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Assistant Chief of Jewish community in Kazakhstan met with Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times for Exclusive Interview Session

 

 

 

with jewish head in almatyn

In the image above: (L) Asst; Chief Rabbi of Kazakhstan’s Jews community with (R) Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar in an exclusive interview session in Almaty.

Almaty, Kazakhstan, December 12 2012 – The honorable Mr Rabbi Bezalel Lifshitz met with the editor in chief hatef mokhtar for an exclusive interview that will be published in a couple of weeks. They spoke about religious freedom, Judaism and the Jewish community in Almaty KZ.
There are approximately 12,000 to 30,000Jews in Kazakhstan, less than 0.2% of the population.

Most Kazakh Jews are Ashkenazi and speak Russian.There are synagogues and large Jewish communities in Almaty where there are 10,000 Jews. According to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, “Anti-Semitism is not prevalent in Kazakhstan and rare incidents are reported in the press,” contrary to incorrect perceptions in popular culture caused by the country’s portrayal in the 2006 film Borat as a “hot-bed of anti-Semitism.

Rabbi mentioned the 7 commandments for humanity.

In ancient times, these 7 commandments were called “The Noachide Laws.”   They were preached by Noah which all people of the new world were required to follow. (Hebrew)

1 – Do not murder (Shefichat damim).
2 – Do not steal or kidnap (Gezel).
3 – Do not worship false gods (Avodah zarah).
4 – Do not be sexually immoral (engage in incest, sodomy, bestiality, castration and adultery) (Gilui arayot).
5 – Do not utter GOD’s name in vain, curse GOD, or pursue the occult(Birkat Hashem).
6 – Set up righteous and honest courts, and apply fair justice in judging offenders, and uphold the principles of the last five (Dinim).
7 – Do not eat the limb of an animal before it is killed (Ever Min HaChai).

 

TOT News Agency / The Oslo Times

The National Coordinator and UN Representative in Almaty Kazakhstan meets with Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times

SERGEY

In the image above: (R) UN Representative Mr. Sergey Karpov, the national coordintor of UN in Almaty Kazakhstan in an exclusive interview session with (L) Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar.

Almaty, Kazakhstan – December 11 2012 – Today at the centrally heated and guarded complex of UN in Kazakhstan a historic meeting has taken place between The Oslo Times Editor in Chief and UN Representative to the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The meeting was scheduled in the city of Almaty, the cultural capital of the country. In the meeting various issues and progress related to the role of UN and operations of the organization in Kazakhstan were discussed.

The distinction of this meeting comes when the cooperation between the UN and Kazakhstan were discussed related to human rights, press freedom and democratic status of the region’s republics.

The interview with the honorable representative would be scheduled for publishing on The Oslo Times within a span of few days.

It would be a very rewarding experience as the insider for our readers who are eager to learn and to have a knowledge of the republic’s stand and position in the region.

The Oslo Times is committed to its readers and will continously bring the exclusives like these to clear the misconcetions and undermine propaganda spread by the rise in yellow journalism around the world.

Rest for information it is advised to check our interview section at regular intervals for further happenings and updates through our exclusives.

TOT News Agency / The Oslo Times

Democracy has no chance in a poor society – says Nurlan Mussin Chargé d’affaires a.i. Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Norway

nurlan

(L) Nurlan Mussin Chargé d’affaires a.i. Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Norway with (R) Hatef Mokhtar Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times

Honorable Charge de Affair of Kazakhstan to Norway, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Editor in Chief and Editorial Board panel. It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important global issues…

TOT: Since its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has remained one of the star economies of the CIS, and of Central Asian region. So, what has been the basic formula behind this success? Please elaborate…

Charge de Affair: First of all, I would like to thank Oslo Times and you personally for your interest towards our country.
Kazakhstan has been hidden from the eyes of those in Europe for quite a while.

It’s been only 20 years since we joined the international community as an independent nation and we still have a lot to do to educate the world about us.

Therefore, our Embassy appreciates very much this opportunity to tell to the readers of The Oslo Times about our young nation.

In 1991, when Soviet Union virtually ceased to exist, the situation in this former empire was very tense. Political elites in many parts of the former Soviet Union pursued policies based on emotions and lacked vision and wisdom much needed by their long suffering people.

People throughout Soviet Union wanted freedom, dignity and prosperity. What they had at that time was hunger, poverty, lack of security and unknown future.

As it happened many times in the history of humankind, irresponsible politicians turned to populism and the search for scapegoats. “Blame the “other” slogan used by them had led to bloody conflicts in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Russia and Tajikistan. In many other places the situation was equally tense.

It was an environment of mutual distrust and anger that could lead to major military conflicts the types of which the world had witnessed in Yugoslavia.

This was not a scenario people and political leadership of Kazakhstan wanted. So, our President decided that something had to be done and invited the leaders of all the republics to come to Kazakhstan to discuss how to move further after the de-facto end of the Soviet Union.

In 1991 on a cold December day in Almaty these leaders gathered to adopt the document called “Almaty Declaration” which paved the way to peaceful and civilized break-up of the biggest empire on the face of the Earth and ushered in the new era of independence for these nations.

This document and this decision by our President laid the foundation of peaceful and stable development of the Kazakh nation. After centuries of colonialism the dream of our forefathers had been fulfilled – Kazakhstan became independent.

And it happened without a single shot or any loss of life. This, however, does not mean that we appreciate our independence any less because of that fact.

As soon as Kazakhstan became independent, we faced enormous challenges in all areas of a nation’s life – security, foreign relations, unsettled borders, poverty, crumbling industries, shortage of food, no money in the system. Western experts at that time had also mentioned multiethnic nature of our society as the biggest threat to the country’s future existence.

Bold reforms and steadfast policies were required to deal with all these challenges. Moreover, the country needed visionary leadership and sincere unity of people.

Thank God, we had both of these prerequisites.
Throughout the 1990’s we had been simultaneously implementing market reforms and privatization of the economy, securing our borders, establishing diplomatic service, creating armed forces, building national financial system, launching national currency, replacing Soviet laws with the new democratic, free market legislation.

Our people proved many outsiders who doubted the future of multiethnic Kazakhstan that they were wrong. We turned the diversity of our population into our strength providing a vivid example to the world that tolerance and multiculturalism work if they are based on sincere mutual respect, sincere love and sincere appreciation of each other’s culture.

In 10 years – by 2001 – Kazakhstan was a functional state with all the attributes of a sovereign nation with the growing economy and a rapidly developing middle class and civil society. The country has enjoyed an average 10% GDP growth in the following years.

Kazakhstan is the most successful economy in the post-Soviet space. In 2003 we were the first among them to receive the “free market economy” status and the first to repay all our debt to international financial institutions – ahead of the schedule.

Kazakhstan has made significant progress toward developing a socially-oriented market economy. GDP per capita has grown almost ten times – from USD 1,200 to around USD 11,300.

Kazakhstan is blessed with natural resources. But, as you very well know, this can also be a curse. Having mineral resources is not enough for success. There are plenty of examples of the opposite in the world.

If a nation wants to ensure sustainable development and continued economic growth, if it wants to continue raising standards of living, it needs to work hard by developing its society and economy in all their aspects.

Kazakhstan continues with the reforms that are currently aimed at diversification of the economy and raising living standards – from healthcare to education.

So coming back to your question – What has been the basic formula behind Kazakhstan’s success? – I would say that it was the combination of three things – people’s unity, their hard work and responsible and visionary policies of the country’s leadership.

A few examples of that.

According to the most recent World Bank report, Kazakhstan is placed among the top 20 countries which are most attractive for foreign investment (FDI). In the post-Soviet space we are number one in attracting FDI.

In the last 15 years our country has attracted more than USD 150 billion of foreign direct investments. This is the highest FDI per capita rate in our part of the world.

Foreign investments are now received not only by the country’s traditional extractive industries. More and more of our foreign partners are looking to contribute to other sectors of the economy.

And we have examples of successful investors such as General Electric (production of railroad locomotives), Tele2 and Telia Sonera (mobile communications), Arcelor Mittal (steel production), Euro Chem (fertilizers) and many others.

Kazakhstan continues to do a lot in terms of creating most comfortable environment for business – both local and foreign. According to the latest World Bank’s Doing Business report, Kazakhstan has moved 15 positions up in the rankings in just one year showing strong progress in protecting investors, paying taxes.

We have now entered the world’s best 50 economies for doing business. In 2011 the World Bank named Kazakhstan the world’s #1 business regulation reformer.

kazakh map

TOT: Having played a host and an active member of OSCE which has outshined the diplomatic achievements, and success of Kazakhstan at large and which is also a level of prestige to the country. What would you have to say on this and how this had become possible for a newly independent country which is still progressing, and needs to enhance its ties in other parts of the globe?

Charge de Affair: Kazakhstan has been one of the most active member-states of the OSCE since the creation of the Organization.
Many experts believe that OSCE had failed to turn itself into an effective organization able to solve many problems that exist in the area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

They point out to the fact that the OSCE had failed to convene its Summits since 1999 when Norway chaired the Organization. Indeed, there are significant differences in views, positions and approaches between its members.

And these differences can be attributed to the fact that OSCE members could not even gather their leaders during these 11 years. The OSCE members have also not been able to adopt its Charter – a founding document any international organization is supposed to have in order to function properly!

Kazakhstan, however, continues to believe that OSCE has a significant potential to contribute and promote security and cooperation. After all, the OSCE stands for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

That is why we decided to exercise our right as an OSCE member and assume the Presidency of the Organization.

In 2010 all members of OSCE unanimously decided to elect Kazakhstan as their next chair, making it the first Asian nation with predominantly Muslim population to chair this Euro-Atlantic organization.

It is worth mentioning that Kazakhstan was also the first post-Soviet state to receive unanimous backing of all members of the OSCE.

Kazakh chairmanship aimed at helping the Organization to deal with its major shortcomings –dominance of the ideological rhetoric and distrust that exists between some of its members.

Within a short period of time we had tried to build bridges and raise confidence level between various members. Kazakhstan had tried to generate much needed political will to make the lives of people populating the OSCE area more secure and just.

We did manage to convene the Summit of the Organization – first in 11 years. It was an important and unique opportunity for the members to try to solve many existing problems.

At this Summit all leaders unanimously adopted Astana Declaration “Towards a Security Community” expressing their will to start addressing some of the pressing issues.

It is of course a very time-consuming effort to tackle numerous problems that have been piling up for decades in the OSCE area. These problems range from environmental and social challenges to “frozen” conflicts and transnational crime.

That’s why we have also put on tracks initiatives and plans that have been passed on to the Presidencies that followed us in 2011 and 2012. After all, this Organization unites 56 nations and it requires support of all of them to move forward any issue – small or big.

OSCE Presidency was an important milestone and a useful experience for Kazakhstan and its diplomatic service. We hope it also served OSCE in terms of making it more aware of the security, economic and environmental challenges that exist in our part of the world, such as Aral Sea catastrophe and lack of transit infrastructure that would effectively connect Europe with Asia.

And I would agree with you – the Presidency also helped us to enhance ties with other member-states. A good example: first ever official visit by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister to Norway happened in 2010 in his capacity as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office.

kazakh flag

TOT: With Kazakhstan being a part of OSCE and in other various kinds of engagements with the European Union, how you will define the strategic role and the part which Kazakhstan has played till now to enhance its ties and strategic partnerships with Norway?

Charge de Affair: Indeed, Kazakhstan has been actively cooperating with individual countries in Europe, with the European Union, as well as within various regional groupings.

We are an active NATO partner and work together with its members in many areas such as maintaining our capabilities to participate in the UN-led peacekeeping missions and holding joint military exercises. Kazakhstan also provides support to NATO mission in Afghanistan.

We also have a solid dialog with the Council of Europe and last October this dialog was furthered as a result of the CE Secretary General Torbjørn Jagland’s visit to Astana. Following the visit Kazakhstan joined the European Commission for Democracy through Law (so-called Venice Commission).

Before that we joined the Bologna Process which opened for Kazakhstan the way to European educational standards. We have also expressed our interest in joining other mechanisms under the auspices of the Council of Europe.

When it comes to our cooperation with the European Union – there is really an extensive and deep partnership in virtually all areas.

Suffice to say that Kazakhstan and EU have concluded as early as in 1995 a very important document – Agreement on partnership and cooperation. Kazakhstan and EU hold annual meetings on various levels.

To reflect the growing and strengthening ties between us we are now discussing conclusion of the new Agreement on Extended Partnership and Cooperation which will cover foreign affairs, security, justice, political development, trade, investments, energy, environment, and transport.

We are ready to expand and deepen our partnership with Europe in all these areas and hope that our European partners will act reciprocally.
European Union is the number one trade partner for Kazakhstan and the volume of trade keeps growing very fast: in 2010 – USD 38 bln., in 2011 – USD 50 bln.

Norway not being a member of the European Union is, nevertheless, a very special partner for Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan considers Norway as the best model in managing natural resources – whether it is environmental standards or social and macroeconomic aspects.

Our main priority is to learn from the Norwegian experience, like we did, for example, with our National Fund which is based on the Norwegian model – Pension Fund “Global”.

The two countries are indeed very similar in many ways. The similarities between us are not limited to energy or financial sector. There are many similar features in the character of our people, geography and demographics.

We also have similar outlooks on the pressing global issues – from energy security to environment. One of them is also our shared vision of the world free from nuclear weapons.

In all these areas we closely cooperate trying to make a positive difference for our two nations and the rest of the world. We have no doubt that our Norwegian friends and partners are committed to the partnership the same way we are.
We can witness this from growing cooperation and strengthening of bilateral mechanisms between our two nations, especially in the last 2-3 years.

Our Embassy in Oslo since its establishment in 2004 remained Kazakhstan’s only diplomatic mission in Scandinavia, while Norway’s only diplomatic representation in the vast Central Asia is its Embassy in Astana. This is also a practical testament to how our two nations see and regard each other.

We can see that investment cooperation is developing; we see that volumes of our traditional exports (Norwegian fish and Kazakh grain) are growing. We are registering record numbers of Norwegians travelling to Kazakhstan during last two years. We have more and more frequent bilateral contacts and visits on various levels – from Royal family members and Cabinet ministers to sportsmen, artists and just tourists.

We are quite satisfied with the dynamics and direction of our bilateral partnership and we are determined to maintain this good pace.

kazakhstannorwayud

TOT: Since both the countries are producers and suppliers of hydrocarbons so how you look the relations of Norway and Kazakhstan can be strengthen in terms of energy cooperation in the long run?

Charge de Affair: As I said before, Norway is a model for Kazakhstan in the way it had developed its energy industries, protects the environment and keeps expanding and strengthening its capacity in this area. We want to learn and Norway is ready to share this good knowledge.

To that end Kazakhstan and Norway established in 2007 the Bilateral Working Group on Energy Cooperation. We have successfully held four annual meetings since then, last of which happen recently – on October 2nd of this year. The dialogue within this bilateral mechanism covers issues spanning from technical education to environment and local content in addition to traditional cooperation in the oil/gas sector.

We are very interested in having more Norwegian companies in the oil/gas sector of Kazakhstan. We are confident they will bring along higher environmental, labor and technological standards, as well as useful Norwegian experience of increasing local content in the industry.

Norwegian service and engineering companies, such as Statoil, Aker Solutions, Kvaerner, Aibel, Kaefer and others know that opportunities in Kazakhstan are abundant.

In 2010, our two national companies «KazMunaiGaz» and «Statoil» decided to establish strategic partnership to work together on the shelf of the Caspian Sea.

Currently, the two sides are in the final stages of negotiations and hopefully their partnership will serve as a locomotive for other Kazakh and Norwegian companies to establish joint businesses in this or other sectors.

Kazakhstan is now bidding for the right to host professional exhibition EXPO-2017 in Astana which will be held under the topic “Energy of the Future”. Kazakhstan with this EXPO wants to contribute to the global discussion of our planet’s energy future.

This forum will also provide a wonderful opportunity for Norway to highlight and advance its role in this discussion, as well as showcase its prominent energy industry.

We are glad to see that both Kazakhstan and Norway work tirelessly to strengthen and expand our bilateral energy cooperation.

kazakh meeting

TOT: What are the key strategic areas where Kazakhstan seeks cooperation with Norway to gain expertise and economic cooperation in near future?

Charge de Affair: Traditionally, energy sector, specifically – oil and gas, has been the primary area for our cooperation. But there are several areas where I believe we could have mutually beneficial cooperation as well.

Kazakhstan is a large agricultural producer playing significant role in providing global food security. We are in the Top 5 exporters of wheat and the world’s #1 exporter of wheat flour for 6 years in a row now –since 2006. Our farmers supply with grain all of Central Asia, Caucasus, countries of Northern Africa and the Middle East. Our wheat exports to Norway have risen from 3,000 tons in 2009 to 43,000 in 2011.

There is an enormous potential in production of milk, meat and poultry in Kazakhstan. These industries are now in the development stage which creates unique opportunities for Norwegian food producing companies to establish themselves in Kazakhstan and benefit from comfortable business environment while having direct access and close proximity to the enormous markets of China, Russia, Central and South Asia – with total population approaching 3 billion people.

This is just one example but we would welcome Norwegian businesses in all other industries – mining, electricity, telecommunications, machine-building, metallurgy, etc.

astana meeting

TOT: As per the foreign policy goals set by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Kazykhanov  for establishing a UN Secretariat in the country while making Astana a regional hub for diplomacy. So how far you see the progress in this direction has been made by Kazakhstan?

Charge de Affair: First, it is important to stress that there is no such foreign policy goal set by us as to establish a UN Secretariat in Astana.
Indeed, our President and later former Foreign Minister Mr. Kazykhanov have put forward an idea to establish in Almaty a regional center for UN regional activities.

There are already 16 sub-regional offices of various UN agencies which have been working successfully in Almaty for quite a while. These offices deal with the host of issues of regional and global significance. In our view we have come to a point when all these activities would benefit from coordinated approach and leadership.

Our region represents a significant part of the world by its sheer territory and size of its population. A number of nations in our part of the world require long-term assistance from the international community.

One of them is Afghanistan. Stability and progress in this country is a priority for the region and for the world. Having an effective regional office of the United Nations in the center of the region – Kazakhstan – will serve that goal.

The idea is there for discussion by the UN and its members. We look forward to participate in this discussion.

TOT: Being a Oil & Gas producer and exporter, is this justified to sell oil and gas artificially at lower price to Russia when Kazakhstan can provide the same at existing market prices? Will this not be the loss to the exchequer of Kazakhstan’s Federal Reserve’s and un-rewarding exploitation of its natural resources?

Charge de Affair: Let me first start by explaining the break-down of the oil production in Kazakhstan. Around 75% of all oil extracted in Kazakhstan is produced by foreign companies: British Gas, Chevron, ENI, ExxonMobil, Lukoil, CNPC and others. The rest is produced by our national oil and gas company “KazMunaiGaz” and smaller local companies. All these companies, including KazMunaiGaz are responsible to their shareholders for generating as much profit as possible.

Our Government is too very much interested in having as much income from the oil/gas sector as possible, whether it comes in the form of taxes, royalties, direct profit, etc.

So, to answer your question directly: it is not justified for these companies to sell their products artificially at lower prices to Russia or anyone else. That is why these companies do not do it. Otherwise there is no reason for them to engage in this business.

As far as I know, most of the oil produced in Kazakhstan is sold to EU countries, and now increasingly to China. I have not heard of significant sales of oil to Russia, which, as you know, is one of the biggest producers of oil and natural gas in the world.

TOT: The relations of your country with Russia has always remained volatile and on a mode of fluctuations where former oppose the unlimited use of Baikonur Cosmodrome whereas later objects the cooperation with the US over ‘War on Terror’ whose influence is also growing in the region?

Charge de Affair: To answer your question I would have to start with correcting its introductory clause.
Our relations with Russia have always been stable and are characterized by high level of trust and dynamic cooperation in all areas. Russia is our biggest neighbor, major trading and economic partner, and a close friend and ally. We have recently formed Customs Union to make it easier for local and foreign businesses to operate in our countries.

When we face a complex issue that requires more attention and effort to be resolved, we deal with it as good neighbors and friends do – in an amicable and mutually beneficial way. Baikonur Cosmodrome is no exception.

Our governments and respective agencies work closely together to make it effective and environmentally safe, so this unique space complex could continue to be beneficial for our two countries and for the whole world.

Never have we received any objections from our Russian friends regarding our cooperation with the United States, including on the joint efforts against international terrorism. Moreover, Russia and the US are themselves close partners and cooperate successfully on these issues.

To my knowledge, Russia provides various types of assistance to US and NATO forces including providing its territory and airspace for the completion of the mission in Afghanistan. Our countries do many things together in a multilateral framework, as well.

Kazakhstan, Russia and the USA are not the only nations cooperating in combating international terrorism. We are joined by virtually all of the international community and we believe this is the right approach when dealing with such global threat as international terrorism.

One good example is GINCT. In 2006 Russia and United States jointly created Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GINCT) and asked Kazakhstan to join it. During these past 6 years 82 more nations have joined GINCT to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism.

We do not see relations between Russia, United States, China or European Union as competition, when it comes to their cooperation with Kazakhstan or other nations in the region.

As far as Kazakhstan is concerned, we welcome cooperation with all of them and the rest of the world. For our landlocked nation this is the only way to proceed – by interacting and cooperating with everyone around us. This is the basis of our foreign policy concept.

cooperation map

TOT: Being an active member of Shanghai CO-Operation how would you define the role and success of this organization have achieved in the establishing peace and security in the member countries as well as in the region which is still being one of the most volatile and unexplored regions of the world?

Charge de Affair: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was initially formed by newly independent states bordering China as a mechanism to resolve border issues that used to exist between USSR and People’s Republic of China. Success of that mechanism and its positive experience led to the decision by the involved parties to establish in 2001 the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Since then the SCO has become a functional multilateral institution recognized by the world community for its active assistance in maintaining peace and security, dealing with modern threats and challenges, as well as stimulating economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation in the SCO area.

The SCO is now a good example to the rest of the world of how nations of different economic, political, industrial and geographic “size” can still cooperate in a friendly, good-neighborly and equal partnership.

Currently, the agenda of the SCO includes security, economic and humanitarian “baskets”. Kazakhstan believes in parallel and balanced development of these three baskets.

There are also particular areas where we believe SCO can play an important role, such as energy and transit infrastructure. Dynamic cooperation between the SCO members in all these areas will have a positive effect on a broader region.

TOT: “The boundary disputes of almost all the nations of CIS has almost been resolved with their neighbours, however; the Caspian sea boundary is still governed by the international law and remained unsettled which now with growing international thirst for Caspian oil and its exploitation has becoming a frequently arising issue in day to day regional politics”. How will you elaborate the point of dispute where it lies and has now become a bone of serious contention among the Caspian nations which Kazakhstan too shares its waters?

Charge de Affair: Determination of the legal status of the Caspian Sea is of very high importance for Kazakhstan. We believe that this unique water body should serve the best interests of the Caspian states and that it should be treated by them in a responsible manner.

Kazakhstan stands for demilitarization of the Caspian and for freedom of transit by all means of transport as well as for the access to other seas and the World Ocean, as stipulated in several universal international agreements.

All five Caspian states (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia) are currently discussing the draft Convention on legal status of the Caspian Sea. There is a Special Working Group that is working on the text of the Convention.
There have been three Summits of the Presidents.

At the last Summit in 2010 the Presidents signed the Agreement on Security Cooperation in the Caspian Sea.
At Kazakhstan’s initiative, the five leaders have also agreed to start working on a mechanism to put in place a 5-year moratorium on sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea. Currently, the parties are working out a text of the relative Agreement.

Kazakhstan was quite satisfied with the outcome of the Summit since our partners have also agreed there to adopt an approach that had been advocated by Kazakhstan from the very beginning of multilateral consultations on the legal status of the Caspian.

This approach is to follow provisions of the UN Convention on Sea Law by establishing for each state its territorial sea, fishing zone and designating the remaining as common waters.

As you can see, Kazakhstan and its Caspian partners have made some progress in this regard given the very different positions they had at the beginning.

Therefore, we are quite optimistic about the prospects of settling this issue. All five Caspian nations appreciate the fact that this process has been developing in a calm and constructive atmosphere, as it should be between partners and neighbors.

caspian sea

TOT: With its withdrawal by Uzbekistan from the member states of Commonwealth of Independent States Peacekeeping forces second time, will this means that CIS operations and its existence is now becoming less important in the diplomatic and regional cooperation as well in the bilateral / regional relations of the member states, of which Kazakhstan too is a member?

Charge de Affair: I would have to start by explaining what Commonwealth of Independent States (or CIS) is. I think it is important for Oslo Times readers to know how it works and it will make it easier for me to try to answer your question.

CIS is an organization where most of the former Soviet republics are members. Membership in CIS is voluntary, as is members’ participation in different areas of cooperation within the Commonwealth.

CIS members selectively participate in various areas of multilateral cooperation depending on the interests and wishes of each member-state. Therefore, decisions of CIS bodies apply only to those members that decide to participate in a particular issue. For example, there are 66 areas of cooperation, stemming from trade and social issues to transport and law enforcement. Not all members participate in each area.

CIS has proven to be the most optimal form of multilateral cooperation since its members differ from each other quite considerably.

There are, however, forms of cooperation where all members participate. These are so-called “charter bodies”, such as Council of Heads of State, Council of Heads of Government, Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, Foreign Ministers’ Council, etc. There is also a permanent institution, called CIS Executive Committee that deals with day-to-day work.

In my answer to your first question I mentioned the historic meeting convened in our former capital Almaty in December of 1991 when the leaders of the republics of former USSR agreed to civilized and peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union.

At that meeting the Almaty Declaration was adopted which effectively laid down the basis for establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The vitality of CIS can be explained by certain important principles upon which it is based. First and foremost, it is voluntary membership, respect of sovereignty and the right to choose the form, depth and degree of participation for each member-state.

CIS is now more than 20 years old and it continues to prove its important historic mission in many political and economic processes both regionally and globally. By the way, in 2008 Afghan officials approached CIS with the request to join the organization.

Today Afghanistan has an observer status at the CIS IPA.
Uzbekistan has been and remains to be a founding member of the CIS which, by the way, does not have peacekeeping forces in it. Hence, there have been no CIS operations in this regard.

Now, there is another international entity called Collective Security Treaty Organization (or CSTO).
CSTO is not CIS but a completely different organization with different membership.

Kazakhstan views CSTO as a consultative body with a security and defense cooperation orientation and which is open to cooperation with other international organizations on security issues.

As in CIS, there are no peacekeeping forces within the CSTO, as well.
Currently, CSTO has several elements of cooperation. One of them is the development of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force. The force was established back in 2009 to repulse external military aggression, conduct anti-terrorist operations, fight transnational crime and drug trafficking, and neutralize the effects of natural disasters.

CSTO has never participated in a combat mission.
When it comes to Uzbekistan’s cooperation with CSTO, it is important to know the history of CSTO.
The membership in the CSTO is voluntary and at different periods it varied between 6 and 9 nations.

Between 1992 and 2003 cooperation on security issues was conducted with in an agreement on collective security which was signed by 9 nations. Uzbekistan was among those nations that signed this document. In 1999 Uzbekistan withdrew from it because it joined another organization, called GUUAM.
In 2003 the CSTO was established as an organization. In 2005 Uzbekistan withdrew from GUUAM and joined CSTO in 2006.

In June of 2012 Uzbekistan suspended its membership in the CSTO. The Charter of the organization allows for that and clearly says that “Any state may become a member…” and “Any Member State may withdraw from the Organization…”
Uzbekistan is a sovereign nation that is free to choose forms and scope of its cooperation with other partners both bilaterally and multilaterally.

To my knowledge, Uzbekistan continues its cooperation with countries in the region, including on combating threats of terrorism and transnational crime. There are good mechanism for that within both CIS and SCO, which Uzbekistan is a member of.

TOT: How will you define the role being played by Kazakhstan in the cooperation with US and in Afghanistan over ‘War on Terror’? And how you see the bilateral relations of your country with Afghanistan at present and in years to come when International forces would leave Afghanistan?

Charge de Affair: This is a very good question which has three elements in it: global cooperation against international terrorism, our cooperation with the United States in this regard, as well as Kazakhstan’s bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan.

These issues are somewhat interconnected and sometimes overlap but they are nevertheless are very distinct.

I explained in my answer to one of your previous questions Kazakhstan’s anti-terrorism efforts both bilaterally and within different multilateral frameworks with other countries, including the United States.

But in fact, our relations with US are far wider in scope than one issue. We have a 20-year long history of dynamically developing cooperation with the United States in virtually all areas – trade, investments, global security, political dialogue, etc.
Similarly, our cooperation with Afghanistan is not limited to anti-terrorism efforts. Kazakh-Afghan cooperation includes many different areas and I would like to briefly go through some of them.

First of all, Kazakhstan supports and is very much interested in stable and sustainable development of Afghanistan. Economic and social development is the number one requirement for Afghanistan to deal with threats like terrorism, drug trafficking and religious radicalism.
These are threats that the region and the bigger international community suffer from.

Kazakhstan believes that the international community under the coordination of the UN, therefore, should contribute and assist Afghanistan working hand in hand with the Afghan Government.

Kazakhstan supports efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to unite the Afghan society and build a stable democratic nation. We believe the government has all essential institutions in place: legislature, executive, courts, military and law enforcement forces, etc.

However, external assistance is still needed. Kazakhstan participates in various international mechanisms which try to coordinate the efforts of the international community to lay the basis for sustainable economic development of Afghanistan.

We also support Afghanistan’s involvement in the regional processes which are aimed at better cooperation, integration and confidence-building.

On the bilateral level we continue to provide technical and humanitarian assistance supplying Afghanistan annually with thousands of tons of foodstuff, fuel and equipment. Kazakhstan has financed the construction of the Kundus-Talukan asphalt road, a hospital in Bamian province, and a school in Samangan province, along with other smaller projects.

This year Kazakh Government decided to finance an infrastructure project on the Aibak River in the Samangan province, as well as to support law enforcement in the country.

As you probably know, our President pays special attention to education which he believes is the necessary prerequisite for a prosperous and democratic society. Only a prosperous and educated society can build a sustainable democracy.

In 2010, at the instructions of the President, our government has launched an education program for Afghan students and allocated for that purpose USD 50 million. Up to 1 thousand Afghans will be provided with higher education in Kazakhstan.

They will receive medical, engineering, agricultural education, as well as training in law enforcement and border guard schools. First 152 Afghan students have begun their studies in 2010. Last year another 182 students have arrived to study in Kazakh universities. This program will last until 2020.

Kazakhstan also seeks to boost the activities of the Kazak-Afghan intergovernmental commission which should help expand and deepen ties between our countries and coordinate existing areas of cooperation such as the educational program I mentioned before.

We firmly believe that prosperous and stable Afghanistan will become a positive force in the region and Kazakhstan is determined to assist our brothers and neighbors in every way we can.

oic

TOT: Kazakhstan being an important member of Organization of Islamic Countries has remained vigilant and cooperative in terms for providing assistance to many Muslim countries and where community holds a strong ground but till now there is nothing which any media has heard from the leaderships of Kazakhstan for Rohingya Muslims who are being massacred in Myanmar?

Charge de Affair: As you mentioned in your question, Kazakhstan is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Since July 2011 we are chairing this organization. One of the stated goals of our Chairmanship is to increase the effectiveness of this Organization and move it from discussions to work.

I need to mention here that the first thing we did when we assumed Chairmanship last year was to change the name of the organization from “Organization of Islamic Conference” to “Organization of Islamic Cooperation”. By doing this we wanted to change the mentality around OIC and create a working and pragmatic environment.

It is perhaps unrealistic to see the effects immediately but we hope that our efforts during the Chairmanship will not be in vain. Our chairmanship in the OIC will end in November of this year in Djibouti, at the 39th OIC ministerial.
Now, regarding the issue of Rohingya minority, the lack of media coverage of this issue and Kazakhstan’s position on it.

I think you are directing your question to wrong people. Kazakhstan cannot be held responsible for international media’s editorial policies. Media or those who own them decide how and what issues and news to cover.

Kazakhstan’s representatives have called for appropriate international attention to the situation with the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

As recently as in August our foreign minister said to his colleagues in the OIC: “… the Organization has to assist Muslim minorities and communities outside the Member States…” and that “…Kazakhstan expresses grave concern over numerous reports of violence against Rohingya Muslim minorities in Arakan province and other parts of Myanmar…”

At this meeting chaired by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister the OIC adopted a document where this issue was addressed directly. Specifically, a fact-finding committee was established which already in September was dispatched in Myanmar for a 10-day investigation.

There, an OIC Humanitarian Affairs Office was established. Two weeks later in New York the OIC members met again and established a Joint contact group which will work directly with all relevant parties, including the Myanmar Government, international and regional organizations and bodies.

Kazakhstan believes and supports the involvement of the whole international community in this issue. This is not just a Muslim problem.
We are all human beings and it is very painful to see when human suffering in one case is treated by the media differently than similar suffering in another case.

chinakazak

TOT: Being a Turkic nation and an important member of SCO, what are the steps the Kazak government has taken so far in raising the issue of Uyghur in China with whom your country shares its borders and has good ties on a regional level?

Charge de Affair: We do not see that there is an issue in China that requires and would benefit from Kazakhstan’s involvement.
As far as the issue of territorial integrity is concerned, Kazakhstan believes that this sacred principle of international law should be upheld everywhere not just in China.

At the same time Kazakhstan supports and encourages the development of the vibrant cultural life and preservation of traditions and languages of many different ethnic groups in China, including Uyghurs and Kazakhs. We believe that China only benefits from providing its multiethnic society with opportunities and conditions to thrive and celebrate its diversity.

TOT: “Kazakhstan being an example of efficient leadership and economic progress that too got independent along with other 14 republics from USSR”. So, according to you what are reasons behind the turmoil and collapse in the system of the other neighboring republics like Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan where these nations in this present world are being regarded as some of the major violators of human rights and citizens’ freedom and liberty within their own borders?

Charge de Affair: First of all, thank you very much for your kind evaluation of Kazakhstan’s progress during its independence.
As you correctly pointed out, there were 15 republics in the USSR.

During the years of independence each country pursued its own path of development. So, I think it is wrong to lump them all together and brush them in negative colors. I would certainly disagree with your general assessment of the situation in the countries you mentioned as experiencing “turmoil and collapse”.

All of them are very distinct in terms of culture, history, level of economic or political development. It had been so even during Soviet period. Some republics were more industrially and scientifically oriented, others specialized on agriculture, etc.

Some had democratic traditions even before they were incorporated in the Soviet Union, namely Baltic States, while most others had remained colonies of the Russian Empire and then parts of the Soviet Union for centuries – without any exposure to democracy.

Despite many problems these countries might have (and most of these problems require generations to overcome!), their overall development throughout the last years has been stable and peaceful.

Kazakhstan certainly hopes that peace and stability will remain there, as they provide essential conditions for further growth and development, including democratic development and advancement of human rights.

TOT: How can you define the role and the progress of Kazakhstan in the areas of promoting human rights and freedom of speech on regional and global level?

Charge de Affair: As I have mentioned before, Kazakhstan believes in the rule of law, both nationally and internationally. One of the most important principles of international law is sovereignty. There are also obligations which each nation takes upon itself and is obliged to adhere to.

So in this dilemma of how to promote human rights and not end up violating other cultures and sovereignty, Kazakhstan follows this golden rule – “lead by example”.

Parents have success raising their kids not when they yell at them or criticize them constantly but when they show good example, when they are engaged in certain activities together with their kids.

The same way more advanced societies can help promote human rights in less established societies by cooperating not by isolating. Certainly, promotion of human right stands no chance if a society’s economic development is constrained by limiting its trade potential or preventing private investments from going in it.

Democracy has no chance in a poor society. Only a strong middle class can ensure human rights –economic, political and social –all of them, including freedom of speech.

Kazakhstan is a developing nation, so we are still in the learning mode rather than teaching. In areas where we are successful, for example, interethnic harmony and religious tolerance, we try to share this positive experience with the world.

But we will never impose it on others, recognizing that our experience is unique and it can be applied not everywhere.

A good example of our external activities in this regard might be the Congress of World’s Religions which was initiated by our President and takes place triennially in Astana. This is the only place and mechanism for leaders of the world’s religions to gather in their efforts to promote peace and mutual respect globally.

Sincere mutual respect is what the world needs these days. This is the number one prerequisite for ensuring human rights domestically and globally.

TOT: What kind of role Kazakhstan have played so far on national, regional and international for the promotion of democracy?

Charge de Affair: We do not consider that true democracy can exist or be promoted without ensuring human rights. We believe that human rights can be protected only through dialogue and genuine cooperation.

As I said in my answer to your previous question, the best promotion of democracy is leading by example. As Kazakhstan progresses in the development of its own civil society and rule of law, it will be in a better position to further promote democracy in the region and elsewhere simply by projecting its positive experience and success.

TOT: How would you define the role and existence of Media and the kind of press freedom it enjoys in your country?

Charge de Affair: We in Kazakhstan believe that media is an important part of our life, an important element of the civil society and should serve in its entirety the interests of the whole society.

It should be recognized that quite often media advances interests of certain groups or individuals within the society, usually because of the financial support or ownership.

Sometimes this benefits the whole society but many times it happens at the expense of the majority of people. It is therefore important for any society to ensure plurality of opinion – to let opposing view or alternative position to be heard.

It is very dangerous when public discussion is hijacked by one group, which is simply more active, has a louder voice, better financed and uses more innovative approach.

The only way to ensure plurality and sense of objectiveness without infringing on press freedom is to have public media, which is tasked with reporting facts, and will not engage in opinionated agenda-driven journalism.

While overwhelming majority of media In Kazakhstan is privately owned and their number is growing every year, there are still public TV and newspapers outlets supported from the national budget. Currently people have access to all kinds of information and have an access to a variety of opinion, even quite unscrupulous ones.

We believe that only in severe cases, such as when media actions led to loss of human life, the government has to step in and act.

Media in Kazakhstan, as any other institution or a group of organizations, is still young and in the development stage. It is a long process, sometimes very painful.

But at the end of the day, it would be up to the society and the media itself to develop a set of principles and values to adhere to. Not everything can be regulated by laws and regulations. Honesty, responsibility and good conscience cannot be legislated.

But people nowadays are increasingly expecting exactly these things from their journalists.

Thank you respected Charge de Affair. We think that this session has indeed been informative and beneficial for The Oslo Times and its readers. Thanks yet again!

©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

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The Red Wrath on Ask David

The Red Wrath The Red Wrath The Red Wrath

Yuliya Tymoshenko is serving the sentence for the abuse of power while in office: Yurii ONISCHENKO

TOT: How does Ukraine see the strengthening of its ties with Norway and what are the areas where a better cooperation can be established between the two nations?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Over the 20 years of diplomatic relations with Norway, our countries signed 25 international treaties, including interstate, intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements and memorandums. Regular exchange of visits of foreign ministers, defense ministers, parliamentarians prove the partner character of the political dialogue. This autumn we expect the first official visit of the Ukrainian Prime Minister to Norway, which will mark another important milestone in bilateral relations. The two countries have close cooperation within international and regional organizations. Ukraine highly appreciates Norwegian support in financing a number of important initiatives, including the Chornobyl Shelter Fund projects in Ukraine.
Despite the many examples of successful cooperation, the potential of our bilateral ties has not been fully revealed so far. The most promising areas for further development of trade and investment is shipbuilding, agriculture, oil and gas exploration, information technology, fish trade and processing.

We hope that another push for vivid trade cooperation will be given by a visit of Norwegian Trade and Industry Minister Trond Giske to Ukraine, as well as by the opening of the representative office of the Norwegian-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce (nucc.no) in Ukraine later this year.
Research and development is another important area for further development of cooperation. A number of Norwegian research and academic institutions, like SIVA, NGU, NIVA, SINTEF, University of Nordland, University of Ås, University of Telemark have established strong ties with their Ukrainian counterparts. The strong academic traditions in Ukraine are major prerequisites for other joint initiatives in basic and applied research.
Also cultural ties possess a deep potential for vigorous development. For example, Maihaugen Museum in Lillehammer enjoys fruitful cooperation with the Open Air Museum in Lviv under the support of the Norwegian Directorate of Cultural Heritage. I believe, that we should utilize the historical ties between our peoples dating back to the Medieval times, when Norwegian konungs sought kinship with rulers of Kyiv Rus’, and promote stronger ties between the Ukrainian and Norwegian nations.

TOT: After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has always remained in serious political turmoil, inside or outside its border. Could you shed some light on this situation?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: After the collapse of the Soviet Union the new country with its unique geographical position, rich natural resources, industrial and scientific strength as well as highly qualified human capital started to search for its own niche in the global world. At the same time, during the first years after the proclamation of independence, Ukraine had to shape a new system of state administration, national legislation, establish or re-establish economic ties with the neighbouring countries and the rest of the world.

It is obvious that such transformations cannot be accomplished overnight, and are often accompanied by political turmoil. Since 1991 Ukraine has done significant progress in democracy building and development of a market economy. Unlike in most of the former Soviet Union countries, all conflict situations in Ukraine have been resolved in a peaceful and democratic way.

The country is now implementing deep structural reforms, which have been long overdue. We have headed for the European integration as a transformational process addressing a number of the key issues, such as strengthening of national security, economic development, consolidation of democracy, and respect for human rights.

TOT: The Euro Cup tournament recently hosted and organized by the Ukraine has been criticized as the most scandal hit event in Europe. What would your take be on these allegations made by various factions and countries in Europe?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Let me disagree with your statement. According to UEFA, EURO 2012 turned out to become a unique event with the best legacy that UEFA could have ever produced. The decision to bring the final round of EURO 2012 to the East was a historic one both for Ukraine and for Poland. Yes, it was a challenge in terms of economy and infrastructure. But we succeeded. Before the tournament there were a lot of speculations about the failure of the future Championship, rumours and unfounded allegations prevailed in media.

During the first days of the tournament all the allegations vanished. And I am really proud of the high level organization of this fantastic tournament by Ukraine and Poland. The Polish and Ukrainian peoples have shown their enthusiasm, tolerance, hospitality traditions and have set a high bar for the future tournaments that will be difficult to match.

The Ukrainian government delivered on all of its commitments to demonstrate that we can host major international events as a part of the common European family.

TOT: Prior to the Euro Cup the EU and its members particularly Germany, the UK had tried to boycott the tournament in support of ex- Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a jail sentence in Kharkiv region, where she was on a hunger strike from the 20th of April to the 9th of May 2012. Please explain a bit about their stand and their contentions? Was this stand an act of discrimination against Ukraine?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Attempts to politicize the European Football Championship EURO 2012 were destructive, and its boycott would undermine the image of the Championship itself. Moreover, sport events have since the ancient times played an important role in the process of establishing interstate understanding and unity. After winning the right to host the European football championship in 2012, Ukrainian and Polish peoples have taken great efforts and have done tremendous work to secure a top level organization of the tournament.

Boycott of EURO 2012 would practically harm the feelings of millions of ordinary Ukrainian citizens as well as European fans who vote for different parties or are not interested in politics at all. Reformation of the Ukrainian judicial system, strengthening of democratic institutions and the rule of law – all these issues belong objectively to the field other than a football festival, which is in its essence beyond politics and cannot be used to address political and judicial issues.

TOT: Yulia Tymoshenko, who led the Orange Revolution in Ukraine against the Kuchma government, is behind bars which the European Union and other international organizations have criticised by saying that “the conviction is seen as “justice being applied selectively under political motivation”.  What do you have to say on this?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Yuliya Tymoshenko is serving the sentence for the abuse of power while in office and not for her political activity. She was sentenced by the court in the result of the criminal investigation. This was the court’s decision which is to be respected — both domestically and internationally. The only way to challenge it is to appeal to a higher court of law.
I would like to point out, that Ukraine is now paying an enormous price for the Russian natural gas, the price we are obliged to pay according to Tymoshenko’s notorious gas deal with Russia in 2009. It is ridiculous, but it is cheaper for Ukraine now to import the Russian gas from Germany than from Russia itself.
Another issue to mention here is, of course, the system of justice in Ukraine, which definitely requires further reformation. Our government and parliament are now carrying out reforms of the judicial system in general and, in particular, in the part of criminal investigation.

In April 2012 the new Code of Criminal Procedure was approved by the Parliament of Ukraine. The main purpose of the reform is to create equal opportunities for each of the parties in criminal process and to secure a real implementation of the adversarial principle.

TOT: Ukraine is looking forward to its acceptance in the European Union as a full fledged member. So what are the steps the Government of Ukraine has taken so far in that direction so as to meet the required EU standards?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The EU-Ukraine relations officially started from the signing of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in 1994. Many Ukrainian experts regret that Ukraine did not sign an association agreement in the 1990s like other Eastern European states, referring to this as a “missed time and opportunity”, because the PCA only deals with cooperation and not integration.

However much progress has been made since 2007, when Ukraine and the EU decided to elaborate a new type of agreement based on political association and economic integration. Political association means harmonization of our policies, including foreign policy and deeper cooperation in different spheres. It’s also about values, so the future Association agreement will be based on the same values as the Lisbon treaty.

While economic integration is about our integration into the Single market with the extension of all the four EU’s freedoms to Ukraine. This process is very difficult primarily because the free movement of people is a highly debated issue in the EU member states.
The association agreement is a unique framework for further reforms in Ukraine and is a real toolbox that will bring Ukraine closer to the EU. Last year we successfully completed negotiations with the EU on the Association agreement. This year the text was initialled, concluding the five years of negotiations. Now the 600 page document has to be translated into 23 languages, signed, ratified and finally implemented.
The process of visa liberalisation, which is another extremely important issue for Ukrainians, is also progressing very well. The European Commission has recently published a positive report of Ukraine’s implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan and Ukraine hopes to launch the second phase of this Action Plan soon.
Finally, I want to say that relations with the EU are very important for Ukraine. Support of European integration is the issue that unites almost all Ukrainians. The country’s European perspective enjoys over 70% support in all parts of the country, so it is a crucial priority of Ukraine’s foreing policy. The interesting point is that the high level of support is not about the financial benefits that European integration would bring.

Enlargement of the EU to the East of Europe is about reunification of the space of common history and common mentality. For Ukraine, integration with the EU is a civilisational choice.

TOT: How do you see the progress from the European Union while considering the candidature of Ukraine as its member country and how long will Ukraine take to arrive at a decision on the same?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The Comprehensive association agreement will bring benefits to both of the parties – Ukraine and EU. I already mentioned the overwhelming popular support of the EU membership in Ukraine. At the same time, we understand that further progress will depend of the results of the reforms in our country.
Now we feel the real interest from both sides. For example, the representatives of European business circles are more and more actively calling for abolition of visas for Ukrainians to the EU. We are also working hard to deliver on our part. I am sure, this two-way drift will give positive and prompt results.
We are very optimistic. And Europe is steadily growing ready to embrace Ukraine. According to the last survey of the GfK, almost half of the European guests, who visited Ukraine during EURO 2012, stated that Ukraine deserved to enter the EU in the near future. The survey results revealed that EU citizens generally support Ukraine’s European aspirations and believe that Ukraine deserves the visa-free regime as a component of European integration.

According to the same survey, 52.4% of European fans would like to cancel the visa regime between their countries and Ukraine already today, while only 4.8% did not support the visa-free initiative. 42.56% of the respondents wanted Ukraine to become a member of the 27 nation block in a short term, while 30.92% believed that Ukraine could join the EU in the medium term under the condition that the political and economic situation in the country improves. Notably, only 2.77% of the surveyed EU citizens said they did not want to see Ukraine as a part of the Union.

TOT: Russia has been a major gas supplier to Europe and Ukraine has played a transit point to its gas supplies. But time to time the dispute has remained alive between Ukraine and Russia where at some point Ukraine has always warned Russia of stopping its gas supplies to Europe. This has resulted in Russia considering another transit route through Turkey via the European Union?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The South Stream is economically disadvantageous both for Ukraine and for Russia. Ukrainian gas transit system is the most secure and prospective for the Russian gas deliveries to Europe.

Its modernization would cost for us and the international partners almost 50 times less, than construction of the South Stream, while the Ukrainian GTS is able to deliver 100% of the Europe’s demand in Russian gas.
Referring to the second part of your question, Ukraine has never used its gas transit system as a political or geopolitical instrument and has never stopped or warned of stopping deliveries of the Russian gas to the EU.

We are a loyal partner that maintains its international agreements and obligations. Above all, we want to maintain good relations with Russia as well as strengthen cooperation with the EU.

TOT: In the context of the previous question is the next one: How will you describe this situation and the rift which has caused Europe a crucial shortage in its gas supplies?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Secure gas transit to Europe has always been a priority for Ukraine, sometimes even at the expense of our own benefits. The gas negotiations of 2009 were carried out in the extreme international pressure, and in that crisis situation Ukraine stood firm to deliver on its obligations before Russia and the European countries.

Moreover, I already commented on the economic consequences of the gas contracts signed by the former Prime Minister without the due governmental appraisal. Now the Ukrainian economy has to cope with the dramatic prices on the natural gas, on top of the consequences of the global financial crisis.

TOT: Recently the Venice Commission advised Ukraine not to reconsider its mixed election system for its upcoming elections in October this year. Has Ukraine done something in accepting this new draft proposed by the Venice Commission? If so, then what are the steps which have been taken in this direction?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: As you justly noted, Ukraine is now approaching parliamentary elections. The President and the Government of Ukraine have publicly stated their commitment to secure free and fair elections in accordance with our election law of 2011, drafted according to the European standards.

The law was endorsed by both coalition and most opposition parties, and reaching a consensus decision was namely one of the main recommendations of the Venice Commission. We believe that the mixed system will better serve the interests of the Ukrainian people, providing for increased accountability of the MPs. According to many Ukrainian experts, closer ties with respective constituency results in a higher awareness of local needs and challenges.
Now the Ukrainian government strives to make the election process as transparent as possible. According to recent regulations, the voting process will be broadcast via web cameras online at the corresponding web-site. Video surveillance system will be recording the whole process after voting and up until the signing of protocols by election committees.
Ukraine has also sent early invitations to the international observers to monitor the election process. In this context we are working closely with many countries and with the international organizations, in particular, OSCE, the Council of Europe, NATO and others. We hope that Norway will send own observers as well.

TOT: In April, Ukraine was hit by a series of blasts in its industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk, which claimed many lives of hundreds of innocent people. How will you comment on this act of terrorism and who in your view is to be blamed or held accountable?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The tragedy in Dnipropetrovsk on April 27th of this year left 29 people injured. The criminal case was opened according to part 2 of the Article 258 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (the act of terrorism). Until the final examination is carried out, it is not possible to state if the explosions were an act of terrorism, whether it was  a homemade bomb or a military explosive.
The President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych has called on the to the Prosecutor General, Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine, and Interior Minister to take comprehensive measures and carry out an investigation of the explosions in order to establish those involved in the bombings in Dnipropetrovsk city.
Unfortunately, terrorism is a global challenge which requires a better cooperation between security services of different countries to prevent sufferings of innocent people.

TOT: How you will describe the situation of human rights in Ukraine?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: We recognize that further political transformations in Ukraine and the reforms are required to strengthen the system of the protection of human rights. Respect of human rights is one of the priorities of the President and the Government. We appreciate the attention and desire of the international community to promote the legal and democratic institutions in our country.

In this context, all the recommendations of the international community or non-governmental organizations are studied and analyzed in order to implement them in Ukraine.
There is still much to improve in Ukraine’s judicial system and procedures, but it needs to be done consistently. Such work has already started and we welcome the initiatives aimed at bringing the legislation in this area in line with the international standards.

TOT: Does the press and the electronic/Internet media enjoy freedom in your country or does it still face the state control over the press and media activities just like it used to be at the time the Soviet Union existed?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: I don’t even want to compare the present freedom of media in Ukraine with the Soviet time. There are both public and private mass media now in Ukraine. The share of non-public television and radio broadcasting stands at over 96%.

With the development of information technologies and the advance of the Internet, many independent Internet media have emerged. Of course, there are challenges we face but the state makes every effort to secure freedom of media in Ukraine.
According to the World Press Freedom Index 2011/2012 of the Reporters without borders, Ukraine is rated at the 116 level which is a 15-point better position compared to last year. Basic principles, standards and provisions of the existing Ukrainian laws today correspond to the international legal standards and the international conventions of human rights.
At the same time the existence of modern legislation is not enough to guarantee the rights of the society to free and unbiased information. We have to continue our work to ensure that the laws are practiced in full, and the real protection of the rights of journalists and mass media is secured.

The President of Ukraine has repeatedly issued strong demands to the law enforcement agencies for a greater protection of the rights of journalists and freedom of media. The Head of State is convinced that it is one of the main duties of the authorities to create all the necessary conditions for free and independent journalistic activities in Ukraine.

TOT: How will you rate the progress which your country has made after achieving its independence?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Despite the challenges we are still facing, Ukraine has achieved a lot indeed. Back in 1991 we inherited a ruined economic system, acute social tensions and political vacuum, not to mention the bitter burdens of the Soviet legacy. Now Ukraine may boast of a growing middle class, emerging but manifold civil society, strong business community and large-scale investment projects.
In 1994 Ukraine joined the Non-Proliferation treaty refusing its nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world. It was the first precedent in history for a nation to voluntarily give up its strategic weapon. We managed to reach a high level of dialogue and cooperation with international organizations as well as deep comprehensive relations with many foreign states developing the strategic partnership with the key players on international arena.
Since the declaration of its independence in August 1991, Ukraine determined membership in the United Nations as one of its foreign policy priorities. In 1997 Hennadiy Udovenko, then Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine was elected President of the 52nd UN General Assembly session.

Ukraine’s election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the term 2000-2001 became an acknowledgment of our state’s authority and role on the international arena as well as of its consistent and unbiased foreign policy. Ukraine was elected also to the UN Economic and Social Council for five times. Representatives of Ukraine served as chairmen of a number of main committees of the UN General Assembly sessions.
Ukraine became a productive member of the Council of Europe and the last year we held a successful presidency in the Committee of Ministers of this important European institution. In 2013 Ukraine will chair the OSCE. After all, we have successfully co-hosted the EURO 2012 tournaments this year, showing our utmost hospitality to the world. This August we celebrate yet another anniversary of  freedom. All in all, we have achieved much over the 21 years of independence, but have to look ahead and work hard for further achievements.

TOT: What kind of role has Ukraine played so far in promoting democracy and freedom of the human individual in the fullest sense of the term, in the region as well as on the global stage of the present day?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Ukraine enjoys a unique geopolitical position at the crossing of the main transport corridors between the East and the West, the North and the South. Ukraine is the key to strengthening democracy, freedom and security in the Balto-Black Sea-Caspian region. Our country plays the key role in this geopolitical space, which largely defines the structure of European security.
Committed to promoting democracy and freedom in the region Ukraine co-founded the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM, now uniting Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. With the headquarters in Kyiv, this international organization primarily works to promote democratic values in the region, ensure the rule of law and respect for human rights, support sustainable development and strengthen international and regional security and stability.
Ukraine’s future Chairmanship in OSCE in 2013 will focus on promotion of democracy in the OSCE area, settlement of protracted conflicts, including the Transnistrian conflict, as well as in the improvement of the Organization’s effectiveness in response to new challenges and threats.
We believe that efficient functioning of the organizations such as the OSCE, EU and NATO does not only promise security for their member states, but also development and prosperity, compliance with the fundamental human rights, freedoms and the rule of law. Ukraine develops close and active cooperation with these organizations in the context.
Speaking globally, I would like to mention that Ukraine was one of the ardent supporters of the establishment of the Human Rights Council. In 2006 Ukraine was elected one of the first members of the Council and in 2008 it was re-elected to this leading UN body for the period up until 2011 with a strong international support.
Ukraine’s membership in the HRC is a contribution to strengthening of the international stability and security, spreading of the democratic standards worldwide, increased international cooperation on important international projects on human rights, as well as active involvement in elaboration of balanced approaches to the solving of crisis situations. It has also opened for promotion of Ukrainian initiatives in the field. Recently in June 2010, the HRC adopted the resolution “On the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights” initiated by Ukraine and co-supported by about 30 countries.
Now Ukraine is a party to the majority of the international human rights instruments, including the seven core UN human rights conventions and the optional protocols thereto, first of all: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on Rights of Person with Disabilities.

…Thank you Reverend Ambassador. We are sure that The Oslo Times worldwide readership will benefit immensely from the interview.
________________________________
©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

Indonesia is deeply concerned with the situation of Rohingya Muslims

In the image above: (R) Ms. Esti Andayani – The Honorable Ambassador of Indonesia to Norway with Hatef Mokhtar Editor in Chief The Oslo Times (L)

Honorable Ambassador of Indonesia to Norway, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Chief Editor and Editorial Board panel.

 

It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important global issues.

 

TOT: To start with we shall start with Indonesia-Norway ties. Not long ago, your predecessor, Ambassador Retno Marsudi said that, “Indonesia and Norway have had a very intensive relationship in the last couple of years. What makes this relationship to appear so busy and fruitful, and what should we anticipate in the future?” We would like you to dilate on this in detail so as to enlighten our readers worldwide?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: The long standing bond of friendship and bilateral cooperation between the two countries have always been good and grown stronger. Several instruments of cooperation were signed during the tenure of Ambassador Retno Marsudi in Oslo. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Norway twice in 2006 and 2010 during his tenure. In reciprocal, the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg made a state visit to Indonesia in 2007.

The bilateral relations between Indonesia and Norway have been strengthened and enhanced following the signing of Dynamic Partnership (November 2010) which is not only on the framework of bilateral cooperation but also multilateral dimension.  Most of the bilateral issues are interlinked with multilateral issues such as human rights, climate change and environment, energy, security, global health, MDGs. To this end, Indonesia and Norway enjoy continuous close cooperation on Dialogue on Human Rights; cooperation in REDD+ (Reductions of Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation); Security Policy Consultation; Foreign Policy and Global Health; MDG 4 and 5 and other international issues.

Whereas in the areas of economic cooperation, the ongoing negotiations on Indonesia – EFTA Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IE-CEPA) are running smoothly where up to now five rounds of negotiations have taken place. The bilateral relations focus also on increasing trade and investment and energy security. With rapid changes in global situation, these issues would be fundamental for future cooperation.

 

 

 

TOT: What are the key strategic areas where Indonesia and Norway can function together as successful partners and cooperate together for the development and improvement of existing bilateral ties with each other? While answering this question we would like you to speak also on the areas that can provide a boost to Indonesia’s economic prospect vis a vis Norway?

Ms. Esti Andayani: The strategic area of cooperation between Indonesia – Norway is the REDD+ cooperation. This is one of core bilateral issues between Indonesia and Norway, which has been highlighted during the meeting between President of the Republic of Indonesia and Prime Minister of Norway, in the margins of Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, 26 March 2012. Indonesia and Norway Partnership on REDD+ cooperation should serve as a model of bilateral cooperation in the multilateral dimension. Indonesia promotes that kind of partnership in the sidelines event of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD)/Rio+20, 20-22 June 2012.

 

Besides the cooperation in the field of environment, there are more sectors that are potential to be enhanced such as energy, maritime, fisheries and infrastructures. Indonesia is now become more attractive for foreign investors due to its enhanced investment climate and recent upgrading  of Indonesia’s investment grade by two global and well-known rating agencies, ‘’the Fitch’’ and ‘’Standard and Poor’’. The Indonesian fundamental economy remains strong, showing resilience growth coupled with low government debt and prudent policy. This is a promising and saleable factor in the middle of increasing concerned on the prospect of global economy.  Therefore, it is a high time for Norway and Indonesia to improve their trade and investment activities.

 

As you might already be aware of, that in 2011, the bilateral trade volume reached                USD 309.5 million. This number is still considered small compared to the potentials of the two countries that still can be explored by setting target and focus on particular commodities or sectors. I warm-heartedly welcome Norway’s decision to reopen the office of Innovation Norway in Jakarta in 2012.  I expect that Innovation Norway could not only encourage Norway’s business sectors to expand their cooperation with Indonesia’s counterparts but also acts as a matchmaking agent for bridging business opportunities between big companies and small medium enterprises for both countries.

 

 

 

TOT: Now, expanding our vista here, let us come to what your Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono said on the 19th of July – as reported in almost all the Indonesian newspapers and also aired by the BBC — Indonesia has been selected to host the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management which will operate starting this year. “The heads of state/government of ASEAN member countries have agreed that the AHA Centre should be set up in Indonesia this year” …We would like to have your concise and precise response and views on this statement by your minister?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: According to Synthesis Report on Ten ASEAN Countries Disaster Risk Assessment (December 2010), the region reported 1,211 occurrences of disasters with over 414,900 casualties over the last 40 years (1970-2009). These numbers could be higher as there were also unreported cases. Most of ASEAN countries, including Indonesia, are prone to disasters. Disasters affect on ASEAN countries’ economies, and the lives of millions of people in the region.

In the light of constant disasters and humanitarian situations in the region, ASEAN agreed on a legally binding pact to establish national and regional structures to deal with disasters, and endorsed the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) in July 2005, which mandated the establishment of AHA Center. The center is the hub for disaster information, coordination of relief mobilization, coordination of joint emergency response, administration coordination, and disaster research and study. In fact, AHA Center has started its operation in June 2011.

Having experienced the biggest disaster in the 2004 with the Aceh’s tsunami, Indonesia has learned about disaster management and made it a government priority by establishing the National Agency for Disaster Management and its regional offices through the Act No. 24/2007 on Disaster Management. Many countries have recognized and also learned from our experiences and successes in dealing with disaster management and disaster risk reduction.

Given the above facts, I can reaffirm Indonesia remains committed to actively participate in enhancing international cooperation in disaster management and humanitarian situations. Those facts also show that we are more prepared and ready with the infrastructure and human resources to host the AHA Center. Indonesia welcomes cooperation in the field of disaster management at all levels: bilateral, regional, and multilateral. Although we understand that cooperation among the ASEAN member states and other states or parties can be in form of bilateral cooperation, such cooperation should not overshadow ASEAN cooperation, internally or with a third party, in the regional level through AHA Center.

TOT: Your country has had a traditional history of ties with Australia and this long range of bilateral relationship and cooperation was highlighted by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his speech on a seminar held on Australian-Indonesian ties sometime back (Reported by the press and electronic media of both the countries and also available on Youtube on the Internet). Mr. Rudd also spoke on both the countries bonding with ASEAN member states and also on the scope of further cementing of ties between your country and his. Do explain this to us in detail for the benefit of our readers?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Yes, I remembered his speech very well. Indeed, Indonesia and Australia has a long history of friendship, and what used to be a love-hate relationship is now a mutual love for each other. I myself see that the care and attention given by Australia and the people of Australia after the Bali Bombing in 2002, and later at the event of tsunami in 2004 as a turning point, and from there on our relationship never looks back.

Australia is our biggest neighbor, not only in term of territory but also cooperation. Our cooperation ranges from political, to economic, development, security, education, health, and you name it.  We are now partners, we benefit from each other, and one’s problem or suffering is also of the other’s interest. Therefore it is important for us to maintain this good relationship.

And that is also the reason we support and welcome further cooperation with Australia through ASEAN. Australia is also one of ASEAN’s biggest neighbor, and having always supporting ASEAN, I think involving Australia as ASEAN’s dialogue partner was the correct path. Australia has also been included in East Asia Summit since the very beginning in 2005. In 2010, the ASEAN-Australia Summit was held in Hanoi, and it highlighted ASEAN – Australia relations and cooperation, including in trade, in which the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) entered into force in January 2010.  But not only in economy, on that summit we also underlined cooperation in ASEAN’s other pillars, that is in political-security cooperation, and socio-cultural, which I think is good for both parties.

TOT: It is also a known fac

t that both Norway and Indonesia are energy sufficient and oil producing nations, even though the former after being an observer and the latter having left the OPEC in 2008, on the grounds of becoming a net importer. Delve on this and tell us as to how you will assess the possibilities of further joint cooperation between the two countries and also tell us about what has been done and achieved so far?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Although Indonesia is no longer member of OPEC, it does not mean that we do not have anymore energy potential. Indonesia is one of the fastest growing country in the world and our interest now is more to fulfill domestic needs. We still have many unexplored potentials and we see that Norway has technical experience and capability to help us in exploring our energy potentials.

 

Energy cooperation between Indonesia and Norway in the form of bilateral consultation on energy has been regularly conducted following the signing of MoU between the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Indonesia and the Ministry of Industry and Energy of the Kingdom of Norway Concerning Cooperation in the Energy Field in Jakarta, 1995.  In the last bilateral energy consultation held in Yogyakarta, 6-7 October 2011, Indonesia and Norway were committed to implementing concrete cooperation in the future.

 

Indonesia is highly interested in further promoting bilateral cooperation in renewable energy to support its green economy policy, including to materialize concrete cooperation in renewable energy sector. This sector is believed to become the priority of future cooperation among others in hydropower, geothermal dan off-shore wind.

 

I would like to share you an example of one finished projects, which is the Baron Technopark Project in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta funded by Norwegian Development Cooperation           (NOK 6.5 million, equivalent to US$ 1 million). This project is a prototype of new and renewable energy (solar, wind and geothermal) which not only is purposed for research and development of renewable energy, but also as a center of education and social activity in the energy sector for the general public. Norway also invest in mini hydropower in Manipi, South Sulawesi valued at USD 22 million and is currently investing in other hydropower projects.

 

Besides renewable energy, there is also a cooperation on oil and gas sector. For your information, Statoil has operated in Indonesia since 2007 and currently has been appointed as operator in Karama and Kuma block in Makassar Strait and six other locations in eastern part of Indonesia.

TOT: The President of your country, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said on the 22nd of this month that Indonesia will never leave ASEAN despite its growing role in the Group of 20 rich and developing nations (G20). Being an important member of ASEAN and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), could you explain the position of Indonesia in promoting the significance of your country and also highlight the cause and vision of its being in the two groupings?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: What I can share with you is that ASEAN is our root. We grow up together, as family. And just like members of family could live or work elsewhere, they will always come home. That is what ASEAN to us. Indonesia is one of ASEAN’s founding fathers, and also one that initiated that there should be an ASEAN Community. Indonesia also has its role in envisioning the ASEAN Vision 2020. Not only that ASEAN States grow together and ASEAN nurtures us, but we also nurtured ASEAN, making it big and strong as it is today. And I believe that it will getting stronger.

 

In terms of statistics, ASEAN covers an area of 4.46 million km2, with a population of approximately 600 million people, which is about 8.8% of the world’s population. That is a big number, not only in terms of human resources but also potential market. Most of us have similar state of development and it is growing rapidly much to the world’s envy. For ASEAN, being united provides better chances in growing than if we are on our separate ways. And Indonesia wants to keep it that way.

As with APEC, all members of ASEAN are also the member of APEC. ASEAN states do not leave their root in APEC, and we walk together. Every decision taken should be beneficial for all ASEAN members, not only for one. Together we are stronger, and having more bargaining power, which we hope in the future are comparable with super powers such as China and the US at the APEC Forum.  Indonesia wants to be and is committed to be the driving force for that to happen.

We are proud of our active role in the G20. It really signifies the recognition of our growing economy and our potentials to grow even further and faster. But then again, being in the ASEAN is also one of the reasons we got so far.  I think Indonesia’s admission to the G20 will not only strengthen Indonesia’s role and position in the world, but will be beneficial for ASEAN as well, as we can say that being the only ASEAN country in G20, Indonesia represents the region in the forum.

TOT: Now, Honourable Ambassador, highlight and explain to us the significance of being a country with the largest Muslim population in the world and tell us this too – for the benefit of our readers worldwide — about your country’s take on human rights violations which are being committed in Myanmar/Burma by the Rakhine Buddhists against the Rohingya Muslim community? Being the world’s largest Muslim nation in terms of population what do you think about the genocide being carried out under the very nose of the Burmese military junta as well as in front of Nobel Peace Winner Aung San Suu Kyi?

Ms. Esti Andayani: We are deeply concerned with the recent situation in Rakhine, Myanmar. We understand that that kind of situation could happen everywhere in a world of multi-ethnic society. Without more detailed information, I would not engage myself for further comments. However, I believe that the Indonesian government will take any necessary measures through various mechanisms in settling the issue, including bilateral, regional ASEAN, OIC and the UN.

 

TOT: Our next question is a continuation of the previous one. Give us your views on the recent press and electronic media reports (Newspapers and television channels of India, Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh and also published prominently by The Oslo Times a few days ago) some of the escapees/ survivors of the Rohingya Muslim community were saved by the Indonesian Navy. The Rohingyas were left as stranded people right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Did your country do something or intends to do something positive to take an account of this fleeing of a people belonging to a segregated and downtrodden community of Myanmar and yet without doubt happen to be, beyond the shadow of a doubt, its citizens too? Give us your answer in a nutshell?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia always withholds its national law in dealing with refugees and asylum seekers with respect to various ratified International Human Rights Conventions, in cooperation with the UNHCR.

Indonesia treats every illegal migrant including refugees and asylum seekers equally regardless of their nationalities, including the Rohingyas. Although there are a number of Rohingyas refugees to Indonesia, their numbers are insignificant compare to those coming to Malaysia.

Indonesia is not a party of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees; therefore it is the duty of the UNHCR to independently determine the status of illegal migrants. The Government of Indonesia basically supports the decisions of the UNHCR and promotes durable solutions through 3 alternatives i.e. voluntary repatriation, resettlement in third country, and local settlement in Indonesia.

 

TOT: Now, respected Ambassador, coming to your ties with Australia, do share your views on the growing refugee crisis which has been fueled by the Australian immigration policy, in which human traffickers are taking advantage to provide asylum to people fleeing your country to Australia by illegal methods?  If your country has been affected gravely by this activity then what is it doing to cope with it and curb it? Also, what has been the Australian response and cooperation with the authorities of your country in this regard?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia notes the increasing numbers of refugees from Middle East countries (Afghanistan and Iran) and from neighboring countries (Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka).  The numbers of illegal migrants heading for Australia via Indonesia has multiplied since 2008 and this has become the concern of the Indonesian Government. In dealing with this matter, Indonesia and Australia has established cooperation by signing the Lombok Treaty in 2006.

At regional level, the Bali Process is a regional forum co-chaired by Indonesia and Australia. This forum discusses the solution for people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational organized crimes in the region. The activities within the Bali Process are technical, voluntary and non-binding with the focus on capacity building.

In recent development, the members of Bali Process agreed to continue the cooperation through Regional Cooperation Framework (RCF) which in operational level is conducted by establishing the Regional Support Office (RSO) in Bangkok.

TOT: Now coming to the human rights situation in the West Papua it is important to mention the latest Amnesty International report on Indonesia which says that there is a critical situation in West Papua– a humanitarian crisis – which needs to be addressed and resolved at the earliest possible. We shall be delighted to have your thoughts on this situation in West Papua and the problems which are threatening to build up more and more with each passing day?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: First of all, I would like to make sure that we refer to the same definition when we address West Papua. Currently, we have two provinces in Indonesian Papua, namely the Papua and the West Papua. We recognized that there are some incidents of violence happened recently in Papua and West Papua. I would like to ensure you that the incident and the issue of Papua are not issues of sovereignty, but rather a political, social, justice and welfare issue.  There is no such humanitarian crisis as reported by the Amnesty International.

Since 2005, the Indonesian government has promoted welfare and justice approaches in developing Papua and West Papua. Both provinces have received special autonomy, including a policy allowing them to accelerate development in a special budget allocation. Furthermore, the implementation of the master plan for accelerating and expanding the development of Indonesia’s economy (MP3EI) has made the region, along with Moluccas, a potential territory in the economic development strategies with concrete project, budget and agenda.  The Indonesian government has also established a Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B), to help resolve development problems that might arise. From political side, the government has actively engaged in dialogues with various stakeholders in the region to deal with various problems.

To further accelerates the improvement of human capacity in both Provinces, the Indonesian Government implements several affirmative actions, such as quota for education i.e. in police forces and the position of ‘’putra daerah’’ (people of local ethnicities) in the local government. Meanwhile, the government also continues to intensify efforts to build and promote a more conducive situation in both Provinces, among others, by making various efforts to increase welfare, law enforcement and respect for human rights and continues to develop a more democratic political life.

The fundamental policy of the Indonesian Government concerning Papua and West Papua has undergone a significant transformation, altering the security approach applied previously into prosperity and justice approach, within the context of Indonesian territorial integrity. The implementation of special autonomy has shifted sweeping powers and authority from Jakarta to Papua and West Papua allowing them to regulate and manage based on their own interests. However, the acceleration of economic and social development is still a challenge ahead. This is due to the least developed infrastructure and public services caused by geographical aspects as well as different traditional legal systems. Therefore, the focus of the Government is to deal with these challenges with various measures.

TOT: Now, let us inform you that quite recently The Oslo Times met with Benny Wenda, a representative of West Papua movement in Oslo — who was invited to the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2012. Benny Wenda explained to us about the situation in West Papua and the discrimination which Papuans face in Indonesia especially at the hands of the Indonesian Army. Please clarify on this?

Ms. Esti Andayani: As I have mentioned before, the Government has altered the security approach applied previously into prosperity and justice approach. Since then, the Government has pulled out military units that were no longer necessary in Papua and West Papua, and kept only a small number of units that are essentials to maintain security and protect the people. Nowadays, the police have more roles in maintaining order. The various incidents happened in Papua and West Papua recently were more of criminal acts, which were handled in accordance to Indonesian laws and regulations.

The people of Papua and West Papua have never been discriminated. They are even given special treatment to sit in various positions within the local government that only they can withhold, which people of other ethnicities are not entitled.

TOT: Reverend Ambassador, Indonesia, as is known to the world is a country which, despite being the world’s largest Muslim nation in terms of population, is resilient and tolerant to the people belonging to all faiths, cultures and historical genesis. It is indeed highly appreciable. We would like you to tell us on the struggle going on against extremism in the world and highlight Indonesia’s stand and efforts directed against fundamentalism of all kinds, extremism and fanaticism as well as militancy. Our question assumes more relevance as it is clearly visible that since some time in the past extremism and militancy are threatening the stability of your own country?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indeed Indonesia is the country with largest Moslem population in the world, but Indonesia is not a Moslem country. We respect differences and hold the values of tolerance. Differences indeed exist. The emergence of groups with extreme-right views has posed a challenge to Indonesia, such as acts of terrorism and militancy. Globally, this kind of trends also emerges in other democratic countries.  I believe you share the same opinion, that in several Western countries, anti-immigrant and anti-Islam groups are in the political mainstream, and they have positions within the Parliament which could be influential. In comparison, such groups and activities are not recognized in the political mainstream in Indonesia.

The problems arise from the practice of religions you hear here in Norway and many other Western countries are actually quite minor. Unfortunately, international community is not very well informed about religious harmony exists in Indonesia. Regrettably the minor scaled problems receive more media coverage, nationally and internationally, as if the voice of that minority affected represents the voice of the majority.

Through you, I expect that the media would be able to deliver a more balanced coverage so that the public in the country and abroad would have comprehensive and contextual understanding about religious life in Indonesia.  At the same time, I do hope that the majority in Indonesia, who have been silent all along, would express their views and opinions to better represent the voice of Indonesia.

Meanwhile, in combating terrorism, extremism, and militancy, the Indonesian Government, since the 2002 Bali Bombing and 9/11 terrorist attack in New York, has engaged actively in many cooperation to improve capacity building in countering terrorism. We are now even considered as a role model for other countries in combating terrorism.

TOT: After having tackled the sensitive yet most significant problem of recent developments in the world comity of nations – threats of extremism and unbridled militancy – we would like to have your impressions and opinion on the role Indonesia has played so far in terms of promoting democracy, freedom of speech and human rights on the regional as well as on the international level?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia has always put forward constructive efforts in the cooperation of promoting and protecting human rights, through various dialogues and international cooperation. Indonesia has a role in bridging different views and positions regarding human rights which are often vary between the developed countries and the developing countries. Indonesia, on one hand, supports the efforts to promote civil and political rights carried out by developed countries while on the other hand, continues to promote economic, social and cultural rights as well as the right to development which are the priorities of developing countries.

At the regional level, Indonesia puts forward the cooperation through ASEAN and supports the democratization process of the ASEAN member countries in accordance with the principle of non-interference. At the global level, this commitment is reflected by initiating the Bali Democracy Forum which convenes annually since 2008.

Democracy is a home-grown process, emerged from within the community in each country, and is a process that cannot be imposed by others. That is why Indonesia is of the view that democracy should deliver, meaning that it has to be accompanied by development which will be beneficial for the people’s welfare.

I wish to reiterate that democracy is reflected by the freedom of expression, which in Indonesia is guaranteed by Constitution and related laws. Bearing this, the Indonesian people are aware that the freedom of expression is not absolute as it cannot infringe the rights of others.  We, Indonesians, adhere tolerance and rule of law and putting the principles into practice when we exercise the right to freedom of expression.

 

 

In the image above: US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama (L) meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife Ani Yudhoyono (R) at the State Palace Complex Istana Merdeka in Jakarta Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

TOT: In a lighter vein Reverend Ambassador, you too must be quite informed and aware like most of our readers are about present US President Barack Hussain Obama’s growing up in Indonesia especially as an adolescent and a youth. Thus Obama has a bond with your motherland. Anything remarkable that you can share with us in this regard?

Ms. Esti Andayani: President Obama lived in Indonesia only for four years during his early childhood. However, he is still bounded with Indonesia and its people. He knows full well about Indonesia, its culture, values, motto, and he even could still speak Indonesian. All of these were well reflected within his lecture before the students of the University of Indonesia.

In that lecture, he compared the values of the United States and the values of Indonesia that turned out to have a lot of similarities.  In the United States, E pluribus unum — out of many, one – has similar meaning with Bhinneka Tunggal Ika — unity in diversity. The United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values. Just like in the United States, the spirit of tolerance is also written into Indonesian Constitution; symbolized in mosques and churches and temples standing alongside each other.

He reminded us again about the Indonesian values which we ourselves sometimes often forget, Pancasila. Hearing that coming from such a prominent figure has really made us appreciates our own values even more.

 

He also mentioned that development is inseparable from the role of democracy. This is what our government is now doing, promotes development while at the same time building democracy. With all those shared values, we hope to further increase our close cooperation in various fields.

 

Other thing that impressed me and most of Indonesian people, is when President Obama mentioned that he was surprised to see how far Indonesia has developed ever since he left Jakarta. There was only one 5-starred hotel and a mall at that time, but now he saw many skyscrapers and malls in every corner of the city. I was also caught by surprised that President Obama still well remembered his Indonesian favorite food, satay and baso (meatballs).

TOT: Finally honourable Ambassador, would you like to give any message to the readers of The Oslo Times, who are constantly on the rise worldwide with each passing day?

Ms. Esti Andayani: The Oslo Times is an online media that is easy to be accessed by people all over the world. Online media has various timeliness, accuracy of the content and ability to deliver to the readers about various information, news and reports. Therefore, the readers should be smart and have a broad and open mind in choosing and digesting the news they are reading. I believe The Oslo Times have such good quality for an online media, just as its readers have good understanding towards the context of information contained. I hope by reading this article, your readers would have a better understanding and interest about Indonesia.

Thank you respected Ambassador. We think that this session has indeed been informative and beneficial for The Oslo Times and its readers. Thanks yet again!


 

©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

While fully committed to serious and objective nuclear talks, Iran calls upon 5+1 to reciprocally manifest their commitment

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Exclusive Interview with the Honorable Ambassador of Iran to Norway –

Seyed Hossein Rezvani

First of all we would like to thank you on behalf of The Oslo Times for accepting our invitation to share your candid views on the present situation of Iran’s position on nuclear programme and on the events arising in relation to it.

It is indeed a privilege to have you on The Oslo Times panel of exclusive interviews and we feel truly proud in welcoming you here.


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TOT: Recently the talks between Iran and P5+1 took place in Moscow. Is the outcome of talks was satisfactory to Iran and its interests? 

In the name of God, the Companion-ate, the Merciful

Iran’s Envoy: While fully committed to serious and objective nuclear talks, Iran calls upon 5+1 to reciprocally manifest their commitment.In recent talks between Iran and 5+1 (five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) in Moscow, both sides agreed that a technical group should discuss in detail the proposals by each side and hammer out a framework or a road map for the continuation of the talks. So a technical group is going to have a new round of talks on Tuesday in Istanbul.
It is clear that some members of 5+1 for whatever reasons apparently political ones, are not forthcoming and serious enough for finding a solution. If the talks do not proceed as it should be, another standoff in the talks can be expected. Therefore, this could be considered as a critical point in Iran’s talks with some members of 5+1.

TOT: With worsening Iran’s nuclear case with the international community, especially; with the West and the constant failures of the series of talks has resulted into more energy insecurities in the world. How Iran view these recent developments and escalations in the nuclear policy debate?


Iran’s Envoy:
The USA and certain Europeans have said that they are going to increase their pressure and sanctions against Iran and this by itself indicates that they are not willing to engage with Tehran in a meaningful dialogue.
It is to be reiterated that , oil embargo against Iran leads to further disruptions and insecurities of world energy market and consequently adds up to financial crisis in Europe . The 1+5 non-compliance with guiding principles of nuclear talks established during Istanbul II talks and absence of cooperative approach on their side is the primary cause for unsuccessful Baghdad and Moscow negotiations. Therefore it is necessary to address this issue and shed lights on the latest developments and to analyze the issue from the view point of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

What are the major obstacles or issues faced by Iran during talks with P5+1 group countries?
The main obstacle in Moscow talks as well as in Iran’s previous talks with 5+1 in Baghdad was the issue of Iran’s right to enrich uranium. This right stems from International law and Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). According to NPT developing, research, production and use of nuclear energy and having full national nuclear fuel cycle and enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes are among the inherent and inalienable rights of each sovereign member state.

One major issue during discussions with 5+1 in recent rounds of talks was an attempt to work out a framework for a comprehensive and targeted dialogue. Iran strongly believes that talks should not be for the sake of talks. Rather they should be conducted on good will, mutual respect and in a spirit of cooperation which can lead to tangible results. Therefore attitude and actions that go contrary to good will, spirit of cooperation and mutual respect are counterproductive and should be avoided.
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TOT: How Iran views the consideration or inclusion of NPT in the talks? And the kind of advantages which it brings with it for Iran?

Iran’s Envoy: NPT should also be considered as the benchmark for talks and all parties have to commit themselves to the rights and obligations specified in the NPT. Iran is strongly opposed to any preconditions particularly when they are outside the framework of NPT. Genuine commitment and cooperative approach are essential tools to enable both sides to successfully embark upon a new process of fruitful talks, which are comprehensive, sustainable and constructive. Iran is willing to have a mutually agreed long term solution. This could only come through tangible actions and on the basis of step by step approach, based upon principle of reciprocity. Iran is of the opinion that the legitimate rights as well as concerns of both parties should be fully recognized and addressed in an objective and comprehensive manner.

The main Iranian objective in the negotiations as well as cooperation with the IAEA is removal of any misunderstanding regarding its peaceful, transparent and legal nuclear activities within the framework of NPT. The Fatwa of the Supreme Leader is indeed supporting these facts. Iran believes that confidence building is a two-way street. In this regard Iran wants to normalize its nuclear file at the Board of Governors of IAEA by total termination of politicized and illegitimate Security Council as well as unilateral sanctions.

Iran is entitled to full enjoyment of its inalienable rights to peaceful nuclear technology as stipulated in the NPT and in compliance with regulations of the IAEA. While looking forward to achieve a sustainable nuclear cooperation and transfer of advanced technologies,  Iran also wishes to conclude a comprehensive agreement on collective commitments in the areas of economic, political, security and international cooperation.
Is there any proposal that has been submitted by Iran in the recently conducted talks?
In recent talks, the 5+1 presented a proposal as a road map to bridge differences and fined a diplomatic solution for Iran’s nuclear issue, but they said proposal is suffering from some shortcomings both in context and in the substance. The said deficiencies would be elaborated in following paragraphs.

Iran in turn proposal  “a framework for comprehensive and targeted dialogue for long term cooperation among 7 countries”  which consists of guiding principles, objectives, issues ,  structure of the process and reciprocal steps that would be explained. Furthermore, there will be a review of the right to enrichment in various international treaties and conferences such as NPT, the Special Session of General Assembly devoted to Disarmament in 1978, the Review Conferences of the NPT in 1975 and 2010 and the statement of the Non-aligned Foreign Ministers Meeting in May 2012 in Egypt.

TOT: What are the facts that have remained unheard or which the people are unaware about ‘Iran’s Nuclear Program’ and its policies towards it? 

Iran’s Envoy:               Some Facts on Iran’s Peaceful Nuclear Issue

•The Fatwa of Iran’s Supreme leader on nuclear weapons, 19 February, 2012:
“The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons, because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”
•Under International Law, “to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy, to have full national nuclear fuel cycle, and to enrich Uranium for peaceful purposes” is an inherent and inalienable right of each sovereign State.
•Taking into account the importance of diverse portfolio of energy sources, each State also has the “sovereign right to define its national energy policies, including fuel-cycle policies, without external pressure or interference.”
•These rights are based on the principle of “sovereignty of States” and also have been reaffirmed in particular by the NPT.
•Neither the NPT nor the IAEA Statute or Safeguards agreements and even the Additional Protocol, prohibit enrichment.
•In exercising these rights, NPT Parties have legal “obligation” “to prevent diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons.”
•Iran is firmly determined to exercise its inherent rights in all areas of peaceful uses of nuclear energy and fully committed to its obligations.
•Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA and the Agency’s inspections in Iran are unprecedented in the history of the IAEA.
•Continuous inspections in the most robust and intrusive manner, more than 4000 man-day routine inspections, and over 100 intrusive inspections are only some examples of Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA.
•To date, no single evidence of diversion to military purposes has been found.
•Latest IAEA report corroborates Iran’s cooperation with Agency and peaceful nature of its nuclear activities. It states: “the Agency continues to conduct verification activities under Iran’s Safeguards Agreement” and “continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and Locations outside facilities declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement.”
•According to the report, despite sanctions, Iran’s nuclear activities, in particular in the area of enrichment and enrichment related technology are progressing.
•The said report states as well that Iran is not implementing Additional Protocol. The answer is clear: Additional Protocol is voluntary in nature and Iran has no obligation to implement it.
•To accept the Agency’s request to visit Parchin military complex does not fall within Iran’s legal obligations with respect to the NPT.
•Despite this, according to the IAEA’s November 2011 report, “the Agency was permitted to visit the site twice in 2005 and did not uncover anything of relevance.”
•As a confidence-building measure, Iran stands ready to provide access to Parchin, only when the agreement on modality is reached with the IAEA.
•Iran’s Natanz and Fordow facilities have been declared to the IAEA well in advance of the due date and in accordance with the Iranian obligations under IAEA Safeguards Agreement. Their activities continue to be under the IAEA constant monitoring.
•Earlier this year, the IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards visited Natanz and Fordow as well as other Iranian nuclear sites, including Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, Reactor and Heavy Water Production Plant at Arak, and the conversion and fuel fabrication facilities at Esfahan.
•Iran also provided the IAEA Deputy Director General access to an installation where Research & Development on advanced centrifuges was taking place, which is beyond Iranian obligations and also unprecedented in the history of IAEA inspections.
•In spite of the fact that the IAEA did not fulfill its obligations including delivery to Iran of the documents on the “Alleged Studies”, Iran did submit to the Agency its assessment in a 117-page document.
•As during recent talks with P5+1in Moscow demonstrated, Iran is determined to a faithful negotiations on interested issues to both parties based on mutual respect and a win-win solution.
•Iran proposed a road-map for negotiations which includes guiding principles, structure, issues and steps, according to that any step by one party should be responded by a homogeneous and simultaneous step by the other party.
•Iran made it clear that ambiguous and unrealistic proposals are counterproductive and may lead to more uncertainty between the parties.


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