Kazakhstan aims to use its presidency of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to press for a resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan, the country's foreign minister said.




Kanat Saudabayev told Reuters in an interview that if Kazakhstan succeeded in staging the first OSCE summit in over 10 years in 2010, Afghanistan would be at the heart of it.


"Afghanistan could well become the most important subject of the potential summit of the OSCE," Saudabayev said, speaking through an interpreter in Berlin. "Convening such a summit will be the most important priority of our chairmanship."


The former Soviet republic is taking on the presidency of Europe's top security body despite criticism of its democratic institutions, with human rights groups pointing out that OSCE observers have not validated a single election in the state.


An OSCE summit staged by the oil-producing nation would be the first since an Istanbul meeting in 1999, but many leaders from the 56 member states have yet to be convinced by the idea.


Saudabayev, who was in Berlin to meet his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle, said a summit could revive the OSCE, which critics say has become increasingly ineffectual in recent years.


"For the past nine years the OSCE foreign ministers' council wasn't able to adopt political declarations, and I think this speaks volumes about the crisis in the organisation," he said.


Kazakhstan, which is separated from Afghanistan by Uzbekistan, believes U.S. President Barack Obama's new policy towards Kabul will give a "fresh impetus" to international efforts to bring stability to the region, Saudabayev said.


"Our president (Nursultan Nazarbayev) believes only military methods will not be enough to stabilise the situation there," he added. "To do that we need to pay more and more attention to the humanitarian side of efforts to stabilise Afghanistan."


Obama's plan, announced this month, to send an extra 30,000 troops to Afghanistan with a view to begin pulling out by the summer of 2011, was what was needed "as the final way out of the situation there," the Kazakh foreign minister added.


"Without the stabilisation of Afghanistan it's impossible to talk about stability in our region, but more generally about stability and security well beyond our region, so Afghanistan should be the main focus of international efforts," he said.


Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan act as transit nations for supplies to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. All but Kazakhstan have reported armed clashes with Islamists this year.


Asked whether Afghanistan would ever become stable as long as foreign troops were in the country, Saudabayev said: "I think the keys for the stabilisation of Afghanistan lie within Afghanistan itself." (Editing by Mark Trevelyan)