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Astana Calling


Top US Diplomat Reaffirms Commitment to Kazakhstan

Nuclear Five Sign Central Asian Weapons Protocol Pledge Not to Use Nuclear Weapons in Region

Also In The News

Arab, Central Asian Countries Discuss Cooperation

Astana Hosts Piano Passion International Music Contest

Things To Watch

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (center) meets with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns (left of Nazarbayev) and other officials in Astana

Top US Diplomat Reaffirms Commitment to Kazakhstan U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met with top Kazakh leaders on May 8 in Astana and said the United States has an enduring commitment to Kazakhstan.

The sides also talked about the next steps in Afghanistan’s transition and how to continue to work together to preserve and sustain security there and that country’s efforts toward peace.

“America’s commitment to Kazakhstan and Central Asia is enduring because America’s interests in Kazakhstan and Central Asia are enduring,” Burns said at a media briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Astana following meetings with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Prime Minister Karim Massimov and Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov.

“We remain ready to sign a bilateral security agreement to allow a number of U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan in a train, advise and assist capacity. And we look forward to Kazakhstan’s continued partnership, whether through its support for the Northern Distribution Network or its efforts to accelerate Afghanistan’s economic development. Kazakhstan is working to build its own international aid agency and we look forward to working closely together in Afghanistan and beyond,” Burns said at a media briefing after his meetings.

The group also discussed events in Ukraine and the situation in Afghanistan as well as Kazakhstan’s upcoming accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). “The crisis in Ukraine and the ongoing transition in Afghanistan underscore what’s at stake and reinforce the importance of building a stronger and deeper relationship between our governments and between our peoples,” Burns said. During the meeting with Burns in the Akorda presidential residence, President Nazarbayev emphasised that Kazakhstan is ready to further develop ties with the United States. In turn, Burns reiterated Washington’s long-term commitment to its strategic partnership with Kazakhstan. Welcoming Burns at the Kazakh Foreign Ministry for their own meeting, Idrissov emphasised the importance of implementing the agreements reached by President Nazarbayev and U.S. President Barack Obama during the Nuclear Security Summit held in The Hague in March. “The parties noted with satisfaction the cooperation between the two countries on global security issues, primarily in the field of nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” the Kazakh Foreign Ministry’s press service reported. According to Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry, Idrissov and Burns also discussed international and regional security, including the situation in Ukraine. Both officials noted the need for all stakeholders to meet commitments reached in Geneva on April 17 and expressed hope that the parties involved in the conflict will avoid further bloodshed. “In my meetings today, I had the opportunity to emphasise our support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the countries in Central Asia, including Kazakhstan,” Burns told the media briefing. “We are deeply appreciative of Kazakhstan’s constructive statements on the very combustible situation in Ukraine and its efforts to encourage de-escalation.”

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According to Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry, Idrissov and Burns also touched on progress in harmonising the agreement on improving international tax control and implementation of the U.S. law on tax control of foreign accounts. This document offers new opportunities for cooperation and information exchange between financial and tax authorities of the two countries. Burns also noted during a press briefing the work of current U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan John Ordway and praised incoming Ambassador George Krol. Concluding his visit, Burns said, “This partnership began in the very first year of Kazakhstan’s independence and it has withstood the tests of time. I am convinced that this relationship is as strong and as resilient as ever and that there is much more we can accomplish together as partners in the years ahead.” Burns also visited Uzbekistan during his visit to the region.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns (left) shakes hands with Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov during a recent meeting in Astana


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Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov (second from left) meets with Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Mohammed AlAttiyah (right of Idrissov)

Arab, Central Asian Countries Discuss Cooperation The countries of the Arab League and Central Asia and Azerbaijan have agreed to work to increase their cooperation across a number of fields following the first Forum on Economy and Cooperation of Arab Countries with Central Asian States and Azerbaijan hosted by Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on May 13. Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov headed a Kazakh delegation to the forum, which was inaugurated and chaired by Saudi Arabian Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal. The Central Asian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers, Arab foreign ministers and Secretary General of the Arab League Dr. Nabil AlArabi confirmed their intention to develop economic relations and partnerships between the two sides to contribute to growth, wellbeing, peace and stability in their regions. The participants stressed the depth of historic, religious and cultural connections and the prospects of economic cooperation. They also noted the common advantages of Arab and Central Asian states and Azerbaijan, starting with rich natural resources and including promising new industries like food production, power generation, petrochemical production, mining and tourism. The participants also expressed concern about the consequences of any proliferation of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction while affirming the inherent right of states to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as stipulated in the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT). Prince Saud said, “When we talk about the relationship between the two sides, we are talking about a long historic relationship that extends to long years of religious, cultural and trade ties. We are very pleased with the outcome of today’s meeting, which was reflected in the two sides’ formal statements, which included constructive initiatives for closer cooperation.” Kazakh Foreign Minister Idrissov underlined the importance of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Council of Foreign Ministers in 2011-2012. “[Chairmanship] offered a great opportunity for our country to enhance our relationship with the Arab world and enabled us to identify the areas where our interests are shared and converge and, therefore, where we might cooperate with the greatest effect,” he said

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in his opening remarks, further stressing that Kazakhstan “welcomes the Arab League resolutions on deepening its collaboration with Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan.” He went on to introduce Kazakhstan’s recent achievements. Kazakhstan is one of the world’s most dynamically developing economies, he noted, and among the 50 countries easiest to do business in, according to the World Bank. The country is also shifting from being a recipient of investment to becoming a donor and investor itself, he said. “We have attracted more than $190 billion in foreign direct investment. But Kazakhstan is not only a recipient country, but also increasingly an investor in other countries’ economies. To date, Kazakhstan has invested more than $30 billion overseas,” he said. Idrissov also noted new factors that he said would further Kazakhstan’s development, including the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union, which would create a common market of more than 170 million people and a common economy valued at $2.2 trillion. “We also think it is important to find ways to expand trade volumes between Arab countries, Central Asia and Azerbaijan. A joint Chamber of Commerce and a Business Council would mark a great step toward achieving that goal. It is also critically important to develop transportation and infrastructure across the region, from North to South and from East to West.

“We also think it is important to find ways to expand trade volumes between Arab countries, Central Asia and Azerbaijan.” -Kazakh Foreign Minister Idrissov

It is also important to connect the business communities of our countries; promote public-private partnerships in infrastructure projects,” he said. Concluding the meeting, a memorandum of cooperation between the Arab League and the countries of Central Asia and Azerbaijan was signed, signifying the importance of opening new horizons for cooperation.


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Representatives of the five recognised nuclear powers (front row) at the recent Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee Meeting at the United Nations

Nuclear Five Sign Central Asian Weapons Protocol Pledge Not to Use Nuclear Weapons in Region The five recognised nuclear weapons states on May 6 signed a protocol to the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ) Treaty in New York, pledging not to use nuclear weapons against state parties to the treaty. Representatives from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States signed the document on the margins of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee Meeting at the United Nations. The CANWFZ Treaty was signed on Sept. 8, 2006, in Semipalatinsk by the five Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It entered into force on March 21, 2009. Since 2012, as chair of the CANWFZ Treaty, Kazakhstan has led negotiations with the nuclear five on behalf of its Central Asian neighbours. The signing of the protocol is seen as a significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy. For the nuclear-weapon-free zone to be recognised internationally, it also has to receive the so-called negative guarantees from the five nuclear weapon states, meaning guarantees not to use nuclear weapons against the state parties to the treaty and not to use the threat of the use of nuclear weapons against them. The protocol signed on May 6 in New York provides just such guarantees. The protocol still has to be ratified by the parliaments of the signing states to enter into effect. According to a May 6 press release from the U.S. Department of State, the CANWFZ Treaty complements the NPT and enhances the international nonproliferation regime by prohibiting, among other things, the development and testing of nuclear weapons within Central Asia. Under the CANWFZ Treaty, the five Central Asian zone states may not allow the stationing of nuclear weapons within their territories. The Central Asian states are also required to adopt the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol, which provides the IAEA with expanded access and authority to ensure all nuclear activities are used only for peaceful purposes.

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“The United States is not eligible to be a party to the CANWFZ Treaty itself, but as an NPT nuclear weapons state is eligible to join the treaty’s protocol,” the U.S. Department of State said. “The protocol provides legally-binding assurances not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against CANWFZ Treaty parties. The United States understands the importance of such negative security assurances to states that have foresworn nuclear weapons and abide by their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.” There are four other nuclear-weapons-free zones in the world today in addition to the one in Central Asia, including in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. The difference between the Central Asian zone and the other four is that it is the only such zone fully located in the northern hemisphere; the only zone bordering two nuclear weapon states, Russia and China; and the only one that had on its territory nuclear weapons, until Kazakhstan renounced the weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State said in a press release that “the administration is satisfied that the CANWFZ Treaty is consistent with U.S. and international criteria for such zones. The United States believes that such zones, when fully and rigorously implemented, contribute to our nonproliferation goals and to international peace and security. The United States has concluded that the CANWFZ Treaty and its protocol will not disturb existing U.S. security arrangements or military operations, installations, or activities.” “The CANWFZ Treaty and its protocol will also promote regional cooperation, security and stability and provide a vehicle for the extension of legally-binding negative security assurances, consistent with the strengthened negative security assurance announced in the 2010 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review,” the press release said.


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Renowned Russian pianist Denis Matsuye performs during the recent Piano Passion competition in Astana

Astana Hosts Piano Passion International Music Contest The second Astana Piano Passion International Contest of Classic Music is being held in the Kazakh capital. This year’s competition started on May 10 and will run through May 17. Thirty young pianists from 10 countries are taking part in the final rounds. This year’s semifinal competition began on May 11-12, when contestants from all age groups gave solo performances in the Organ Hall of the Kazakh National University of the Arts. Finalists performed with the Astana Philharmonic Orchestra on May 1415. All competitors are judged by a jury headed by award-winning classical pianist Denis Matsuev, an honoured artist of Russia. This year’s finalists include four performers from Kazakhstan— Maxim Maximov, Aidiba Talamunuer, Bolat Mahambet and Sanzharali Kopbayev—as well as six performers from Russia and one each from Belarus, China, Georgia, Japan, Romania and Ukraine. The young pianists compete in three stages: an initial videotaped audition, a solo performance in front of the jury and a final performance with the orchestra. The solo performances must contain a piece by a Kazakh composer, among other requirements, providing a chance for some of Kazakhstan’s rarer compositions to be performed. This year, the Kazakh folk song, “Yapurai,” has been especially popular and was performed by seven students in the semifinal rounds. For their final performances with the orchestra, contestants choose from a selection of concertos by Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and other classical composers. The two-year-old contest is open to pianists age 18 and under from any country in the world. Contestants are divided into a junior group of competitors under 10 years old, an intermediate group for competitors from 11-14 and a senior group for competitors from 1518. Videotaped auditions were reviewed from March 15-30 to select the 30 semifinalists who would travel to Astana for the later stages of the competition.

During the course of the contest, there are also public concerts by last year’s winners, as well as performances and master classes by jury members. 2013 winners Shuan Hern Lee, Varvara Kutuzova, Iliya Bakhtin and Aleksandr Kutuzov performed compositions of their choice in the Chamber Hall of Astana Opera on May 11. Bakhtin include a duet with 15-year-old Kazakh violinist Ruslan Turuntaev in his programme. In a meet-the-artist event on May 13, famous Russian piano teacher Sergei Dorensky, who taught the competition’s chairman of the jury as well as many other prize-winning pianists, participated in a question and answer session. “Even if one day you stop studying music, it will be still part of your life,” he told the assembled music students at the event. “Such people have a different attitude; they are of a different kind. And they can influence people around them.” In a tribute to his teacher, Matsuev performed Schumann’s “Kreisleriana” at the event. The competition is organised by the Astana city administration and the Accordi di Astana social fund. Its objective is to provide a platform for young talent, promote classical music and a classic music education and foster cultural connections. Last year’s inaugural Astana Piano Passion competition drew 130 young talents from 20 countries and 60. The 30 finalists came from Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Japan, the United States, Australia, North and South Korea, Denmark, Italy, Armenia, Singapore and China.

The total prize fund is $60,000, with cash prizes for the first, second and third place junior, intermediate and senior contestants, as well as awards for their teachers and diplomas for finalists. New this year is a People’s Choice Award, which will be determined by online voting by the general public on the competition’s website.

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Kazakhstan’s women’s football team advances in World Cup qualifier Kazakhstan defeated Bulgaria 4-1 in the qualifying match for the 2015 Women’s World Cup on May 7 in Astana. Madina Zhanatayeva opened the scoring with a free kick that struck home for Kazakhstan. Team captain Begaim Kirgizbayeva then scored during the 21st and 34th minutes. Borislava Kireva scored for Bulgaria in the 43rd minute, giving her team some hope, but Maria Yalova scored for Kazakhstan in minute 70, removing the outcome from doubt. The win elevated the Kazakh team from seventh to fifth place in the standings, with four points. The next game is scheduled for June 14; the team will play at home against Hungary. (

Maxim Rakov wins judo gold in Baku Kazakh judo fighter (judoka) Maxim Rakov of Karaganda won the prestigious Grand Slam competition held in Baku, Azerbaijan on May 9-11, defeating reigning world title holder Elkhan Mammadov of Azerbaijan. Rakov competed in the 100 kilogramme weight category. The Grand Slam competition is organised by the International Judo Federation. Over 250 judokas from 41 countries participated in the competition in Baku. (

Also In The News... •

Kazakhstan Culture Days held in Indonesia Days of Kazakhstan Culture in Indonesia opened with a ceremony at Taman Ismail Marzuki Concert Hall in Jakarta on May 13. Prominent Kazakh performers and artists took part in a gala concert as part of the event. A photo exhibition called Kazakhstan Today was displayed, and Kazakh movies were screened. Astana hosted Days of Indonesian Culture in Kazakhstan in September 2013. (

International military brass bands festival to take place in Astana The second International Festival of Military Brass Bands will take place in Astana on May 21-25. The festival is part of the third international exhibition of arms and military equipment, KADEX-2014. The bands will perform at the KADEX-2014 exhibition and at the esplanade of the Yessil River, then march along Republic Avenue. The Presidential Orchestra of the State Guard of Kazakhstan, Central Military Band of the Defence Ministry of Kazakhstan, Central Orchestra of the National Guard of the Internal Affairs Ministry of Kazakhstan and military bands from Turkey, the United States and France will take part in the event. KADEX showcases progress in military equipment and provides an opportunity to discuss prospects for collaboration with foreign government agencies and defence companies. (

Young singers bring home gold Ten-year-old Mukhammedali Zhugunussov won the professional vocalist award at the 2014 Paradise Holiday International Competition held in late April, in which top vocalists from 10 countries participated. Aiym Samekeyeva, 13, won another gold for Kazakhstan, taking first prize at the Spring Voices International Vocal Competition in China, which was held from April 30 to May 5. Zhugunussov and Samekeyeva were both winners at the second International Children’s Art Festival, held in Almaty from March 20-24. (

Fryday Astana professional community celebrates second anniversary On April 25, Fryday Astana, the social networking group for young professionals in Astana, celebrated its second birthday at the capital’s RBG Restaurant with mingling and music. The event was organised by Fryday Astana representative Merey Mustafina, who manages the networking organisation’s events in Astana. Fryday invites young professionals to meet at different venues, including restaurants, clubs and lounge bars, for events designed to be opportunities to both relax with friends as well as to do some after-hours networking. Fryday Astana’s guests are mostly local entrepreneurial Kazakhs, but the event is increasingly popular with the capital’s expatriates. (

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Things To Watch •

President Nazarbayev to visit China May 19-22 At the invitation of President of China Xi Jinping, President of KazakhstanNursultanNazarbayevwillpayastatevisittoChinafrom May 19-22 and attend the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) Summit in Shanghai.

World leaders, economic experts to meet in Astana May 21-23 The seventh Astana Economic Forum (AEF) and the second World Anti-Crisis Conference (WAC), will be held in Astana on May 21-23. Around 10,000 delegates are expected to participate in the forum this year. Held annually since 2008, the AEF brings together world leaders, experts and business representatives to find solutions to the greatest economic and social challenges of our time.

Media accreditation applications being accepted for Supreme Eurasian Economic Council The Council will be attended by the Presidents of the Republic of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and the Russian Federation. Foreign media seeking to cover the event must apply for accreditation at the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by May 21 and email completed applications to a.bitimova@ For information, call 720133, 77018881503 (Aliya).



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