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Nazarbaev Says Kyrgyz Conflict Threatened Regional Stability

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev speaks at the opening of the High-Level Conference on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination in Astana on June 29.
ASTANA -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has warned in Astana that the recent conflict in Kyrgyzstan has threatened stability in the region, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Nazarbaev, speaking at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Conference on Tolerance and Nondiscrimination, said the violence between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz was a "significant challenge" to the region and a "threat to all OSCE...states."

Nazarbaev proposed establishing an OSCE Tolerance and Nondiscrimination Center that he said could facilitate discussion between different ethnic and religious societies and contribute to conflict prevention in OSCE member countries.

The two-day conference was organized to help implement OSCE policies related to promoting tolerance, nondiscrimination, and intercultural dialogue, which Kazakhstan's OSCE chairmanship has listed as its key priorities.

Some 600 participants are expected to participate in the conference, including Knut Vollebaek, the OSCE high commissioner on national minorities; Janez Lenarcic, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights; Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media; Jorge Sampaio, the UN high representative for the Alliance of Civilizations; and Mevlut Cavusoglu, the president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.

Kazakh officials have trumpeted their role in working internationally and bilaterally to curb fallout from Kyrgyzstan -- most notably when it worked with Russia and the United States to seek a deal for ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev to leave for exile in April -- in part to counter the criticism engendered when their country was picked to assume the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE.

Kazakhstan took over the OSCE chairmanship from Greece in January. When bidding for the right to hold the OSCE chair, Kazakhstan promised to liberalize its laws on elections, the media, and political parties to bring them closer to democratic standards. But critics say any reforms carried out by Astana have been cosmetic.

Kazakhstan, the first ex-Soviet republic to assume the OSCE chairmanship, has never held an election judged free and fair by Western monitoring organizations. The lower house of Kazakhstan's parliament contains the members of only one party, Nazarbaev's Nur-Otan.