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Two keys in Kazakh hands

By Dmitry Kosyrev, RIA Novosti, 20 September, 2007

It is too early to predict which issue will have priority at the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly.

Category: Politics
Posted by: admin

If everything goes according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's plan, the session will focus on global climate change. But if everything goes against the declared wishes of everyone, it will concentrate on Iran, or, to be more exact, on the threats of war against Tehran, which have begun to sound more serious in the last few weeks.

Surprisingly, Kazakhstan can play an important if not a key role in both debates. It is a country with an impressive record of efforts for a clean environment for the sake of development. It is also Iran's neighbour and a nation playing a special new role in the search for modern systems of regional security.

As for the climate, the New York session will discuss possible replacements for the Kyoto Protocol, which has become the world's first albeit flawed attempt to regulate permissible carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The protocol, which expires in 2012, received its first blow at the recent APEC summit in Sydney.

The talks will continue in New York. It is necessary to persuade the key countries to take care of the climate in a new way, different from the Kyoto Protocol. There should be more goodwill and more support to the countries which would like to but cannot afford to shut down their production, nor have the funds to make it more environmentally friendly. At any rate, it is impermissible to let the majority of the world's almost 200 nations believe that the drive against climate change is a conspiracy of the industrialized countries which want to restrict the former's growth.

In this discussion, Kazakhstan has a major role to play as a country representing a big and important region - Central Asia. Last November, Kazakhstan became the first Central Asian country to be elected to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which has 54 members. Starting this year, Kazakhstan will represent Central Asia in it.

Moreover, last May Alma-Ata played host to the 63rd session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), which unites more than 50 states. To sum up, Kazakhstan is becoming an active participant in the discussion which has long been of interest to its leaders, such as transfer to environmentally clean and energy-saving technologies and deforestation. This is what Kazakhstan is doing in its own economy with renewed zeal. It is trying to prevent the slow death of the Aral Sea and decontaminating the Semipalatinsk testing grounds. In brief, Kazakhstan knows what it is talking about.

There is no doubt that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev will raise this subject at the General Assembly. It is harder to predict whether he will comment on the EU and U.S. threats of sanctions or even war against Iran, or the danger of Tehran going nuclear, in which case Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel will follow suit - countries next to Kazakhstan's south-western borders. It is clear that the world community has landed in a deadlock on the Iranian problem. The decisive votes belong to two groups - the United States and the European Union (EU) on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other. The problem is that these two groups cannot agree with each other and are destroying each other's efforts - the road of negotiations suggested by Moscow and Beijing is being blocked by the U.S. and EU threats.

Can Kazakhstan with its special geopolitical position do something fundamentally new in this respect? It would be appropriate to quote Nazarbayev at this point: "We realize how difficult it is to build a durable edifice of regional security at the junction of three tectonic platforms of modern geopolitics. A neighbourhood with two major countries, Russia and China, and the powerful cultural gravitation of the Muslim world is making it impossible to form a security system at a narrow regional level."

Kazakhstan is known for its ability to develop friendly and predictable relations with all states that play a major role in world affairs and present practical interest for the republic. The country can talk both with the United States and Iran without causing suspicion of these uneasy negotiators. It is also an important participant in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the initiator of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

Finally, since 2002 Nazarbayev has suggested setting up in Alma-Ata a regional UN center to avert conflicts and conduct preventive diplomacy in Central Asia. For the time being, Kazakhstan has reached agreement with the UN that the proposed center should concentrate on helping other countries in the region to prevent potential conflicts and other complications which may negatively affect the situation in Central Asia. This can be quite useful today.

Will this experience of Kazakhstan and its own special approach help overcome the Iranian impasse? It is difficult to see any other countries that would have Kazakhstan's advantages for pursuing a new diplomacy.

If Nazarbayev simply outlines the role of his country in the search for new solutions to the said problems (the climate and Iran), Kazakhstan will show once again that the time has come for the new countries to have their say in creating a more sensible world order.