Kazakhstan visit: Prime Minister's press conference with Nursultan Nazarbayev

Prime Minister David Cameron and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev gave a joint press conference during the PM's trip to Kazakhstan.

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

Prime Minister David Cameron at the Press Conference in Kazakhstan

Nursultan Nazarbayev

We are ready to further strengthen our dialogue with Great Britain according to the formula, ‘raw material in exchange for the investment in new technologies’. Moreover, our countries have a huge potential to deepen and strengthen our trade and economic relations. We’ve also agreed to develop our cooperation in green economy and renewable energy, which of course corresponds to the goals of the British government as well. And a good – certainly a good basis for that is the upcoming Expo 2017 in Astana under the topic, ‘The Future Energy’. So I invite British companies to take part in hosting that.

Also, we’ve discussed during our negotiations our cooperation in transportation, civilian aviation and we welcome our interaction with BAE Systems company. And as for the Air Astana air company, we will do our utmost to broaden the flight geography and the flight safety of our flights on Air Astana. We also welcome the signing of the contract between the Kazakhstan Gharysh Sapary and the British SSTL Company to create a new satellite and transfer the technology to our country.

We’ve also agreed to liberalise our visa regime between the Republic of Kazakhstan and Great Britain. We’ve also discussed the work of the British Council in our country. So today, as you know, we’ve liberalised the visa regime for the British citizens and we expect reciprocal measures on the British side.

We’ve also attached huge importance to education. Over a thousand students right now are studying in Great Britain, according to the Bolashak Programme, and this is certainly very useful, not only in terms of education, but in terms of cultural ties and so forth. Moreover, British universities take an active part in developing the new international university in Astana, which trains and moreover, as you know, the Kazak-British University, trains some of the technical specialists.

So during negotiations we’ve discussed a wide range of international topics, such as the situation here in Central Asia, the interactions and relations between the major countries, including among the Customs Union countries of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan; the issues of Afghanistan, Iran; nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and the issues of the Middle East. We’ve paid special attention to the integration processes in post-Soviet countries. We’ve exchanged views on the global economic trends, and global financial trends, as well as measures to revitalise the global economy.

Mr Cameron was informed of Kazakhstan’s vision on these processes as well as the key outcomes of the Astana Economic Forum. As a result of our negotiations we’ve certainly expressed our willingness to further develop our bilateral relationship and now the Prime Minister is accompanied by a huge group of British business people, both yesterday and today. As far as I know over 300 business people took part in those events.

$1 billion is the total sum of the contracts signed, so we’ve agreed to create a special task force, a working group, to monitor the agreements that we’ve reached today and the agreements of the business people. So all of that will certainly help to raise the level of the bilateral relationship to the level of strategic partnership; the joint statement on which we’ve just made.

So, once again, let me thank you wholeheartedly, Mr Prime Minister, David Cameron, who found time out of his busy schedule and, as you know, that’s the first ever visit of a serving British Prime Minister to our country and I’m confident that there will herald into a new page in our history. Thank you.

Prime Minister

Thank you Mr President. And thank you for the warm welcome that you’ve given to me and my delegation. I am delighted to be here in Astana today. As you say, the first serving British Prime Minister to come to Kazakhstan and, frankly, such a visit is long overdue. The question should not be, why is the British Prime Minister in Kazakhstan? The question is, why has it taken a British Prime Minister so long to visit?

Kazakhstan is on the rise, a dynamic country that is poised to become a high‑income country by the end of this decade. And a country that also wants to play a bigger role in the region and in the world, not just an emerging market but an emerging power. That is why I want to strengthen relations between our two countries to help us both to succeed in the global race.

And today we’ve agreed to open a new chapter in our relationship. The strategic partnership agreement that we’ve just signed will take our relationship to a new level, a relationship based on strong economic ties, on closer cooperation on security and defence, and on increasing links between our people.

First, our economic ties. Britain is already the second largest investor in Kazakhstan, with companies like Shell and BG Group playing a leading role in the development of your energy sector, as I saw for myself yesterday at Kashagan. But I believe we can go further, broadening the scope of investment and trade between our two countries to new sectors, like education, healthcare, retail and financial services. That is why I brought a leading and diverse business delegation with me, to see the opportunities on offer and to link them up with their Kazakh counterparts.

We want to double bilateral trade by 2017, and on this visit alone, as you said, Mr President, British businesses are concluding deals that will be worth more than £700 million, over $1 billion – from companies like Atkins, who have agreed a new partnership to work on projects in Aktau and Astana, to Aberdeen-based Wood Group, who’ve signed a new venture to provide essential equipment for the oil and gas sector.

But I do not want this trading relationship to be one way: I also want to encourage Kazakh companies to invest in Britain. That is why today we’re launching a new business visa service in Astana that will streamline and accelerate the process for leading Kazakh companies like Air Astana and Samruk-Kazyna.

We also want to increase our cooperation on defence and foreign affairs. I’m grateful that the Kazakh government has now ratified the air agreement that means we have a new northern route to bring our kit home from Afghanistan. And the President has agreed to progress the agreement on the land routes, as we discussed this morning. I hope it will be possible to ratify this agreement without delay.

We’ve also discussed how we can work together on a range of foreign policy issues, especially on Afghanistan and Iran, which we discussed at some length this morning. Kazakhstan has played an important and helpful role in recent months, hosting the last two rounds of the E3+3 talks with Iran, and implementing international sanctions. And I believe that your moral authority, as a country that has prospered from giving up nuclear weapons, sets a clear example to the Iranian government of the benefits of being nuclear weapons free.

Finally we’ve also discussed how we can strengthen ties between our people. This morning I was at Nazarbayev University and visited the engineering faculty established by UCL. As Kazakhstan seeks to meet its target of one in five universities offering double degree programmes with foreign universities, I believe there are real opportunities for British universities to offer higher‑educational, vocational training and English-language training.

And we also want to attract the brightest and the best students to come to Britain. That is why we’ve agreed to explore how we can extend the Bolashak Program, which has already seen more than 3,000 Kazakhs study in the United Kingdom to industry attachments, including with companies in our delegation today.

‘Bolashak’ means future, and I believe that is what our relationship is all about – a future based on closer cooperation right across the breadth of our relationship. Kazakhstan has an exciting future ahead of it, and Britain wants to be a major part of that future. Thank you.


To the Prime Minister first and then to the President. Prime Minister, what exactly did you say to the President about human rights violations being perpetrated by his government, and the need for free and fair elections? And what response did you receive? And to the President, I’ve been talking to people in your country today who say that the issue of protestors being imprisoned and opposition leaders being imprisoned, and of allegations of torture and of vote rigging, are of grave concern to them but not things that they feel can be raised publicly. What assurances can you give to your people that the situation on human rights will improve?

Prime Minister

Well, first of all let me answer. In the relationship that Britain has with Kazakhstan, the relationship that I have with President Nazarbayev, nothing is off the agenda. We talk about the full range of subjects, and that includes subjects including human rights issues that we discussed at some length last night. I discussed, for instance, the letter written by Human Rights Watch and the concerns in that letter. And as I say, I think it’s very important we have a frank dialogue on all of these issues, and that’s the way it should be.

Nursultan Nazarbayev

First of all, I believe that I should answer as well. I believe the journalist that just asked the question probably visits our country for the first time, so that happens, it’s pretty normal, when a person, when someone from your isles, maybe some people see that it’s a middle-aged country riding camels and horses. So maybe it’s normal and natural to have that kind of vision. But you’ve visited three countries – the three ‘stans’, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan – and I hope you can compare, you know, the difference between those countries.

As for the human rights issues, I believe that Kazakhstan secures the key human rights. We have free elections, we have three political parties in the parliament, we have the opposition, there are three thousand media outlets including foreign ones, we have no political oppression, and if someone says that, about imprisonment, well, please name the families, the last names.

And I would like those journalists who actually stay in Kazakhstan to look around, to talk to the people – of course, of course we don’t reach the level of Europe and Great Britain including, but what should be taken into account is that in 1660, you know, the first bill of rights was adopted in Great Britain, so the parliamentary democracy is 600 years old, you know. But of course our way should not be as long as that, but of course the dynamics of that way, of that path, I believe is very correct.

So democracy is the outcome, is the aftermath, I mean, the final goal, not the beginning. For the first time in our country, in our history, we’ve adopted our independence, because for many years we’ve lived under totalitarianism both during the Tsar, Russian Tsar regime and the communist regime. So in 20 years, to transit to democracy is not an easy thing. So the key asset for us is independence. We have no right for mistakes; that’s why we’re moving very carefully. But thank you very much certainly for the recommendations, for the advice, but nobody has a right to instruct us how to live. Thank you very much.


The question that is interesting for many of our viewers – now, the first issue that is very concerning is certainly the visa liberalisation issue. For example, in order to get a British visa, you need 21 days, whereas the Schengen visa is only given in four days. The second issue is that, in order to get a British visa any Kazakhstani citizen should come to Almaty, and Mr Cameron, as you know, our country is pretty large, you know – sometimes you have to move, you know, thousands of miles, for – in order for you to get those fingerprints. So, you know, it’s kind of hard.

Therefore, we’ve got a story: we have a very talented and gifted artist and activist of the ATOM movement. He has no hands because he’s – he was a victim of the Semipalatinsk nuclear tests, and because he has no hands he was denied visa once again. So we’ve been told that the visa decisions are taken in Istanbul, where an officer simply says: if there are no fingerprints, no visa. But as you know, he’s disabled, like I said. So in terms of strengthening the bilateral relationship issue, when Great Britain will actually be closer to Kazakhstan, not only for businesses but also for normal people?

Prime Minister

I absolutely understand the concern about this issue. First of all, let me say that I think we do grant around 95% of the visas that Kazakhs have applied for; I think that there were over 17,000 applications in the last period, for which the figures are available. Today we’ve announced that as well as having the visa application sent in Almaty, we also have this business bridge so that people working for particular Kazakh businesses can get their visas here in Astana.

In terms of the artist, the disabled person that you mentioned, that was clearly a deeply regrettable episode and is being put right, and that shouldn’t have happened. And as I discussed with the President, as well as these recent improvements, we’re obviously happy to look at what more that we can do right. Right across the world we’re looking at our visa operations and seeing how we can speed them up and accelerate them, but at the same time obviously we need to make sure that we have a proper process and the proper procedures.

Nursultan Nazarbayev

We’ll discuss that issue, of course, very carefully and I know the concerns, of course but today, given the business delegations that are coming here, of course, the issue is resolved. But as for the rest, as Mr Prime Minister said, of course we will give instructions to our governments to look at this issue further, to find some ways.


President Nazarbayev, first question for you: you’ve enjoyed great success in your country’s elections, what advice would you give to Mr Cameron who is facing a difficult election of his own in 2015?

And to the Prime Minster, you were talking about the need to get more of the best and brightest international students to study in Britain. Are you concerned that the plans for migrant bonds will actually deter students, some of the best and brightest, if they are rolled out nationwide?

Prime Minister

Perhaps I will deal with the second question first. Let’s be clear about the rules that we have in place for students. There is no limit on the number of overseas students who can come to Britain and study at a British university. What they need to have is an English language qualification and a place at a British university but there’s no limit on the numbers that can come. And it’s important for that message to be heard by young Kazakhs, some of whom I met this morning at Nazarbayev University, and also, if they get a graduate job they can continue to work in Britain having graduated.

We are looking at the issue of bonds for some migrants to the UK as a way to make sure that we deliver on our promise, which is that we want genuine students, genuine visitors. We don’t want to have people who are effectively economic migrants. That’s what we saw under the last government when immigration to our country got completely out of control. I think we’ve shut down something like 180 bogus student colleges since that time.

But the bond will be a pilot scheme, it has not yet been designed exactly how they work, but the key will be to make sure they reinforce the approach we have of welcoming genuine students, genuine investment, but wanting to make sure we stop illegal migration. That will be the aim of policy. That’s the first half of your question – I will hand over to the President.

Nursultan Nazarbayev

Well, I believe that such a great country with great traditions such as Great Britain, Kazakhstan maybe doesn’t have a moral right to actually give advice, but given my huge political experience maybe was monitoring the – and watching the activities of Mr Cameron and the way he actually protects the interests of the British people all over the world, in all areas, and I think he will be definitely demanded. Personally, I would vote for him – you know, personally.

Prime Minister

That’s one – I’ve just got about another 20 million and I’m in business. Thank you, Mr President.


My question is to you, Mr President. Over the last years there are many talks about the European multiculturalism crisis and the fall of it. You know, the last issue of the murder of the military and of burning the Muslim books, but in our country there are many – there are over 130 ethnic representatives in our country, there are many mosques and other religious centres; we’re not really concerned about that.

Nursultan Nazarbayev

Well, maybe because Kazakhstan has a huge experience of when several ethnic groups live with each other, historically there have been many ethnic groups, many nationalities, including the ancient Huns, you know, the Genghis Khan hoards that used to pass through our country that has been at a crossroads.

We’ve had many people who were deported to our country during the Stalin regime, so we’ve had many ethnic groups that have been living here for so many years, which is completely different in a European country. But of course, we are ready to share our experience.

We have over 130 ethnic groups, over 40 religious groups, our constitution ensures the equal rights for all regardless of religion, race, language or whatever. And if you look at the city you have a Muslim mosque and a Christian church or a Synagogue, a Buddhist temple and anybody can peacefully practise their religion, whatever they want.

So globally, of course, when we have that kind of interaction, you know, we have no other choice but to bring closer the civilisations – I think that’s the future of the civilisation – to bring closer the different cultures.

Prime Minister

Well, I think both our countries are good examples of how you can have a successful multiracial, multi-ethnic democracy and country, and that has to be based on tolerance, it has to be based on mutual respect and understanding. But I think there is one thing we should be intolerant of, and that is extremism. And we should be very clear that it’s completely wrong to see Islam as anything other than a religion of peace. And it’s also completely wrong to pretend, as some do, that somehow Islam and democracy aren’t compatible.

They are compatible and we need all those who take that view, including the millions in your country, and you as well, Mr President, to take that message out about the compatibility of Islam and democracy and the need to speak out and act against extremists, and that’s been one of the many issues that we’ve been discussing in the last day. Thank you.

Published 1 July 2013