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U.S.-Kazakhstan relations: a case for people-to-people diplomacy

Tue, 2017-06-27 11:46

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

If you ask American ambassadors what resources and program they cannot do without, almost every single one will answer, “Our exchange programs that provide people-to-people experiences”.

Encouraging people-to-people programmes is an important part of diplomacy for any country, and certainly for the United States. That is because diplomacy is not just about providing visas for travellers, not just about passing messages from government to government: it is also about building enduring links between two nations. And, ultimately, that is what is most important because it allows two nations to have a strong foundation for collaboration, even when their government relations might go through rough patches.

On the U.S. side, these include educational and cultural exchange programmes and, probably most important, U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) that identifies younger and mid-level experts in their fields and provides them with an intense programme in the United States to meet and develop enduring relationships with their counterparts. IVLP participants have become leaders in their fields later in life, and a good number have become heads of government and heads of state in their home countries.

I know that Kazakhstan thoroughly understands this concept and has made it a fundamental part of its own government policy from the beginning of its independence. I am referring to the Bolashak Programme that has played a terribly important role in setting Kazakhstan apart from its neighbours and that has played a central role in putting Kazakhstan on the world stage.

Long-time Kazakhstan watchers must certainly recall that at independence President Nazarbayev said that if Kazakhstan is to be truly independent, it will need a new generation that thinks differently from the past. To implement that broad vision, he created Bolashak. I am very grateful that the government of Kazakhstan chose the United States as one of the principle venues for educating its young people to become the future leaders of their newly independent nation.

Today, throughout Kazakhstan, one can walk into almost any government and private-sector office, and meet young Kazakhs who understand the world in a way that allows them to do the daily business of life that consistently moves their nation forward. That is a huge achievement, and I sincerely salute President Nazarbayev for his far-reaching vision.

There is another, slightly different perspective to the importance of the people-to-people exchanges. As diplomats, yes, we do spend time passing messages between our governments, working together for mutual goals, and actually getting things done that matter. But we can only do that effectively if we have already built solid relationships of trust and respect with our mutual counterparts.

There are two examples of people-to-people relationships between Kazakhs and Americans that came to fruition during my tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan that have actually led to a better world.

The first example I would cite is our scientific and technical experts working together to create the Central Reference Laboratory in Almaty that is playing a crucial role to ensure that biological pathogens are securely contained so that they can never be used as weapons of mass destruction. This took many years of working together and slowly building trust with each other, but both Kazakhstan and the United States got it accomplished. This is indeed an enormously successful scientific programme that has truly important humanitarian goals.

The second example of our experts working together is even more important – the clean-up of the Soviet-era BN-350 nuclear reactor on the Caspian coast that eventually led to permanently securing, locking down on the remote steppe outside Kurchatov, enough plutonium and highly-enriched uranium that could have made 775 nuclear weapons. Related to this is the collaboration of our experts to clean up the former nuclear-weapons test site at Degelen Mountain to prevent the contaminated remnants of Soviet-era nuclear tests from falling into terrorists hands.

Neither of these hugely important projects could have been accomplished without the trust that builds slowly, day to day, as a result of people-to-people relationships.

As Kazakhstan marks a quarter-century anniversary of its foreign service, I am pleased to join in the celebrations. In my tenure in Astana and career at the State Department, I have seen the dedication of its diplomats and their commitment to the aims and values of the country’s foreign policy.

To the new generation of diplomats in both countries, I say this: people-to-people relationships are the absolute core of diplomacy. It’s not documents and talking points that get things done. In the end, the only thing that matters is people-to-people relationships.

The author is former U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan who currently serves as U.S. Co-Chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group for Nagorno-Karabakh.

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Neighbours, parties to conflict in Syria discuss terrorism, reaching solution at Eurasian Media Forum

Tue, 2017-06-27 11:28

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Representatives of different sides in the Syrian crisis were joined by Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria and the role of the Astana Process during a panel session at the annual Eurasian Media Forum in Kazakhstan’s capital June 24.

The war in Syria is “a terrible disaster for its people, region and on a global scale,” Abdrakhmanov said in opening the panel, adding that Kazakhstan and its President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, are doing everything they can to help find a peaceful solution.

“The whole process started when two esteemed presidents – Russia’s [Vladimir] Putin and Turkey’s [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan approached President Nazarbayev with the request to consider the possibility of the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, hosting a meeting between the Syrian government and armed opposition groups, those who joined the renowned ceasefire agreement of 2016,” said Abdrakhmanov, recalling the history of the Astana Process.

Nazarbayev immediately agreed to provide a platform for the meeting under the auspices of three guarantor states.

“We consider the Astana Process to be complementary to the Geneva one. We support the leading role of the United Nations and the special representative of this organisation and its Secretary General to lead the Geneva Process to find a political solution,” he added.

Now is the time to take some real action on ground, said the minister. “The creation of four de-escalation zones in Syria proved to be so far the only viable [action[ leading to the peaceful settlement of the situation in Syria. And I hope very much that all observers including the United States will pay attention to that achievement within the Astana Process. Of course, much depends on the guarantor states,” he said.

Later that day, in a briefing with the media, Abdrakhmanov announced that Kazakhstan and a group of like-minded countries are pursuing a Code of Conduct during Antiterrorist Operations to be adopted at the UN.

Two years ago, in remarks at the UN General Assembly in September 2015, Nazarbayev offered to create a global antiterrorist coalition under the auspices of the United Nations to combat transnational terrorism and extremism. This initiative included the creation of uniform definitions for a number of terms.

“In the case of Syria, you see that, unfortunately, all the terrorist forces have concentrated here, which is really hindering the search for a political settlement to this crisis. In the Code, in addition to trying to determine a common denominator, let’s say, by uniting the efforts of all parties that are really interested in combating international terrorism and extremism, we will also try to make a step towards ensuring that during the antiterrorist operations, all countries rely on one common position. As soon as the UN experts and Security Council members approve the text of this document, it will be presented to the world community,” he stated.

The foreign minister also denied recent press reports about Kazakhstan negotiating to send its troops to Syria. “We are not conducting any official negotiations regarding sending our armed services to Syria,” he said.

Former President of Turkey Abdullah Gül, who also participated in the panel, emphasised that “it is a shame for all of us, for humanity, to see the thousands of killings, millions of refugees and destruction of all the beautiful cities.”

According to him, if conflicts like this are not prevented, it is “inevitable” that power vacuums will be left in the region, “which create radical movements and terrorist groups.”

He added that Kurds and Turks are friends and relatives, brothers and sisters, not enemies to each other, and that it is Turkey’s responsibility, as a neighbour, to contribute to the solution of the conflict. “Neighbours are responsible for creating a secure place for all Syrians, Arabs and Kurds. They should be happy, safe and equal citizens of Syria,” he said.

Director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies Kayhan Barzegar from Iran commented that the way Russia and Iran “are trying to accelerate the political solution is showing how much they would like to manage this crisis.”

Ultimately, the fight in Syria is against terrorism, he said. “Syria might not be connected to Iran by border, but it is to Iraq. It goes to the national security context.”

Iran would accept a collective compromise, Barzegar said. “That is why I think negotiations in Astana are a positive step, because it is focusing on the subject. It is not in the context of traditional geopolitical rivalry between states,” he noted, adding that the main focus should be on the integrity of Syria.

Political representative of Free Syrian Army Salim Hudaifah said the crisis has been complicated by many factors.

“One of them is a conflict of interest between regime friends and opposition friends, especially large, powerful countries, such as the United States, Russia. They all try to achieve their interests around the world, not only in the Middle East. At the same time, there is a conflict of interest between friends of parties, between Iran and Russia, the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia,” he stated.

Talking about the main enemies of the Free Syrian Army at the moment, Hudaifah stressed that both ISIS and the Syrian government forces are their enemies, adding that their army has taken over 5,000 square kilometres.

Journalist from Syria Alaa Ebrahim echoed that the main priority should be combating terror. “The problem, when it comes to the Syrian conflict, is that everyone, including regional, international powers, organisations, say they want a political solution, but at the same time they continue to support and work for a military one,” he said.

According to the journalist, “many organisations and governments want to change the regime in Syria. They send money and weapons and they allow fighters in the country.”

“And now we end up with a situation in which Syria has become a haven for terrorists,” he stated.

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Kazakh-Hungarian foreign ministers discuss cooperation

Tue, 2017-06-27 11:15

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov and Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto discussed bilateral relations and international issues June 26 in Astana.

Abdrakhmanov noted the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations, mentioning the high level of bilateral contact and saying the two countries have historical roots beyond their political and economic relations.

The sides focused on the priority of economic diplomacy as well as cooperation within the Kazakh-Hungarian Strategic Council.

Abdrakhmanov and Szijjarto also noted the need to utilise the Kazakh-Hungarian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation, the Kazakh-Hungarian Business Council and the Hungarian Trade House in Astana.

“We need to use our strategic partnership to develop trade and economic cooperation. The necessary legal framework has already been created. We also look forward to cooperation within the framework of Hungary’s foreign economic strategy, Eastern Opening,” Abdrakhmanov said.

Kazakhstan traditionally views Hungary as a reliable ally in Central and Eastern Europe, it was noted.

“The priority areas in our relations are agriculture, the energy sector, pharmaceuticals, transport and logistics, innovations and tourism. The June 8 opening of a direct air route between Astana and Budapest will intensify contacts between business people and deepen the partnership in the tourist sphere,” Abdrakhmanov said.

“Another important area is educational cooperation. For example, Hungarian universities increased the number of grants for Kazakh students from 45 up to 200,” he added.

Abdrakhmanov thanked the Hungarian side for participating in EXPO 2017.

Szijjarto said Hungary considers Kazakhstan a strong factor of stability in the region.

“On July 1, Hungary begins its (tenure as chair of the) Visegrad Group, which is a political alliance of four Central European states including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. We look forward to close cooperation with Central Asia, which is currently demonstrating dynamic growth and development,” Szijjarto said.

“Hungary supports Kazakhstan’s cooperation with the European Union. We were among the first to ratify the EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. I hope that cooperation between our two countries will come to the new level,” Szijjarto added.

In addition, Szijjarto noted that Kazakhstan and Hungary have the same position regarding the fight against international terrorism.

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Surge in Diplomacy, Action in Mediation

Tue, 2017-06-27 08:43

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

The fourth edition of the Istanbul Conference on Mediation will take place on June 30 with the theme of “Surge in Diplomacy, Action in Mediation.” Experts, diplomats, practitioners and scholars from around the world will explore ways and means to promote mediation as a prominent conflict prevention and resolution method.

The profile of mediation has been rising globally since Turkey and Finland led the way at the United Nations through the “Mediation for Peace” initiative. The initiative culminated in the establishment of the Group of Friends of Mediation. The Group now has 53 members, including 48 states and 5 international organizations. There has also been substantial improvement in international capacity for preventive diplomacy and mediation within the UN, regional and sub-regional organizations and civil society.

The Group has become the leading platform at the UN to promote mediation. It has initiated the adoption of four UN General Assembly Resolutions, which lay the ground for the development of the normative and conceptual framework of mediation. The Group has also contributed to the 2012 “United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation,” a fundamental document for those who practice and study mediation worldwide.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed his willingness to further develop UN’s mediation support capacity. His efforts are most commendable. We call on all UN member states to support UN Secretary General Guterres’ broad vision and efforts to prevent and solve today’s conflicts.

Turkey has been doing her part. Turkey is situated next to a vast region where acute active and frozen conflicts persist. Prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts is a central feature of Turkey’s enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy. Turkey undertakes various efforts in a wide geography from Africa to the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus. She sees peacemaking in a humanitarian-development nexus. This year, Turkey has again become the most generous nation in the world in terms of per capita humanitarian assistance.

Turkey has been hosting the Istanbul Conferences on Mediation since 2012. These landmark conferences are designed to bring together numerous practitioners and scholars in the field of conflict prevention and mediation activities. The aim of these conferences is to promote synergies between theory and practice and help increase scope, reach and effectiveness of the international community’s mediation efforts. I must pay tribute to the efforts of mediators engaging daily in conflicts worldwide.

This year the Conference will explore how mediation methodology and practice can take better account of the needs of the day. In this regard, two questions in particular would be scrutinized. One is the potential of mediation in all stages of a conflict continuum, namely from prevention to resolution and all the way to peace agreement implementation. The second key question would be the models for greater employment of mediation as a preventive tool in contexts where political, ethnic, religious biases create an environment of hostility.

The latter is especially pertinent since we have come to sadly witness extreme tendencies in various forms of political, social and religious animosities. The rise in attacks in Europe against Muslims and migrants is a case in point. Prevention is key. However, prevention would be possible only when societies recognize and learn to respect differences and engage in genuine dialogue and interaction. I believe that mediators who are well-equipped with the cultural codes of conduct in a given conflict situation can reach remarkable success. For that, we need to train more mediators including at youth while encouraging more women mediators and equip them with the right tools.

Our challenges to make peace the overwhelming reality on a global level are immense. However, we should be able to see the opportunities within those challenges. The readiness and willingness of the international community to build capacity in peaceful resolution of conflicts including mediation must be a priority. As we prepare to welcome participants of the Fourth Istanbul Mediation Conference, I call on the international community to take action in mediation.

 

The author is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey.

 

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After a quarter-century, Kazakhstan’s foreign service has much to be proud of

Tue, 2017-06-27 05:21

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

Since the dawn of independence, consistency, predictability and the multi-vector character of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy under the leadership of its First President, Nursultan Nazarbaev, have been its unique features, strength and the reason for its success.

In the era of globalisation, interdependence, interconnectedness and the emergence of a multi-polar world, adherence to the multi-vector principle is dictated by the very nature of international relations. More so for Kazakhstan, a multi-ethnic and multi-faith nation strategically located in the heart of Eurasia.

It is quite symbolic that the 25th anniversary of the diplomatic service coincides with Kazakhstan’s tenure as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. For someone like myself who served as the newly independent country’s first Permanent Representative to the organisation, this indeed represents a historic milestone.

Back then, Kazakhstan faced the daunting task of ensuring its speedy integration into the international community and a full entry into the world political and economic arena.

Having joined the United Nations on March 2, 1992, our country had two specific tasks to complete. First, we had to expeditiously establish cooperation with the United Nations’ various funds and programmes to be able to qualify for their assistance in resolving our most urgent economic, social and environmental problems. Secondly, as one of the newest member states of the United Nations, Kazakhstan had to learn on the spot how to participate in and contribute to the solution of pressing international issues on the General Assembly’s agenda.

Guided by the principled line of our fledgling foreign policy, I had to forge stances on a myriad of issues on the UN General Assembly agenda. The active participation, proactive diplomacy and hard work of Kazakh diplomats working at the foreign ministry in Almaty and at the mission in New York manifested in an early pay-off. Kazakhstan quickly earned the right and a truly unique opportunity to fully engage in all international affairs, while protecting our national interests and creating favourable conditions for the country’s development. From a novice in international relations, we emerged as an active and respected member of this most important organisation in the world.

President Nazarbayev’s historic decision to turn the country into a nuclear weapon-free independent state earned Kazakhstan much of the international community’s early respect. Kazakhstan’s unwavering stance on nuclear testing and proliferation was first pronounced from the high rostrum of the United Nations even before the country became independent. It was in October 1990 when in my very first address to the United Nations in my capacity as the Foreign Minister of the then Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic and on behalf of the Kazakh people, I called upon the UN member states to immediately halt nuclear testing and shut down all nuclear test sites.

All of my statements as permanent representative reiterated Kazakhstan’s firm commitment to the disarmament process and the principle of nuclear non-proliferation while being backed by our concrete, practical actions.

I was also fortunate to be personally involved in the drafting of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a historic document Kazakhstan was among the first countries to sign. Later in 1998, at the 53rd Session of the UN General Assembly, I was trusted by member states to join the leadership of the first Committee on Disarmament and International Security, and I served as its chairperson for almost a year.

In the era of globalised and increasingly digitalised world, the nature and the role of diplomacy, some would argue, are changing. Today’s diplomacy is facing a wealth of new challenges of trans-boundary nature. Moreover, the advancement of new information and communications technologies made some pundits question the need to maintain diplomatic missions abroad. Indeed, while remaining the same in its essence, diplomacy today has to seek for and employ new forms and tools to complement traditional activities. The rapidly changing contours of international relations and world politics call for the increased importance of public diplomacy, network diplomacy, summit diplomacy, and the need to build lasting relations with non-state actors of international interaction.

This, in turn, puts additional pressure upon diplomats and particularly for ambassadors, whose work is becoming less visible but demanding a higher level of education, competency, professionalism and ability to find common ground not only with fellow diplomats but also with civil society, which in today’s world is empowered to influence the international agenda. In other words, a modern diplomat and especially an ambassador must learn how to wield influence through his or her own “soft power,” or, in other words, muster the art of convincing and establishing trust.

Female diplomats representing different nations and cultures make an invaluable contribution to international affairs and the work of the United Nations, in particular. I was lucky to have known and worked with many outstanding women diplomats, true professionals in their field.

Noteworthy is the fact that over the past 25 years among Kazakhstan’s six permanent representatives to the UN there have been two other women – Madina Jarbussynova and Byrganym Aitimova, – who have worked hard to solidify and enhance our cooperation with the UN.

I am encouraged by the fact that women have slowly but surely made their way to high leadership positions in the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan.

As the foreign service of Kazakhstan marks its 25th anniversary on July 2, it owes a debt of gratitude to the work and courage of the previous generation of its diplomats, who in early 1990s laid the foundation for a successful 21st century Kazakh diplomacy.

Over the past quarter century, the country’s diplomatic service has turned into a professional and effective instrument of implementing our foreign policy. It has successfully solved the tasks of protecting our national interests in the international arena, strengthened our security and created favourable external conditions for a progressive economic and democratic development and the well-being of the nation.

As Kazakhstan enters the next, a more mature stage of development of its foreign service, I invariably say to the new generation of diplomats: there is only one way to succeed in your profession, and it is by continuously striving to know and learn new things and better yourself. By following this path, you will combine a unique practical experience backed by sound theoretical knowledge about diplomacy, which I believe is both an art and a science.

The author is Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan and the country’s first Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

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More than 300,000 people have attended EXPO 2017 in two weeks, numbers keep growing

Tue, 2017-06-27 05:12

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – More than 300,000 people have visited EXPO 2017 since its opening, said Astana EXPO 2017 National Company Chairperson Akhmetzhan Yessimov at a June 23 media forum.

“The exhibition is of great interest. The number of entrances to the expo facilities [including the same visitors] exceeded two million people. We will easily achieve the indicators of 2 million people and 5 million visits adopted in the registration dossier of the exhibition if a good dynamics remains,” he said.

In a week, 3,000 articles about the expo were published, including more than 700 stories in media worldwide, he said.

“The opening ceremony was broadcasted for free by 385 local and foreign TV and Internet channels. Live streaming was performed in Austria, Belarus, Czech Republic, China, Germany, Poland, Russia, Spain, the U.K., Ukraine and other countries. Approximately 270,000 users watched the broadcast via YouTube and on the website of the exhibition. And these figures are growing every day,” Yessimov added.

The exhibition was preceded by a large-scale promotion in the international arena.

“Road shows and expo caravans were used for the first time as marketing promotion tools with a wide geography and mass coverage. The potential global audience amounted to 1.5 billion people. We expect to reach 2.5 billion people by the end of the year,” he said.

The Kazakh national pavilion with an area of 5,000 square metres, located on the ground floor of the giant eight-storey sphere, called Nur Alem, is considered to be one of the most visited pavilions. Two zones of the facility introduce guests to the history and traditions of Kazakhstan and demonstrate the achievements of Kazakhstan scientists in the energy sector.

Approximately 281 cultural and business and 50 protocol events with the participation of the heads of state, ministers and commissioners of international pavilions were held in a two week period.

The Congress Centre located near the exhibition area hosted the opening ceremony. It also became the main venue for the Ministerial Conference and the Eighth International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development June 11-14. More than 1,500 delegates took part in multilateral dialogues, discussion sessions and seminars devoted to implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda up to 2030.

The Astana Economic Forum (AEF) was one of the key events in the first week of EXPO 2017 that attracted more 5,000 participants to debate issues regarding new energy and new economy June 15-16.

The World Scientific and Engineering Congress titled “Energy of the Future: Innovative Scenarios and Methods of Their Implementation” was June 19-20.

The 30th plenary session of the Foreign Investors Council under the President of Kazakhstan took place at the newly built Hilton Hotel just outside of expo site June 22.

The 14th Eurasian Media Forum (EAMF) gathered influential experts in media and recognized professionals in various fields June 22-24.

The exclusive REFLEKT show performed by the world-famous Cirque du Soleil, the Great Gatsby ballet directed by Dwight Rhoden, the most in-demand contemporary dance choreographer and Bastau live show featuring Kazakhstan’s new singing star Dimash Kudaibergen became the most anticipated and sold out cultural events as part of the expo.

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Astana offers audio tours

Tue, 2017-06-27 04:09

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Free walking tours with a help of audio guide were recently launched at the Nurzhol Boulevard and the embankment of the Yessil River, according to the Astana administration’s press service. Audio tours about the main sights of the capital are available in six languages.

According to the Deputy Director of Astana Convention Bureau Askar Adambekov, two walking tours with audio guides have been launched in Astana. The first route is at Nurzhol Boulevard, which includes 30 sites, and the second one is on the embankment of the Yessil River close to the Central Park with 15 sites.

Users can become acquainted with the main attractions using audio guides in Kazakh, Russian, English, Chinese, German and Turkish languages. They can get an audio tour and a map guide for 500 tenge (US$1.5) as a deposit in special tents near the Khan Shatyr shopping centre, in front of Baiterek monument and on the embankment of the Yessil River. The user’s deposit is returned at the end of the route.

“This year we integrated the audio guided walking tours with the help of the Izi.Travel international network, which provides walking tours for a number of states.  We will no longer issue audio guides at the second stage of the project,” explained Adambekov.

The main difference of Izi.Travel is users do not need to purchase audio guides for the deposit. Everyone who wants to use the mobile application can visit the Izi.Travel’s website and listen to information about the sights of the capital.

Professional guides, historians, announcers, editors and studio managers prepared the audio guided walking tours.

Another sightseeing activity prepared for tourists is the trip on the Hop-on, Hop-off double-decker buses. Buses are equipped with audio guides in six available languages, including Kazakh, Russian, English, Chinese, Turkish and German.

The starting and ending point of the route is a place in front of the Duman entertainment centre along the Kurgaldzhin Highway. The route includes Duman entertainment centre, Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre, Mangilik Yel Arch, Mega Silk Way Shopping Mall, National Museum of Kazakhstan and Baiterek monument.

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FC Astana to start UEFA Champions League qualification in Latvia

Tue, 2017-06-27 02:36

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s football clubs are set to start qualification rounds in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League in July. The four teams representing the nation last week learned who their opponents at the initial stages of the European Cups would be.

Three-time winners of Kazakhstan’s Premier League FC Astana will start their road towards the UEFA Champions League with two matches against Latvian champions FK Spartaks Jurmala. Taking into account the capital city club’s solid experience in European Cups in recent years – they have played twice at the prestigious tournaments’ group stages – they look like strong favourites in this pairing. However, FC Astana head coach Stanimir Stoilov has warned his players against underestimating the opponents.

“Spartaks are serious competitors; they won the Latvian championship last year. They have experienced players, some of them [now or previously] parts of their country’s national team. As I always say, [whether the draw was favourable to you] can be assessed only after the matches end. If we win over Spartaks, then we can say we were lucky. The Champions League has no easy-to-beat teams; we should never underestimate the opponent. We even have a good example. Last year we played Lithuanian Zalgiris. Many thought that we had already made it to the next round, but the game was very hard, and only a goal at the very last minute saved us then,” he explained.

The first leg will be played July 12 in Latvia; the return match in Astana will take place July 18.

The three other Kazakh clubs, FC Kairat Almaty, FC Irtysh Pavlodar and FC Ordabasy Shymkent, will start their Europa League campaigns in the first qualifying round.

Kairat will be playing Atlantas Klaipeda. The Lithuanian side has experience playing Kazakh opponents, as they were eliminated 0:3 at the hands of Karaganda’s Shakhter in 2014.

“We understand these will be important matches for us. Of course, we will train hard and stay focused as much as possible, because we have a clear task ahead of us [to progress in the tournament]. We respect all teams and will be very serious [in our approach],” said Kakhaber Tskhadadze, FC Kairat’s coach.

Irtysh will play FC Dunav Ruse from Bulgaria.

“Our opponents are not the team you would try to avoid. They have no celebrity players, but it is a very strong team with a good young coach. The confrontation is likely to be tough. Of course, we will try our best to win. However, it will be difficult, because it is a good strong team,” Irtysh’s head coach Dimitar Dimitrov said of his team’s challenger.

Ordabasy will challenge Bosnian side Siroki Brijeg. The Balkan team previously played Irtysh in 2013 and eliminated them 4:3 on aggregate, giving Shymkent a chance to enact revenge on behalf of Kazakh clubs.

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Modernisation of social and cultural spheres: global experiences and Kazakhstan

Tue, 2017-06-27 02:20

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

Systemic modernisation implies a whole range of economic, cultural, social, political and other transformations aimed at integrating a nation into the progressive course of global development. Though it is obvious that this objective is hard to reach, Kazakhstan has every chance to implement a successful modernisation effort, since it has strong scientific, technical and economic capacity, a rich cultural heritage made up by people and significant natural resources.

In modern circumstances, it is becoming evident that in the modernisation course, the strategy of Kazakhstan’s renewal should be aimed at being proactive, focusing on the future rather than today in terms of world science and technology, social and cultural progress and political structure. In this context, of particular importance is the message of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s address titled “Course towards the Future: Modernisation of Kazakhstan’s Identity” – which is that large-scale transformations in the country are impossible unless public consciousness changes.

Having a population with an open mind plays a special role in the structure of public consciousness. In his article, the Kazakh President emphasises one of its key characteristics – “the ability to adopt and learn from the experiences of other people and countries. The two great Asian nations of Japan and China are the best examples of this approach. Being open to the best practices is the key to success and one of the characteristics of an open mind.”

Let us refer to the international experience of modernisation.

In the late 20th century, in East and South-East Asia, it became evident that a number of regional states (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore) started developing not within the paradigm of Westernisation, but chose the way of a reinterpretation of national tradition. In the modernisation process, they made quite a conscious choice in favour of a national rather than a universal (i.e. Western) one. Most of Asia-Pacific countries have adopted an official course of building an “epoch of culture” as a phenomenon of modern civilisation, and this path led them to a well-deserved success.

The experience of modernisation in Japan is also characterised by an internal mechanism with a moral core. Its foundation was laid back in ancient times. History shows that the key principles of Japanese culture are based on respect, honour, calm and positive attitude to all things in existence, on pragmatism and full responsibility. The inner set up that represents a combination of traditions, customs and moral principles is based on Shinto. There are also traces of Confucianism. These both directions have a common essence – service to society. This aspect is the main accelerator of such fast growth of Japan. It was mixed with the Western progress. This extraordinary powerful symbiosis was synthesised and systematised. This is the driver of qualitative growth of Japan.

The modernisation theory faced an interesting paradox: the more open “the Asia’s Dragons” were to the world, the bigger role traditional Confucian-Buddhist values played in their political culture vis-a-vis universal pillars of the modernisation theory. Successful modernisation practice based on reinterpretation of national traditions in Asia-Pacific countries facilitated drastic reconsideration of the basics of the very modernisation theory. First elaborations into the neo-modernisation theory emerged.

As a less positive experience, we can consider the modernisation of a number of Latin American and Muslim countries that chose the path of Westernising. In particular, within the process of their modernisation, societies in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia and Pakistan cracked in their reaction to the destruction of traditional order and invasion of Western values. At the same time, an acute conflict of values took place in many Islamic countries, which often led to civil wars.

Modern comparative studies in the modernisation field prove that when political actions are not sanctioned by national culture and not perceived as “native,” they can provoke a powerful mass protest movement in society, aspirations to destruct, wipe out political innovations and return to traditional political order. After years of modernisation development, the world started talking about “re-islamisation” of the Middle East, “hinduisation” of India, “returning to Asia” of China and Japan.

The modernisation experience showed that fundamental Western concepts of individualism, freedom, separation of religion and state, equality, human rights and liberalism found little support in Islamic, Confucian, Japanese, Buddhist, and Hindu cultures. Propagating such ideas caused a hostile reaction against “human rights imperialism” and led to the strengthening of the primordial values of native culture. A comparative study of the importance of 100 values in different countries of the world conducted by some Western scholars has shown that “values of paramount importance in the West are much less important in the rest of the world.” Samuel Huntington was one of the first Western researchers to write about the advantages of traditionalism in the field of modernisation: “Not only modern societies include many traditional elements, but also traditional societies, in turn, often have features that are usually considered modern. Tradition should be studied. Moreover, modernisation can strengthen tradition.”

The main problem of the neo-modernisation theory was the search for new factors that ensure the dynamics of constructive political actions in modernisation processes, which required a further revision of the theory. To replace the discredited concept of forced modernisation, the provisions came that are aimed at protection, preservation, revival and support of social and cultural diversity, pluralism of life styles and patterns, providing them with freedom of existence and development.

The contemporary concept of neo-modernisation, along with the idea of secular organisation of social life, includes recognition of the importance of religion and mythology in the spiritual sphere, respect for the charisma of traditional leadership, veneration of the elders’ authority in politics, and the use of the idea of collectivist cohesion of society. Traditional values of kinship, family, the factors of group identification and solidarity significance have been fully rehabilitated.

Thus, it is the national, rather than the universal, that today becomes the main driving force of modernisation processes. We cannot count on the efficiency of modernisation based solely on the indicators of economic growth. It is equally important for the stabilisation of social development to form new values of the community that would not contradict the old traditional order, but develop them in a new direction.

That is why President Nazarbayev, in his conceptual article, urged to improve society by modernising the identity of its citizens, preserving all the best in behavioural and cultural aspects that have accumulated within the centuries-old traditions of the Kazakhs and the history of many peoples living in Kazakhstan.

 

The author is Chief Research Fellow of the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Research (KazISS) under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Doctor of Political Science.

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National Bank chief lays out plans to improve banking sector

Tue, 2017-06-27 02:12

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The National Bank of Kazakhstan (NB) recently announced the conditions for the shareholders on the mandatory injection of funds into the capital. This was stated during the joint session of the Chambers of the Parliament by NB Chairman Daniyar Akishev.

According to Akishev, to find out the real situation within the banks, it is planned to assess the quality of their assets.

“The problem arises in the fact that the shareholders of the bank must make significant injections into the capital, the NB understands that at present there are not enough opportunities for a single infusion of significant amounts of funds in the economy both from shareholders and other owners of the bank,” said Akishev.

Akishev also voiced the scheme of activity proposed by the NB, according to which the bank is completing the preparation of a programme for improving the banking sector.

“The scheme assumes the support of banks from the side of NB for the provision of resources but on a mandatory basis in exchange for the proportional participation of shareholders. That is, if the state gives money, shareholders commit themselves for a specific period of time and put a proportional amount in the form of investments in the capital. Currently, these periods are being discussed,” Akishev added.

According to the scheme, the banks will receive a significant inflow of capital in the next few years. They will be able to solve those problems and write off the loans that they have accumulated and recognise the losses that they may not have shown. By the end of the year, it is planned to implement a programme, according to which banks that have identified the loss and provide capital, will meet all international criteria.

“After that we can count on improving the ratings of banks and their financial condition. This is the exact banking sector that will perform the task set by the NB and the government,” concluded Akishev.

On March 2, President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree on the allocation of money from the national fund for the improvement of the banking sector and decided to allocate a targeted transfer to the national budget for 2017 of 1.9 trillion tenge (US $5.8 billion) for the recovery of the banking sector.

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Kazakhstan continues with green energy investments

Tue, 2017-06-27 02:06

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan has continued investments in renewable energy sources and will to expand these volumes as it moves forward.

So far, the investment share does not exceed 1 percent, according to an alternative energy study completed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the International Energy Agency. The study was conducted in 17 nations, where experts observed a significant drop in investments.

Authorities in the renewable energy field consider subsidising the energy industry as one of the factors hampering the development of alternative energy sources in Kazakhstan. Arfoour Zervos, chairperson of the Energy Policy Network for Renewable Energy, summarised the report as it relates to the country.

“One of the main goals of this report is to identify gaps in the regions. It is very important to have data that will form the basis of renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts in the region. Lack of investment in the development of renewable energy is among the negative aspects. Subsidies for electricity persist in the regions. This complicates the development of renewable energy sources. Low oil prices also inhibit the situation,” he said.

Renewable energy production volumes will grow three times compared to current indicators, according to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Energy. In three years, more than 100 alternative energy facilities will operate in the country compared to the 50 currently in use. The facilities will include 23 wind energy plants, 17 solar power stations and 13 hydroelectric power stations, as well as several plants producing biogas, an alternative energy source.

According to the numbers, special focus is currently being placed on wind power facilities, which is largely due to the unique natural conditions of the country’s regions. For example, the average annual wind speed reaches nine metres per second in the capital and Fort-Shevchenko, on the territory of the Dzungarian Gate and Shelek Corridor. The areas, which measure approximately 50,000 square kilometres or 2 percent of the country’s total area, can produce a trillion kilowatt-hours per year, which significantly exceeds the nation’s energy needs.

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Kazakh ethno village opens doors to EXPO 2017 tourists

Tue, 2017-06-27 02:00

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – EXPO 2017 guests will have a unique opportunity to explore the ancient culture of nomadic civilisation, as Ethno Auyl (which stands for Ethno Village), an unusual cultural complex, has opened in the capital’s suburbs. Organisers intend for the space to acquaint visitors with the rich history, art, traditions, rituals and national cuisine of the Kazakh people and experience how nomads went about their day.

“This is the place where any visitor of the expo can come and get an idea about what our culture is really about. We certainly have tried to prepare the project from all sides. It included such issues, for instance, as communication, water and light. It was another difficulty that we solved successfully,” said Kazakh Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports Aktoty Raimkulova.

Every day, guests can enjoy a rich programme of events – a plethora of festivals of Kazakh music and theatrical art, master classes by artisans and equestrian sports. Traditional games, such as audaryspak, kokpar, baiga and kyzkuu, will be demonstrated. Tourists can not only watch the presentations, but also be involved in contests.

“The Ministry of Culture and Sports plans to hold around 20 international sports competitions, including national sports and competitions,” said ministry’s Sport Committee chairperson Yelsiyar Kanagatov.

The 2,000-square metre Ethno Village has several sectors where visitors can explore traditional hunting with birds and hounds or immerse themselves in Kazakh applied art during workshops where they can take part in creating their very own masterpieces.

“I use various techniques in my work. I am using a wet felting technique for this painting and there is a mixed technique as well that I use. It is called nano-felt when the wool rolls along with silk. There is a dry felting technique which I also tend to try from time to time. When the painting dries, I finish it by dry felting,” said decorative art master Anel Alibai.

Once the expo ends, Ethno Village will continue its work as a seasonal national and cultural centre. The brightest national events will take place annually and organisers are convinced the spot will turn into the city’s favourite among locals and guests.

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EU and Central Asia ministers of education agree to expand cooperation

Tue, 2017-06-27 01:55

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The Astana Declaration was signed June 23 at the second meeting of European Union (EU) and Central Asia ministers of education at the capital’s Rixos President Hotel in Astana. The declaration intends to expand educational cooperation between the EU and Central Asian countries.

Photo: khabar.kz

Kazakhstan has made progress implementing the national system of qualifications in the self-certification process of the National Qualifications Framework and is nearing completion for comparability with the Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education area. The Professional Teacher Standard was adopted this month, which provides a framework to determine the professional competencies of educators for each skill level.

Delegations included representatives from the European Commission, EU and Central Asia ministers of education, senior officials, the European External Action Service (EEAS), rectors of European and Central Asian higher education institutions as well as Kazakh Minister of Education and Science Erlan Sagadiyev, Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko and Ambassador and EU Special Representative for Central Asia Peter Burian.

In his keynote remarks, Sagadiyev outlined Kazakhstan’s priorities for educational reform.

“We need to make formalised education available to much greater amount of people. All the kids from 3 to 6 year olds are to go through pre-schooling. Today, they’re 85 percent, showing an increase of about 6 percent from last year,” he said.

He also said kids need to start formal schooling earlier than the current six or seven years of age as it is today.

“[It has to start] at the age of five or six with the introduction of 0 grade, which starts this year in a limited scope, but is planned by September 2019 on a national scale. So, it will be a 12-year schooling program from zero to 11.”

“We had 20,000 kids per year leaving after the ninth grade (about 6-7 percent) that neither went to the 10th grade of school nor went to college,” he said.

Sagadiyev believes Kazakhstan can become a true educational hub in Central Asia. “We see academic mobility on an exponential rise. We see a number of parents willing to send their kids to study abroad rising dramatically. We don’t believe it will stop in a globalised world.”

“In parallel, we would love to help our Central Asian partners benefit from educational cooperation in any way we can. As one step, we propose to establish the Central Asian Bureau of the Bologna Process in Kazakhstan. The creation of such a bureau will promote the exchange of experiences between our countries and the European Union, will bring closer education systems of Central Asia,” he stressed.

“Central Asia has rich natural and human resources, transit-transport potential and a favourable geographical position,” Vassilenko said in his welcoming remarks. “In this regard, it is in our common interest to preserve the politically stable, economically sustainable and safe development of the Central Asian region.”

According to Vassilenko, such meetings can initiate broad international dialogues and improve the national education system and pave access to quality education.

“In our opinion, the realisation of the idea of creating a joint ‘incubator of educational products and services,’ could be promising. It should unite talents and ideas as well as use the potential of existing educational products to improve educational systems in our countries,” he said.

Kazakhstan can also offer international partners experience implementing the Bolashak international educational programme.

“Some 12,000 Kazakh students were able to use this programme to study in some of the best universities in the world. The cluster of Nazarbayev University and the network of intellectual schools in Kazakhstan could also interest our international and regional partners,” he said.

Vassilenko believes it is important to include the “concepts of cultural tolerance and adherence to peaceful dialogue” in the educational programmes of primary and secondary schools around the world.

“We are convinced that this will allow us to form a generation of a new humanistic thinking, which is critically important for the future of mankind, given the aggravation of crises and conflicts in many parts of the world today,” he stressed.

In his turn, Burian noted that a few days ago the EU reconfirmed Central Asia is a significant partner for the EU in its Council Conclusions updating the EU Central Asia Strategy adopted 10 years ago.

“The EU reaffirmed its commitment to develop a strong and durable relationship, based on joint ownership and aimed at fostering peaceful, prosperous, sustainable and stable socio-economic development of the Central Asia region in line with the recently adopted EU Global Strategy and the joint commitment to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.

“We have also witnessed over the last years in Europe and in Central Asia what damage can bring the exclusion and consecutive radicalisation among the younger population,” he went on saying. “I believe we all agree that education plays a critical role in forming a person, his world views and in preparing him for a quality adult life as an integral part of a broader society. With this in mind it can be surely said that investing in education we are investing in the security and stability of our societies.”

He noted officials in Brussels and in European capitals “see Central Asia as a major gateway between Europe and Asia representing a young and growing market with significant potential for investment and trade, infrastructure and people-to-people contacts.”

Vassilenko added that to unleash this potential should be the guiding principle for future cooperation. “I believe the cooperation on education is a corner-stone in this endeavour.”

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Jackie Chan didn’t get paid for his trip to Astana

Tue, 2017-06-27 01:38

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

Actor, producer and director Jackie Chan did not ask for a payment nor a rider for his visit to Astana, said Kazakhstan broadcasting station chairperson Yerlan Karin.

Karin said that the plans only included Chan’s participation in the opening of the festival of Chinese cinema. However, Chan went on to meet with people, held a press conference and was a talk-show guest over the course of half a day.

“What’s more surprising is that his arrival in Astana did not cost us anything! He flew on a private plane, with friends, no one paid him any fees, and he did not give us his rider. Even refused to be met in a luxury car but asked for an ordinary minivan to travel around the city with friends. Local Astana restaurateurs were so happy to see their idol that even for dinners we did not have to pay anything. It was planned that he would stay in Kazakhstan for a couple of days, but because of the tight schedule it turned out to be only half a day,” Karin wrote in his Instagram.

According to Karin, the only expenses incurred by the Kazakh side were souvenirs and tickets for EXPO 2017.

“Jackie is an amazing, very modest, good-natured, sincere and cheerful person. He didn’t turn anyone away from a joint photo, joked and laughed,” said Karin. “He liked it in our country and he promised to come again soon for a longer time to work in joint projects. We are looking forward to that.”

Chan visited Astana for the opening of the festival of Chinese cinema. At a press conference, he said that he wanted to come to Kazakhstan for a longer time, especially after he saw pictures of beautiful places in Kazakhstan. He is planning to shoot a film in Kazakhstan. He also shared his impressions about singer Dimash Kudaibergenov.

At the festival, Chan sang a song in his native language and was joined on stage by Kudaibergenov. The two first met in China when the Kazakh singer participated in the contest “I’m a Singer.”

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Part of Chinese Terracotta Warrior Army on display at National Museum of Kazakhstan

Tue, 2017-06-27 01:30

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Astana visitors and residents have the opportunity to see a part of a unique historical monument that originates from the Chinese Qin dynasty. Four statues of the world-known Terracotta Army are being exhibited until Sept. 10 at the National Museum of Kazakhstan. The statues are among more than 80 items on display, including weapons, household items, gold and silver jewellery.

“This exhibition is being conducted between the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Kazakhstan, and Chinese Ministry of Culture within the framework of the bilateral memorandum. The exhibition is unique for its authentic exhibits dating from two hundred years before our era,” said Ministry of Culture and Sports Committee representative Kuanyshbek Mukhangaliyev.

The Terracotta Army was built and designed by the order of the Chinese emperor in the third century BC. The statues were to accompany the ruler in the spirit world as protectors. Each of the 8,000 statues is a work of art with its own unique features. The archaeological discovery is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

“For us, for the Chinese, it’s like a bridge between the past and the future. Our young people learn about the ancient history of China through it. I would like that Kazakh citizens have the opportunity to see such amazing historical artefacts too,” said Exhibition Curator Shan Shin Shun.

China and Kazakhstan are also negotiating to display Kazakh relics in China, including the legendary Golden Man.

 

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Nazarbayev opens World Kurultai of Kazakhs in Astana

Sat, 2017-06-24 02:25

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev opened June 23 the fifth World Kurultai of Kazakhs in Astana, which takes place in the capital within the framework of EXPO 2017. Nearly 850 delegates and guests, including 350 ethnic Kazakhs from 39 countries, arrived in Astana to take part.

“I want to address Kazakhs from the rostrum with lines from a poem – every Kazakh is the one and only for me. I send my warmest greetings to our compatriots living abroad,” Nazarbayev said in his opening remarks.

He noted that every Kazakh contributes to the development of Kazakhstan regardless of where they live.

Established in 1992 and taking place every five years, the general idea behind the creation of Kurultai, which means congregation in Kazakh, is to unite Kazakhs all over the world, promote Kazakh culture and traditions as they can be subject to assimilation and let Kazakhs know that they are welcome in their historical homeland.

Eighty percent of all delegates this year are taking part in the Kurultai for the first time. Unlike previous years, this time the organisers put the focus on Kazakh youth residing in foreign countries – 60 percent of delegates are young people not older than 35, who succeeded in various fields abroad.

The delegates will focus on issues related to the funding of Kazakh cultural centres abroad, various forms of assistance to Kazakh diasporas and measures to encourage young Kazakhs from abroad to study in Kazakhstan.

According to Nazarbayev, one of the many ways to unite Kazakhs is to accelerate the introduction of the Latin alphabet. “Transition of the Kazakh language to Latin alphabet is a step closer to greater integration in global science and education system and to our spiritual unity. On the post-Soviet space, we use Cyrillic, our compatriots in China use the Arabic script and our brothers in the West use Latin. When we speak to each other, it is one language, but when it comes to reading, we have three different languages. We cannot understand each other. We become estranged,” Nazarbayev noted, as reported by Kazinform news agency.

With the potential of the Latin alphabet to unite Kazakhs around the world, Nazarbayev believes the transition can occur earlier than 2025 initially announced in his state-of-the-nation address in 2012. “I believe it is not difficult, because our children learn English since the first grade. All schools have English language classes, which use the Latin alphabet. The young generation will have no problem with that. We will not have any problems either,” Nazarbayev added.

Initially scheduled for 2016, Kurultai was postponed to coincide with a major international event now taking place in Astana – EXPO 2017, – as delegates expressed their interest in attending the exhibition.

As part of their visit, delegates will visit pavilions at the expo, Astana’s sights and attractions and Ethnic Village complex, which brings visitors closer to the Kazakh culture and traditions. They will also take part in round tables and seminars organized by the country’s ministries.

Approximately one million ethnic Kazakhs have returned to Kazakhstan since the country gained its independence in 1991. Last year, Kazakhstan simplified citizenship application procedures for ethnic Kazakhs, which increased the number of Kazakh families returning to Kazakhstan eight times.

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EXPO 2017 opens to success, offers path to the future

Sat, 2017-06-24 02:22

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

With EXPO now well under way, there are clear signs of lessons from the past few decades underpinning the objectives of this event. Hosting EXPO has, for instance, enabled our government to particularly focus on infrastructural progress, the improvement of education and the promotion of Kazakhstan’s culture to international audiences in time to mark its transition to a third stage of modernisation.

In our country’s development roadmap, known as the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, President Nursultan Nazarbayev outlined key areas, which would serve to aid our accession to the world’s top 30 economies. One of these was developing our country’s infrastructure and transport under the Nurly Zhol programme, to facilitate Kazakhstan’s role at the heart of the New Silk Road initiative. Hosting EXPO 2017 in our capital city has permitted our government to focus on supporting the needs of the event’s foreign and domestic visitors by establishing new facilities, ensuring Astana’s prospective role as a regional hub for finance and investment.

The impressive results of this programme include the creation of the new Nurly Zhol railway station in Astana, which expects a passenger flow of approximately 12 million people a year and the addition of a new terminal to our capital’s airport. Long after expo finishes, these initiatives will continue to benefit our country by establishing new transport routes, attracting visitors and creating hundreds of new jobs. It’s no surprise, therefore, that our President has already described these new facilities as the “new pride of Astana.”

Yet it is not only our capital that has benefitted from EXPO 2017. President Nazarbayev made a point in his opening speech of inviting everyone to visit all of Kazakhstan for the amazing nature as well as the historical heritage that we have to offer. The expo has also brought together Kazakhs from all corners of our country to appreciate our united progression.

Another focal point for EXPO 2017 has been its beneficial effect upon the younger generations. The exposition aims to inspire children from all around Kazakhstan to play a role in developing these futuristic technologies by immersing them in the research at the forefront of science worldwide. The French pavilion’s main exhibition of a new Peugeot project, for example, is highly commendable for engaging with children to interest them in the fascinating design of electric cars.

This focus of EXPO 2017 on the future pioneers of Kazakhstan builds upon a range of initiatives, which provide the resources for children to excel. For instance, Kazakhstan’s Minister for Education and Science Yerlan Sagadiyev, recently announced that 93 percent of final-year students who achieve consistent top marks receive the prestigious Altyn Belgi recognition, which allows them to attend any university in Kazakhstan with all of their tuition subsidised by the government.

Schemes such as this reaffirm our commitment to supporting education, and our country is already seeing tangible results. Only last year did the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study rank Kazakh students eight out of 57 developed countries for their education in the sciences.

EXPO 2017 has also brought Kazakhstan’s existing strengths and values to the attention of the international community, reiterating our country’s commitments to moving forward together. The attendance of our opening ceremony by prominent world leaders, such as President of China Xi Jinping, President of Russia Vladimir Putin, and King Felipe VI of Spain, as well as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, goes to show the magnitude and importance of EXPO 2017 on the global agenda.

In this regard, it is astonishing to consider how far Kazakhstan has come in the 25 years of its independence and the confidence with which it has done so. This has only been possible due to the assured leadership of President Nazarbayev and our government’s willingness to learn from its mistakes. Although we can be sure of more lessons to learn from the event’s proceedings, the first few weeks have been testament to the painstaking work of the organisers whose collective efforts are to thank for what has been an unforgettable opening to a momentous event.

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New street named after Tatar Queen unveiled in Astana

Sat, 2017-06-24 01:15

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – President of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov and Astana Akim (Mayor) Asset Issekeshev participated in the June 12 opening ceremony of the street named after Kazan Khanate’s Queen Sujumbike in Astana.

The new street is in cottage town in Family Village and is the second street named after a representative of Tartars in the city. There is also a street named after the Tartar poet, Hero of the Soviet Union, Mussa Jalil in the Saryarka district.

“Today we have become even closer. We are fraternal peoples. The opening of this street is a historical event for us. We have a beautiful street named after Nursultan Nazarbayev in our capital. In that way, each step is the rapprochement of our peoples. We appreciate that and thank Kazakh President (Nursultan Nazarbayev), Asset Issekeshev and everyone who made the decision to open the street named after Queen Sujumbike,” said the President of Tatarstan.

He congratulated all Kazakh citizens on the opening of EXPO 2017 and wished it success.

The soul of the Tartar people is reflected in the image of Queen Sujumbike and the Turkic world as well, according to Minnikhanov.

“We are glad that she became the unifying symbol of Tatarstan and Kazakhstan,” he said.

Issekeshev highlighted that this year marks the 13th anniversary of economic and cultural collaboration between the capitals of the two states, saying, “I hope that today’s event will serve the further development and strengthening of fraternal relations between Astana and Kazan.”

Queen Sujumbike is the national hero of Tatarstan. Her name is associated with the Sujumbike Tower. She was the daughter of Nogai nobleman Yosıf bak and the wife of Kazan khans, as well as served as regent of Kazan during the minority of her son from 1549 until 1551.

Poet and scholar Zhanat Askerbekkyzy and Sharban Beisenova, the winner of Alash international literature prize, honoured worker of culture and member of the Writers Union of Kazakhstan are the initiators of the street opening.

Kazakh Honoured Worker Kamil Mullashev, who is also People’s Artist of Tatarstan, State Prize Laureate of Kazakhstan and Tatarstan, made the Queen’s sculpture, which was presented at the opening ceremony.

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Finnair launches direct Helsinki-Astana flights

Sat, 2017-06-24 01:06

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Finnair launched June 19 direct Helsinki-Astana-Helsinki flights. The flights will be Mondays and Fridays on modern Airbus 319 airliners.

The new flights initiate a partnership between the Astana airport and the national carrier of Finland – Finnair and are the result of cooperation between the countries, Astana airport and Finnair. The flights are expected to promote tourism flows in both directions and increase Finnish visitation to EXPO 2017.

Finnair became the 22nd client airline of the Astana airport, renamed Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport by the Kazakh Government on June 21,  offering regular flights to the capital. The airline’s route network covers Europe, Asia and North America. Passengers from Astana will be able to take advantage of a transfer at the airport in Helsinki within the same terminal.

It is planned that the Astana-Helsinki direct flights will be replaced by Almaty-Helsinki after Aug. 10.

The Astana Airport implemented the project of building a new passenger terminal. The uniqueness of the project is in the landing bridges, which contain two mobile approaches for landing. When servicing aircraft, two gates will be used simultaneously. Thus, one bridge can serve two aircraft simultaneously, regardless of arrival or departure.

Finnair is the only Scandinavian airline, having four stars in the Skytrax rating. The airline received the World Airline award and has been a leader for the last seven years as the best airline in Northern Europe. Finnair is a member of Oneworld alliance of leading airlines of the world.

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American gives impressions of EXPO 2017 and personal ideas behind power of blogging

Sat, 2017-06-24 01:01

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – What is this trend known as blogging? What is its main aim compared to how corporate journalists write on a day-to-day base? Are they the independent media or a little bit more?

Some say bloggers are simply writers who have a yearning for uncensored self-expression of their surroundings, as well as a personal, unadulterated opinion on any given topic that sparks their mind.

The Astana Times chatted with blogger Izabel Trizlova, a native of the United States and seasoned world traveler. She shared her ideas about what it is to be a blogger and why she decided to volunteer for EXPO 2017.

“First of all, I had the rare opportunity to work for the USA pavilion at the expo and overall I had a general interest in Kazakhstan,” she said.

Before coming to Kazakhstan, Trizlova knew the geographic location of the country but little about its culture. Everything changed when she learned she was accepted into the volunteer programme.

“First, coming here I didn’t know what to expect in regards to the country, in addition to the tasks I would be doing here and how the people would accept me as a foreigner. And to my pleasant surprise, everyone here has been so cordial; I really felt true Kazakh hospitality and it is hard to believe that I have these great moments so quickly because this is just the beginning of my journey here,” she said.

Trizlova spoke about her impression of blogging.

“Being a blogger has a lot to do with expressing one’s overall writing about their experience that has happened to them or shaped their character. In turn, we can share these events with other people around the world. The ultimate possibility is that we can be the facilitators that can inspire people with our words and which can reach the hearts of people,” she said.

“I haven’t had so many experiences so far, because I haven’t yet got to venture out of the expo because of the sheer amount of work I have to do around our pavilion. But I can tell you that I have had the unique opportunity to talk to locals and head over to other foreign pavilions. There have been some memorable engagements with them and I have had some really good close connections in such a close knit social atmosphere that we built here,” she added.

Trizlova noted why she chose to spend her summer far from home.

“My mission statement is to get as much as I can out of this experience, learn about the expo, discover the true meaning behind the Kazakh culture and venture out to see many different cities and places which will open up my cultural pallet even more,” she said.

Even though Trizlova has been working at the USA pavilion each day, Kazakh citizens are more than happy to give her daily inspiration on what kind of steps she can take on her personal blog journey within the Land of the Great Steppe to make it the most rewarding.

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