In Bishkek, the two heads of state discussed the development of the Kazakh-Kyrgyz strategic partnership focusing on strengthening political dialogue, and building trade and economic, investment, and cultural and humanitarian cooperation.
Tokayev’s visit to Bishkek, the second since he assumed the presidential office in June 2019, saw the signing of 10 bilateral documents, including on the investment in the infrastructure of the industrial trade and logistics complex in Karasu and Ak Tilek road checkpoints, on cooperation in the field of aviation search and rescue, and on the prevention and mitigation of natural fires in the border areas.
Thirty years of bilateral ties
This year, the two countries mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Diplomatic relations were established on October 15, 1992.
According to Tokayev, over this period, the friendship has become even stronger, and political dialogue based on mutual trust has been established at all levels.
«This visit has a special meaning. I am confident that it will strengthen our strategic partnership and give a strong impetus to further cooperation between our countries. There is no doubt that Kyrgyzstan is the closest state to Kazakhstan in all respects,» Tokayev told Japarov during their narrow format meeting.
During the meeting in an expanded format, Tokayev commended the implementation of agreements reached during Japarov’s visit to Kazakhstan in March 2021 - intensifying contacts between the two governments, creating a modern Kordai - Ak Jol border crossing point, strengthening military-technical cooperation, providing regular humanitarian aid, and effective work on the exchange of electricity.
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan seek to double trade turnover
Intensifying cooperation, including in trade and investments, is ever more important considering the geopolitical turbulence, according to Tokayev. He called on the sides to intensify investment cooperation, proposing to study proposals and form a list of promising projects. One of them could be the joint construction of hydropower facilities in Kyrgyzstan – Kambarata-1 hydropower plant. Kazakhstan is one of the leading trade, economic, and investment partners of Kyrgyzstan. Since 2005 the volume of direct investments from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan reached $1.3 billion, and $97.1 million from Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan. Among the latest projects will be the construction of a solar power plant in the Issyk-Kul region involving the Kazakh capital with the cost estimated to reach US$300 million. Last year, trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan reached $970.8 million, an increase of 14 percent (625.2 million) compared to 2020. Between January to March alone, trade turnover was $206.3 million, up 2.9 percent from the same period in 2020 ($200.6 million). Japarov and Tokayev set an ambitious goal to double trade turnover to US$2 billion.
There are 233 joint ventures with the participation of Kyrgyz capital in Kazakhstan, mostly in wholesale and retail trade, construction, car sales, cattle breeding, cultivation of grain, and leguminous crops. On the other hand, there are 373 joint ventures with the participation of the Kazakh capital registered in Kyrgyzstan, mostly engaged in financial activities, food production, trade, repair of cars, household goods and personal items, and transport and communications. Tokayev is optimistic that the industrial trade and logistics complex, whose construction kicked off today, will open new opportunities for diversification of cooperation in industry and trade.
Saparov, in turn, indicated the light and food industry, mining, processing of agricultural products, and the construction of small and medium hydropower plants as promising areas for cooperation. He said that his March 2021 visit to the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC), where businesses had a chance to meet, intensified cooperation. The 10th meeting of the Intergovernmental Council on April 29 in Bishkek saw the signing of an agreement that will establish the Green Finance Centre under the auspices of AIFC in Bishkek. Tokayev assured the Kyrgyz leadership that Kazakhstan stands firm in its commitment to protecting the interests of foreign investors.
«We are ready to export industrial products and other goods. There will be support from KazExport [a state-owned company overseeing the exports]. Kyrgyzstan also exports a number of goods to our country. In this regard, we agreed to make the most of the available opportunities,» said Tokayev during a joint press briefing the same day.
The country’s trade and people-to-people contacts have significantly benefited from the modernization of Kordai border crossing point in 2021. The same upgrade will follow for other border crossing points.
«The main task is to reduce the number of inspections and eliminate traffic congestion at the border,« said the President of Kazakhstan.
Cooperation in the water and energy sector
In the region of Central Asia, water and energy systems are inextricably intertwined and how these countries manage their water and energy resources affects tens of millions of people and the stability and well-being of the entire region. The rapidly rising demographic levels, outdated water management infrastructure, and climate change are among the key factors putting a big strain on the countries’ water resources. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan share Shu and Talas rivers. The countries have a governmental commission that oversees the management of the shared river basins. But more should be done to prevent water scarcity, according to Tokayev.
«The problem of water scarcity becomes more and more complicated every year. This forecast is made by influential international environmental organizations. There will be no increase in water - it is already clear. Therefore, the Central Asian countries need to work together. The rivers shared by both countries should always be a link between the peoples. Kazakhstan is ready to fully implement all obligations and jointly implement important projects,» said Tokayev.
Education and people-to-people contacts
Education and human links are an important part of the cooperation between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan which share a centuries-old history and traditions. At a joint press briefing, Japarov spoke in detail about the issues they discussed with President Tokayev.
«There are plans to open a monument to the hero of our great epic Manas in Nur-Sultan. The selection among Kyrgyz citizens wishing to study in universities of Kazakhstan for the 2022-2023 academic year, according to the quota of 50 places allocated by the Kazakh side, was completed. This was a personal initiative of Kassym-Jomart Kemelevich, and we are grateful for this decision,» said Japarov. The two leaders are also expected to take part in the opening of a branch of the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University and the monument dedicated to famous Kazakh poet Abai Kunanbayev in Bishkek. Japarov said the «philosophical and poetic legacy of Abai is a universal key to the mutual knowledge of different cultures.»
«We consider it necessary to continue to create conditions for the preservation and development of national culture and traditions on the territory of our countries,» said the Kyrgyz President. Tokayev and Japarov are expected to address the meeting of the Supreme Economic Council of the Eurasian Economic Union on May 27 in a virtual format.