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KAZAKSTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 29,749 24,205 22,400 60
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,780 1,510 1,350 119
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 325 - (28/01/08)

The Astana-Ankara axis
Everybody knows that Kazakhstan is a vast place with huge mineral resources, no less than 60% of the FSU's. It is surprising that it has yet to make its mark on world affairs. 

It may be about to do so. The key is a link-up with Turkey. President Gul made a tour of Central Asia in mid-January. His most important stop was Astana.

Kazakhstan to supply Caspian oil pipeline
Kazakhstan has pledged to supply oil to a pipeline transporting Caspian crude oil to Western markets through Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on January 17. 

Speaking at a joint press conference with visiting Turkish President Abdullah Gül in Astana, Nazarbayev said the transfer of oil to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline - which currently brings in crude oil from Azerbaijan's Caspian fields to Turkey's Ceyhan port via Georgia - will begin when Kazakhstan completes building ports on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

“Then, Kazakh oil will be transported to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline via tankers,” he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. “We know that Azeri oil alone will not be enough to fill the pipeline. It will remain idle if no Kazakh oil is pumped in.”

The Kazakh president did not say how much oil his country is committed to transport through the BTC pipeline. Kazakhstan has reiterated that most of its oil exports will go through Russia, although it says this does not mean there will be no oil left to transport through the BTC. Critics say the BTC pipeline, launched in 2005, would lose its economic profitability if it is not supplied with oil from Kazakhstan.

The pipeline currently transports oil from the Caucasus region, President Gül said, and added that Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan were in consensus that Kazakh oil should also be pumped in. “Once the ports in the Caspian Sea are completed, Kazakh oil too will flow through the BTC,” he said.

The two presidents also discussed ways to boost business cooperation between the two countries during their talks. “We, as presidents, will open the way for cooperation for our businessmen and set the track for them to work together. On this track, they will move ahead and engage in joint ventures,” Gül said. “It will benefit both the Turkish and Kazakh nations.”

Gül's four-day visit to Kazakhstan came just days after his trip last week to another Central Asian country, Turkmenistan. “I believe the visit will be useful in shaping our common vision for the future, guided by past experiences,” Gül told reporters on Wednesday ahead of his flight from Ankara's Esenboğa Airport.

During Gül's visit, officials of the two countries also signed a long-term economic cooperation program. The cooperation program was signed by State Minister Mustafa Said Yazıcıoğlu, who is accompanying Gül on his visit, and Kazakhstan's economy minister, Bakhyt Sultanov. “Kazakhstan and Turkey are planning to increase commodity circulation volume to $10 billion,” Nazarbayev said during his negotiations with Gül, the Kazinform National Information Agency reported. “In the current year this index reached $1.5 billion. We have an opportunity to increase it to $10 billion by 2010,” Nazarbayev emphasized. Gül said, “The dynamic development of Kazakhstan has created a basis for the expansion of relations between Kazakhstan and Turkey.”

In addition to Yazıcıoğlu, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül and Energy and Natural Resources Minister Hilmi Güler are among the large delegation accompanying Gül during his visit. Today Gül will attend ceremonies in Astana to mark the 16th anniversary of the country's independence. On Saturday, before wrapping up his visit, Gül will move on to Almaty, where he will visit facilities founded there by Turkish entrepreneurs.

Gül, who had displayed a close interest in Central Asian countries during his time at the helm of the Foreign Ministry, aims at strengthening ties with the Turkic-language-speaking states of the region via these visits. Late in September Nazarbayev became the first foreign head of state to be received by Gül since his election in late August as the 11th president of Turkey.

Turkey was the first country to recognize Kazakhstan's independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the interest shown by the Turks has been robust and active over the past 16 years. Kazakhstan is an important economic partner of Turkey, and cooperation between the Turkish and Kazakh authorities has played a major role in the development of Kazakhstan.

The religious dimension
Nazarbayev started out as a communist and did very well out of it, ending up as its communist president. But then came 1991. 

He had to change his legitimacy. At first it was to be as a democrat. But that is a dangerous game to play, as Askar Akayev, the most liberal president in Central Asia, discovered in 2005 in Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution.

He came up with a new idea, religion. Unlike Uzbekistan, Kazakstan has nothing to fear from Muslim fundamentalism. It is a long way from Afghanistan and the Taleban. Anyway as a former nomadic country it has always worn its religion lightly. Nomads do not fanatics make and in Kazakstan, a former communist atheistic society, doubly so.

Some years ago Nazarbayev organised a great international conference of faiths. There were representatives from all the world's religions present. It was very much in the tradition of Akbar the Great, the late sixteenth Mughal emperor of India, who did the same at Fatepur Sikri, the redstone city he built south of Delhi, near Agra and the Taj Mahal. 

But there are now repercussions Nazarbaev dislikes from that event. The foreign missionaries, who were invited in to proselytyze then, have been only too successful. On January 17 Nazarbayev criticized foreign missionaries as a threat to national stability and urged lawmakers to curb their activities. 

The mainly Muslim country has positioned itself as an area of stability in the potentially volatile Central Asian region. But some rights groups have criticized its treatment of small groups such as Hare Krishna. 

Speaking at a congress of the Nur-Otan party, which holds all seats in the lower house of the parliament, Nazarbayev said foreign missionaries posed a threat to secularity. 

"We are a secular state where religion is separated from the state, but this does not mean Kazakhstan should become a dumping ground for all kinds of religious movements," said the veteran leader, without naming any groups. 

"There are tens of thousands of missionary organizations working in Kazakhstan today. We don't know what their aims are. ... We cannot leave it like that and let them do something that our country does not need," he said.

Nazarbayev often singles out ethnic and religious accord as one of his main achievements in the country, which has a large Orthodox Christian community (there being a Russian minority second only to the Kazakhs themselves). 
But Western human rights groups say religious intolerance toward smaller groups is on the rise and on the Russian pattern these minority faiths will get no support from the Russian orthodox hierarchy, who detest them as heretics.
 
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe criticized Kazakhstan last year for destroying houses belonging to followers of Hare Krishna, a familiar and generally regarded as a harmless sight in many of the worlds cities, who practice yoga and vegetarianism in a village near Almaty. 

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