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Kazakhstan Confirms Foreign-Policy Balancing Act.

Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev confirmed during a recent public appearance in New York that Kazakhstan is committed to a multi-vectored policy, under which Astana seeks to engage the United States, Russia and China simultaneously.

In an event sponsored by the Asia Society on 29 September, Tokaev stressed that Kazakhstan’s approach to economic development was apolitical in nature, and thus Astana sought to bolster ties with all of Central Asia’s regional powers. He indicated that such a policy was viable, even though the United States, Russia and China have engaged in an intensifying rivalry for political and economic influence in the region.

Kazakhstan has long been viewed as a vital component in Washington’s regional energy export strategy, which centers on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. The multi-vectored approach indicates that Kazakhstan’s support for the United States’ energy export vision may not be as firm as once believed.

Kazakh officials are reexamining the country’s energy export options. Tokaev cited potential oil transit projects that would deliver Kazakhstan’s natural resources to China, the Mediterranean, Russia, and elsewhere.

A major theme of Tokaev’s comments at the Asia Society concerned Kazakhstan’s interest in diversifying its economy beyond the oil and gas sector.

"Kazakhstan is very much interested in access to markets. We have resources that can be invested in, but we have limited markets," he said. Tokaev stressed that while his country was concerned with security, "we’re opening our doors to investment and finance."

In comments concerning regional security, Tokaev reiterated his country’s support for the United States and its campaign against terrorism. He also voiced support for the US-led ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, pointing out that Kazakhstan opened its airspace for US and coalition air forces, and provided access to airports for potential emergency landings.

At the same time, Tokaev said Astana believes that is "imperative to disclose weapons of mass destruction."

Bush Administration claims that Iraq possessed such weapons served as justification for preemptive military action in Iraq. Yet, solid evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destrcution has so far not been uncovered.

Tokaev went on to suggest "the UN should take responsibility of the situation in Iraq."

(TOL 06.x.03)

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