Foreign Minister talks with Karzai, Clinton
By Hal Foster
On a day when the world was riveted on Afghanistan’s security future, Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev told President Hamid Karzai a story about another dimension of the future.
The two were discussing Kazakhstan’s offer to help Afghanistan develop its petroleum and mineral resources, which a U.S. Geological Survey report last month estimated at a staggering $1 trillion, according to Central Asia Newswire.
Saudabayev said that when Kazakhstan became independent in the early 1990s, it was in a similar economic situation to Afghanistan today – filled with natural resources but poor.
On a trip that President Nursultan Nazarbayev made to Saudi Arabia in 1994, Saudabayev said, the Kazakhstan delegation expressed admiration at the prosperity they saw.
The Saudi leader King Sahd replied: “We were once poor nomads like you, but we were lucky enough to have oil.”
If Kazakhstan develops its natural resources wisely, the king said, “you will be rich as well.”
Karzai, who is aware of Kazakhstan’s rapid economic development, got the message, according to Roman Vassilenko, a Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Saudabayev’s and Karzai’s one-on-one discussion came on the sidelines of a headline-generating international conference at which Karzai pledged that Afghanistan would provide for its own security by 2014.
Although Saudabayev and Karzai touched on economic development, security also took center stage in their one-on-one discussions.
Saudabayev invited Karzai to an OSCE summit in Astana this fall – and Karzai accepted.
Kazakhstan on January 1 became the first country in the former Soviet Union to chair the organization. Nazarbayev began calling for the organization’s first summit in 11 years even before January 1, saying the OSCE needed to refocus on its original role of security.
Karzai “has supported the idea of a summit with a focus on Afghanistan all along,” Vassilenko said.
The summit also is likely to address the situation in Kyrgyzstan and reforming the OSCE so it can do a better job of responding to crises.
In their economic discussions, Saudabayev told Karzai that Kazakhstan could be useful in Afghanistan’s development.
“We have the technology and we are close neighbors,” Vassilenko quoted Saudabayev as saying.
Tuesday marked the third meeting between Saudabayev and Karzai in Kabul in nine months.
The two signed an agreement on educational and cultural cooperation in November of 2009 under which 1,000 Afghan students will attend Kazakhstan universities and vocational schools in the next five years. The first 200 students will arrive this fall.
Saudabayev, in his new role of OSCE chairman in office, also met Karzai in May of this year.
The two discussed Afghan security, an OSCE summit and Kazakhstan’s offer to train Afghan police and border guards in Kazakhstan, which Karzai accepted.
In addition to Karzai, Saudabayev had one-on-one talks Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other diplomats.
The conference attracted 40 foreign ministers and other top international officials.
Saudabayev and Clinton discussed the need to find a two-day slot for the OSEC summit, which the United States signed off on at an OSCE foreign ministers meeting in Almaty on Saturday.
Saudabayev had suggested October 29 and 30, but European officials said those days would conflict with important events on the continent.
That means the summit is likely to come later, perhaps in November.
Clinton did not indicate whether President Barack Obama would attend the summit, Vassilenko said.
Clinton expressed American appreciation for Nazarbayev signing an agreement on July 8 allowing U.S. armored personnel carriers to cross Kazakhstan by train, Vassilenko said.
In October of 2001, just a month after the 9-11 attacks, Kazakhstan became one of the first countries near Afghanistan to allow U.S. planes involved in the war effort to fly through its airspace.
Saudabayev and Clinton discussed the Kyrgyzstan situation at length, Vassilenko said.
“Kazakhstan’s leadership in Kyrgyzstan has been essential,” Vassilenko quoted her as saying.
Ban told Saudabayev that the special U.N. and OSCE envoys dealing with the Kyrgyzstan situation had done a good job of working together to head off further violence.
Saudabayev briefed Ban on the OSCE’s plan to deploy 52 police trainers in Kyrgyzstan, Vassilenko said.
The organization works on consensus, so all 56 member countries must approve the deployment. Vassilenko said that may happen this week.
Saudabayev and Ban also discussed the International Day Against Nuclear Tests that the United Nations General Assembly approved unanimously in June of 2009.
Nazarbayev had proposed the day, which is scheduled for August 29, the 51st
anniversary of the Soviet Union’s first test of a nuclear weapon at the Semipalatinsk testing site in northeast Kazakhstan.
The Soviets set off 500 nukes at the site from 1949 until the 1980s.
Nazarbayev ordered the site dismantled in 1991, even before Kazakhstan became independent, angering Kremlin leaders. He chose the anniversary of the first test, August 29, to issue the order.
Kazakhstan believes the anti-nuclear day “will be helpful as we all try to move toward a world without nuclear weapons,” Vassilenko said.
In addition to pledging that Afghanistan would provide for its own defense by 2014, Karzai vowed in his conference address to try to end the fighting.
He said he wanted to see a country that could flourish, lifting its “people from poverty to prosperity and from insecurity to stability.”
“Our location in the center of the new Silk Road makes us a convergence point of regional and global economic interests,” he said.
The government’s vision, he said, “is to be the peaceful meeting place of civilizations.”
NATO forces have been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for nine years.
Many people in the countries that have provided the anti-Taliban forces are tired of the bloodshed and the cost of the war – and want it to end, according to Central Asia Newswire.