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09/24/08

News Bulletin No 26


POLITICS
Kazakhstan, NATO Hold Joint Military Exercises

ECONOMY
Kazakhstan works to avoid new grain export ban
Kazakhstan says wins support for uranium exchange
Shell poised to sign deal with Kazakhstan on oil joint venture

OTHER NEWS
Kazakhstan’s Alexander Mashkevich Honored With John Paul II Wellspring of Freedom Award
Conde Nast Traveler issues its new report on Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan's judges to share experience with Turkmen colleagues
Steven O'Hara takes joint third in Kazakhstan Open
Astana makes pitch to sign Armstrong
 

Category: General
Posted by: admin

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

 

No 26 September 24, 2008

POLITICS

• Kazakhstan, NATO Hold Joint Military Exercises

ECONOMY

• Kazakhstan works to avoid new grain export ban
• Kazakhstan says wins support for uranium exchange
• Shell poised to sign deal with Kazakhstan on oil joint venture

OTHER NEWS

• Kazakhstan’s Alexander Mashkevich Honored With John Paul II Wellspring of Freedom Award
• Conde Nast Traveler issues its new report on Kazakhstan
• Kazakhstan's judges to share experience with Turkmen colleagues
• Steven O'Hara takes joint third in Kazakhstan Open
• Astana makes pitch to sign Armstrong


POLITICS

Kazakhstan, NATO Hold Joint Military Exercises

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

ILI MILITARY RANGE, Kazakhstan (Reuters) -- Kazakhstan has held joint military exercises with NATO, a move likely to irritate Russia, which sees the Central Asian state as part of its traditional sphere of interest.

Moscow, already angry at NATO's support for Georgia after Russia's military conflict with the Caucasus state, has accused the Western alliance of trying to poach its traditional allies.

Oil-rich Kazakhstan, which has maneuvered carefully between Russia and the West, used the September 23 war games with NATO to call for closer ties with the military bloc.

"We want to bring cooperation with NATO to a new level," Defense Minister Daniyal Akhmetov told reporters at the Ili military range during the games, code-named Steppe Eagle and held in the open steppe outside the financial capital, Almaty.

Flanked by two U.S.-made Humvees, Akhmetov said the exercise was part of Kazakhstan's cooperation agreement with NATO to help bring its armed forces up to NATO standards.

The games, though planned in advance, coincided with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Kazakhstan this week.

Kazakhstan has been careful not to antagonize Russia, its key trading partner, and has cautiously supported its actions in Georgia. But, emboldened by its booming oil revenues, it has tried to pursue an increasingly independent foreign policy.

Kazakhstan, which sent a small military unit to Iraq to support U.S. operations there, has snubbed Moscow by not recognizing the independence of Georgia's Russia-backed rebel regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said this year that Kazakhstan may even consider buying weapons from NATO states for the first time if they offer better value.

The United States praised the performance of the Kazakh troops. "They continue to prove that they are fully capable of performing NATO Peace Security Operations," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.

At the games, explosions and gunfire reverberated across the steppe as Kazakh and NATO soldiers carried out war scenarios.

One blast sent a stray flock of sheep running in panic across the steppe as soldiers carrying Soviet-designed Kalashnikov assault rifles patrolled the area in U.S. Humvees.

"It's a different world now," said one U.S. officer who asked not be named. "And it's a good thing."

 

ECONOMY

Kazakhstan works to avoid new grain export ban

Associated Press

Kazakhstan's government on Tuesday approved measures it says will avoid a repeat of the grain export ban it imposed earlier this year.

A draft bill approved by the Cabinet Tuesday allows for duties to be levied on producers and exporters, increased state subsidies for the industry and stronger oversight powers for the government.

Agriculture Minister Akylbek Kurishbayev says the measures will stabilize domestic grain prices and ensure reliable data on the size of grain reserves.

Kazakhstan halted all wheat exports in April in an effort to lower domestic consumer prices for the commodity. The ban was lifted Sept. 1.

The draft bill will be submitted to parliament for approval.

Kazakhstan is the world's fifth-largest grain exporter after the United States, Canada, Russia and Argentina.


Kazakhstan says wins support for uranium exchange

Reuters

Kazakhstan has the support of leading companies to create an international uranium exchange that would help set a transparent market price, a top Kazakh industry official said on Thursday. Kazakhstan is home to a fifth of global uranium reserves and wants to surpass Australia and Canada to become the world's top producer in two years. Its economy heavily dependent on oil, Kazakhstan also sees uranium was a way to diversify.

Mukhtar Dzhakishev, head of Kazakh uranium company Kazatomprom, said global companies such as France's Areva, Cameco Corp and Russian firms had largely agreed to his proposal to set it up as soon as next year.

"Our market doesn't have normal prices, it only has a (spot) indicator which fluctuates along with deliberate speculative actions," he told reporters on the sidelines of a mining conference in the Kazakh financial capital Almaty.

"To introduce the market price, there's been a proposal to set up a bourse to include producers, buyers and financial institutions... It's our idea."

"It will lead to transparency and clarity and create a trading venue," he said. "Many financial institutions are interested and can take part in it as investors."

Other companies could not be reached for comment but one uranium trader in London agreed the move would bring more transparency to the market.

"I think they want to increase the ability to buy and sell uranium a little bit more transparently," the trader said. "I think that is his motive. ... There isn't that much transparency in these markets and he obviously wants that to improve."

Kazatomprom expects to produce 8,800 tonnes of uranium this year, rising to 11,000 tonnes in 2009 and by 2010 it forecasts 15,000 tonnes. By 2015-2016 it expects to produce 27,000 tonnes to fill the shortfall in the market.

Demand for uranium is booming as China, India and Russia build new reactors, and the West seeks to diversify energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Shell poised to sign deal with Kazakhstan on oil joint venture

The Times

Royal Dutch Shell was on the verge of sealing a deal with Kazakhstan yesterday that could lead to taking joint control of one of the world's biggest oilfields.

The Kazakh Government revealed that it was forming a joint venture between the Anglo-Dutch oil giant and KazMunaiGas, the national oil company, to oversee crude production from the giant Kashagan field in the northern part of the Caspian Sea. Sauat Mynbayev, the Energy Minister, said that the joint venture would take control of the field in five years' time after the initial development phase had been completed and commercial production had begun.

The field was identified in the 1990s and is believed to contain 38 billion barrels of oil, making it the largest discovery anywhere in the world for three decades.

Shell is already part of a troubled consortium of international oil companies co-operating on its development, led by Eni, of Italy. As crude prices rose last year, Kazakhstan decided to tear up the original agreement and demanded a bigger slice of the rewards, blaming spiralling costs and project delays.

Kashagan contains vast reserves of oil but is geologically complex and has presented its developers with unprecedented technical challenges. It lies in an earthquake zone, the oil is under extreme pressure and it contains high levels of deadly hydrogen sulphide gas.

Only nine billion of the 38 billion barrels of oil are believed to be recoverable. The Kazakh Government complained that costs had soared to $136 billion (£75 billion) from $57 billion, while the original 2005 production start target had been missed. Talks on the future of the project have been going on for months.

The partners, which include Inpex, of Japan, Total, of France, and Conoco Phillips and ExxonMobil, of the United States, were told that they would be awarded new roles in the project after the initial phase ends.

Shell's emergence as the frontunner in the talks over the future of Kashagan will be seen as a significant victory for the group, which has struggled to boost oil production in recent years.

Shell declined to comment on the discussions, which it said were continuing An agreement is expected to be finalised by October 25. Eni did not return calls seeking comment.

Shell admitted yesterday that attacks on its oil installations in Nigeria would affect its earnings, but it declined to quantify production outages or the extent to which quarterly earnings might suffer.

 

OTHER NEWS

Alexander Machkevich Honored With John Paul II Wellspring of Freedom Award at World Jewish Congress Forum

PRNewswire-USNewswire

UNITED NATIONS, N.Y., Sept 22, 2008 -- The World Jewish Congress American Section and Liberty Publishing today hosted an International Leaders Forum in celebration of Alexander Machkevich's new book, Dialogue of Civilizations: The Next Stage, at the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel.

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy awarded Machkevich with the John Paul II Wellspring of Freedom Award. The late Pope John Paul II, for whom this award was posthumously renamed, was the first recipient and U.S. President George W. Bush was the second recipient in 2005.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, Chairman of the World Jewish Congress, moderated the event which included remarks by Evelyn Sommer, Chair of the North American Jewish Congress, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Russell Simmons, Chairman for the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Imam Mohammad Shamsi Ali, the Head Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, and Dr. John Ruskay of the UJA Federation of New York.

Alexander Machkevich, a citizen of Israel and resident of Kazakhstan, is a self-made billionaire who along with his two partners built a metals and mining business in Kazakhstan-the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation. He also serves as President of Jewish Congress of Kazakhstan, member of Executive committee of European Jewish Congress (EAJC), member of Executive Committee of World Jewish Congress (WJC). In 2002 he was elected EAJC President at the founding convention of Euro-Asian Jewish Congress in Moscow.

The World Jewish Congress American Section is the U.S. affiliate of the World Jewish Congress, the assembly and diplomatic voice of 80 Jewish communities around the world. The American Section is an umbrella of 25 American Jewish organizations. The American Section and the WJC have been instrumental in defending Jewish interests and in building bridges to Christians, Muslims and many other faiths and peoples worldwide.


Kazakhstan (Grand Central Asia report)

Conde Nast Traveler, by David L. Stern
Cities in this remote, arid land are being transformed into post-modern oases, while a growing number of visitors are exploring its mountains, desert, and canyons
Vitals
Best Time to Go: July through September for nature trips; December through March for skiing.
Air Service from the U.S.: KLM, British Airways, and Lufthansa.
Capital: Astana.
Tour Cost: MIR Travel can cus-tomize trip itineraries starting at $300 for two per day for adventure excursions.
Hassle Factor: Medium. Crime against foreigners is rare. Tourist facilities are at times almost primeval, and Western-style service is still a long way off. Use a good tour guide, and bring a healthy dose of patience to minimize annoyances.
Special Safety Concern: None.
For those looking for something well off the beaten path, this ex-Soviet Central Asian state of 17 million—five times the size of France and covered mostly by arid steppe and desert—is a destination that seems geographically and culturally on the edge of the world. Most Westerners know of it through English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's mockumentary Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. But while the movie raised the country's profile, it did nothing for its reputation. The Kazakhstan portrayed in the film bears very little resemblance to the reality. (The Kazakh portion of the movie was actually shot in Romania.)
THE BIG PICTURE
An emerging petro-power with an ethnically mixed population (mostly Kazakh but with a significant Russian-speaking contingent), the country is projected to be the world's ninth-largest producer of oil and gas in ten years. Astana, the capital, and Almaty, the regional business center, bristle with hipper-than-tomorrow cafés, lounge bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, where super-chic patrons ostentatiously, and sometimes obnoxiously, parade their newly acquired wealth. But outside these ultramodern urban landscapes, many people still live in yurts and the country has some truly awe-inspiring natural vistas, elevating it above the category of novelty trip or business destination.
THE DRAW
Kazakhstan has been transformed in the last few years by its new oil riches, so much of the lure of traveling there is to see a country undergoing a rapid and dramatic metamorphosis. Almaty and Astana—post-Soviet cities with soul-crushing cinder block architecture—are reinventing themselves as Central Asian facsimiles of Manhattan and Washington, D.C. Astana was a small, comatose city on the northern steppe (which is geographically part of Siberia) until President Nursultan Nazarbayev decided ten years ago to move the capital there from Almaty, sparking a construction boom. Now, the modern jostles for space with the gaudy. Westerners usually describe this Central Asian Brasília as "otherworldly" and "bizarre," and recommend visiting for a day or two to see one of the world's newest metropolises come into being before your eyes.
Farther south, the Tian Shan, or Celestial Mountains, a continuation of the Himalayas, are like a giant purple curtain hanging over Almaty. In winter, just a 30-minute drive away at the Chimbulak ski resort, a day-pass for the lifts costs about $25 but may soon rise sharply along with Chimbulak's growing popularity as a ski destination. In summer, the mountains are a haven for a multitude of day and overnight treks, including a reasonably easy hike to the base of Khan Tengri, which, at 24,000 feet, is the Tian Shan's second-highest peak. A three-hour drive to the north is the 1,000-foot-deep Charyn Canyon, with its marvelous red-tinged rock formations; the canyon is best visited in late September to avoid the stifling heat. Altyn-Emel State National Park, about 100 miles northeast of Almaty, has caves, waterfalls, Bronze Age petroglyphs, and a natural phenomenon called the "singing sand dunes." These 250-foot-high formations literally hum in loud, low pitches when the wind blows sand down their faces.
Kazakhstan was once part of the ancient Silk Road, but as a nation of nomads—who were brutally herded into collective farms under Soviet rule—it has few physical monuments or structures to showcase its past. The Khoja Ahmed Yasawi mausoleum, in Turkestan, in the southern part of the country, is one notable exception. A 90-minute flight and two-hour car ride away from Almaty, this UNESCO World Heritage Site, where a Muslim Sufi holy man is interred, is a spectacular example of Islamic architecture and has had a far-reaching influence on the style of Islamic religious buildings.
THE DIGS
Kazakhstan is distressingly short on reasonably priced, midmarket accommodations. Hotels range from the expensive to the exorbitant—with little to show for the money you'll spend. Happily, a few Western hotels, which are pretty much interchangeable, offer top-flight service and modern amenities, including high-speed Internet access, a health club and spa, and well-appointed rooms. In Almaty, the Hyatt Regency (7-727-250-1234; doubles, $583–$685) and the InterContinental (7-727-250-5000; doubles, $445–$583) are the oases of choice. Early next year, a Marriott will open next to Almaty's Financial Center (rates have not been set, but the Web site esentai.com has some details). In Astana, three hotels tower above the rest: the InterContinental (7-7172-391-000; doubles, $230–$529), the Radisson SAS (7-7172-660-000; doubles, $526–$600), and the Turkish-run Rixos President Hotel (7-7172-245-050; doubles, $600). Astana's hotels cater to Kazakhstan's political and economic movers and shakers, yet they also provide quirky details—such as the authentic Turkish bath, or hammam, in the basement of the InterContinental.
RESOURCES
MIR, out of Seattle, is the oldest and most reputable travel agency working in Central Asia, providing package tours and trips along the Silk Road (800-424-7289; mircorp.com). In Kazakhstan, Max Travel Star (7-727-272-5070; maxtravel.kz) and Asia-Adventure Tours (7-701-755-2086; asia-adventuretours.com) are the most reliable local options. Asia-Adventure also specializes in extreme sports like helicopter skiing. Other Kazakhstan-based tour offices are Silk Road Adventures (7-3272-926319; silkroadadventures.net) and Stantours (49-721-1515-82400; stantours.com); they employ English-speaking staff who can help craft tailor-made journeys. Two guidebooks have recently been released: A Hedonist's Guide to Almaty and Astana (Filmer Ltd., $19) and Kazakhstan: Nomadic Routes from Caspian to Altai (Odyssey, $25). Be sure to check out Steppe magazine, a biannual publication focusing on the Central Asian history, art, culture, and landscape (steppemagazine.com).

 
Kazakhstan's judges to share experience with Turkmen colleagues

Turkmenistan.ru

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan is hosting a delegation of Turkmen judges who arrived for a ten-day training, Kazinform said quoting the press service of the Kazakh Supreme Court.

The purpose of the visit is to raise the level of Turkmen judges' skills as well as to familiarize them with the experience of Kazakhstan's judiciary reform. The Turkmen delegation will have the opportunity to see the work of the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan, and visit the courts of Astana city and Akmola region. Kazakh judges will inform their colleagues about the judiciary system of Kazakhstan and discuss in detail topics of interest for the Turkmen side.

The visit was organized by the German Association for Technical Cooperation (GTZ). Last year, judges from Kyrgyzstan attended the similar training in Kazakhstan.


Steven O'Hara takes joint third in Kazakhstan Open

Daily Records

Steven O'Hara finished in joint third place at the Kazakhstan Open in Almaty after letting victory slip from his grasp.

O'Hara was looking to capture a first pro career win and despite starting the final round one behind, the Motherwell golfer could only manage a closing-round 72 for an eventual share of third place at 12 under.

Instead Penrith's Gary Lockerbie claimed a maiden tour victory with a closing-day 70 to win by two shots with a 15-under tally of 273.

O'Hara said: "I'm really disappointed as I had such high expectations this week."

The only plus point is that O'Hara has jumped eight places to sixth on the Order of Merit and is assured of joining Lockerbie back on the main tour next season.

David Drysdale carded a 71 to finish ninth on eight under while Aberdeen's Greig Hutcheon was hit with food poisoning on Thursday night and didn't get out of his bed until Sunday morning.

Hutcheon has now pulled out of this week's event Holland.

And Anstruther's George Murray fears he may need surgery on an injured back after withdrawing without hitting a shot in Kazakhstan.

Gwladys Nocera won her ninth women's European Tour title since May 2006 with a record-breaking performance at the Gothenburg Masters in Sweden. The 33-year-old Frenchwoman sealed her fourth title of the year with the best 72-hole score in the LET's 30-year history, finishing with a six-under 66 at Lycke Golf Club to close the tournament on 259.

Scot Vikki Laing suffered a blow when she shot a finalround 78 and failed by one to earn a place in the final LPGA Qualifying School in Florida in December.

Inverness won the Northern Counties Cup for an 11th time when they beat Cruden Bay by eight holes in the Final at Tain.

Kilmacolm teenager Eilidh Briggs was so determined to play for Scotland in today's annual schools international against England at Royal Lytham & St Anne's that her dad drove her to the Lancashire venue last night.


Astana makes pitch to sign Armstrong

Reuters 

Kazakhstan's cycling chief said on Tuesday he was optimistic of signing former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong to compete for Astana next season.

"He (Armstrong) is a great cyclist and he is also a great humanitarian and that makes him a perfect fit for our team," Kazakhstan Defense Minister Danial Akhmetov, who is also president of the country's cycling federation, told Reuters.

Armstrong said this month he would to return to competitive cycling and ride in the 2009 Tour, four years after winning the world's most prestigious bike race for a record seventh time.

Although the American, who turned 37 last week, did not say which team he would ride for, several sources have said he would race for Astana. He would receive no salary or bonuses.

Armstrong's former team manager, Johan Bruyneel, who is now in charge of Astana, has said he could not see his former protege competing for any team other than the Kazakh outfit.

"I just can't imagine that happening," Bruyneel, who guided the American in the Discovery Channel team from 1999 until his retirement in 2005, said this month when news of Armstrong's comeback was first reported.

ASTANA STRATEGY
A survivor of testicular cancer, Armstrong said his main reason for returning to the sport was to raise awareness about cancer.

Akhmetov said that vision echoed Astana's strategy for turning Kazakhstan into a more environment-friendly country.

"Together we can certainly do a lot of good things in the fight against cancer," he said.
Astana, the Kazakh sponsored outfit that competes under a Luxembourg license, already has one of the strongest squads in cycling, including Spaniard Alberto Contador and Armstrong's former team mate and fellow American Levi Leipheimer.

Contador won the Tour of Spain on Sunday to complete the so-called 'grand slam' of cycling after winning the 2007 Tour de France and this year's Giro d'Italia.
Leipheimer finished second in this year's Vuelta.

"Astana has a very strong team but with Armstrong will be twice as strong," Akhmetov said.


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