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Central Asia news

How Kazakhstan became the OSCE chairman

03.12.2007 11:47 msk

Vremya Novostei

Politics Kazakhstan

This skills with which the Kazakh diplomacy secured the OSCE chairmanship for its country deserves sincere admiration. As a matter of fact, this compromise is practically the only outcome of the meeting of OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers in Madrid, Spain, last week that is worth mentioning.

Kazakhstan will see its long-cherished dream of the OSCE chairmanship come true a year later than it expected - in 2010. Astana views it as a grandiose success and accomplishment. Being quite gentlemanly about it, it recognizes that the Kazakh application for chairmanship was regarded as a collective petition of the majority of CIS countries. Astana is even prepared to share the success with its CIS partners. The morning following the Madrid meeting, Kazakh political scientists and experts began praising Moscow for its invaluable support.

Granted that Russia's closest allies know what gratitude is, the hosannah sung to Moscow in this particular case looks somewhat exaggerated. The praise bores a strong resemblance to an apology for the discomfort the Russian Foreign Ministry leaders undeniably experienced in Madrid upon discovering that the battle for the Kazakh application at the meeting of OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers had been absolutely unnecessary. Their colleagues from Astana had successfully negotiated the task already but for some reason failed to notify the Russian allies of it.

It is the only conclusion to be drawn from the speeches Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Kazakh opposite number Marat Tajin gave in Madrid. Lavrov spoke with vigor of "the negative tendencies in evolution of the OSCE", of "the crucial time in the history of Europe", and the forthcoming "moment of truth" from the standpoint of some European security problems. Problems of Kosovo and the Treaty on Conventional Arms in Europe thus dealt with, the Russian minister came down to Kazakhstan whose "application for chairmanship backed by all CIS countries that constitute one fifth of the OSCE" encountered "the approach promoted by a certain group of states" out "to violate the principle of equality." "Unlike all others endorsed for chairmen without a problem until now, our Kazakh friends were compelled to prove their adequacy," Lavrov seethed. "This double standard is not to be tolerated." The Russian minister then blamed the OSCE for inviting "marginal and sometimes even outright phantom non-governmental organizations promoting extremist views" to its functions.

Speaking in the name of all CIS countries in the OSCE (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan), Lavrov condemned the OSCE Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and suggested on behalf of the seven states the draft "Basic principles of monitoring of national elections" (by this structure). As a matter of fact, the Russian Foreign Ministry had been displeased before the Madrid meeting with the "emphasis on the humanitarian aspect in the OSCE activities and neglect of the military-political and economic aspects."

Tajin's speech that followed was touchingly loyal to the OSCE in comparison. It turned out all of a sudden that nobody had been forcing anyone to do anything and that it had been Astana's own decision to prove its "adequacy" for the post of the OSCE chairman. Tajin promised that the government of Kazakhstan would "bear in mind the OSCE recommendations in promotion of democratic reforms", "in furtherance of the legislation pertaining election", "in the work on the new law on the media" and "liberalization of registration of media outlets" in 2008, and "in implementation of recommendations from the OSCE Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights with regard to political parties."

According to Tajin, the Kazakh authorities intended to "take measures to amend the law on election" with help from the Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and other OSCE structures. Measures to liberalize political processes and make them more transparent were already under way, he said. "We view the human dimension as the priority in the OSCE activities," the Kazakh diplomat pronounced. When the OSCE chairman, Kazakhstan will "promote observance of the basic principles of the open participation of non-governmental organizations in the OSCE activities" - without giving a thought to "marginals" or "extremist phantoms". Last, Tajin announced that Kazakhstan pledged to "preserve the OSCE Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights with its current mandate" and that it wouldn't "support any future attempts to weaken it."

All these promises secured the coveted chairmanship for Kazakhstan. Tajin and his Western counterparts must have known it in advance. The Kazakh minister had mailed a letter to the OSCE chairman on November 20 and pledged readiness to meet all demands and requirements. The OSCE posted it on its official web site only after the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Madrid. That was when Lavrov must have discovered it.

Arkady Dubnov. Vremya Novostei, December 2, 2007. © Translated by Ferghana.Ru