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First OIC Summit on Science and Technology takes place in Astana

12 Sep 2017 11:41 AM | Yelena Arkhangelskaya (Administrator)
Astana Times, 12 September 2017

ASTANA – Sept. 10 in the capital featured not only the spectacular closing of EXPO 2017, a major event in Kazakh history, but also the first Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit on Science  and  Technology,  another  important  opportunity  for  the  nation  and  the  organisation’s  57 members.

The  summit  adopted  the  Astana  Declaration  affirming  the  commitment  of  the  member  states  to alleviate  poverty,  increase  the  budget  for  education  and  join  efforts  to  accomplish  the  goals envisioned in the OIC 2025 Plan of Action and the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who opened the summit and welcomed 15 national and governmental leaders, including Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Uzbekistan, advanced the idea to organise the conference during the 2016 OIC summit in Istanbul. A year later, more than 80 foreign delegations visited the city to discuss the organisation’s priorities and goals inscience, technology and innovation.

Nazarbayev noted Islam has deep historical roots in the nation’s history. “Islam came to our land more than 1,000 years ago. We served as a link in the friendly dialogue between the Islamic and Western civilisation,” he said.

The  Kazakh  head  of  state  pointed  out  several  acute  issues  that  the  international  community, including the OIC, needs to address. “First  is  extremist  and  terrorist  activity.  Primarily,  citizens  of  Muslim  [and  Muslim  majority] countries  suffer  from  their  subversive  activities.  Second  is  the  problem  of  the  spreading  of Islamophobia  sentiments.  Crimes  against  Muslims  are  on  the  rise  every  year  in  the  Western countries,”   he noted.

The  lack  of  unity  in  the  1.5-billion  Islamic  world  is  yet  another  issue  requiring  attention,  said Nazarbayev, who called for establishing  a science  and technology  fund  to  foster development  ofboth areas in the Islamic world that, in the past, was making tremendous progress in surpassing the West. Scientists,  including  five  individuals  honoured  by  the  special  OIC  Science  and  Technology Achievement Award, also agreed that the lack of funding explains why the Islamic world is lagging.Nazarbayev  also  suggested  setting  up  the  forum  by  bringing  15  OIC  member  states  to  boost cooperation. “I believe we need to establish the forum similar to the G20, an informal group to develop science and economy in the Islamic world. Fifteen leading OIC states can form the OIC-15, because the development of science and technology is very important for us. In this regard, we should establish fruitful  cooperation  with  the  Western  world  and  this  will  foster  the  development  of  the  Islamic world,” he added.

The President also expressed concern about the recent escalation of the conflict in Myanmar and urged the states to join efforts to settle the issue peacefully through the UN. OIC  Secretary-General  Dr.  Yousif  Bin  Ahmed  Al-Othaimeen  noted  the  summit  was  a  “historic event,” as it brought representatives of 57 OIC member states to discuss the salient issues pertaining to science and technology. He thanked Nazarbayev for the conference’s excellent coordination. “Kazakhstan has great respect in the Islamic world. On behalf of all delegations participating in the summit, I would like to express gratitude personally to you and all the Kazakh people for the warm welcome and high level of organisation of the event,” he said.

Kazakhstan’s experience shapes its actions on UNSC Astana Times, 12 September 2017. As  world  leaders  and  foreign  ministers  prepare  to  fly  to  New  York  for  United  Nations  General Assembly next week at a time of real challenge for the global community, we must hope the chance for formal and informal discussions can play its part in reducing tensions and divisions. There is no shortage of issues to discuss. North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests have sent shockwaves around the world. They are a severe test to global non-proliferation and the crisis they have sparked has again raised fears of how misjudgements or misunderstandings could spark nuclear catastrophe.

Conflicts in the Middle East and the threat from violent extremism continue to destabilise not only the region but the wider world. Out of the headlines, fighting in Africa – both within countries and across borders – brings misery to millions and remains a major challenge to development. Almost two-thirds of the agenda of the UN’s Security Council is devoted to trying to bring peace to areas of that continent. It would be hard enough to find solutions to these and many other challenges if there was agreement on the way forward. But too often there are acute differences of opinion along with suspicions of motives.

This is the worrying global background, which has faced Kazakhstan in its first several months as a member of the Security Council. But it is also a time when the country’s commitment to promoting cooperation,  dialogue,  the  rule  of  international  law  and  disarmament  have  never  been  more important. It is a responsibility which the record shows Kazakhstan has taken with the utmost seriousness. In the first six months of the year, Kazakhstan participated in more than 120 formal Security Council meetings and made meaningful contributions to more than 20 resolutions.

The  country  has  been  entrusted  with  chairing  committees  on  Afghanistan,  enforcing  sanctions against ISIL and Al-Qaida and on the Horn of Africa. As is always the case when member states take on such added responsibilities, there have been increased pressures on the nation’s diplomats. But the experience will serve them and Kazakhstan well in the years ahead. There has been progress, too, on areas which Kazakhstan promised would be a focus for its time on the Security Council. The future of Afghanistan was singled out as a major priority – a recognition of  the  importance  of  Afghanistan’s  stability  for  the  region  and  the  need  to  support  its  long-term economic and social development in the battle against extremism.

Within  the  UN,  Kazakhstan  has  been  working  hard  to  step  up  international  efforts  to  help Afghanistan’s elected government combat extremism and spread prosperity and opportunity to its long-suffering  citizens.  The  arguments  being  made  are  all  the  more  persuasive  coming  from  a country within the region and show the importance of Central Asia having a voice at the global table. It is also a voice which carries more weight because of the active role Kazakhstan continues to take, wherever it can, to promote dialogue and end conflict. The Astana Process, for example, still holds out hope of progress towards ending the tragedy in Syria despite many obstacles. At a practical level, too,  Kazakh  military  observers  have  joined  the  international  peace-keeping  operation  in  Western Sahara with plans to help support a second UN mission next year.

It  is  in  January  2018,  too,  that  Kazakhstan  will  take  on  the  task  of  presiding  over  the  Security Council.  It  is  a  role  which  will  further  enhance  the  country’s  stature  and  influence  within  the international community which will have an impact beyond the next two years. Among plans being considered for its presidency are, Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said last week, a debate at the highest level on how to improve international peace and security as well as ministerial level discussions on Central Asia and Afghanistan and regular formal discussions on the Middle East – both among the priorities for action Kazakhstan set out when it took its seat on the UNSC.

But it is the priority Kazakhstan gave to nuclear disarmament – which President Nazarbayev called the  cause  of  our  time  –  which  strikes  the  loudest  chord  at  this  difficult  time.  Kazakhstan’s experience and commitment to a world without nuclear weapons has never been more relevant nor more important and it is important its message is heard loud and clear on the Security Council.

Final de-escalation zone established as Syrian talks end in Astana

ASTANA – The sixth round of the international meetings on Syria ended Sept. 15 in Astana with the participants agreeing on a final de-escalation zone in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. It will be  the  fourth  zone  where  no  military  activity  would  be  allowed  as  envisioned  in  the  May agreement signed by Iran, Russia and Turkey, guarantor states to the ceasefire regime, during the fourth round of talks in the Kazakh capital.

The so-called Astana process  that has been  going on since January supplement  the UN-brokered Geneva talks meant to find the political resolution of the six-year conflict. Delegations  of  the  three  guarantor  states,  the  Syrian  government  and  Syrian  armed  opposition factions took part in the sixth round, while the UN special envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura and delegates from Jordan and the U.S. attended the talks as observers. “Few believed in the success of the Astana process launched in January this year, however, thanks to the determination of the participants of Astana talks, there is now hope to resolve this acute crisis through peaceful means. Today, the participants can go further as they managed to overcome many challenges and achieve considerable results in restoring stability and peace in Syria. They reached what seemed to be impossible and efforts in this direction led to the creation of de-escalation zones in different parts of Syria,” noted Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov during a plenary session wrapping up the two-day closed-door negotiations. In a joint statement read by Abdrakhmanov, Iran, Russia and Turkey announced the creation of the de-escalation  zones  in  eastern  Ghouta,  in  certain  parts  in  the  northern  Homs  province,  in  Idlib province and in certain parts of the neighbouring provinces, including Latakia, Hama and Aleppo, as well  as  southern  Syria.  The  measure  will  be  in  force  for  six  months  and  will  be  extended  if necessary with the guarantors’ consensus.

Iran, Russia and Turkey will have control over the de-escalation zones and would deploy the forces in accordance with the maps endorsed Sept. 8 in Ankara. The guarantor states also agreed to set up a joint coordination centre to coordinate activities in de-escalation areas. The creation of de-escalation zones does not in no way undermine the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, said the minister as he read the statement. “We believe that the process launched in Astana will strengthen the regime of cessation of hostilities and have a positive impact on upcoming Geneva talks under the auspices of the United Nations,” said Abdrakhmanov on his own behalf.

Head  of  the  Syrian  government  delegation  Bashar  al-Jaafari  called  the  Astana  talks  the  “only successful platform in the Syrian process,” which provokes interest among other countries to join the negotiations. “However, the issue of other countries joining the process is not on the agenda. Probably, we will take that into consideration in the future,” said al-Jaafari.

Yet, Idlib province was not the only topic discussed during the sixth round of talks, according to High Negotiations Committee (HNC) advisor Yahya al-Aridi, as the issue of tens of thousands of Syrians locked in prisons was also on the agenda. “Another matter is detainees, whom some people call buried alive. Tens of thousands of people are there.  Thousands  of  them  were  tortured  and  killed.  None  of  the  parties  raised  this  issue  to  the regime,” noted al-Aridi. Russian  President  Vladimir  Putin’s  Special  Representative  for  Syrian  settlement  Alexander Lavrentiev, however, committed to bringing the issue to the table in an attempt to build a dialogue with  the  opposition  group,  a  critical  factor  in  the  fight  against  terrorist  groups  that  are  recently becoming more active in Syria. “We need to involve armed opposition in the fight against terrorism. The unity of all Syrians in the fight  will not only foster positive changes, but will also build dialogue and trust between them, ”noted the head of the Russian delegation.

Similar to his colleagues, Lavrentiev commended the outcomes of the two-day negotiations and the potential of the Astana talks. “I must say that the creation of de-escalation zones makes it possible to stop bloodshed and achieve the stabilisation in Syria. The outcomes of today’s meeting affirmed the right choice the guarantor 7 states  made  earlier  about  the  promotion  of  de-escalation  zones  and  fight  against  terrorism,”  said Lavrentiev.

The  participants  of  the  meeting  also  thanked  Kazakh  President  Nursultan  Nazarbayev  for  his commitment to the Syrian process and the Kazakh government for hosting the meeting. The next round of talks is scheduled for the end of October.