Ex-ambassador calls for closer ties with Kazakhstan

December 7, 2020 - 23:14

TEHRAN — Former Iranian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Ramin Mehmanparast has called for closer relations between Tehran and Nur-Sultan, describing Kazakhstan as the most important country in Central Asia.

“We can have closer cooperation with Kazakhstan, as it is the most important country in Central Asia and it is located in the Eurasia region,” Mehmanparast said in an interview with the Tehran Times.

“That country has a great growth potential and we also have many commonalities with that country,” he said. “One of our main commonalities that needs to be discussed more is historical and cultural commonalities. Parts of Kazakhstan are heavily influenced by Iranian civilization and culture. The biggest Kazakh character who they are proud of is Farabi. They have named their most famous street and university after him.”

He said these points show how influential the Iranian culture is in Kazakhstan, pointing out that there are three thousand Persian words in the Kazakh language and that many of the Kazakh people’s names are Persian.

The former diplomat said students are studying Persian language in Kazakhstan and the country’s Persian language professors are very fluent in Persian.

“One of the most famous and prominent Persian language professors in the world is Dr. Safar Abdullah. Although he was born in Tajikistan, he has lived in Kazakhstan all his life and studied at the Moscow University (before the collapse of the Soviet Union) and was granted Kazakh citizenship,” the former ambassador explained.

He said Dr. Abdullah is very well-known in Iran and all prominent Iranian professors of Persian literature know him.

“He is very active and has offered great contributions to Iran,” Mehmanparast said. “He was the main translator in our embassy in Kazakhstan for many years, but he currently only does academic works.”

According to the former envoy, the Kazakhs are seeking historical identity and most of the sources that can help them in this path are in Persian.

“This is another reason for cooperation,” said Mehmanparast. “In some libraries in Kazakhstan, the reference books are in Persian. Perhaps in depicting their history, Iran’s sources can be a good help. We can cooperate in these fields. These are the fundamental levels that can lead to the establishment of closer ties and cooperation.”

He further explained that Kazakhstan is a majority Muslim country and Muslims mostly live in southern areas, adding that Kazakhstan is a very big country with a small population, and therefore, there is a good opportunity for Iran to carry out technical and engineering projects there.

Therefore, he went on, “we can cooperate in different projects.” 

“In the south of Kazakhstan, we see more mobility of the Islamic population, and a special tendency towards Islam was formed among their youth,” he added.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Mehmanparast, who has also served as Iran’s ambassador to Poland and Lithuania, said two areas in Kazakhstan are very important to Iran economically.

“Kazakhstan is one of the five countries bordering the Caspian Sea. For this reason, the port of Aktau in this country is very important to us. A significant part of Kazakhstan’s imports and exports go through this port. We are also active in this sector. We could have had many projects in this area to be in a better position,” he said.

The ambassador told the Tehran Times that when he was the ambassador to Kazakhstan “we had talked to the governor of the region to allocate a piece of land and a private wharf for Iranian ships, and they welcomed it, but unfortunately, the Iranian side did not take it very seriously and a golden opportunity was missed.”

The other area is Shymkent in Kazakhstan’s south, neighboring Uzbekistan, he said, explaining that Iranians were engaged in trade activities in that area. “We could have done good work in Shymkent as well.” 

He went on to say that there was no consistent policy on the Iranian part, and pressure from the Americans did not allow the formation of effective cooperation between Iran and Kazakhstan, particularly in oil and banking sectors.

“Kazakhstan can be a good opportunity to cooperate in this field due to its huge oil and gas resources. There were proposals at the time, such as the establishment of a joint refinery in northern Iran. That is, we were supposed to import their oil to our own refinery and export Kazakh oil in the south instead,” he stated.

According to Mehmanparast, another case is joint investment of the parties in the field of oil and gas transmission lines, including a project which was to be carried out to build a pipeline from Amirabad to the port of Jask.

“I think some work is being done now, but at that time it was supposed to transport one million barrels of oil a day. This was extremely important for Kazakhstan. These were important oil and gas projects we could have with Kazakhstan,” he added.

Mehmanparast said Iran can create good opportunities through medical tourism. “In this field, for example, if we had medical tourism on the agenda and pursued it seriously, we could have attracted a lot of people from Kazakhstan. They can easily enter Iran.”

“This is also a field of serious cooperation,” he added.

Pointing to technical and engineering projects, he said Iranian companies have a good track record in road construction in Kazakhstan.

Since Kazakhstan is a very big country, it needs communication infrastructure, he said, adding, “We can be very active in this area. Kazakhstan has a lot of potential in the steel field. There is also the possibility of cooperation in this sector.”

“At the same time, the country is very rich in terms of minerals, and in this area, we can have bilateral or trilateral cooperation. There have already been discussions about tripartite cooperation,” he explained.

Mehmanparast further explained that there are many opportunities in the economic sector to cooperate with Kazakhstan.

“In the political sphere, too, the Kazakhs try to have a balanced policy and maintain relations with all countries. They give a special place to Iran. They took advantage of this opportunity and tried to pursue economic growth and development rapidly,” he remarked.

The ambassador hailed the role of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the formation of Kazakhstan in the aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet Union.

He also said Kazakhstan’s current president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has a very good view toward Iran, adding that such potential can be used to expand bilateral ties.

“At the time I was Iran’s ambassador in Kazakhstan, Mr. Tokayev was Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, and a very good relationship was established between the two countries at that time.” 

Concluding his remarks, Mehmanparast reiterated that Iran needs to have more trade and political relations with Kazakhstan.

MH/PA

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