Kazakhstan pushes for OSCE summit, complains of "stagnation"
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Thursday pushed for a summit of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), to overcome what he termed the "stagnation" of the group - which his country chairs this year, DPA reported.
Kazakhstan's chair of the OSCE has itself proved controversial, given the country's questionable human rights' record.
Kazakhstan, as the first Central Asian country to chair the regional organization, would like the OSCE to focus on Afghanistan in 2009, the president said in a video address to the group's permanent council in Vienna.
"The 10-year interval since the last OSCE summit is an illustration of the fact that the consensus base is in stagnation, if not in crisis," Nazarbayev said.
The OSCE's "stagnation or disappearance would create a volatile vacuum in the Euro-Atlantic area," he added.
A split has emerged between OSCE member Russia and the other 55 countries of the organization - that also includes the United States - as Moscow has felt singled out on human rights issues.
Russia has consequently blocked a military observer mission in Georgia.
Although other OSCE countries share Kazakhstan's concerns about the future of the group, diplomats have privately expressed scepticism whether a summit would yield any tangible outcome, as it usually takes several years to prepare such events.
Nazarbayev said that security issues, including Russia's proposal for a new European security treaty, Afghanistan and the issue of tolerance should be on the agenda of the Kazakh presidency.
Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, who was present in Vienna, said it was the OSCE's task to help Afghans turn their country into a peaceful, democratic and self-sustained society.
While the Kazakh foreign minister stressed the OSCE's human rights dimension, human rights activists have questioned the country's record, and the OSCE itself has criticized Kazakh legal proceedings against an imprisoned government critic.
But Western countries have routinely reached out to Kazakhstan because of its proximity to Afghanistan, since its abundance in natural resources makes some think it can serve as a stabilizing force in the region. Those resources have also made it an attractive trading partner to many.