The UK values its strong, open and growing relationship with Kazakhstan. Energy security and supplies, together with the resultant commercial opportunities, are especially important. The UK is the third largest investor in Kazakhstan with over US$5 billion invested since independence in 1991. Bilateral trade is worth some US$3.5 billion annually.
Good governance and regional security issues will also feature prominently in the coming months as Kazakhstan assumes the chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010. We look forward to further progress on the governance and human rights commitments set out by Foreign Minister Tazhin at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Madrid in 2007. We have made it clear that the UK stands ready to help to ensure that Kazakhstan has a successful OSCE chairmanship.
The UK maintains a constructive and balanced relationship with Uzbekistan. That relationship also takes account of the EU sanctions regime imposed after the tragic events in Andijan (eastern Uzbekistan) in May 2005.
Our main priorities are to support good governance, democracy and human rights. We raise our concerns in a critical but constructive dialogue with the Uzbek authorities in Tashkent and in discussions with the Uzbek embassy in London. In addition, the EU has a comprehensive and results-oriented annual human rights dialogue with Uzbekistan, which includes a focus on the need for further progress in Uzbek promotion and protection of human rights.
Regional security is also a priority given the potential for instability in the Ferghana Valley (straddling the Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik borders). There are several factors that may contribute to unrest there: growing poverty, a fall-off in remittances, and the relocation of extremists from Pakistan/Afghanistan into central Asia. We believe that Uzbekistan could have an important and positive influence in Afghanistan and more broadly.
Kyrgyzstan remains one of the poorest countries of the region. Our main priorities are to support good governance, democracy and human rights. Members of the UK Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) visited Kyrgyzstan in September 2008, following a July 2007 Kyrgyz IPU visit to the UK. President Kurmanbek Bakiev faces an election on 23 July 2009, and we look forward to the post-election conclusions of the observation mission being undertaken by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which includes participants from the UK.
The Department for International Development runs a programme worth some £7 million per year that has key themes of governance, service delivery, accountability and some regional HIV/AIDS work.
Tajikistan is the poorest of the former Soviet republics and is faced by rising economic hardship caused by a slowdown in growth and a fall in remittances, as well as the risk of overspill from the conflict in Afghanistan. Our main priorities there are good governance, democracy and human rights.
The Department for International Development’s programme is worth about £6 million this financial year and is focused on private sector and rural development, good governance and improving the effectiveness of the international aid effort. DfID’s programmes also include some regional HIV/AIDS work. In 2008, the UK also provided significant emergency support in response to a major winter energy and humanitarian crisis.
Our priority is to support Turkmenistan in becoming a stable and prosperous partner for the UK and EU. We are pleased that UK companies are expressing interest and seeking to develop business links in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan can play a key role in the development of a southern corridor bringing gas from the Caspian region to the EU, and help diversification of supply routes to ensure energy security. To that end, we and our EU partners supported Turkmenistan's initiative last year for a UN resolution on the secure transit of energy supplies.
We are working to support further reform in Turkmenistan in contacts with the Turkmen authorities and stand ready to help the process in whatever way we can. In addition, the EU has a comprehensive and results-oriented annual human rights dialogue with Turkmenistan, which includes a focus on the need for further progress in Turkmen promotion and protection of human rights.
We are also looking to work more closely with the Ashgabat-based UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia and encourage substantive progress towards its core objectives (that include drug trafficking, terrorism and organised crime; environmental degradation, water and energy management; and issues relating to Afghanistan).
The central Asia region, and our relationships with its five independent states, is important to a number of the Government's strategic objectives.
The Caspian basin is a region of growing importance for world energy markets. Kazakhstan is set to become one of the world's top 10 oil producers. The UK will potentially be a major importer of central Asian gas. The diversification of supplies to ensure energy security, for example, by the development of a southern corridor bringing gas from the Caspian region via Turkey to the EU, is a key priority.
We remain concerned about human rights and shortcomings in democratic values and the rule of law in many parts of the region. We regularly raise these concerns in our dialogue with central Asian governments and continue to work with EU, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and other international partners to support real reform in these areas.
Central Asia is important to our efforts in Afghanistan as well as to combating drugs, the spread of religious extremism and international terrorism. With EU and other partners, we are monitoring the risk posed to regional stability by water management issues because of competing demands between upstream and downstream states.
We fully support the EU's Strategy for Central Asia. This aims to support the development and consolidation in central Asia of stable, just and open societies that adhere to international norms. It includes good governance, the rule of law, human rights, democratisation, education and training, and regional security and energy issues as key areas for co-operation.