asia, and Armenia - for its neighbors in the direction of north-south. It is true that the Great Silk Road is "not a road with camels." The modern possibilities of transport logistics and information technologies make it possible to effectively develop new routes in Kazakhstan. To finance projects in the framework of the Silk Road, China created the Asian Bank for Infrastructure Investments with an authorized capital comparable to such international financial structures as the EBRD and ADB. Thirdly, Kazakhstan developed several logistics projects on its territory. The largest of them today is an establishment on the Kazakh-Chinese border of the "Khorgos -East Gate", FEZ, the International Center for Cross-Border Cooperation for duty-free trade between China and Kazakhstan. It is very important to modernize the railway on the territory of Kazakhstan and further China with access to the east China port of Lianyungang, in which Kazakhstan has created its own multimodal hub, the terminal for cargo. Only the effect of Khorgos and Lianyungang gives up to 40% of Kazakhstan's freight traffic to the east. But this corridor on the other side continues in Russia, linking us to Western Europe, including through the Baltic ports of Latvia and Lithuania. Let me note that over the years of independence, Kazakhstan has built railways on its territory that is longer than all the CIS countries in aggregate (!), Including Russia.
It sounds impressive, and what's the effect?
It is also very impressive. We managed to circuit the entire railway network inside the country, avoiding the legacy of the USSR - border crossings when traveling from one city of Kazakhstan to another, unnecessary expenses, inconveniences and bureaucracy. We also built a railway linking Western Kazakhstan through Turkmenistan and Iran with the Persian Gulf and the port of Bendarabbas. It is on this branch that significant volumes of our export of wheat, grain of various grades, oil products are transferred.
The main goals of the Kazakhstan Development Strategy the year of 2050, presented to the people by the President of the country, is to create a strong state, a developed economy, Kazakhstan's entry into the thirty of the developed countries of the world through the implementation of seven long-term priorities. What place among these priorities does the allied relations within the framework of the EEU and the CSTO and Kazakhstan's partnership with US and Europe take?
Eurasian integration and CSTO membership are the first priorities of Kazakhstan in any case, since they ensure normal economic development in the regional and continental context, providing military and political security. These are the two keystones on which the national security of any state relies. Kazakhstan puts at the heart of the matter a very well-adjusted, pragmatic and open foreign policy. Therefore, for our international partners there are simply no incomprehensible moments in our foreign policy. Stable, and even better, friendly, open relationships are our priorities. This is the manifestation of the balanced, pragmatic nature of Kazakhstan's foreign and domestic policies. In the modern world, we should get rid of some Soviet atavisms that do not always benefit our development. This does not mean a renunciation of our past, it means that we must keep pace with the times. In other words, to be less wasteful, more to set and achieve specific goals, results. Our leader N.Nazarbayev speaks about this in his program initiative "Modernization of public consciousness". In relations with our partners, pragmatism is manifested in the priority of building the basis of economic relations. Realization of spectacular foreign policy and geopolitics without good finances and social security for our own citizens is almost impossible. From this perspective, we work with partners on the UN Security Council platform.
The forthcoming holding in Astana of the sixth international meeting on the settlement of the Syrian conflict is only one of the prominent indicators of the activity of Kazakhstan's foreign policy. What is the role of geopolitics in achieving Kazakhstan's goals set forth in the "Development Strategy"?
Indeed, Kazakhstan today is a very convenient platform for the Syrian authorities and the opposition in holding more or less sustaintable negotiations. Astana islike an addition to Geneva. We must not lose any of these possibilities. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for mid-September, however, the timing of negotiations does not always depend on Kazakhstan. They depend on the willingness of the negotiators themselves to sit down at the same table. All 5 rounds of negotiations in Syria held in Astana were successful by the very fact of their holding. Half of these meetings culminated in real progress. Kazakhstan really sees itself as a platform for organizing the peace process, not only in the regional but also in the global context. First of all, it is for states and forces that ensure security on the Eurasian continent. Astana also actively promotes on the UN platform the most demanded by mankind problems. Today it is terrorism. And Kazakhstan intends to voice several major proposals on combating extremism and terrorism, and to propose their implementation in international practice. I hope that these proposals will be approved by the Security Council and the UN General Assembly.
As it could be seen from the latest trends, Armenia and Iran are gradually stepping out to a completely new level of cooperation, which has great potential and prospects. Are you looking at the prospects for Kazakhstan's participation in economic projects with the participation of the member of Armenia as a member of EEU?
Of course. As a member of EEU, Armenia, just like Kazakhstan,is an ''a priori'' are factor for its partners in other EEU countries. This is absolutely obvious. As for Armenia-Iran relations, even with the example of Kazakhstan, I can note the interaction with neighbors, being a country with a border going to a third country, as a very correct direction. China, after all, is not a member of the EEU, but Kazakhstan is very effective at using the liaison opportunities with China for a certain impact on the market of the EEU. Kazakhstan also borders Iran via the Caspian Sea, however, direct land borders always have an advantage over sea, therefore Armenia is simply looks like "obliged' to use the opportunities of cross-border cooperation for a more thoughtful, effective policy of the Union in relation to this country. Free economic zones in Iran and Armenia are the best support for this. All these opportunities are at the center of our attention - Kazakhstani experts have already come to Armenia and such work will continue to study the investment opportunities of Kazakhstan's capital both in the free economic zone in Syunik and in other objects of the territory of Armenia.
To what extent does Kazakhstan's membership in the CSTO today, coupled with its own resources, ensure the country's security? Is, for example, the recent, condemning "irresponsible policies and provocative actions of the DPRK (Northern Korea) , the statement of the representative of Kazakhstan at the UN Security Council testifies to Astana's serious concern for its own security? Or does Kazakhstan present itself in a new capacity as a country capable of taking part in the development of recommendations and decisions at the global level?
Kazakhstan actively promotes the concept of collective security in the territory of post-Soviet countries since 1992. Very similar security parameters make it possible to create a single umbrella for anti-missile, anti-aircraft defense. Within the framework of the CSTO there is a program of military-technical cooperation, which reveals truly great opportunities for cooperation. And Kazakhstan, together with other countries, is actively modernizing the armaments produced in our country. And this is a big plus. CSTO is a possibility of forming in our countries a common vision of regional and continental security. This vision, of course, sometimes may not coincide with the vision existing in other parts of the continent, on other continents. In any case, it is this vision that allows us to develop collective steps as more weighty than just the steps of one particular state. Therefore, speaking about our security in the UN or OSCE measurement, we know that our vision and our proposals are in many respects - by 90%, and even 100% coincide with the vision of our partners. And this gives a menaning and weight to our initiatives.
The position of Kazakhstan on the DPRK (North Korea) matter is one of such cases ...
Quite right. The position of Kazakhstan is very important, it is even more principled than the position of our CSTO partners. The reason is that Kazakhstan is one of the leaders in the policy of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. This policy began with the time of our abandonment of nuclear weapons and the closure of landfills. And it is very unambiguous and constant. Even sharing concerns with the situation around North Korea with partners, Kazakhstan fundamentally condemns the tests conducted by North Korea. Simply because all this contradicts the relevant international conventions. Unfortunately, not all international players contribute to creating a calm environment around the Korean peninsula, for example, conducting military exercises there. Here we need a balance of interests of all parties, and not a forcing of tension. At a minimum, it is necessary to contribute to the preservation of the existing situation, if possible, by helping to reduce the level of tension.