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News Bulletin No 23

Kazakhstan channels humanitarian aid to Georgia, South Ossetia
CIS must be involved in settling Georgia – South Ossetia conflict, say Kazakh and Kyrgyz leaders
OSCE Centre in Astana organizes discussion of Kazakhstan penal reform
Outgoing US Ambassador meets with senior Kazakh officials

Ipic creates $1bn fund to invest in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan: Steppe by step
Chabad to Open New Jewish Center in Kazakhstan

Category: General
Posted by: admin

News Bulletin
Released by the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United States of America


No 23 August 18, 2008


• Kazakhstan channels humanitarian aid to Georgia, South Ossetia
• CIS must be involved in settling Georgia – South Ossetia conflict, say Kazakh and Kyrgyz leaders
• OSCE Centre in Astana organizes discussion of Kazakhstan penal reform
• Outgoing US Ambassador meets with senior Kazakh officials


• Ipic creates $1bn fund to invest in Kazakhstan


• Kazakhstan: Steppe by step
• Chabad to Open New Jewish Center in Kazakhstan



Kazakhstan channels humanitarian aid to Georgia, South Ossetia

Ferghana News

Kazakhstan’s government will send humanitarian aid to the victims of Georgia – South Ossetia conflict, Kazakh Prime-Minister’s press service reports.

President Nursultan Nazarbaev ordered to use a special emergency fund to finance the humanitarian program.

The humanitarian relief package contains foodstuff, medical supplies, clothing as well as construction materials.

Kazakhstan is asking all the parties involved in conflict to ensure favorable conditions for international humanitarian aid.


CIS must be involved in settling Georgia – South Ossetia conflict, say Kazakh and Kyrgyz leaders


Presidents Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan and Kurmanbek Bakiev of Kyrgyzstan opine that the CIS countries must be involved in the settlement of the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia.

The two leaders voiced this stance at an informal meeting in the Wednesday evening in Cholpon-Ata, said Nazarbaev’s press service.

The two presidents agree that the CIS as an international organization should not stand apart from the conflict settlement, according to a press release from Nazarbaev’s press service. “A failure of the CIS countries to take joint actions to stabilize the situation in the conflict area can entail an insurmountable crisis of the CIS,” it reads.

“The entire world community has recognized the principle of territorial integrity. In the documents adopted within the CIS we all oppose separatism. But intricate inter-ethnic issues should be settled through peaceful means and talks. There is no military way of handling such conflicts,” Nazarbaev said as quoted by his press service.

“That is why we hail the cease-fire statements by the presidents of Russia and Georgia and a start of their talks. We hope these negotiations will be successful and will not enable such slaughter in the future,” President Nazarbaev pointed out.

In turn, the president of Kyrgyzstan that currently chairs the CIS outlined the consultations by the diplomatic agencies of Kyrgyzstan with the CIS partners, said the press service.

“Our foreign minister remains in touch with his counterparts. Everyone condemns what has happened. But levers are essential to handle such complicate issues. It is necessary to find ways out of such problems at the level of the council of CIS presidents to avoid casualties,” the press services quotes Bakiev as saying.

According to the statement, the presidents of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan first of all covered the developments in Georgia at their meeting and offered sincere condolence to the families of the killed.

“We are deeply dissatisfied with what has happened there,” Nazarbaev indicated.

“We all saw on the TV that Tskhinvali was completely damaged. Georgia is likely to have sustained heavy damages as well. It is indeed a humanitarian disaster for grassroots,” he said.

The Kazakh leader stated that he directed his government to deliver humanitarian aid to the conflict zone as soon as possible.


OSCE Centre in Astana organizes discussion of Kazakhstan penal reform

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

ASTANA, 14 August 2008 - Ways to improve the Kazakhstan penitentiary system and penal legislation is the focus of a discussion in Astana today.

The event was jointly organized by the OSCE Centre in Astana and the local non-governmental organization the Legal Policy Research Centre (LPRC) in the framework of an OSCE-funded project on strengthening legal policy dialogue in Kazakhstan.

The meeting brought together representatives of the Presidential Administration, the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Justice Ministry, the Constitutional Council, the Supreme Court, the Commission for Human Rights, and Parliament, as well as experts from local and international NGOs, scholars and lawyers.

"The OSCE welcomes Kazakhstan's recent efforts to improve the penitentiary system. At the same time, more needs to be done to further develop the legislation, the medical care system for prisoners, and the interaction and co-operation with civil society," said Ambassador Alexandre Keltchewsky, the Head of the OSCE Centre.

"It is necessary to ensure maximum transparency of all penitentiary facilities and guarantee the rights of prisoners in accordance with international human rights standards."

Vera Tkachenko, LPRC Director, added: "From 2000 to 2004, Kazakhstan has accomplished several legislative and institutional reforms that allowed prison conditions to be improved considerably. However, there is concern over the growth of prisoners in the past two years and the lack of probation services and a system of alternative punishments. There is a need for a balanced, consistent penal policy under the Justice Ministry's civil unit which could be elaborated in close co-operation with civil society to tackle current problems and to adequately respond to challenges ahead."

Meeting participants will also discuss issues relating to the introduction and development of a probation system, an alternative to imprisonment punishments and restrictive measures for less serious crimes, as well as the creation of an independent state agency that would run the penitentiary system in the country.

A number of recommendations are expected to be proposed to the main stakeholders to reform criminal legislation and develop alternative punishments in light of expected administrative reforms in Kazakhstan.


Outgoing US Ambassador meets with senior Kazakh officials
Kazakh news agencies

Due to the forthcoming completion of his diplomatic posting to Kazakhstan, Mr. John Ordway, US Ambassador to the republic since 2004, has met with a number of high-ranking Kazakh officials.
Chairman of Kazakhstan’s Senate, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, expressed to Ambassador Ordway his appreciation for Ambassador’s significant personal contribution into the development of friendly relations between the two nations, and presented the diplomat with a letter of gratitude emphasizing John Ordway’s efforts on enhancing the bilateral political dialogue and supporting Kazakhstan’s international initiatives. 
During his meeting with Ambassador Ordway Kazakhstan’s State secretary, Mr. Kanat Saudabayev, thanked him for his outstanding work on strengthening and developing Kazakh-American strategic partnership.
"Mr. Ordway has been US Ambassador to Kazakhstan for four years, during which the level of trade and investment cooperation between our countries increased significantly, bilateral ties were reinforced in many areas," Secretary Saudabayev said.
"It is a great honor and pleasure for me to represent my nation in such a beautiful country as Kazakhstan. Great changes have taken place in recent years in Kazakhstan, and this is the result of the efforts by the nation, by the president and our partnership. Our countries have always been partners, and they support a good dialogue at the highest level. I am confident that our strategic partnership will continue and will be further developed in future," Ambassador Ordway said at the meeting.
Besides, Ambassador Ordway met with other Kazakh officials, including the Interior Minister, Mr. Baurzhan Mukhamedjanov.

Ipic creates $1bn fund to invest in Kazakhstan
The National, United Arab Emirates
The International Petroleum Investment Company (Ipic), an Abu Dhabi Government investment fund, and the government of Kazakhstan will invest US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) in oil and gas projects in the Central Asian country.
The newly created Falah Fund’s launch comes a week after Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, concluded a three-day visit to Kazakhstan amid a blossoming of cultural and economic ties between the two oil exporting countries.
“The Falah Fund investment positions Ipic at the core of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States], with partners who already know the territories and the opportunities in this resource-rich, relatively undeveloped region,” Ipic said yesterday.
The Falah fund will be half owned by Ipic and various entities in Kazakhstan’s government will take the remaining shares.
Much like the UAE, the Kazakh economy is booming on the back of record revenues from oil and gas. Earlier this year, the two governments announced the creation of a $4bn fund to invest in projects in Kazakhstan and abroad. Ipic has already said it would invest $5bn in a petrochemical plant in the western part of the country.
Kazakhstan has a relatively undeveloped downstream oil and gas sector and welcomed the infusion of cash, said Aidarbek Toumatov, the minister counsellor at the Kazakhstan Embassy. He singled out the petrochemical plant investment as a key part of the infrastructure buildup. “We are planning to build several such chemical plants in Kazakhstan. This will be the first one,” he said.
Kazakhstan, about half the population of which is Muslim, sees itself as a bridging point between East and West, and officials believe it could learn from the experience of the UAE in diversifying its economy away from oil and gas.
Emirati companies have already invested billions of dirhams in property, a mosque, transport, aluminium and clay projects in the country. Kazakhstan could also exploit its status as a major wheat exporter to become a key food supplier to the UAE, analysts said.
Ipic has grown in prominence in the past few years as it has recycled increasing amounts of UAE oil revenues into energy related investments.
Khadem al Qubaisi, the managing director, said Ipic generated a profit of $1.2bn last year on total investments of $14bn.
“We have built our portfolio – now worth around $14bn – with synergistic potential as well as commercial return in mind,” he said. “Ipic’s portfolio has significantly outperformed the S&P Energy 500 over the last five years, and we are very proud of this accomplishment.”
In the next several years, Mr Qubaisi said he hoped the size of Ipic’s portfolio would triple, riding the wave of a favourable international investment climate for hydrocarbons.
In the near future, he added, Ipic would occupy its own 36-storey building in Abu Dhabi.
Ipic’s most recent venture was the creation of a $1.5bn fund in partnership with Man Investments to put money into regional projects to capture natural gas, which is extracted in association with oil and normally burnt as a waste product.
The company is also building oil refineries in Pakistan and Morocco and holds a two per cent stake in Energia de Portugal, the largest Portuguese utility. In March, Ipic said it was teaming up with the Qatar Investment Authority to create a $2bn fund to invest in the energy sector.
Closer to home, Ipic is building what it has described as the largest integrated chemical complex in the world at Taweelah – in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Investment Council and Borealis, an international plastics maker – in which it owns a 65 per cent share.

The company’s foray into Kazakhstan will almost certainly be followed by other Emirati companies.

The UAE is now the main trade partner for Kazakhstan in the region. Statistics from the Kazakh foreign ministry show trade between the two countries stood at $303 million last year, and $139.7m between January and May this year.

The BP Statistical Review, an authoritative source on world oil reserves, said Kazakhstan had 39.8 billion barrels of proved reserves of oil, which would make it the world’s ninth-largest holder of oil, above Nigeria and behind Libya. The review said the UAE had 97.8 billion barrels.



Kazakhstan: Steppe by step

The Independent, by Jerome Taylor

For those who like their solitude, there are few places quite as expansive and lonesome as the steppes of Kazakhstan. Like the great plains of east Africa or the vast North American prairie, a seemingly endless carpet of wild grass stretches and sways long into the distance. The smallest hills, where they exist, offer a panoramic view of the horizon.

Look towards the heavens, and the sky above appears simply enormous. So extensive is the view that you can often see separate weatherfronts tumble across the steppe. On one side, shafts of golden sunlight shoot through gaps in the clouds like enormous earthbound searchlights. In the opposite direction, bruised and angry storm clouds unleash a similarly spectacular symphony of lightning and rain to drench what seems like the equivalent of a small country in seconds.

After the long, continental summer, winter temperatures often drop to minus 20C, blanketing the ground in a thick layer of ice and snow for months on end. Then, for just the briefest of spring moments, the land erupts in a riot of colourful tulips before the hot winds arrive once more.

It was on these steppes that some of the world's greatest nomadic empires flourished. As their armies galloped towards Europe, Attila's Huns and Genghis Khan's Mongols cemented in the Western world's popular imagination the idea of the dreaded eastern horde, a virtually unconquerable land of warring tribes that supposedly threatened to overrun Christendom at any moment.

Of course, nowadays, most Westerners who find themselves in Kazakhstan are there for the vast lakes of oil and gas that lie below ground. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhs finally gained their freedom after 200 years of Russian domination, and opened up their borders and oil wells to the outside world. International oilmen have flocked like moths to a flame ever since. Tourists, however, are still few and far between. But those who do choose to holiday in central Asia's largest and most prosperous nation discover an enormous land mass featuring plains, mountains, lakes and shining modern cities, that for once truly deserves to be described as out of the ordinary.

The oddities of Kazakhstan come thick and fast, not least when you're sitting down to a traditional meal. My guide, Dorjem, winked at me as he prepared to order from the Cyrillic menu before us. "There's an old Kazakh proverb," he said. "Only wolves eat more meat than Kazakhs." Vegetarians beware – he wasn't wrong. The first dish was besparmak – literally, "five fingers" – a traditional nomadic dish of horse meat and flat noodles, which, as the name suggests, is eaten with the hands. We forwent the equally traditional sheep's head (reserved for truly honoured guests, not scruffy backpacking writers) and opted instead for kaza, a plate of hot and cold horse-meat sausages, followed by an enormous horse shashlik, or kebab. When I asked Dorjem whether there was any bit of the horse Kazakhs don't eat, the wink was replaced by a grin. "Ah," he said, "you need to try kumis."

Kumis, a pungent and salty drink of fermented mare's milk, is possibly the ultimate acquired taste. But to Kazakhs, who prize their horses above all animals, it is their most cherished delicacy. In the desert regions of the south-west, towards neighbouring Uzbekistan, shubat, a slightly less acrid version made from camel's milk, is the preferred tipple. Either way, few and far between are the foreigners who manage to avoid a grimace on their first sip of either drink.

But for those who think Kazakhstan is simply a land of rural isolation, think again. Soviet industrialisation, in particular Khrushchev's "Virgin Lands" programme of the 1950s, not only turned vast swathes of the Kazakh steppe into ultimately disastrous farmland, it also herded huge numbers of Kazakhs into the belching machinery of the modern industrialised city. A land that 300 years ago barely contained a sizeable settlement now houses three out of five of its people in towns and cities.

Yet Kazakhstan's cities are as much a part of the country's historical soul as its steppes and mountains – and travellers would do well to visit them. The north-eastern town of Semey, where Dostoyevsky spent some years in exile, looks like just another middle-of-the-road Soviet hub. That is, until you discover that it was just outside the city that the USSR tested all its nuclear weapons (Kazakhstan has since become the only country in the world to voluntarily give up its nuclear arsenal).

A former living nuclear test-chamber might not sound like much of a draw, but touring Semey and its series of poignant museums, is to take a journey into a forgotten corner of the Cold War's deadly legacy. When asked sensitively, older locals will happily regale an inquisitive traveller with tales of how mysterious columns of soldiers and scientists arriving in the town would often foreshadow the even more mysterious flashes of bright white light that could make day out of night. Semey, like Auschwitz or the killing fields, books simply cannot illustrate.

Despite the often deadly legacy of Soviet rule – the environmental catastrophe that is the Aral Sea, drained of life, is just another of many lethal bequests that spring to mind – Kazakhs themselves are infectiously optimistic about the future. Unlike the neighbouring "Stans", theirs escaped the type of civil strife that once threatened to tear Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan apart, while the country's popular, strong-arm leader, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, looks positively puppy-like compared with his more viciously autocratic neighbours in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan is also a world away from another former Soviet Republic, Georgia, and unlikely to be in the sights of the Kremlin in Moscow.

Kazakhstan's comparatively relaxed bureaucracy makes it by far the easiest country in the region for which to get a visa. It also makes the nation the most traveller-friendly, with five-star hotels and experienced tour operators for those looking for luxury, and an equally good network of backpacking hostels for those on tighter budgets.

Nowhere is the future Kazakhstan more apparent than in the shiny new capital Astana, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Once a dusty town with a couple of hundred thousand inhabitants and a bankrupted industrial quarter, Astana has been transformed into a city of skyscrapers and outlandish architectural projects. This is thanks to President Nazarbayev's pharaonic building complex, and an estimated £7bn of investment. Some 1,700 cranes are currently working on 650 sites in a city that's expected to have 1.5 million inhabitants by 2030.

Walking through Astana's streets is a surreal experience. The inhabitants of Paris must have felt something similar in the mid-19th century as Baron Haussmann, under the orders of Napoleon III, tore down vast tracts of the city to fashion a brand new capital fit for an empire. Astana's Haussmann is none other than British architect Sir Norman Foster, who has been instrumental in some of Nazarbayev's wackier projects. One such is the so-called Palace of Peace and Accord, a 62m-high glass-and-steel pyramid built opposite the sprawling Presidential Palace. Conceived with the typical aplomb of any Central Asian leader as a place where the world's religions could meet under one roof to discuss their differences, the pyramid was constructed in less than a year thanks to the Kazakh army being drafted in to help. Inside is a 1,500-seat opera theatre, rooms to cater for every one of the world's religions, and a glass atrium painted with giant white doves by the British artist Brian Clarke.

Across the Ishim river, giant blinging skyscrapers made entirely out of golden glass hold the vast bureaucracies and ministries that appear to be a staple ingredient of any former Soviet bloc country. (Incidentally, my favourite bureaucratic adventure in Kazakhstan involved having to provide the serial numbers of all my cameras, lenses and flash units before being allowed to interview the Prime Minister near one of these buildings.)

A couple of kilometres further down the city's central boulevard – itself a pantheon of peculiar buildings – are the beginnings of Norman Foster's next Astana creation, an indoor city for 10,000 people made of glass in the shape of a yurt. Nervous guards let me take a picture of the concrete foundations of the Khan Shatyry (Royal Tent), which currently looks like something out of Area 51. However gaudy an idea, it will undoubtedly be breathtaking when finished next year.

What Astana lacks is the feeling of a living, breathing city – which is why many travellers head to the old capital Almaty. Located at the foot of the Tian Shan, a majestic black mountain range that rises out of the steppe and climbs its way towards the Tibetan plateau, Almaty is Kazakhstan's cultural and financial capital, and a great place to kick back and enjoy the usual distractions of a thoroughly modern, multicultural city.

My guide, Kwanysh Abzhanov, was a 25-year-old London-educated banker, and typical of the infectiously optimistic international youngsters that fill Almaty's modern bars and cafés. Driving around in his gleaming 4x4, he refused to let me pay for anything, explaining, despite my protestations, that Kazakhs always look after their guests. When I asked whether he resented what the Soviet Union did to his country, he laughed. "You have to understand that it's not in the Kazakh nature to get angry or want revenge," he says. "Kazakhs welcome everybody into their tent, that's what we've always done."

Later, as Kwanysh waved me off at the airport and promised to meet up with me at his favourite Kazakh restaurant when he was next in London, I found myself suddenly and inexplicably looking forward to my next glass of fermented mare's milk.

Traveller's Guide

Getting there

Air Astana (01293 596 622; www.airastana. com) flies direct from Heathrow to Almaty; and KLM (08705 074074; www.klm.com) flies from a range of airports via Amsterdam. Astana is served by Lufthansa (0870 837 7747; www.lufthansa. co.uk) via Frankfurt.

Trips can be organised with tour operators such as Steppes Travel (01285 651 010; www.steppestravel.co.uk) and Regent Holidays (0870 499 0911; www.regent-holidays.co.uk).

Red tape & more details

British passport-holders require a visa to visit Kazakhstan. These can be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 33 Thurloe Square, London SW7 2SD (020-7590 3485; www.kazakhstan embassy.org.uk); or the Consulate of Kazakhstan, 10 North Silver Street, Aberdeen AB10 1RL (01224 622 465). Single-entry visas cost £20 for stays of up to three months.

10 facts about Kazakhstan

* Nikolai Vavilov, the Soviet geneticist, discovered that apples originated in Kazakhstan. The Russian name for Almaty, Alma-Ata, means Father of Apples.

* Due to the USSR's mass exiling of dissidents to gulags in Kazakhstan, it's now one of the most racially varied countries in the region, containing some 100 different ethnicities.

* In Kazakhstan, a berkutchy or "eagle ruler" (pictured) traditionally hunts from horseback using golden eagles.

* Between 1949 and 1989, the USSR tested more than 500 nuclear devices at the Semipalatinsk Polygon in north-eastern Kazakhstan – the equivalent of 20,000 Hiroshima bombs.

* Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world but has one of the lowest population densities: 14 people for every square kilometre (Britain has 246 per square kilometre).

* Kazakh oil reserves are approximately 35 billion barrels, enough to satisfy the world's energy needs for a year. The government estimates that this will rise to 100 billion barrels by 2015.

* Kazakhstan's most famous archaeological find, a Scythian warrior clad in gold armour and known as the Golden Man, may well have been a woman.

* Lake Balkhash, Central Asia's second-biggest, is half-saltwater, half-freshwater.

* In 2000, Kazakhstan became the first former Soviet republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund, seven years ahead of schedule.

* Kazakhstan has some of the largest metal deposits in the world, and was one of the USSR's major sources of metals.

Chabad to Open New Jewish Center in Kazakhstan


Karaganda, the second largest city in the Kazakhstan republic, will soon benefit from full time Chabad representatives.

Rabbi Chaim Shalom and Chaya Mushka Segal, and their baby, Levi Yitzchok, will be leaving their native Israel after the High Holy Days to serve the local Jewish community in this industrial, Muslim city.
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Jewish population numbers are roughly estimated at about 1,000.  Presently, a Jewish school, also run by Ohr Avner, with 100 students, which also houses the city’s only shul, is the only Jewish facility serving the community.

“One of our first projects will be to open a proper community shul,” says Rabbi Segal. A Jewish library and a mikveh, he says, will follow. At present, the nearest mikveh is a three-hour driving distance in the capital, Astana.

High on the Segal's priority list will be make kosher food available, and evaluating the need for social services such as a kosher soup kitchen or meals-on-wheels.

Asked whether they are concerned about anti-Semitism in this largely Muslim country, Rabbi Segal says, to the contrary:  “There is less anti-Semitism in Kazakhstan than in other parts of the former Soviet Union.

“There have been no reported attacks or vandalism against Jewish institutions in this country.”

The Segals are joining two other Ohr Avner Chabad representatives in Kazakhstan: Rabbi Naparstek in Almaty and Rabbi Mendy Gershowitz, also in Almaty, who will assist the young couple settling into their position.

News Bulletin of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Contact person: Zhanbolat Ussenov
Tel.: 202-232-5488 ext 104; Fax: 202-232-5845
E-mail: zhan@kazakhembus.com