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On 19 January 1992, diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and the UK were established.
The British Embassy in Kazakhstan opened in October 1992.
Since February 1996, the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan has operated in the UK.
Since February 2017, HE Mr Erlan Idrissov has been Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Court of St James's.
Since January 2018, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom in the Republic of Kazakhstan has been HE Mr Michael Gifford.
On 19 January 2017, Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom marked the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
Over the last 25 years, relations between our countries have reached an unprecedented level. Relations between the leaders of our two governments have gone from strength to strength; bilateral trade is growing; the contractual legal framework is expanding; and institutions overseeing bilateral relations are working effectively. The United Kingdom is the sixth-largest investor in our economy, while Kazakhstan has been identified as one of the UK's 14 top bilateral trading partners.
The Joint Statement on the Strategic Partnership, signed during the first state visit of UK Prime Minister HE Mr David Cameron to Kazakhstan in 2013, was a key moment and highlighted the special status of Kazakh-British relations.
Between 1991 and 2014, the President of Kazakhstan, HE Mr Nursultan Nazarbayev, made nine visits to the UK (1991, 1992, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2006, 2012, 2013 and 2015).
Members of the British royal family who have visited Kazakhstan include: heir to the British throne, Prince Charles of Wales (1996); Princess Anne (1993); the Duke of Gloucester (2000); Prince Andrew, former Special Representative for Trade and Investment (2003, 2006, 2007 and 2010); and Prince Michael of Kent (2009).
On 17 October 2014, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev held a meeting with UK Prime Minister David Cameron on the sidelines of the ASEM summit of European and Asian leaders in Milan, Italy.
The November 2015 visit of President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the United Kingdom signaled a new chapter in the history of our partnership, and demonstrated the broadening of Kazakh-British ties. The president held a meeting and attended an official lunch with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and also met with the then Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street. The President also met with heads of leading UK companies.
Following the meeting between President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Prime Minister David Cameron, a number of key documents were signed, including the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, the MoU on co-operation between civil services, and an Agreement on the UK's participation in Astana EXPO 2017.
The visit was included the second session of the Kazakh-British Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical and Cultural Co-operation, the Business Council of JSC Samruk-Kazyna and UKTI, as well as the signing of a package worth $13 billion.
In September 2016, the first meeting between President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Prime Minister Theresa May was held at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China. Following the meeting, the UK Prime Minister was invited to visit Kazakhstan.
On 22-24 February 2015, Mr Karim Massimov, the then Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, visited London. During his visit, Mr Massimov participated in the Global Law Summit and held a number of meetings with British ministers, political figures, and representatives from the business community.
On 6-7 October 2016, Erlan Idrissov, the then Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, and UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, jointly held a Kazakh-British strategic dialogue meeting and attended the presentation of the UK national pavilion at EXPO 2017.
The visit of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to Kazakhstan in June 2017, was a pivotal moment in bilateral relations. During his visit, Prince Richard participated in the opening of the UK National Day at the British pavilion at Astana EXPO 2017.
EXPO 2017 also hosted a high level visit from the UK's International Trade Minister Mr Greg Hands on 19-21 July 2017 His visit to Astana saw the signing of a number of important bilateral documents, as well as meetings with Kazakh Prime Minister Mr Bakytzhan Sagintayev; head of Astana EXPO 2017 National Company, Mr Akhmetzhan Yessimov; as well as Kazakhstan's Minister for Investment and Development, Mr Zhenis Kassymbek. Mr Hands also participated at the opening of Shell's Technologies Exhibition and the London Stock Exchange Group's Capital Markets Conference, organised as part of EXPO 2017.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Kazakhstan was established in October 2015 and is chaired by the Rt Hon Bob Stuart.
In February 2016, Mr. Erzhan Kazykhanov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan in the UK, held an expanded briefing for British MPs.
In October 2016, a delegation of the APPG visited Astana for the first time. During their visit, UK MPs held a number of meetings with representatives from Kazakhstan's Parliament; the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan; as well as and other heads of ministries and agencies. Following the visit, steps were outlined for further strengthening inter-parliamentary co-operation.
Trade and economic relations
The United Kingdom is one of the five largest FDI contributors to Kazakhstan. Between 2005 and 2017, UK investment in Kazakhstan totaled more than $12 billion.
Trade between the two countries between January and April 2017 was valued at $422.6 million, a 21 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2016 ($334.3 million). Exports have grown by 31 per cent, totaling $331.7 million. The value of imports was $90.8 million.
Primary export materials include non-ferrous metals; ferroalloys; chemical products; coal; crude oil and oil products; and cereals. Import materials include cranes; engines; industrial equipment; electrical equipment; optical and medical devices; medicines; aircraft and repair parts; steel structures; chemical products; and antiques.
Since September 2017, Baroness Emma Nicholson, a member of the House of Lords, has served as the United Kingdom's Trade Envoy to Kazakhstan.
China's launch of a direct rail freight from the wholesale center of Yiwu to London – which travels through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France – was an important event in 2017. It is noteworthy that Kazakhstan's JSC 'KTZ Express' was chosen as operator of this cargo.
More than 800 British legal entities are registered in Kazakhstan. Royal Dutch Shell and Ernst&Young are included in the Council of Foreign Investors under the President of Kazakhstan. British companies represented in the Kazakh market include: Rolls Royce; Rio Tinto; BAE Systems; AstraZeneca; GlaxoSmithKline; PwC; KPMG; Wood Group; William Hare; WorleyParsons; and Petrofac. Also represented are the branches of Baker & McKenzie; Norton Rose Fulbright; White & Case; Reed Smith; Michael Wilson & Partners; Dentons; Dechert; and Morgan Lewis.
Kazakh business is represented in the UK by branches of the 'Samruk-Kazyna' national welfare fund, Kazmortransflot UK Ltd, and Air Astana.
Many Kazakh companies - worth £5.8 billion in total capital – are listed on the London Stock Exchange, including KazMunaiGas, HalykBank, Kcell, and Kazkommertsbank, Nostrum Oil & Gas, KAZ Minerals, Goldbridges, Chagala Group. Eight mining companies – Steppe Cement, Tau Capital, Roxi Petroleum, Central Asia Metals, Jupiter Energy, Kemin Resources – are listed on the AIM (the London Stock Exchange's international market for smaller growing companies).
Since 2009, Kazakhstan's JSC 'Kazakhstan Aluminium Smelter' has been a member of the London Metal Exchange.
Investor Day, a landmark event in bilateral trade and economic relations, was hosted on 5 April 2017 by the 'Samruk-Kazyna' welfare fund at the London Stock Exchange. The event was recognized as the first overseas road-show in privatising the fund's large assets. The event was attended by Mr Greg Hands, UK's International Trade Minister; Mr Robert Barnes, CEO of Turquoise and Head of Primary Markets for the London Stock Exchange Group; Mr Timur Suleimenov, Kazakhstan's Minister of the National Economy; and Mr Umirzak Shukeyev, Chairman of Samruk Kazyna.
The UK was one of the first countries to confirm its participation at EXPO 2017 in Astana and appoint its National Commissioner. Spanning 1,100 square meters, the 'We Are Energy' themed UK pavilion was the largest pavilion at the EXPO. It was shaped to resemble a Kazakh yurt. At EXPO, the UK pavilion presented graphene, the material, which has the potential to radically change the way energy is produced and consumed.
EXPO 2017 hosted the visit of a big business-delegation led by Mr Andrew Parmley, the Lord-Mayor of the City of London. During the visit, Dr Parmley held meetings with Mr Bakytzhan Sagintayev, the Kazakh Prime Minister, Mr Kairat Kelimbetov, Governor of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC), as well as Mr Maxat Kabashev, Chairman of the 'Kazakh Invest' National Company.
The United Kingdom is actively participating in establishing the AIFC, which will be based on the English Law. The two sides recognize a MoU between the AIFC, TheCityUK and EBRD, which was signed during the President of Kazakhstan's visit to London in November 2015.
On 5 May 2017, the first meeting of the Legal Advisory Council – an advisory body established under the Astana International Financial Centre – was held at the Embassy of Kazakhstan in the UK. It was attended by representatives from leading law firms in the UK, including Baker McKenzie, Devonshires, Hogan Lovells, Michelmores, Norton Rose Fulbright, and White & Case.
Between April and September 2017, 14 judges and officials from Kazakhstan's judicial bodies undertook a six month intensive legal training course. Participants learnt about key principles of English common law and commercial, contractual, and entrepreneurial law. The training course focused specifically on the needs of the AIFC and was taken at London's City University. The training was organised with the support of the 'Bolashak' presidential scholarship – a joint initiative of Kazakhstan's Supreme Court and the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC).
From January 2017, UK nationals – along with nationals from OECD countries – were offered a visa-free regime to visit Kazakhstan for up to 30 days.
On 30 October 2013, the Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical and Cultural Co-operation was established between Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom. The first meeting of the new Commission took was held on 5 November 2013 in Astana.
The second session of the Kazakh-UK IGC was held on 3 November 2015 during the President of Kazakhstan's visit to London. Participants of the session discussed a number of projects, including China's 'Belt and Road' Initiative, EXPO 2017 and the establishment of the Astana International Financial Centre.
There are a number of other bilateral structures. On February 24 2015, the Business Council of JSC Samruk-Kazyna and UKTI, and the British Chamber of Commerce Representative Office in Kazakhstan were successfully launched in London. The first meeting of the Business Council was held on the sidelines of the official visit of President Nursultan Nazarbayev to London on 3 November 2015. The meeting resulted in the signing of 14 bilateral documents worth $208 million.
Cultural and humanitarian co-operation
Education is an important area of bilateral co-operation for Kazakhstan and the UK. In 2001, the Kazakh-British Technical University was established in Almaty. The university partners with four leading UK universities in the petroleum sector: Aberdeen, Robert Gordon, Herriot-Watt, and Westminster.
In 2014, Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom signed a MoU on the Newton-Al-Farabi partnership programme, worth £12 million. The programme provides support to joint innovative and scientific research projects. Financing is carried out on a parity basis.
Nazarbayev University has been implementing a programme for preparation for university education and establishing the School of Engineering supported by University College London. With Britain's support, a scientific library was opened at the NU Centre for Energy Research in 2012. The facility offers scholarships to train NU Research and Innovation System staff.
British universities have adopted a leading role in educating students from the “Bolashak" scholarship programme. Currently, more than 600 Kazakh students are studying at UK universities as part of the programme.
On 3 November 2015, a forum of British and Kazakh universities – organised by Kazakhstan's Ministry of Education and Science, the British Council, and the UKTI – was held on the sidelines of President Nazarbayev's visit to London. The forum resulted in the signing of 13 documents between the universities.
New opportunities for co-operation in the civil service sector were established by a MoU signed in November 2015. The document outlines collaboration between both sides in training professional personnel in line with 'The Plan of the Nation – the 100 concrete steps to implement the five institutional reforms of the President of Kazakhstan'. The first visit by representatives of Kazakhstan's Ministry of Civil Service took place on 16-19 March 2016. This visit focused on ongoing trends in the UK's civil service, recruiting, simplification of the administrative procedures etc.
Historical and cultural co-operation between Kazakhstan and the UK is consistently strengthening. The visit of British architect and traveler Thomas Atkinson and his wife Lucy to Kazakhstan in the 19th century has become a cultural bridge between the two countries. The Atkinsons were some of the first British citizens to visit Kazakhstan. They left behind a number of diaries, notes and paintings, in which they described the everyday lives of Kazakh people, as well as their meetings with Kazakh officials.
In July 2016, descendants of Thomas Atkinson visited Kazakhstan. During their trip, a monument was unveiled in the village of Kapal, in the Almaty region. This village was the birthplace of Alatau Tamchiboulak Atkinson, Thomas and Lucy's son.
The story of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson, as well as the visit of their descendants to Kazakhstan 150 years later, was captured in the 'Kazakhstan. The history of great travels' documentary. The film was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence and aired on Kazakh TV channels, including 'Khabar', 'Kazakhstan', 'KTK' in both Kazakh and Russian.
On 14 September 2017, an exhibition entitled 'Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia' was unveiled at the British Museum. The exhibition explored the daily life, culture, and art of the Scythians. The National Museum of Kazakhstan has been a key contributor of the exhibition, having loaned 17 objects. There was great public interest in the Saka dagger of the “Golden man" from the Issyk excavation. Other objects loaned from the National Museum of Kazakhstan included a silver bowl (V-III cc. BC, the Issyk excavation); a bracelet made in an animal style (VI c. BC, the Taksay I barrow); and other unique archaeological finds from excavations in Taksay, Berel and Taldy.
In the first week of October 2017, London hosted the Kazakh Arts Festival. The festival was aimed at introducing the UK and global community to Kazakhstan's rich cultural and historic heritage. Throughout the week, actors from two Kazakh theatres, the Mukhtar Auezov Kazakh State Theatre of Drama and the Korean State Theatre of Musical Comedy, as well as London's Pajarito Theatre, performed plays by renowned Kazakh writer and playwright Dulat Issabekov. These included 'A Man on a Mission', 'The Actress', and 'Song of the Swans'. The performances were held at London's Stockwell Playhouse Theatre and Bridewell Theatre.
In December 2016, BBC's Top Gear travelled to Kazakhstan. Presenters Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris, and Rory Reid journeyed across South-Kazakhstan and the Kyzylorda region in a Mercedes E 220D, Volvo V70 and London Taxi. The trio visited Shymkent and Turkestan, as well as Kentau, Kyzylorda and Baikonur.
Top Gear's Kazakhstan road trip attracted millions of viewers, who learnt about Kazakhstan's rich culture. The programme ended with the presenters watching the launch of the Soyuz at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Legal co-operation is an important aspect of Kazakh-British relations. Heads and representatives from the legal sector in both Kazakhstan and Britain regularly exchange visits.
There was a significant breakthrough in judiciary cooperation between Kazakhstan and the UK in late 2014. Lord Faulks, the then UK Minister of State for Civil Justice and Legal Policy visited Kazakhstan, while Kazakhstan's Prosecutor General, Mr Askhat Daulbayev, visited London.
As a result of these visits, a MoU between the Office of Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan and the UK Ministry of Justice was signed. The aim of the MoU was to establish a Joint Consultative Committee.
In the early 2015, former Prime Minister Karim Massimov visited Britain. Mr Massimov delivered a keynote speech during the Global Law Summit, an event dedicated to the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.
Joint effort from both sides has resulted in the signing of a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, as well as a number of interdepartmental co-operation agreements between the Office of Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan, the UK Ministry of Justice, and the National Crime Agency. These were signed during the official visit of President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the UK in early November 2015.
Between 28 February and 1 March 2016, Baroness Patricia Scotland, UK's former Attorney General and currently Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, visited Kazakhstan. Her visit encouraged dialogue on Kazakhstan's legal co-operation with the UK.
Between 22 and 26 June 2017, a Kazakh delegation – led by Mr Talgat Donakov, Deputy Head of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan – visited London to discuss and explore a range of legal issues. The delegation included Mr Kairat Mami, Chairman of the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan; Mr Zhakyp Assanov, Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan; Mr Marat Kolkobayev, Deputy Chairman of the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan; Mr Rashid Zhakypov, Deputy Minister for Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan; representatives from both the Agency of Kazakhstan for civil service and anti-corruption and the Kazakhstan Bar Association.
Military and military-technical co-operation
Primary areas of military co-operation include peacekeeper training, the training of Kazakh servicemen in military educational institutions in the UK, and language training in the military-technical sphere.
Each year, a plan for bilateral military co-operation between Kazakhstan and the UK is adopted and approved. In order to implement this plan, the Kazakhstan-British Working Group was established (meeting annually in either Astana or London). The plan for 2016-2017 was adopted in December 2015.
Technical co-operation is a priority in Kazakh-British relations. In May 2015, as part of Britain's withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, the UK government offered quadrocycles and night-vision devices to Kazakhstan.
On 13 September 2016, Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom signed a MoU on military technical co-operation.