Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has appointed his long-serving ambassador to the United States as foreign minister to help the oil-rich country to forge stronger economic ties with the West.
Yerlan Idrisov, 53, was reappointed to the post he held between 1999 and 2002 before embarking on consecutive five-year stints as ambassador to Britain and the United States.
Nazarbayev is an ardent supporter of plans by Russian President Vladimir Putin to establish closer economic and political ties between former Soviet states; a “Eurasian Union” to recoup the potential lost when the Soviet empire collapsed.
But Friday’s appointment of Idrisov to run foreign policy, utilising the contacts and experience gained from a decade working in Western capitals, helps Nazarbayev to allay possible concerns in Washington and the European Union that Kazakhstan might be turning its back on the West, analysts said.
“We need to be pragmatic. This includes reinforcing our embassies in those countries with which we have serious economic contacts and interests,” Nazarbayev said while introducing Idrisov to ministry staff.
The president is also keen to look at making business investments in the West. “We have reached the point where we have the opportunity to invest abroad. If the need is there, we can become shareholders in high-tech companies,” he said in comments on the presidential website.
Idrisov’s switch comes as Nursultan Nazarbayev, guides his country towards a Eurasian Union based on an existing three-way customs union with Russia and Belarus
With Kazakhstan participating in the Eurasian Union, this appointment was required to balance foreign policy in a Western direction, political analysts said.