President of the Swiss Confederation and Chairperson-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Didier Burkhalter visited Astana Nov. 20-21 to discuss with Kazakh officials political and economic cooperation with Kazakhstan and the OSCE’s response to the Ukrainian crisis.
Burkhalter met with President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, Speaker of Kazakhstan’s Senate Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov and other officials.
During Nazarbayev’s visit to Switzerland in January 2014, he and Burkhalter agreed that their countries share the same positions on many global and regional security issues and agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation, as well as cooperation within international organisations.
During Burkhalter’s visit, the presidents discussed the OSCE’s priorities, particularly in terms of establishing peace in Ukraine.
“This year required considerable efforts from the Swiss chairmanship of the OSCE, especially concerning settlement of the situation in Ukraine and other events [in the world]. Kazakhstan chaired the Organisation in 2010 and [during our chairmanship] the Astana Declaration was adopted. Our country has relevant experience, and we hope that it will be used,” Nazarbayev said.
During the meeting at the Akorda presidential residence, the two leaders also focused on cooperation in trade and economy, investment, education and culture.
Nazarbayev noted that relations between the two countries have great potential for development. He added that in the framework of Kazakhstan’s industrialisation policy, Swiss companies can participate in engineering, pharmacy, chemical and infrastructure construction projects.
Later on during the first day of his visit, Burkhalter met with Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov. The Kazakh diplomat confirmed Astana’s support for the work of the Swiss OSCE chairmanship and appreciation of its contributions to solving the problems facing the organisation.
Discussing the situation in Ukraine and around it, Idrissov stressed that Kazakhstan is committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Eastern European country through a national dialogue involving international mediation.
Speaking during the UN General Assembly in New York last September, Idrissov stated Kazakhstan’s position in the following way: “It is in our interest that Ukraine remains a sovereign, stable and independent state. Kazakhstan is deeply concerned about the confrontation in which thousands of civilians have died. It has caused deep economic problems and a growing humanitarian crisis. From the outset, we have done all we can to stabilise the situation. Kazakhstan is clear in its belief that any conflict should be resolved peacefully.”
Astana continues providing practical assistance to help stabilise the situation in Ukraine. Within the framework of international organisations, Kazakhstan has provided $40,000 to support the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, which has paid special attention to the implementation of agreements to stop combat actions. The special monitoring mission has been acknowledged as a relevant instrument of the OSCE, demonstrating the organisation’s effort to respond effectively and swiftly to crises. Kazakhstan has also been reviewing specifics of providing humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
On bilateral issues, Idrissov underlined that Kazakhstan considers Switzerland a reliable and important partner and is interested in long-term and beneficial cooperation. A high level of confidence in the political sphere was noted between Astana and Bern. The two sides commended dynamically developing bilateral trade and economic relations, as well as cooperation in the political sphere between Kazakh-Swiss inter-parliamentary groups.
Following the meeting, Idrissov and Burkhalter, who also serves as Swiss federal councillor for foreign affairs (foreign minister), signed a memorandum of understanding between the foreign ministries of Kazakhstan and Switzerland.
Switzerland is one of the largest trading partners and investors in Kazakhstan. Last year, trade turnover between the two countries was $4.5 billion. Since 2005, Swiss investments in the Kazakh economy have totalled more than $12 billion. Today, more than 40 Kazakh-Swiss joint ventures operate in Kazakhstan.