(Washington, DC--May 2, 2001) Erlan Idrissov, the foreign minister of Kazakhstan, told an RFE/RL briefing today that Astana seeks to promote stability at home and abroad.
Acknowledging that Kazakhstan had gone through a number of "teething problems" in its first decade of independence, Idrissov said that his government is committed to combining economic and political development at home with cooperative relationships along both an east-west and a north-south axis.
Idrissov argued that Kazakhstan has now moved beyond the economic problems that it suffered two and three years ago and is in a position to promote the diversification of its economy and the rise of a strong middle class, one capable of supporting a democratic form of government.
Because of the Soviet inheritance, the government has had to take the lead in all of these developments, Idrissov said, but now there are a sufficient number of private entrepreneurs and non-governmental organizations that the government no longer has to act unilaterally.
Noting that Kazakhstan lies in "a very challenging part of the world, sandwiched between Russia and China and between Russia and the southern belt," Idrissov stressed that Kazakhstan's government seeks to promote stability as a precondition for domestic development.
He stressed that Astana now has developed strong ties with China and Japan while not turning away from Russia. Such an approach, he said, allows Kazakhstan to serve as an important part of the east-west and north-south trade corridors in Eurasia. Idrissov added that Astana views the West as a source of Kazakhstan's reform values and sees American interests in Kazakhstan and its neighbors as entirely normal and natural.
In other comments, Idrissov said that his government views Afghanistan as a major source of the Islamist threat to stability and territorial integrity in Central Asia and noted that one of the reasons that Astana puts so much hope in the Shanghai Five group is that these countries share that view and commitment to oppose instability.
Indeed, he suggested, the Shanghai Five has already grown into what he called the Shanghai process and this summer will expand its functions into a variety of sectors in addition to security and confidence building measures.