- The Washington Times - Monday, February 1, 2010

ASTANA, Kazakhstan | When Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, Kanat Saudabayev, begins a five-day U.S. visit in Washington on Monday, one of the main topics of discussion is likely to be a proposal to hold a summit meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

As the first Asian country and the first former member of the Soviet Union to chair the prestigious organization, the government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev is taking its role very seriously and one of its ambitions is to organize a summit meeting of the 56 heads of state and government of the OSCE.

“The OSCE summit should become a sort of a crown jewel in our chairmanship and should set the stage for the further strengthening and developing of the OSCE,” Mr. Saudabayev told The Washington Times in an interview last week.

Given the monumental logistics involved, especially concerns over providing security to a large number of world leaders, no such summit has been held in the past 11 years.

The Central Asian republic, once a Soviet dumping ground of nuclear waste, storage of nuclear missiles and a vast testing ground for Moscow’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, has come a long way in the 18 years since its independence. Thanks largely to vast oil reserves, the country has pulled itself up by the bootstraps to become the new business bonanza of the east.

The Kazakh foreign minister is scheduled to meet with either Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. or National Security Adviser James Jones, according to a high-ranking source in the Kazakh capital, Astana. In addition to Astana’s effort to win Washington’s support for the summit plan, Mr. Saudabayev’s talks also are expected to cover terrorism.

“First of all we think it is the issues of security. After the tragic events of 9/11, the very notions of war or enemy changed radically. Now the biggest enemy is the terrorists who have no return address,” Mr. Saudabayev said.

“The situation in Afghanistan is directly related to this issue, where for the past eight years or more the situation unfortunately did not improve, rather it deteriorated, even though there has been an effort by the international community to resolve these problems,” he said.

“Without the stabilization of Afghanistan it is impossible to talk about the security and stability in our region and in general in the Euro-Atlantic community because Afghanistan continues to be the main source of terrorism and the main supplier of drugs,” the foreign minister said.

Kazakhstan supports the U.S. decision to boost the number of combat troops in Afghanistan, he said.

“I think other members of the international community should consider supporting this decision in kind. Because this will create conditions for the transfer of responsibilities for security to the Afghanistan government and I think that only once this is achieved the withdrawal can take place,” Mr. Saudabayev said.

“It would be extremely unwise to leave Afghanistan to its own devices right now without creating the conditions for a peaceful development, without creating the conditions for the Afghans to turn away from arms and to move to plowshares. If this is not achieved then the objective would not have been achieved and would precipitate, if not today, then tomorrow, the need to come back to Afghanistan once again.”

• Claude Salhani can be reached at csalhani@washingtontimes.com.

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