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Astana Calling

A WEEKLY ONLINE PUBLICATION / WWW.MFA.GOV.KZ ISSUE NO. 349 / FRIDAY, APRIL 11 2014

Changes in Top-Level Government Announced at Mazhilis Session

Astana’s ASTEX-2014 Attracts Silicon Valley Innovators

Also In The News

Foreign Minister Visits Moscow Promotes Ties with Russia, Attends CSTO Council

Kazakhstan Journalists’ Union Conducts International Journalism Competition

Things To Watch


President Nursultan Nazarbayev meets with his senior leadership team

Changes in Top-Level Government Announced at Mazhilis Session Kazakh Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov resigned his position on April 2, triggering a reshuffling of Kazakhstan’s leadership in the executive and legislative branches of power. The prime minister is considered the head of the government, so Akhmetov’s resignation automatically meant the resignation of the country’s entire government. Upon Akhmetov’s resignation, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev thanked officials for their hard work and said the cabinet had been successfully fulfilling its tasks. The President then emphasised that new approaches were needed to achieve the ambitious goals of the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy against the backdrop of the complex world economy. He quickly nominated former Prime Minister Karim Massimov to again lead the government. Massimov is Nazarbayev’s former chief of staff and served as prime minister from 2007 to 2012. Mazhilis Speaker Nurlan Nigmatulin expressed support for Massimov’s nomination. Massimov’s candidacy was quickly approved by an overwhelming vote and the President immediately signed the decree on his appointment. By April 4, all appointments in the new government had been made by two presidential decrees: one appointing Serik Akhmetov the new defence minister and the other reappointing all other members of the cabinet. Adilbek Dzhaksybekov, the former defence minister, was appointed secretary of state, a position Massimov had concurrently held since January when Marat Tazhin was relieved of his duties. Mazhilis Speaker Nigmatulin himself also changed jobs in the shuffle. He was appointed by presidential decree to head the presidential administration, replacing Massimov. Following Nigmatulin’s departure, the Mazhilis overwhelmingly elected former Vice Speaker Kabibulla Dzhakupov the new Mazhilis speaker. Dariga Nazarbayeva, former chair of the Mazhilis Committee

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for Socio-Cultural Development, was elected Mazhilis vice speaker. Sergey Diyachenko retained his position as vice speaker as well. The change in top-level leadership is seen as an effort to give a new boost to the economic work of the government and to the overall managerial work of the presidential administration. The return of Massimov, widely credited for helping steer Kazakhstan clear of recession during the 2007-09 global economic slowdown, can also be seen as a preventive measure in the face of the potential deterioration of the international situation in connection with recent events in and around Ukraine. It can also be viewed as an effort to further modernise Kazakhstan’s national economy and strengthen its social development.

By April 4, all appointments in the new government had been made by two presidential decrees: one appointing Serik Akhmetov the new defence minister and the other reappointing all other members of the cabinet.

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Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after signing a 2014 cooperation agreement to deepen bilateral relations

Foreign Minister Visits Moscow Promotes Ties with Russia, Attends CSTO Council Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov paid an official visit to Russia April 3-4 to promote ties between the two countries and continue groundwork for the coming establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Idrissov began his visit by attending his annual bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, during which they discussed implementing strategic agreements reached by the heads of state of the two countries. They also discussed bilateral relations and prospects for further cooperation in politics, trade and culture. The foreign ministers focused on strengthening inter-regional and cross-border cooperation and facilitating further collaboration in space, energy, transportation and communications. They also discussed the Plan of Joint Actions for 2013-2015 that was approved by President Nursultan Nazarbayev and President Vladimir Putin in December 2012. Cross-border cooperation makes up most of the two countries’ bilateral trade and is seen as a significant means of developing trade and economic ties. Trade turnover between Russia and Kazakhstan grew almost 5 percent in 2013 compared with 2012 and has reached $26.5 billion, Lavrov reported after the meeting. Kazakhstan’s foreign minister called the figure “impressive,” but said there was more work to be done to build trade. “Russia is Kazakhstan’s ally and a major trade and economic partner; the trade turnover figure is impressive, but the potential is not fully unleashed. There are some realms in which more specific steps are required,” he said. The next annual forum of cross-border cooperation will take place in the fall in Atyrau, Kazakhstan, and will centre on innovations in hydrocarbon industries. Idrissov and Lavrov also reviewed international issues, including promoting security and stability in Central Asia and the legal status of the Caspian Sea. The two foreign ministers also discussed the situation in Ukraine and possible solutions to resolve the crisis in that country.

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They discussed Kazakhstan and Russia’s cooperation within international organisations, including the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the United Nations. Regarding the EEU, the two ministers announced that the draft treaty establishing the union is to be presented to the three heads of state of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia in Minsk at the end of the month. Signing is expected to take place one month later in Astana. The EEU is expected to smooth the migration of people, goods and services between the countries after its launch in 2015. Following their talks, Idrissov and Lavrov signed a plan of action on cooperation between the two foreign ministries for 2014 with the hopes of deepening the Kazakh-Russian partnership. Later in the day, Idrissov took part in a conference session of the Council of the Foreign Ministers of the CSTO, consisting of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, ahead of the regular council conference on April 4. The Plan of Consultations of the representatives of the CSTO member states on foreign policy, security and defence for the second half of 2014 and first half of 2015 was approved at the session, as were statements on the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan and new developments in Syria. The statements were issued following the meeting. “We express deep concern with the sharp deterioration of the situation in northwest Syria as a result of opposition between government forces and al-Qaeda-linked extremist groups, which has led to human casualties and forced the movement of thousands of residents of the town of Kessab, populated mostly by Armenians,” the foreign ministers said in a statement on the situation in Syria. They condemned terrorist acts in the country and the use of force against civilians. They also called for an end to violence and for a peaceful political settlement in Syria based on the Geneva communiqué of June 30, 2012.

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A recent meeting of foreign ministers from Collective Security Treaty Organisation countries

Regarding Afghanistan, the statement affirmed the countries’ commitment to “the establishment of Afghanistan as a responsible regional partner and a peaceful, sovereign, neutral and economically prosperous nation, free from terrorism and drug-related crime.” It also welcomed the upcoming presidential elections there. “We hope the vote succeeds and is in compliance with laws and regulations and all the requirements of security and law enforcement,” it said. “We are confident that the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IRA), with the assistance of the international community, has taken the necessary measures to ensure that all Afghan citizens wishing to participate in the vote have such an opportunity.” The council’s statement spoke in favour of “fair, transparent and democratic elections in the IRA” and said the CSTO hoped “the results of the vote would promote peace in the country, the unity of the Afghan nation and that the newly elected President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will continue the course of economic recovery and stable political development of the country, reconciliation in society and improving the welfare of the Afghan people.”

The CSTO is committed to “the establishment of Afghanistan as a responsible regional partner [and a] peaceful, sovereign, neutral and economically prosperous nation, free from terrorism and drugrelated crime.”

On April 4, Idrissov attended the regular Conference of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the CSTO, during which he took part in discussions concerning the coordination of foreign policy, the unfolding of important international situations and other issues relating to security on CSTO territory. The foreign ministers evaluated the results of the multilevel ministerial consultation plan within the CIS for 2013 and adopted the plan for 2014. The 2014 plan encompasses 10 consultation sessions covering cooperation within the United Nations and the OSCE, disarmament projects and other matters. The council adopted the statement of the CIS foreign ministers on maintaining and strengthening control over international drug trafficking, which stresses the need for increased coordination by the UN and elaborates on their commitment to constructive dialogue on international efforts to combat drug trafficking. The council also reviewed and adopted education, healthcare, sport, defence, demining and other projects.

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Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov (third from left) with other foreign ministers from Collective Security Treaty Organisation countries

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Silicon Valley innovator Sanzhar Ketebekov

Astana’s ASTEX-2014 Attracts Silicon Valley Innovators The second Astana Smart Technologies Exhibition (ASTEX-2104) and conference will be held within the seventh Astana Economic Forum (AEF) on May 15-16. The international exhibition is being held by the Information Communications Development Corporate Fund of Kazakhstan, chaired by Silicon Valley innovator Sanzhar Ketebekov, and will include heads of foreign companies, large investors, business coaches, professors, e-commerce businessmen and analysts as speakers. Robert Bellac, chief executive officer of NewEgg, one of America’s largest e-commerce firms, will speak on e-commerce trends to the Kazakh and foreign audience. The event’s guests will participate in discussions and workshops. Mark Goodstein, executive director of IdeaLab, one of the first Internet incubators for business ideas in the United States, and David Travers, partner in the investment company Rustic Canyon Ventures, will discuss innovation issues in e-business and the development of information technologies in the business-to-client and businessto-business sectors. Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive officer of Expedia Inc., the world’s largest online travel company, will share his experience in creating a smart industry. Kazakh e-business issues will be presented by SAT & Company Board Chairman Kenes Rakishev, Choco Family Chief Executive Officer Ramil Mukhoryapov and others. The event will take place in one of the most technologically developed centres in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the KazMediaOrtalygy TV and Radio Complex, which will display innovative solutions in the information technologies sector, including the latest technology in holograms, virtual fitting rooms and 3-D printers. Registration is available online at www.astex.kz, where a personal quick-response code will be issued. Participants will be able to test a mobile application for remote access to the conference and will vote online for the best IT projects. The ASTEX prize will be awarded to the winner of the contest. For the second year, ASTEX will serve as an international communication platform to share experiences and discuss relevant issues in the industry, as well as provide an opportunity to enhance cooperation between countries, organisations and companies.

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Consortium Agreements on an Open Logistics Platform and Data Trading Platform for Subsurface Users are expected to be signed within the exhibition, and an offer to create an international electronic commerce development association has been made. Speakers will make recommendations as to how to promote companies in a smart environment and how to effectively sell products at home. They will also share their opinions on which areas of Kazakh business should be developed. ASTEX-2014 is being organised by Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Zerde National Information Communication Technologies Holding and the Information Communications Technologies Development Corporate Fund. The first ASTEX was held at the sixth Astana Economic Forum on May 21-22, 2013. The Information Communications Technologies Development Corporate Fund worked on finding and concluding agreements with sponsors and exhibitors, attracting speakers, conducting a comprehensive publicity campaign, developing image products and other event preparation work. As a result, within the two days of the 2013 exhibition and conference, 42 speakers held forth in four sessions (smart government, smart industry, smart business and smart life), 25 exhibitor companies, including some of the world’s largest vendors, (HP, Microsoft, ASUSTek Computer Inc. and others) were presented and numerous workshops were held, including workshops on e-learning, e-commerce and e-health. The first ASTEX Awards for best IT manager in the public sector, best IT manager in the corporate sector, best IT manager in law enforcement bodies, best blogger and best startup were also presented.

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Kazakhstan Journalists’ Union Conducts International Journalism Competition The Kazakhstan Journalists’ Union, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, has announced a contest for foreign journalists reporting on the country called, “Kazakhstan in the Eyes of Foreign Media.” The contest seeks to encourage high quality and insightful reporting on Kazakhstan in foreign media. The contest is open to journalists from North and South America, Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and Oceania. One winner will be selected from each region by guest judges and members of the Journalists’ Union. Contest participants can be journalists representing foreign print and online media or individuals interested in writing about Kazakhstan. They must have had an article of up to 1,500 words published in English or Russian between April 7 and June 15, 2014, and they need to email the article to contest@mfa.kz. To qualify, the article should cover one or more of the following areas relating to Kazakhstan: economy and trade, culture and traditions, history and tourism, and contemporary society. The winners will be given a tour of Kazakhstan, which will include the capital, Astana, and the largest city and business centre, Almaty. Winners will also visit Baikonur, the world’s first spaceport, and participate in a host of cultural programmes. Flights, hotel accommodations and transport in country will be provided. Winners will have the opportunity to meet with Kazakh officials and journalists, as well as representatives of science and culture. The contest seeks to establish and build relationships with international correspondents interested in Kazakhstan to promote and improve the quality of coverage of the country in international media. The contest is also being sponsored by Air Astana and the Rixos Almaty Hotel.

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Also In The News... •

President meets with minister of education to discuss educational development On March 7, Minister of Education and Science Aslan Sarinzhipov reported to President Nazarbayev on the ministry’s current activities and measures undertaken to fulfil his instructions. The President noted that 1.5 trillion tenge (US$8.2 billion) had been allocated for education and science development this year. He also emphasised the need to ensure the effective use of budget funds, to focus on science and to continue efforts to increase access to preschool education. At the end of the meeting, the President gave a number of instructions. (akorda.kz, ortcom.kz)

President receives Minister of Culture Asystanbek Mukhamediuly, Kazakhstan’s minister of culture, reported to President Nazarbayev on March 7 on the course of opening the National Museum, cultural aspects of the preparation for the EXPO 2017 international exhibition, as well as key ministry activities. The President stressed the importance of cooperating with civil society and establishing an accredited network of national language learning centres. The President gave a number of instructions regarding the issues discussed. (akorda.kz)

Kazakh companies participate in Tokyo Food and Beverage Exhibition Three Kazakhstan-based companies, Sezam Eco, Sun Bee and Maslodel, recently presented their products, including honey, in Japan at FOODEX, the largest food and beverage exhibition in the Asia-Pacific region. The enterprises conducted more than 100 negotiations with potential foreign buyers at the exhibition. Several Asian companies showed an interest in Kazakh-made products, in particular in linseed, caraway and peanut and pumpkin oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This was Kazakhstan’s first time participating in the 40-year-old FOODEX. (astanatimes.com)

Aerial monitoring of saiga population to help determine their number An aerial census and monitoring of the saiga population in the Betpakdala, Ustyurt and Ural regions was scheduled for April 7 and 10 as part of a programme to preserve and manage Kazakhstan’s fauna resources. Two AN-2 planes will conduct the aerial census. In total, 230 flight hours have been allocated to monitor saiga antelopes in 2014. The total number of saiga in Kazakhstan will be announced after the monitoring is completed and the data is analysed. To help save this once million-strong population, Kazakhstan signed a memorandum of understanding on saiga conservation with Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia in 2006. (astanatimes.com)

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UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova awarded Dostyk Order On April 3 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova was made a member of Kazakhstan’s Dostyk Order. Conferring the high state award on behalf of President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan was Chairman of Kazakhstan’s National Commission for UNESCO and ISESCO (the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Imangali Tasmagambetov. Tasmagambetov paid special tribute to Bokova’s earnest attention to strengthening and enhancing cooperation between UNESCO and Kazakhstan in the spheres of education, science and culture. Accepting the award, Bokova said, “I am deeply honoured to receive this High State Award, the Dostyk Order, which stands for peace, friendship and cooperation.” (mfa.gov.kz)

Tulip Charity Ball held at Radisson Hotel On March 29, the Radisson Hotel in Astana held the first Tulip Charity Ball, “In the Heart of Eurasia.” Prominent cultural and political figures, businesspeople, artists and active city youth were invited to the ball, which was patterned after a classic Viennese ball. The ball opened with a waltz that featured 48 young couples aged 18 to 29 years. (astanatimes.com)

Things To Watch •

Sheikh of Bahrain to pay first official visit to Kazakhstan On April 13-15, Sheikh of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will pay his first official visit to Kazakhstan. A wide range of issues regarding trade and economic, political, cultural and humanitarian, investment and industrial cooperation will be discussed. (ortcom.kz)

President Nazarbayev to chair National Investment Council session On April 11, the President will chair a session of the National Investment Council in Astana. Developing business in Kazakhstan will be the focus of the session. (akorda.kz)

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ASTANA CALLING A WEEKLY ONLINE PUBLICATION / WWW.MFA.GOV.KZ Please send comments and questions to pressa@mfa.kz

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Astana calling no 349