Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev got the red carpet treatment at Buckingham Palace this week after signing billions of dollars in investment deals in London.
The focus of the two-day trip, which started on November 3, was trade, and British Prime Minister David Cameron – fresh from hosting China’s leader Xi Jinping about to welcome Egypt’s Abdul Fattah al-Sisi – showed no sign of succumbing to pressure from campaigners to press Nazarbayev over Kazakhstan’s checkered human rights record.
Nazarbayev met Cameron and British businessmen and came away with 40 trade and investment deals worth around $5 billion, according to Nazarbayev's office.
One coup for Nazarbayev was an agreement for a British company to invest some $3.1 billion in a project to bring gas from the energy-rich west of his vast country to the capital Astana and the industrial heartlands.
Kazakhstan may have plenty of gas, but it lacks distribution capacity. So the deal reported by TengriNews for Britain’s Independent Power Corporation to build a gas pipeline and construct four gas stations is welcome for Astana.
Nazarbayev also secured agreement for British involvement in EXPO-17, a flagship international exhibition that Astana is hosting in two years, and investment in the steel and solar industries.
Kazakhstan and Britain are “partners in prosperity and partners in progress,” Cameron said in remarks quoted by The Independent.
Human rights did not feature on the public agenda of talks between Nazarbayev and Cameron, whose government said this month that human rights were no longer a “top priority” in foreign affairs.
“By welcoming Nazarbayev and continuing to support trade with Kazakhstan, the British government is propping up a dictatorship. Is this what David Cameron and [UK Chancellor] George Osborne mean when they talk about promoting ‘British values?’” asked Mike Whale, secretary of the Campaign Kazakhstan pressure group, in a letter to The Guardian.
Mihra Rittmann of Human Rights Watch urged Cameron to raise with Nazarbayev the case of Vladimir Kozlov, an opposition leader jailed on charges of fomenting fatal unrest in Kazakhstan in 2011.
As the president and his daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva, a deputy prime minister, prepared for lunch with Queen Elizabeth II on November 4, Kozlov’s lawyer Ayman Umarova gave an emotional press conference in Almaty, where she claimed she was being illegally barred access to her client and was concerned for his welfare.
Kozlov is also being denied visits from his wife, Aliya Turusbekova, because of alleged violations of prison rules that he denies, Turusbekova told EurasiaNet.org.