Russia, Kazakhstan in focus at annual European security meeting

Other News Materials 29 November 2007 09:57 (UTC +04:00)

( AFP ) - The OSCE gathers in Madrid Thursday for its annual meeting which will focus on Kazakhstan's bid to chair the security watchdog and Russia's threat to pull out of a key arms control pact.

Over 40 foreign ministers from the 56-nation Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe are taking part in the two-day gathering in Spain, which currently holds the rotating one-year presidency of the organization.

The extension of the OSCE's mission in Kosovo beyond the expiry of its current mandate at the end of the year and a possible role for the body in Afghanistan are among the other topics on the table.

Earlier this year Moscow announced it would as of December 12 stop implementing the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty that limits the deployment of tanks, aircraft and other heavy weapons across the continent.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the move is a response to US plans to set up missile defense sites in eastern Europe and NATO's own failure to ratify an amended version of the treaty.

The treaty was signed on November 19, 1990 in Paris by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact, the two opposing blocs during the Cold War. It was amended in 1999 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia ratified the updated treaty in 2004, but the United States and other NATO members have refused to follow suit, arguing Moscow must first withdraw forces from Georgia and from Moldova's separatist region of Trans-Dniester.

Officials from affected countries taking part in the gathering met to discuss the issue on Wednesday and Spain expressed hope that a compromise solution could be found during the sidelines of the OSCE meeting.

"There have been advances but we are not yet at the point of having found a solution," the Spanish foreign ministry's director for European affairs, Jose Pons, told a news conference before the meeting on Wednesday.

Participants are also set to reach a decision on Kazakhstan's bid to hold the presidency of of the OSCE in 2009 after Almaty adopted a number of written guarantees to address concerns regarding its democratic credentials, he added.

"The obligation of the (OSCE) presidency is to reach a consensus, we are dedicated to that and we think we are very close to this consensus," he said, addign the country could hold the post between 2009 and 2011.

Kazakhstan has lobbied hard for the presidency, arguing it has a stable political scene, multilateral foreign policy and strong economy which sets it apart from its former Soviet peers.

But several OSCE member states, including Britain and the United States, have expressed reservations because of Kazakhstan's democratic record.

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev's political party Nur Otan won all the seats in the parliamentary election held in August which the OSCE said fell short of its standards.