Kazakhstan–United Kingdom relations

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Kazakhstan-United Kingdom relations
Map indicating locations of Kazakhstan and United Kingdom


United Kingdom

KazakhstanUnited Kingdom relations were formally established on 19 January 1992. The UK opened an embassy in Kazakhstan in October 1992 and Kazakhstan opened an embassy in the UK in February 1996.[1] Kazakhstan's relations with the West have greatly improved in the last few years as the Government has closely cooperated in the U.S.-led War on Terror. See also: Counter-terrorism in Kazakhstan

Britain is the third-largest foreign investor in Kazakhstan with British companies making up 14% of foreign direct investment. Over 100 British companies do business in Kazakhstan.[2]

BAE Systems has a 49% stake in Air Astana.[2]

Kazakhstan's ambassador to the United Kingdom

Dr Roza Kashkenbayeva was the first official trade representative of Kazakhstan in the United Kingdom, and in charge of visa affairs from October 1994 – February 1996 Nurtai Abykayev served as the first Kazakhstan's Ambassador to the United Kingdom from February 1996 to September 1996. Kanat Saudabayev, who currently serves as Kazakhstan's ambassador to the United States, served from November 1996 to October 1999. Adil Akhmetov served from 2000 to 2001. Erlan Idrissov has served as Kazakhstan's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark since 18 July 2002. Since 2008 – Kairat Abusseitov is the ambassador from Kazakhstan to the United Kingdom[1]

Meetings and business relations

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed Richard Evans, the former chief executive of BAE Systems, head of Samruk, a state-owned holding company that controls five Kazakh companies, on 23 October 2006.[3]

Visit to London

President Nazarbayev, along with several Kazakh business leaders, met with Evans, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Queen Elizabeth II, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, Lord Mayor John Stuttard and Jean Lemierre, the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in London, England on 21 and 22 November 2006. Nazarbayev discussed energy cooperation with Prime Minister Blair, and President Lemierre pledged to change the EBRD's relationship with Kazakhstan, taking into account Kazakhstan's strong economic growth. Nazarbayev met with other London business representatives on 22 November, opened trading at the London Stock Exchange, and visited the London Metal Exchange.[4][5]

Political analysts said Nazarbayev used the visit as an opportunity to try to convince British government officials that Kazakhstan is making progress in its democratization in order to gain Britain's support for its bid to head the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2009. The OSCE Ministerial Council is expected to make a decision on the matter in December.[3][5][6][7]

Pauline Shearman, Director of the Confederation of British Industry, said, "As far as we're concerned it's quite timely given that we're focusing quite a lot on energy security these days, and there being various concerns in the EU about long-term total reliance on the Russian energy sector alone... I think the paramount issue still is the political recognition in the world community for Nazarbayev."[8]

Press conference

Blair and Nazarbayev held a joint press conference after their meeting on 21 November. Blair said, "This relationship is obviously about trade and energy. We are looking now at how we co-operate in the financial services sector. The role of Kazakhstan is increasingly important because it demonstrates that, first, you have a country that, by being prepared to open up its economy, has achieved significant advance – and that's an important lesson. And secondly, you have many different ethnic and religious groupings and they are living together and Kazakhstan is making progress as a whole, as a country, and that's an important lesson as well. Particularly in this region, we need stable partners and I think there is a whole new and different relationship that Europe should have with Kazakhstan where we recognize that strategic importance. And I would like to see Britain be a leading partner of Kazakhstan in that endeavour, not just for trade and economic reasons but for political ones too."[6]

Kazakhstan – Way Forward

A RAF Lockheed TriStar in Almaty Airport. September 2007

Nazarbayev gave a speech at a business seminar entitled "Kazakhstan– Way Forward," to 300 British businessmen, in which he discussed Kazakhstan's GDP, which is expected to soon pass USD $6,000, that Britain is the third largest investor in Kazakhstan, and that there are 128 British companies currently investing in Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev told his audience, "Kazakhstan is no longer part of the Soviet Union, not part of Russia, and there is no need to look at it as if it were. As you see, Kazakhstan is a scene of liberal politics, liberal economics, and we wish that all the countries of the region would follow our example, walk in our footsteps in that we have created better conditions for our people than our neighbors." Other representatives who spoke at the seminar worked for Kazyna Fund, Samruk State Holdings, RFCA, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.[4]

Martin Ferstl, chairman of Shell Oil in Kazakhstan, said that Shell invested $3 billion in Kazakhstan between 1993 and 2006. He praised the "legal and regulatory framework" for being "clear, unambiguous, and implementable" when it comes to foreign investment. Another speaker, Sauat Mynbayev, acting chairman of Samruk State Holding company, took the opportunity to announce that four companies based in Kazakhstan were going to sell shares on the London Stock Exchange.[4]

Hindus in Kazakhstan

Prime Minister Blair raised the issue of the treatment of Hindus in Kazakhstan when he met with Nazarbayev as riot police and bulldozers demolished a Hindu temple and five houses of Kazakh Hindus in Karasai District, Kazakhstan.[9] Forum 18, a nonprofit organization that advocates for religious freedom, documented alleged government harassment of Hindus.[10]

MP Ashok Kumar tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons stating, "This House, prior to the visit of the President of Kazakhstan, condemns the harassment of and discrimination against Hindu minorities in Kazakhstan; notes that Hindus in the Karasai district have had land, barns and cows confiscated, have been threatened with demolition of their houses, and denied the right to own land. It further notes that Kazakh Hindus who applied for ownership of their houses were asked to declare that they were not Hindus, while non-Hindus who made similar applications were immediately granted ownership rights; acknowledges that the Supreme Court reviewed two cases regarding Hindu cottages and ruled against Hindus without inviting the plaintiffs to the hearings."[9]

Sacha Baron Cohen and Borat

Ambassador Idrissov is best known in the West for his criticism of Borat Sagdiyev, the fictional Kazakh journalist and alter ego of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Idrissov complained that Cohen's portrayal of Kazakhstan is far from the reality of the "increasingly modern, prosperous, secular state" that is Kazakhstan. A spokesman for the British Foreign Office denied that relations between Kazakhstan and the UK were poor.[11] President Nazarbayev laughed at Cohen's movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, saying, "This film was created by a comedian so let's laugh at it – that's my attitude."[12]


"Britain is already playing a significant role in the development of Kazakhstan in many areas. We want to see that role continue and expand."

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair[13]


External links