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Kazakhstan: President Is Latest CIS Leader To Meet With Putin

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (file photo) Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev is due to arrive in Russia today for a short visit -- the latest in a line of CIS leaders to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ostensibly, the reason for Nazarbaev's visit is bilateral relations. However, in Putin's recent discussions, the issue of Kyrgyzstan has been high on the agenda. That is especially relevant for today's meeting as Russia and Kazakhstan both have sizable strategic interests in Kyrgyzstan.

Prague, 8 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- There are a number of issues on the agenda today for President Nazarbaev's visit to Russia.

The president of Kazakhstan will be discussing with President Putin the joint development of the Caspian Sea's oil and gas deposits, Russia's leasing of the Baikonur cosmodrome, and further ties among Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS, Collective Security Treaty countries.

However, the most immediate topic on the agenda is the ouster of Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev in March and its aftermath.

Russia and Kazakhstan have strong strategic interests in Kyrgyzstan. Besides the CIS, Kyrgyzstan is a member of several organizations that include Russia and Kazakhstan, for instance the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Community.
The most immediate topic on the agenda is the ouster of Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev in March and its aftermath.

John McCloud, who covers Central Asia as a senior editor at the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), says that for Russia and Kazakhstan what happens in Kyrgyzstan is of great significance.

"It's of great importance to both of them [Russia and Kazakhstan] because both administrations were rattled by what happened in Kyrgyzstan -- Kazakhstan because of the talk that it would be next and also because Kyrgyzstan is a key regional ally, in a sense a client of both countries," says McCloud.

Both Russia and Kazakhstan have already agreed to guarantee the implementation of a protocol on the terms of Akaev's resignation.

That does not mean either country approves of what happened there. Nazarbaev's position on the events in Kyrgyzstan is already clear. One week after crowds chased Akaev from power, the Kazakh president said that "what happened cannot be called a revolution. According to [Kyrgyzstan's] current leaders, it was banditry and pillage."

Putin has been more cautious in his comments on Kyrgyzstan's revolution. That contrasts with his position on events in Ukraine last year, where the Russian president openly sided with the pro-government -- and eventually losing -- candidate.

In recent weeks, Putin has met with a number of CIS leaders. After meeting with Putin earlier this week in Sochi, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov said that finding ways of preventing such crises -- as he described the situation in Kyrgyzstan -- was a primary topic of his conversations with the Russian president.

"Kyrgyzstan is a member of the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization], EURASEC [Eurasian Economic Community], the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States], and the Central Asian Cooperation Organization. I hope that in the course of our meeting we will be able to find mutually acceptable [ways] for resolving such crises," Rakhmonov said.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka also visited Putin earlier this week. At the start of this month, Lukashenka called the uprising in Kyrgyzstan "banditry" and vowed such a situation would never occur in his country.

Putin and Nazarbaev are certainly in a unique position regarding Kyrgyzstan. But as the IWPR's McCloud says, neither may know exactly what steps to take until the dust settles in Kyrgyzstan and the situation there becomes clearer.

"In principle, certainly Russia and also the Kazakhs have historically had a lot of influence [in Kyrgyzstan] -- obviously political and economic as well. But I think things are so chaotic that its difficult for them to even figure out perhaps what it is they want to happen. I think they certainly want to find people that they can deal with," says McCloud.

While the two presidents try to work out how best to deal with Kyrgyzstan, the new leadership in Bishkek must reckon with the fact that, without some support from Russia and Kazakhstan, it will prove difficult to govern there.

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