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21.09.2017
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Interview of HE Mr Erlan Idrissov with The Diplomat Magazine, UK

06.07.2017

Kazakhstan’s appointment of its latest Ambassador Erlan Idrissov is indicative of how seriously it takes its relationship with the UK. One of the country’s most senior diplomats, he’s served twice as Foreign Minister and now twice as Ambassador in the UK. Clearly proud of his achievements, Mr Idrissov says “This is a great honour bestowed on me by my President.” Mr Idrissov arrived in the UK in February with his wife Nurilla, and finds London to be as “interesting, historic and dynamic” as when he left in 2007.

The Ambassador believes his nomadic ancestors strongly influenced his choice of career. “Nomads are famous for their steppe diplomacy!” he exclaims. “At the centre of a huge land mass, nomads found their territories criss-crossed by multiple groups of people. Living in peace and harmony, nomads absorbed the best elements of those people passing through, sharing with them their knowledge and culture.” He continues: “I believe that there is an inborn capacity for diplomacy in the blood of any Kazakh.”

And what a diplomatic career it has been. Aside from the appointments already mentioned, Mr Idrissov was Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to the United States (2007-12).  “We have an outstanding relationship with the US. Of course, as a young nation we are happy to get the US’s assistance in nation-building.” As Kazakhstan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs (1999-2002; 2012-17) he attained a broader picture of global and regional affairs. “Kazakhstan is a dynamic diplomatic hub for the region. The role has enriched me as a diplomat.”

Back in the UK, once again business and commerce are the top priority, much like his last posting here (2002-07). He explains these relations are in good shape following Prime Minster David Cameron’s 2013 visit to Kazakhstan, and President Nazarbayev’s visit to the UK in 2015. “I accompanied the President and we had a fantastic visit. We are proud to have a robust relationship with our British friends.” Raising Kazakhstan’s profile on the business stage will go a long way to pursuing President Nazarbayev’s goal to modernise the Kazakh national identity, in order to enter the world’s 30 most-developed countries.

Part of this is hosting EXPO 2017 Astana this summer. “Kazakhstan is an ambitious nation!” he remarks. “As a major producer of oil, gas, coal and uranium, we chose the topic of ‘Future Energy’ quite purposefully. We understand how important a green economy is to our future, and offer EXPO as a global platform to exchange experience and debate.”

EXPO is also an opportunity “to open Eurasia to the rest of the world, hidden for so many years behind the Iron Curtain. Citizens from over 50 countries enjoy visa-free entry to Kazakhstan. I invite them all to enjoy some of our legendary hospitality.”

Mr Idrissov concedes that Kazakhstan is not without its challenges. “We are a young nation. Like many other countries, our greatest diplomatic challenge is building trust. Lack of trust is the core of so many conflicts in the world.”

Accordingly, Kazakhstan has successfully hosted a historic summit for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010, and an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) ministerial in 2011. In 2013, Astana hosted Iranian talks “providing the fertile ground for the eventual joint plan of action around the Iranian nuclear programme.” Most recently, Kazakh officials offered Astana as a neutral venue and “natural home” for peace negotiations on Syria. Furthermore, in September Astana will host the first ever Science and Technology Summit of the Islamic world. “We believe that modernisation and knowledge is what the Islamic world needs, and have invited our Muslim brothers to talk about the best opportunities for younger generations,” Mr Idrissov explains. “These are examples of Kazakhstan’s practical contribution to the various crises in the world. We hope they demonstrate that we are a trusted partner.”

With such an accomplished career, is there any particularly memorable moment that stands out for the Ambassador? “There are so many. Firstly, the birth of our nation.” (Previously, he had worked for the Soviet Foreign Service). “Then Kazakhstan’s UN membership established forward-looking relations with the great powers of the world. Kazakhstan’s historic contribution to global security with the demolition of its massive nuclear arsenal was another huge moment. Our recent election as a member of the UN Security Council is perhaps the adolescence of our diplomacy. We look forward to working on this important period in the global affairs until 2019.”

Source: The Diplomat Magazine http://www.diplomatmagazine.com/heads-of-mission/middle-east-asia/kazakhstan/