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UK and Kazakhstan - on the way to a strategic partnership

Lecture given by Deputy Head of Mission at the L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University on 17 September.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Deputy Head of Mission giving the lecture to the students of the International Relations Faculty

Good morning, everybody!

I am delighted to be here today and to have the opportunity to speak to you. It is a great pleasure for me to see so many young people interested in current foreign policy. You are after all the diplomats will be shaping it tomorrow. And it is nice to be back in a Department of International Relations. I got my own degree in International Politics and International History some years ago. I’ll leave you to figure out when, but my first year coincided with the falling of the Berlin Wall and much rewriting of lectures by my Professors!

My theme today is “UK and Kazakhstan - on the way to a strategic partnership”. My lecture will be accompanied with a presentation and a short film which will last a total of half an hour. I will then be happy to take questions (and indeed look forward to those – on any topic – nothing will be off limits).

As many of you already know the relationship between Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was formally established on the 19 January 1992. The British Embassy in Kazakhstan was opened in October 1992 in Almaty and transferred to Astana in 2005. Kazakhstan opened its embassy in the UK in 1996.

Since that moment our bilateral relationship has been continually developing. Numerous visits from both sides on the governmental, parliamentarian, and business levels have contributed to this development, even members of the British Royal Family have travelled to Kazakhstan supporting foreign policy objectives.

In November 2012, my Prime Minister, David Cameron, named Kazakhstan among the priority countries in which the UK would intensify its commercial presence and also announced the appointment of Charles Hendry, Member of Parliament, (and former Energy Minister), as the his Special Trade Envoy to Kazakhstan. So, 2012 was an important benchmark in our relationship, and from that point London looked to Kazakhstan as one of some two dozen global Emerging Powers with whom the UK Government seeks strategic level relationships.

The importance of that new strategic relationship was made abundantly clear earlier this year. The first ever visit of a serving British Prime Minister to Kazakhstan took place from 30 June to 1 July. The Prime Minister was accompanied by a large delegation of Ministers and business leaders and he visited both Astana and Atyrau. In so doing he took relations between our two countries to a deeper, more developed level in all areas. This was the point where the bilateral relationship saw a significant step change. One outcome of the visit was the signing of the Joint statement on a Strategic Partnership between the United Kingdom and Kazakhstan, in which the vision of our future relationship’s development was stated.

The text of that document can be found on the Embassy website. Our countries committed to enhancing the existing bilateral relationship in all spheres, trade, investment, culture, education, defence, political, legal, science and technology, regional, security, energy etc. It is worth mentioning that trade and investment in particular and prosperity in general are fundamental parts of today’s British foreign policy. No longer can a diplomat focus on issues of politics alone, today we are salesmen and women here to support our businesses.

The UK Government places much emphasis on boosting the British economy and developing trade links with such ambitious, quickly developing countries as Kazakhstan. Increasing business with Kazakhstan is a top priority of the British Embassy. Since 2000, the economy of Kazakhstan has been one of the ten highest performing economies in the world. The World Bank predicts that it will become a high income country by the end of the decade. That’s why more and more UK companies are coming to the Kazakh market and establishing strong relationships. And this is not just about oil. British companies are keen to work with Kazakhstan to diversify into other areas and to support the development of infrastructure projects for e.g. Expo 2017.

The evidence of that is in the £700 million worth of deals signed by British companies in Kazakhstan during the PM’s historic visit. EXPO 2017 and the Winter World Student Games offer large opportunities for British companies to pass on their experience and expertise, gained through one of the most successful Olympic and Paralympic Games in history. They have created an effective and lasting legacy, as the video I will soon be showing you will demonstrate. As you’ve heard the theme of the Expo will be ‘Future Energy’, and as one of the leading ‘green’ countries we have much to share.

But, of course, it is not all about prosperity and trade. There are many other British foreign policy priorities where we have frank exchanges and long-standing relationships with Kazakhstan.

In this regard I would like to mention our cooperation in the military sphere. Exercise Steppe Eagle took place in southern Kazakhstan in August of this year with a substantial UK training element. This forms part of the support we are offering to Kazakhstan as they move towards making a contribution to a UN peacekeeping operation. Achieving that aim would be another milestone in the development of an independent and influential Kazakhstan – a Kazakhstan which is able to contribute towards peace and security, both in its own region and more widely.

The signature and ratification by Kazakhstan of a bilateral air transit agreement to assist in returning British personnel and equipment from Afghanistan to UK also witnesses our states commitment to a close cooperation on the way of reaching stability in the region. We will maintain our close relationship on Afghanistan post ISAF-drawdown in 2014.

I have spoken for long enough and I don’t want to eat into question time, so I will conclude by saying that Britain and Kazakhstan have a close and prosperous relationship in many different spheres which are growing year on year approaching the strategic level. And we, the diplomats and local staff at the British Embassy, are here to make it grow even more.


See pictures from the lecture here

“Celebrating the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic legacy” video

Published 17 September 2013