By J Nastranis
A few days ahead of Kazakhstan joining the Security Council on January 1 as a non-permanent member for two years, President Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed the Central Asian republic’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Kairat Abdrakhmanov as new Foreign Minister.
On December 28 he replaced Erlan Idrissov (57) who held the post from 1999 to 2002 and 2012 to 2016. He takes over as Ambassador to the UK, a post he held from 2002 to 2007. He was then ambassador to the United States from 2007 to 2012.
Abdrakhmanov (52) had been serving as his country’s Permanent Representative in New York since 2013. During his tenure and Idrissov’s as Foreign Minister, Kazakhstan campaigned for and was elected as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for 2017-2018.
Prior to his appointment as Permanent Representative to the UN, Abdrakhmanov was Ambassador to Austria, where he also represented his country at the international organizations based in Vienna 2011 onwards. From 2008 until 2011, he was Kazakhstan’s Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ((OSCE), chairing its Permanent Council in 2010.
Abdrakhmanov served an earlier term as Ambassador to Austria and Permanent Representative to international organizations in Vienna, from 2007 to 2008. He was Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2007 and served a previous stint, between 1999 and 2001.
In a distinguished Foreign Service career, Abdrakhmanov served as Ambassador to Israel from 2003 to 2006, and as Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister-Counsellor in the United Kingdom, beginning in 2001.
He was Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Bilateral Cooperation from 1998 to 1999, Deputy Chief and then Chief of the Asia Department between 1994 and 1998. During that period, he also served as Deputy Director of the Asia, Middle East and Africa Department, and Director of the Department of Europe and the Americas, having joined the Foreign Ministry in 1993 as a Third Secretary in the Europe Department.
Introducing newly appointed Foreign Minister Abdrakhmanov to the senior staff of the ministry, President Nazarbayev thanked Idrissov for his work as Foreign Minister over the past four years. He emphasised that in the face of perplexing global circumstances the foreign ministry faces new challenges that require new approaches.
Referring to the work in the Security Council, he said: “The fact that we were elected as its non-permanent member is a testament of respect from the global community towards our country. This is an important task that requires the global leadership of Kazakhstan in the movement for a nuclear weapons free world and other international issues.”
Analysing the reasons behind the reshuffle, Catherine Putz wrote in The Diplomat: “While Idrissov’s resume demonstrates a specialty in relations with Western powers, Abdrakhmanov’s background is rooted in international organizations.”
Putz added: “It may be that the switch reflects Kazakhstan’s emphasis on international organizations, rather than Western graces, to carry the country onward toward Nazarbayev’s lofty goals. Abdrakhmanov’s twin successes – scoring Astana the OSCE chairmanship in 2010 and the UNSC (Security Council) seat for 2017 – have elevated the country’s global standing.”
Within days of Abdrakhmanov’s appointment as Foreign Minister, the Security Council unanimously adopted on December 31 a resolution supporting a Russia-Turkey brokered truce in Syria and jump-starting a political process.
The resolution accepted Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s offer to host peace talks in the Kazakh capital between the conflicting parties in the Syrian conflict stating that it “looks forward to the meeting to be held in Astana”. These are expected to take place mid-January ahead of the resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva on February 8.
The Council reiterated its call on parties to allow humanitarian agencies “rapid, safe and unhindered” access throughout Syria, repeating that the only sustainable solution to the crisis was an inclusive, Syrian-led political process, based on the 2012 Geneva communiqué.
In the ensuing debate, delegates welcomed the Council’s unanimous support for the ceasefire, stressing that it only increased the legitimacy of those efforts, and confidence in the Council’s own ability to make important decisions.
Some asked for details on the participation of opposition groups in Astana, humanitarian access and the United Nations role in the Astana political process, with several noting that the Special Envoy for Syria must play a key role in those efforts.
The U.S. supported the resolution because it struck the right balance between cautious optimism and a realistic need to see how it would be implemented but expressed regret that annexes to the agreement had not been made available, and concern over reports of both a regime offensive supported by Hizbullah in the Wadi Barada village north-west of Damascus, and differences between regime and delegation documents. The U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Michele Sison asked for an explanation of why those differences existed.
The United Kingdom’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Peter Wilson stressing that discrepancies between key texts must be resolved, said monitoring of the ceasefire would be crucial. Russia and Turkey must ensure any such measures were independent and coordinated with both the UN and the International Syria Support Group’s ceasefire task force.
On that point, France’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Alexis Lamek said the Russian-Turkish agreement contained a number of “grey areas”, including whether the regime was genuinely committed to the ceasefire. The Council had not received the list of groups included in the agreement, and the level of commitment of all parties remained uncertain. He also expressed concern over which groups would be designated as terrorist groups.
At the same time, said Egypt’s Permanent Representative Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta said it was critical to act rapidly and launch the diplomatic process. Real intentions focused on a final political solution were crucial. Military activity would never solve the crisis, he said, urging Syrian parties to act responsibly to find a Syrian solution, which would protect the country’s territorial integrity.
Broadly speaking, Russia’s Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin said the resolution spoke to the need for a cessation of hostilities in Syria and a meeting in Astana where the Syrian Government and opposition would, for the first time, meet face-to-face.
“If you can’t help and if you don’t want to help, make sure you don’t complicate things,” he said. The international community must be guided by the goals of achieving a political settlement in 2017, respecting the interests of the Syrian people and fostering stability in the region.
President Nazarbayev emphasised in meeting with the Foreign Ministry’s senior staff on December 30 “the need for careful preparation for the upcoming talks on Syria in Astana”.
According to the President, an important task for the Foreign Ministry is to maintain its work on the Eurasian Economic Union, taking into account the country’s national interests.
“In the context of the global economic crisis, an economic dimension must remain the systemic element of paramount importance in the activity of the diplomatic service of the country. It’s necessary to deal with issues of attracting investments and export of domestic goods,” President Nazarbayev said.
He added: “In this regard, the work of the Foreign Ministry and embassies should be strengthened. Thorough work should be done on preparation of major international events scheduled next year in Astana – the SCO [Shanghai Cooperation Organisation] and the OIC [Organisation for Islamic Cooperation] summits.”