Afghanistan, nuclear disarmament top Kazakhstan’s OSCE agenda
Thomas Cromwell

Kanat Saudabayev recently added the foreign policy portfolio to his existing responsibilities as Kazakhstan’s Secretary of State, essentially the head of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s office. A former Kazakh ambassador to Washington, Saudabayev has become foreign minister on the eve of Kazakhstan’s assumption of the chairmanship of the Organization of Security and Cooperation (OSCE) for 2010. As the first Asian or CIS nation to assume the OSCE chair, Kazakhstan is making every effort to use this opportunity to demonstrate its maturity as a member of the world community and to promote some of the global issues it holds dear.

In the midst of a hectic round of bilateral meetings on the side of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York this week, Minister Saudabayev took time to talk to about Kazakhstan’s plans for its OSCE chairmanship and some related issues.

The significance of Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship

The unanimous decision of the 56 member-nations of the OSCE, made in Madrid on November 30, 2007, to award the chairmanship to Kazakhstan in 2010, is an objective recognition of Kazakhstan’s impressive successes in social, economic and political developments under the prudent leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev over the years of independence.

This decision by the OSCE member nations was a wise decision to bridge the gaps between the East and West in this organization, since Kazakhstan is the first former Soviet country and member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the first Asian nation, to chair this organization.

For Kazakhstan, the chairmanship is first and foremost a great responsibility that we are assuming.

In addition to that, the OSCE chairmanship serves as a major stimulus for Kazakhstan’s further development along the democratic pathway, and it serves as another stimulus for us to achieve an ambitious but achievable goal of joining the worlds’ most developed and competitive nations.

Kazakhstan’s model of social harmony

Throughout all the years of independence Kazakhstan has been able to preserve peace and harmony in our multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. And this is the foundation of our development and any successes we can aspire to.

For the OSCE member countries for whom problems of inter-ethnic relations and the cohesion of their societies are very acute, including for the countries of the so-called Old Europe, Kazakhstan’s experience of maintaining harmony and accord in a diverse society can also be of use, especially since we have been quite successful in promoting our experience abroad, and sharing our experience with other countries. Just this past July we hosted the third congress of leaders of world and traditional religions, which was a very effective meeting.  

I think our chairmanship of the OSCE will be helpful and useful for further improving the understanding between the West and the Islamic world.

Spreading nuclear disarmament

I also want to add that Kazakhstan having renounced the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal and having shut down the second largest test site in the world, Semipalatinsk, has throughout the years been steadfast in its commitments to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and has been a strong advocate for decisive actions in this area.

And the new trends and initiatives we are seeing and welcoming from US President Barack Obama are very much in line with what our president has been advocating for so many years. Our president has been a most active and steadfast advocate for more decisive steps towards nuclear disarmament.

And this too can be a subject, and probably will be a subject that we will be paying close attention to as chairman of the OSCE, especially since four out of the five officially recognized nuclear powers are members of the OSCE.  

OSCE action on Afghanistan

We are also conscious of the fact that Afghanistan is one of the most challenging and serious problems, not only for our region, but for global security, and this subject of stabilizing Afghanistan too will be a very top priority for our chairmanship of the OSCE. We want to see increased involvement of the OSCE in solving the Afghanistan problem.

In general, I think our chairmanship of the OSCE should help strengthen the organization and bring closer together those countries in the organization that more often than not have differences among themselves.

We will do our utmost to indeed bring together those countries that have different positions and we will be accentuating those subjects and issues that have relevance for all of them, and where we can find common ground, rather than those issues that can drive us apart.

Relations with Russia, China and the United States 

I would like to say that we have very strong and good relationships with our two greatest neighbors, Russia and China, with whom we are so to speak destined to live together, and well together. And at the same time we greatly value the relations of strategic partnership with the United States. And we stand for the cooperation rather than competition among those countries in our region, which would benefit the people of the nations of the region and would help insure the stability of the region.

Given our close and good relations with these three countries, and the high level of confidence we have in our relations with them, as well as given the very high respect that our president Nursultan Nazarbayev commands and is accorded in the capitals of these countries, I think we are already bringing a positive contribution to insuring cooperation and dialog between these countries.  I think we will be building on this experience.

As a matter of principle I think there is no alternative to close and trustful and mutually beneficial cooperation. We have seen through this global economic crisis that the world is indeed very vulnerable, inter-dependent and fragile, and only through close and trustful cooperation, and mutually beneficial cooperation can we solve the problems of today.

Priorities in Kazakh-US relations

I think that the most important priorities in our relations with the United States have been and will be in the foreseeable future, our traditional cooperation in insuring security on a regional and global scale, and our trade and economic cooperation, especially in the energy area.

We are very interested in extending US investment in Kazakhstan well beyond the energy sector where they have mostly invested, especially in the non-raw material sectors. We would like to see more US investment and US technologies coming into Kazakhstan, because that is one of the key factors in us achieving the important goal I mentioned earlier of turning Kazakhstan into one of the world’s most developed and competitive nations. However ambitious that is, I think it is achievable. And we clearly are cognizant of the fact that without developed and modern technologies, and without educated experts and specialists we won’t be able to achieve that goal. And for that we need greater cooperation with the United States.   

That’s why for the past 15 years a great number of students from Kazakhstan, under the president’s Bolashak program, have been going to study in the United States, and many graduates of this program now occupy key positions in business and government in Kazakhstan. 

US-Kazakh Cooperation on Nuclear Disarmament

We indeed live in very interesting times. We see new initiatives coming from the new US president, President Obama, including in the area of nuclear disarmament and reducing nuclear threats to the world.  An important event in this context will be a global nuclear security summit that President Obama has proposed to host next spring in the United States. And our President Nazarbayev plans to participate in this summit actively, at the invitation of President Obama.

I think that today the time has more than come for the world and all of us together to act jointly in realizing the vision of a nuclear weapons free world. And I am very pleased to see that the US president and our president are able and will be working shoulder-to-shoulder. Our president brings with him to the table his decision to close down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and the renunciation of the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal. And a consistent and persistent and I would say recognized leadership in this area, which he has advocated for 18 years.

At today’s UN Security Council meeting chaired by President Obama the atmosphere and mood, as well as the call from President Obama for all of us to act now and together in this area, gives us grounds for some optimism that some sensible steps will indeed be taken.

Cooperation on Afghanistan

Afghanistan is an area where we have been working very closely with the United States. We provide very solid humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. And we are now preparing a special educational program for Afghan specialists needed in the country’s economy. Since the first days of the operation in Afghanistan, we have provided assistance for Coalition actions, through over-flight rights and other arrangements.

Kanat Bekmurzayevich Saudabayev
The Secretary of State of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Kanat Saudabayev was born in 1946 in the Almaty region.  He graduated from the Leningrad State Institute of Culture named after Nadezhda Krupskaia and the Academy of Social Sciences in Moscow.

Kanat Saudabayev started his career as a director at the Kazakh Academic Theater named after Mukhtar Auezov. Then Mister Saudabayev worked in the area of culture at different top positions including posts of head of department of the Ministerial Council of the Kazakh SSR, Vice Minister of Culture, Chairman of the State Committee for cinematography, Chairman of the State Committee for Culture – Minister.

In 1991, Kanat Saudabayev transferred to diplomatic service and became the first Plenipotentiary Representative of the Kazakh SSR to the USSR.

In 1992, Kanat Saudabayev was first appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Republic of Turkey.
In 1994, he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

In 1994-1996, he served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Republic of Turkey.

From 1996 to 1999, Kanat Saudabayev served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with concurrent accreditation to Norway, Sweden and Ireland.

In 1999-2000, he worked as Head of Prime Minister’s Chancellery – member of the Government.

From 2000 to 2007, Kanat Saudabayev served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United States of America.

In May 2007, Kanat Saudabayev was appointed Secretary of State of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

On 4 September 2009, Kanat Saudabayev was appointed Secretary of State of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

He has diplomatic rank - Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador.

Foreign languages - English, German and Turkish.

He holds the degree of candidate of philosophical sciences from the Kazakh State University (1981) and degree of doctor of political sciences from the Moscow State University.

Kanat Saudabayev was decorated with the Orders of Otan and Kurmet.

He is married, has three children and four grandchildren.