Thursday, June 20, 2024
 
 

U.S.-Kazakhstan Enhanced Strategic Partnership Dialogue deepens political and economic ties

Plans set to convene the next ESPD in Astana in 2025
US Mission Kazakhstan
Participants in the May 31 Enhanced Strategic Partnership Dialogue meeting in Washington D.C. -- U.S. Department of State

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The sixth annual United States-Kazakhstan Enhanced Strategic Partnership Dialogue (ESPD) was held in Washington D.C. on May 31.

The U.S.-Kazakhstan Enhanced Strategic Partnership Dialogue was created to identify new opportunities for mutual cooperation and serves as a platform for advancing shared political, economic, security, and human rights priorities. These high-level events normally rotate each year between both countries’ capitals.

Even after reading the stated purpose of the ESPD, readers will be wondering what these “strategic dialogues” are set up to do and how they fit into the overall bilateral relationship between the United States and Kazakhstan. First of all, the ESPD or any “strategic dialogue” is a diplomatic tool designed to focus all aspects of a bilateral relationship into a review mechanism that is usually embellished by each country’s highest-level diplomats and/or regional experts.

Normally, individual sector-focused working groups spend months ahead of the review preparing specific sections of the outcome document/communique which also allows for progress on specific issues. In the U.S. Government, an upcoming strategic dialogue meeting becomes an “action-forcing event” that requires each participant’s bureaucracies to focus on resolving outstanding issues and concerns. In many cases the strategic dialogues, with a lot of hard preparatory work,  will generate “deliverables” such as agreements to be signed to top off the bilateral meetings.

Strategic dialogues come in a number of sizes and shapes, and the United States is one of many countries to utilize such dialogues as review mechanisms, including the EU and UK. Readers should pay attention to the exact titles of the strategic dialogue mechanisms, especially whether they are listed as “enhanced” and whether they refer to “strategic partnerships,” “policy dialogues,” or simply “strategic dialogues.”

One thing is clear, in the twenty first century, these kinds of bilateral strategic dialogues are constantly in bloom and new ones are being established between countries/organizations almost as if there are no operational limits, which at some point will require changes.

Focus on energy, critical minerals, transport projects

During the May 31 Washington meeting, special emphasis was placed on deepening aspects of bilateral political and economic cooperation, with particular attention given to the regional projects launched following the High Level C5+1 meeting in New York last September. The parties also discussed cooperation in the fields of energy and critical minerals as well as progress being made by Kazakhstan on important transport projects that impact all of Central Asia and beyond. The Kazakh side also used the ESPD to highlight innovations in national legislation on the protection of human rights.

Joint Statement

We reprint the joint statement in full below because of its utility as a checklist of the state of bilateral relations. The current document was issued by the Office of the Spokesperson at the U.S. State Department on June 5, in parallel with its publication by the Kazakhstan Government:

“On May 31, 2024, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu welcomed First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan Akan Rakhmetullin and a Kazakh delegation to Washington for the sixth annual United States-Kazakhstan Enhanced Strategic Partnership Dialogue (ESPD). This strategic dialogue was created to identify new opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and serves as a platform for advancing shared political, economic, security, and human rights priorities. The ESPD builds upon over 30 years of bilateral relations and underscores the United States’ unwavering support for Kazakhstan’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity.

Participants expressed their intentions to continue to enhance regional cooperation on border security, counterterrorism, non-proliferation, and transnational threats in the year ahead, including through the C5+1 Security Working Group. The United States and Kazakhstan discussed the repatriations of Kazakh foreign fighters and their family members from Syria to Kazakhstan and the reintegration of those family members into society. Participants also discussed deepening multilateral cooperation to support the principles of the UN charter, underscoring both countries’ dedication to fostering a more secure and prosperous region through sustained dialogue.

The two sides reflected on the outcomes of the third annual United States-Kazakhstan High-Level Dialogue on Human Rights and Democratic Reforms, held on May 20 in Astana, and underscored their ongoing commitment to advancing respect for human rights, including freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and religion or belief; and labor and disability rights. Both delegations also discussed support for legislative efforts to increase gender equality and strengthen protections for women and children against domestic violence. Participants reiterated their intent to work together to develop and implement torture prevention programs and explore prospects for closer collaboration and data-sharing to prevent, identify, and eliminate trafficking in persons, bring perpetrators to justice, and increase protections for victims.

Participants also discussed deepening bilateral economic cooperation and promoting construction of resilient infrastructure along the Trans-Caspian Transportation Corridor to support future exports from Central Asia. Delegations also discussed emerging areas for economic partnership, including bilateral technical assistance and cooperation to develop Kazakhstan’s critical minerals sector. They expressed support for continuing to work toward permanent normal trade relations, which will further strengthen the bilateral trade relationship. Both delegations look forward to building upon the success of new cooperation within the C5+1 Critical Minerals Dialogue and the Minerals Security Partnership Forum to increase the region’s role in global critical minerals supply chains, strengthen economic cooperation, and contribute to the world’s clean energy transition. The parties underlined the importance of infrastructure development for sustainable trade routes through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.

Participants exchanged views on the revitalized United States-Kazakhstan Strategic Energy Dialogue to support a secure, clean, and resilient energy future for Central Asia. The United States and Kazakhstan expressed their mutual readiness to implement the United States-Kazakhstan Joint Statement on Accelerating Methane Mitigation to Achieve the Global Methane Pledge. These efforts include accelerating technical engagement to implement methane mitigation solutions, identifying projects and investment tools to reduce methane emissions, and announcing near-term steps to develop national standards for methane reduction in Kazakhstan’s oil and gas sector.

Assistant Secretary Lu and First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Rakhmetullin acknowledged the ESPD remains a valuable format to advance bilateral cooperation and expand coordination across the full spectrum of United States-Kazakhstan relations. Both sides expressed a strong interest in deepening the bilateral strategic partnership in the year ahead, including through future strategic dialogues. Delegations closed the meeting by reaffirming their intention to convene the next ESPD in Astana in 2025.”

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