WASHINGTON – The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and the State Department today concluded a two-day discussion with a delegation of officials from Kazakhstan about the Central Asia country’s upcoming chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The meeting held in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center brought together U.S Government officials and Kazakhstani officials, including the Ambassadors to the U.S. and the OSCE, to exchange ideas about the challenges and priorities awaiting Kazakhstan when it begins its year-long term as Chair-in-Office on January 1. The Commission also facilitated a roundtable with several U.S. non-governmental organizations.
Discussion topics ranged from freedom of speech, media, association, and religion to the role of NGOs, as well as how Kazakhstan would respond to international crises or violations of OSCE commitments and lead institutions within the OSCE that monitor human rights and elections.
U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, raised the trial of human rights activist Yevgeniy Zhovtis, echoing concerns raised by the U.S. Embassy in Astana, the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and human rights organizations worldwide.
As Chair, Kazakhstan will lead the OSCE, setting the 2010 agenda to encourage compliance with commitments made by the Vienna-based organization’s 56 countries, covering democracy, human rights, rule of law, as well as political-military and economic dimensions.
“Despite Kazakhstan’s troubled human rights record, we are prepared to work with them as they assume the Chairmanship of the OSCE. Kazakhstan now must demonstrate it is willing to fulfill the responsibilities of such leadership by speaking out on human rights issues in the OSCE region and continuing needed work on its own democracy,” Senator Cardin said.
“The Chairman-in-Office must be a role model in upholding OSCE commitments. In the coming year, the Helsinki Commission will remain vigilant to be sure Kazakhstan, as chair of one of the leading human rights organizations in the world, keeps a spotlight on human rights violations throughout the 56-country OSCE region,” said Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission.
“The U.S. Mission to the OSCE is pleased that a Kazakhstani delegation led by Ambassador Abdrakhmanov visited Washington in advance of Kazakhstan assuming the important role of Chairmanship-in-Office of the OSCE. We welcomed the delegates sharing their perspectives on the issues and engaging in a meaningful dialogue with Members of Congress and the Department of State,” said Carol Fuller, Acting Chief of Mission of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE.
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