12 June 2008 - NATO PA PRESIDENT JOSÉ LELLO IN GROUNDBREAKING VISIT TO KAZAKHSTAN
José Lello, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, has concluded the first official visit to Kazakhstan by a serving Assembly President.
In an extensive series of meetings, President Lello discussed the Assembly's relationship with the Parliament of Kazakhstan as well as broader issues such as regional security, Kazakhstan's cooperation with NATO, the situation in Afghanistan, and energy security.
Mr Lello said that his visit was a tangible expression of the Assembly's interest in Central Asia, and Kazakhstan in particular. As the only parliament in Central Asia which has a formal status with the Assembly, Mr Lello wanted his visit "to build upon the existing relationship and explore new avenues for dialogue and cooperation".
Parliamentary and governmental officials stated that Kazakhstan was keen to increase its cooperation with the Assembly, NATO, and other Euro-Atlantic organizations as a part of its "multidimensional" approach to security. Regarding cooperation with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the Speaker of the Senate, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, agreed that the Senate would host a Rose-Roth seminar in 2009 which would focus on matters such as regional security, Afghanistan, and parliamentary cooperation. Kazakhstan's Secretary of State, Kanat Saudabayev also accepted Mr Lello's invitation to address the Assembly's plenary sitting in Valencia in November.
Mr. Lello described the meetings as "very informative and productive" adding that he was pleased that his visit had opened the door to further engagement between the NATO PA and Kazakhstan.
At the conclusion of the visit, President Lello responded to phone-in questions on national television where he explained the Assembly's role as a parliamentary interface with NATO which played a critical role in underlining the Alliance's political dimension and explaining the Alliance's roles and missions to the public. "The Alliance is not just a military and security organization, but also a crucial political forum for a community of nations which share values and beliefs". He also underlined the need for legislators to play their part in addressing global threats such as international terrorism, the drugs trade, human trafficking and organized crime.
The two-day visit to Astana included meetings with the Speaker of the Senate, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (see photograph); the Speaker of the Majilis, Aslan Mussin; Prime Minister Karim Massimov; Defence Minister Danial Akhmetov; Secretary of State Kanat Saudabayev; Deputy Foreign Minister Nurlan Danenov and Deputy Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Duysenbai Turganov.
Kazakhstan was granted Parliamentary Observer status with the Assembly in 2004 since when a delegation led by Senator Rashit Ahkmetov has actively participated in Assembly Sessions and seminars.
José Lello, President of the NATO PA (left)