Opening Remarks at the Consulate General Almaty Official Opening Ceremony

Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Almaty, Kazakhstan
December 14, 2009

As prepared

Good morning to my colleagues from the government of Kazakhstan, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the press, ladies and gentleman.

It is a great honor for me to be here today to officially open U.S. Consulate General Almaty. As most of you know, the Embassy has maintained a Branch Office here since we moved to Astana in 2006. The new Consulate encompasses all the existing functions of the Embassy Branch Office, including consular and public affairs, as well as the regional centers for several other U.S. government agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Today’s official ceremony gives the Almaty office full Consulate General status – the only one of the United States in the region – underscoring the importance of Almaty in the view of the U.S. government as a center of culture and commerce not only in Kazakhstan, but throughout Central Asia.

The United States clearly sees Kazakhstan as an emerging international leader in many areas, from nuclear non-proliferation to the promotion of religious and ethnic tolerance. In less than a month, Kazakhstan will assume its most visible international leadership role yet: Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The United States is happy that Kazakhstan has taken on this leadership position, and we stand ready to work with our partners in the government of Kazakhstan to help ensure that its Chairmanship is successful in every possible respect.

Finally, I would like to thank our Kazakhstani partners for the support they have given to the people of Afghanistan. I particularly would like to point out the generous offer made by Foreign Minister Saudabayev to educate and train 1,000 Afghans in Kazakhstan. Of course, we greatly appreciate Kazakhstan’s continued support of transit for supplies going to the coalition forces in Afghanistan. As President Obama recently announced, the United States is redoubling its efforts to provide the people of Afghanistan the security they need to build a stable government and society, and we are depending on Kazakhstan for its support in these efforts. Working together, we cannot fail to build a safer and more prosperous future for Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the world.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to speaking with reporters in just a moment, but for now, let’s open this Consulate!