Cameron will go to Kazakhstan despite dubious record on rights

PM to visit dictatorship that is expected to play key role in Afghanistan military withdrawal

David Cameron is to pay a two-day visit to the dictatorship of Kazakhstan at the end of this month despite the country’s chequered human rights record. It would be the first time that a serving British Prime Minister has ever visited the Central Asia region.

A year ago there were reports that Mr Cameron had been “pressured” into a visit to the country by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was apparently eager to trade concessions over military transit for the prestige of hosting a major foreign leader on his home turf. Mr Cameron was reported at the time to be deeply uneasy about the visit, and in the end it never happened.

But a new visit was announced on Monday by a spokesperson for the Kazakh government, who said that Mr Cameron would visit the cities of Atyrau, Astana and Almaty during his time in the country. The trip will involve meetings with British oil and gas companies as well as official talks with Mr Nazarbayev, they added.

The visit will apparently involve an overnight stay in Kazakhstan and the spokesperson said it came about after Mr Nazarbayev invited Mr Cameron when they met at the Olympics in London last summer.

The Central Asian country is likely to play a key role in the withdrawal of military equipment from Afghanistan next year, and is being courted by nations with forces there, along with a number of other former Soviet nations in Central Asia. With increasing instability in Pakistan, the overland journey through Central Asia is the most reliable exit route for military hardware.

Mr Nazarbayev is one of several Central Asian leaders who have ruled their countries since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Political opposition is not tolerated and family members have built up influence – and, in some cases, fortunes.

While the human rights situation in Kazakhstan is not as bad as in some neighbouring countries, notably Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch says the climate has “seriously deteriorated” in the past two years.

In December 2011 there were clashes in the city of Zhanaozen between striking oil workers and police which resulted in police shooting dead at least 15 people, mainly unarmed protesters. Opposition political leaders have been jailed, and independent media outlets closed down.

However, because of the country’s huge reserves of natural resources, especially oil and gas, Mr Nazarbayev has often been given an easy ride on human rights by Western leaders keen to court the country’s natural resources. With the plans being made for the Afghanistan withdrawal, a new charm offensive is underway to get Central Asian leaders on board.

Kazakhstan has also been fertile territory for former Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose foundation has a multi-million pound contract to advise the government on political and economic reform.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Sport
Danny Cipriani of England breaks clear to score his second try
rugby
Life and Style
New research says leaving your desk can help you to avoid serious illness
health
Arts and Entertainment
tvSPOILER ALERT: Like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, this GoT episode was a belter
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral