Kazakhstan will have to wait for OSCE chairmanship
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's two-day visit to Kazakhstan ended yesterday. President Nursultan Nazarbayev received Lavrov with his Kazakh opposite number Marat Tazhin shortly before Lavrov's departure for Moscow. "We discussed implementation of the agreements concerning our cooperation in the fuel and energy sphere, including that in the sphere of atomic power, and cooperation in the space exploration and humanitarian spheres," Lavrov said. "Determination to do whatever it takes to promote and advance our relations was confirmed." According to Lavrov, Nazarbayev reminded the two foreign ministers of his own agreement with President Vladimir Putin that had made coordination of efforts in implementation of the Kazakh-Russian accords a prerogative of foreign ministries. Moscow suggested quarterly meetings to analyze progress and shortcomings so as to decide what was to be done to do away with the latter and Astana accepted the idea. "We've come up with a mechanism that may be called Road Map for Bilateral Relations," Tazhin said. "Consultations will become even more energetic and regular..."
No wonder the involved parties were so elaborate over how foreign ministers had reached an understanding on fulfillment of the agreements made by their presidents. Lavrov had to endure numerous requests from his Kazakh counterpart concerning various aspects of the bilateral relations. From Kazakh cosmonauts in Russian spacecraft crews to a new Baikonur launch site lease accord to the future joint development of the gas field on the border between the Atyrau and Astrakhan regions to "problems with gas transportation" [apparently to Orenburg - Vremya Novostei] to "cooperation and interaction between border regions".
Last but not the least, Astana urged Moscow to "put more effort into negotiations over construction of the Caspian Gas Pipeline" as agreed upon by presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan this May. This latter is particularly interesting and somewhat revealing as to what hurdles impede realization of the project. The presidents gave their respective governments until September 1 to draft international accords. The deadline reached and passed long ago, and Astana reminds Moscow of the fact. It may only mean one thing, namely that it is action (or inaction) on Moscow's part that impedes the project.
What information is available indicates that Turkmenistan shares this view too. Official Ashkhabad is displeased with the talks with Gazprom over the tariffs for the Turkmen and perhaps also Kazakh gas to be transported across Russia. Refusing to stop at $150 per 1,000 cubic meters, Turkmenistan demands the right to up the gas price in future whenever it is deemed advisable. Gazprom is paying Turkmenistan $100 nowadays. Ashkhabad hopes that the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline to Europe bypassing Russia will enable it to up the gas price to $300. It is with these figures in mind that President of Turkmenistan Gurbankuly Berdymuhammedov will be visiting Brussels a week from now (November 5-6). Insiders in EU headquarters say, however, that Berdymuhammedov is unlikely to get firm guarantees of a high price the Europeans are prepared to pay Turkmenistan. First, Ashkhabad has to convince the EU of availability of gas sufficient to fill export pipelines via Russia to China and Europe...
When in Astana, Lavrov spoke of "the necessity of making Kazakhstan the OSCE chairman by the rules adopted in this organization." A seasoned diplomat that he is, Lavrov chose not to mention the fact that Kazakhstan applied for OSCE membership in 2009. The OSCE Council of Ministers will discuss the matter again in Madrid, Spain, in late November.
The decision was never made last year because of the lack of consensus required by the very rules Lavrov mentioned. A group of Western countries led by the United States and Great Britain found Kazakhstan unworthy since democratic processes and human rights norms in this country were not up to OSCE standards. Astana was given a year to clean up its act.
The international community did not take what changes Kazakhstan carried out for steps in the correct direction. Nazarbayev's life presidency allowed for by the Constitution, establishment of a single-party parliament, scandals rocking upper echelons of state power - all of that puts the coveted OSCE chairmanship out of Astana's reach. Undeniably aware of it, the Kazakh authorities appear to be prepared to re-schedule their application for 2011.
Western members of the OSCE may accept it and grant Kazakhstan the chairmanship as long as the demands are met. As for OSCE chairmanship in 2009, it may go to Lithuania that applied for it for 2010. The West is even prepared to offer Vilnius financial aid.
Arkady Dubnov, Vremya Novostei, October 31, 2007, p. 5 © Translated by Ferghana.Ru