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Germany Extends Cautious Backing To Kazakh OSCE Bid


German Chancellor Angela Merkel with Kazakh President Nazarbaev in Berlin on January 30 (epa) January 30, 2007 -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed support for Kazakhstan's desire to assume the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2009.


Speaking at the end of a visit to Berlin by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Merkel emphasized that such backing was conditional on continued political reforms in the country.


Merkel said that Germany, the current holder of the rotating EU Presidency, could be a motor for deeper integration of Central Asia with the EU.


"Central Asia is a focal point of the German presidency of the European Union, and we support the European Union in that we are developing more intensive relations in that region, especially with Kazakhstan," Merkel said.


Nazarbaev reportedly welcomed Merkel's initiative and said that Kazakhstan has a right to OSCE chairmanship. He said that his country had a free press and would be holding "open-ended" elections.


Western observers have not recognized any of the handful of elections in Kazakhstan since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 as free and fair.


In 2006, OSCE foreign ministers postponed consideration of Kazakhstan's election to the chairmanship.


The United States and others said Kazakhstan needed to take more steps toward democracy.


Human rights organizations frequently criticize Kazakhstan's government for failing to allow for independent media and for alleged human rights violations.


Nazarbaev has maintained a tight grip on virtually all state institutions since he ascended to power in 1989, and has consolidated his power through a disputed referendum and three presidential elections in 1991, 1999, and 2005.


EU Involvement


Merkel today pushed her proposals for more EU involvement in Central Asia in conjunction with her meeting with Nazarbaev.


Germany is the current holder of the presidency of the European Union, which is seeking to diversify its energy suppliers.


Merkel said that Germany can be a motor for deeper integration of Central Asia with the EU.


"Central Asia is a focal point of the German presidency of the European Union, and we support the European Union in that we are developing more intensive relations in that region, especially with Kazakhstan," Merkel said.


Nazarbaev reportedly welcomed Merkel's initiative toward Central Asia, but the two did not mention any specific energy project.

Kazakhstan And The OSCE



READY TO LEAD THE OSCE? Kazakhstan has been lobbying to be granted the rotating chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009. In March, current OSCE head Karel De Gucht visited the country and said Kazakhstan is better prepared to head the OSCE than any other Central Asian country. But concerns about the state of democracy, the media, and ethnic relations make Kazakhstan's bid extremely controversial....(more)


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