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Nazarbaev Urges Europe, Russia To Seek Compromise On Ukraine

French president Francois Hollande (right) reviews an honor guard alongside his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, in Astana on December 5.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has said sanctions are having little effect on Russia and that the West should seek compromise with Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.

Nazarbaev was speaking at a joint news conference on December 5 with French President Francois Hollande in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

The Kazakh leader said Russia and the West must find common ground "to resolve this crisis."

He said the confrontation over Ukraine "has not helped anyone, but has had a negative impact on the international political situation and the economy of Europe, Asia, and the world as a whole."

Nazarbaev added that "putting each other into a corner with sanctions does not give results" and that the impact of Western sanctions on Russia has been limited because Russia is "not very strongly integrated" into the world economy.

Nazarbaev also defended Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has come under fierce criticism from the West over Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

He described Putin as a "liberal" statesman whose policies are supported by the majority of Russian citizens.

Nazarbaev's remarks came after he held talks with Hollande, who arrived on December 5 for a two-day visit aimed at boosting bilateral trade and political ties.

The Kazakh president's press service quoted Hollande as saying that Kazakhstan had a "special role" to play in defusing tensions with Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

Hollande reiterated the EU's position that Ukraine's territorial integrity must be preserved and its eastern regions should be provided with "a certain degree of autonomy."

After meetings in Astana, Hollande is due to travel to Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty.

Activists have urged Hollande to raise human rights concerns with Nazarbaev.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) watchdog said in a statement issued on December 3 that it had a "number of concerns" over the human rights situation in Kazakhstan, including impunity for torture, the imprisonment of government critics, and control over the media as well as freedom of expression.

During the joint press conference, Nazarbaev asserted that rights and freedoms enjoyed by Kazakhs "are secured much better than in some European countries."

Nazarbaev, who has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, when it was a Soviet republic, has been accused of violating human rights and suppressing dissent.

He denied this accusations and said that Kazakhstan respects democracy but does not want to lose its "identity."

With reporting by, Kazinform, Interfax, and AFP