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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA1668 2007-06-18 09:41 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Astana

DE RUEHTA #1668/01 1690941
P 180941Z JUN 07 ZDK

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ASTANA 001668 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/17/2017 
REF: A. ASTANA 1357 
     B. ASTANA 1033 
     C. ASTANA 1243 
     D. ASTANA 1454 
     E. ASTANA 986 
     F. ASTANA 1110 
     G. ASTANA 1415 
Classified By: DCM Kevin Milas; reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary:  In June 5-6 meetings with Assistant 
Secretary Boucher, Kazakhstani government officials defended 
recent constitutional amendments as far-reaching, while 
acknowledging the need for further reform.  Opposition 
leaders, by contrast, called the reform package a "step 
backward," arguing that even if the changes would have little 
immediate effect, on balance they strengthened presidential 
power.  Both the government and opposition are anticipating 
that parliamentary elections will be held in the near-term, 
and agreed with Boucher's assessment that the quality of the 
elections would be a good indicator of the government's will 
to undertake real reform.  The opposition identified the 
formation of representative electoral commissions as a key to 
assuring fair elections, and warned that the ongoing process 
of choosing commission members was heavily biased in favor of 
the ruling "Nur Otan" party. 
2. (C) Summary (continued).  On the economic front, Prime 
Minister Masimov highlighted the "thirty corporate leaders" 
program as the centerpiece of the government's 
diversification program. Masimov indicated a desire to 
finalize bilateral World Trade Organization accession 
negotiations during his planned visit to the U.S. in 
September; lead  negotiator Aitzhanova asked that the U.S. 
defer the "state trading enterprises" issue for multilateral 
negotiations.  While Foreign Minister Tazhin reiterated that 
Kazakhstan's only role in the gas pipeline projects announced 
last month in Turkmenistan was as a "transit country," 
neither he nor Masimov signaled strong support for a 
Trans-Caspian gas pipeline; both men indicated a preference 
for compressed natural gas shipments across the Caspian. 
Government officials downplayed any disruption caused by the 
Rakhat Aliyev case, while casting it as an exercise in the 
"rule of law"; opposition and civil society leaders suggested 
that Aliyev's abuses had alienated important factions of 
Kazakhstan's economic / political elite, forcing Nazarbayev's 
hand.  End summary. 
3. (SBU) During a June 5-6 visit to Kazakhstan, Assistant 
Secretary of State for Central and South Asian Affairs 
Richard Boucher, accompanied by Senior Advisor Caitlin Hayden 
and Charge d'Affaires a.i., met with the following government 
officials: Prime Minister Karim Masimov, Foreign Minister 
Marat Tazhin, State Secretary Kanat Saudabayev, Presidential 
Administration Head Adilbek Dzhaksybekov, Senate Speaker 
Kasymzhomart Tokayev, and Security Council Secretary Berik 
Imashev.  Boucher also met with opposition politicians Bulat 
Abilov, Tulegen Zhukeyev, Oraz Zhandosov, Galymzham 
Zhakiyanov, and Zharmakhan Tuyakbay; as well as 
representatives of U.S. businesses; editors and political 
scientists associated with "Mysl," a prominent political 
science journal; and a group of U.S. exchange program alumni. 
Assistant Secretary Boucher also toured the future site of 
the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination 
Government Defends Amendments; Acknowledges Need for More 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
4. (C) Dzhaksybekov mounted the most vigorous defense of the 
constitutional reforms, describing them as far reaching. 
Dzhaksybekov highlighted in particular the new role of 
maslikhats (regional and local legislatures) to approve akims 
(executive branch leaders); the transfer of sanction of 
arrest from the procuracy to the judiciary; state financing 
for political parties and non-governmental organizations; and 
Mazhilis approval of the Prime Minister and cabinet. 
Kazakhstan is establishing a system of political checks and 
balances that maintains strong vertical controls to ensure 
stability, he said.  While "we don't think there will be much 
change," Dzhaksybekov acknowledged, "we have laid the 
foundation for the opposition to expand in the future." 
5. (C) Dzhaksybekov explained that four pieces of legislation 
ASTANA 00001668  002 OF 004 
must be passed immediately in order to implement 
constitutional changes:  amendments to the laws on 
parliament, the government, the president, and elections. 
Dzhaksybekov indicated that, while a new media law was not 
required to implement the changes, one proposed by the 
Congress of Journalists was pending and would eventually be 
approved. &#
6. (C) Dzhaksybekov bridled at Boucher's observation that, in 
the West, the decision to lift term limits on President 
Nazarbayev had overshadowed the rest of the reform package in 
the public eye.  Dzhaksybekov termed the focus on the term 
limits "offensive," while Tazhin pointed out that the term 
limit amendment represented "a legal framework, not a 
political decision," adding that Nazarbayev's decision 
whether to run again would depend both on the political 
situation and on Nazarbayev's health.  The fundamental reason 
for the term limit change, Tazhin said, was to dampen 
political competition among aspirants to the presidency. 
Tazhin also spoke frankly about the origins of the amendments 
during a one-on-one meeting: "It was proposed in parliament," 
he told Boucher privately, "but we all know where it came 
7. (C) Both Dzhaksybekov and Tazhin reiterated the 
government's unwavering commitment to its bid to chair the 
Organization for Security and Cooperation, reviewing familiar 
arguments for Kazakhstan's candidacy, including the 
importance of setting an example for others in the region. 
"It is our decision and we won't give up," Dzhaksybekov 
declared, adding that Kazakhstan would do anything the U.S. 
wanted on reform "as long as it does not interfere with out 
strategic interests."  Tokayev also assured Boucher that the 
reform package was just the beginning: "the process will go 
on," he said. "The window has been opened by the amendments." 
8. (C) Dzhaksybekov and Saudabayev sounded Boucher out on the 
idea of holding parliamentary elections in the short-term, 
suggesting that elections would be a logical follow-on to the 
reforms, while being clear that no decision had yet been 
taken.  Dzhaksybekov indicated that the decision would depend 
"on the law and on the President's negotiations with the 
Mazhilis and the Senate," as Nazarbayev would have to 
dissolve the parliament for there to be elections.  Over 
dinner, Saudabayev told Boucher that President Nazarbayev 
will make sure that expectations for early parliamentary 
elections, resulting from the constitutional reforms, will be 
met, and commented later that elections held before the 
Madrid ministerial of the Organization for Security and 
Cooperation in Europe would "give Kazakhstan's candidacy a 
boost."  In reply, Boucher indicated that good elections 
would have a major impact on U.S. thinking; at the same time, 
both sides had agreed that more reform was also needed. 
Opposition: Changes a "Clear Step Backward" 
9. (C) While the consensus among the assembled political 
scientists seemed to be that, on the whole, the reform 
package was a positive development, the opposition leaders 
told Boucher that they viewed the reform package as a "clear 
step backwards," and voiced disappointment in the U.S. 
government's public assessment of the changes.  "I'm not sure 
how you managed to find one grain of democratic change in 
that huge pile of sand," Tuyakbay said.  Zhandosov claimed 
that, of 19 changes envisioned by the reform package, 16 
increased presidential authority.  The changes which appeared 
to rankle the opposition the most were the elimination of 
term limits for Nazarbayev (Abilov:  "Kazakhstan cannot be 
considered democratic with an eternal president.") and the 
expansion of presidential authority to dissolve the 
parliament.  Abilov warned that an additional amendment 
currently before parliament would prohibit the formation of 
electoral blocs, such as the one which Ak Zhol and the Social 
Democratic Party had just announced in anticipation of 
10. (C) Their criticisms registered, Zhukeyev and Zhandosov 
then conceded that, in the near-term, the practical effect of 
the (negative) changes would be minimal.  However, Zhukeyev 
said, the danger lay in the fact that the changes created a 
legislative framework for a future "tightening" -- one which 
might come, for example, on the heels of a failed bid to 
chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in 
ASTANA 00001668  003 OF 004 
11. (C) The opposition readily agreed with Boucher's 
assessment that the key next step was to ensure that the 
coming elections would be fair.  The politicians told Boucher 
that they were gearing up for a campaign:  "everything speaks 
to simultaneous local and parliamentary elections," Tuyakbay 
said, "and local elections must be held this year."  In this 
light, both the opposition and the political scientists 
identified the formation of representative electoral 
commissions as a key to the conduct of fair elections -- and 
as something that was already going wrong (Ref B).  Tuyakbay 
explained that the composition of Kazakhstan's 10,000 
electoral commissions would be determined by the end of July, 
and already opposition nominees were being rejected in favor 
of Nur Otan representatives.  (Tuyakbay indicated that, of 
6,000 nominees from his party, only 400 had been accepted. 
Abilov complained that only two Ak Zhol representatives had 
been accepted on to the estimated 500 electoral commissions 
in Almaty.)  What ultimately needed to happen, Tuyakbay 
suggested, was to change the way the commissions were formed: 
 currently they were elected by the Nur Otan-dominated 
maslikhats, but better that they be appointed by the 
independent Central Election Committee. 
Economic Priorities: Diversification, Infrastructure, WTO 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
12. (C) Prime Minister Masimov briefed Boucher on government 
efforts to attract investment into the non-extractive 
sectors, and thus further diversification, by means of a 
public/private "corporate champions" program (Ref C).  The 
idea, Masimov explained, was to prepare the environment so 
that companies could compete in the export market.  Toward 
that end, the government was planning to raise electricity 
tariffs and gas prices to encourage needed investment in 
generation capacity (Ref D), as well as encouraging investors 
to enter into road and railway projects.  Masimov explained 
that he had recently agreed with the Prime Ministers of 
Azerbaijan and Georgia to cooperate in building a continuous 
railroad line (including a Caspian shipping link) which would 
eventually run "from Hong Kong to Hamburg" (Ref E). 
13. (C) Masimov asked Boucher if it would be possible to 
target the second-half of September, when he would be in the 
U.S. for World Bank meetings, for finalizing U.S.- Kazakhstan 
bilateral World Trade Organization accession negotiations. 
Lead negotiator Zhanar Aitzhanova then lobbied for the U.S. 
to defer the issue of "state trading enterprises" to 
multilateral negotiations, "as you did for Russia."  Boucher 
agreed to pass both ideas to the U.S. Trade Representative. 
14. (C) Asked about Kazakhstan's plans fo
r transporting gas, 
Masimov began by commenting that "we don't have much (gas) 
yet."  Masimov noted that Kazakhstan was encouraging the 
Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline project as a way to supply 
gas to Southern Kazakhstan.  Characterizing the Trans-Caspian 
gas pipeline as "something that's been talked about for a 
long time," Masimov told Boucher that he personally preferred 
the idea of shipping compressed natural gas across the 
Caspian, telling Boucher that it was "simpler than a 
pipeline."  (Tazhin indicated the same preference in an 
earlier meeting.) Masimov informed Boucher that the deal to 
ship increased volumes of Karachaganak gas to the Orenburg 
refinery in Russia (Ref F) was "more or less finalized."  The 
government was interested in increasing the overall volume of 
salable gas, Masimov said, and to that end was opening 
negotiations with oil producing companies to encourage them 
to re-inject less, and sell more, associated gas. 
Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan 
15. (C) Tazhin told Boucher that he had recommended that the 
government take a closer look at what it could do in 
Afghanistan beyond investment or humanitarian aid; to that 
end, he had asked for a study on a project, costing around 
$50 million, to build roads connecting Afghanistan and 
Tajikistan.  Masimov later confirmed that the government was 
"ready to invest" and was "very close" to a decision on road 
and infrastructure opportunities.  Imashev indicated that the 
Afghanistan "economic program" would also include training 
for Afghan army and security forces in Kazakhstani defense 
16. (C) Tokayev informed Boucher that Kazakhstan had agreed 
ASTANA 00001668  004 OF 004 
to provide $100 million in loans to Kyrgyzstan during 
President Nazarbayev's recent visit there; humanitarian 
assistance had also been disbursed.  Masimov indicated that 
Kazakhstan was still interested in pursuing energy projects 
in Kyrgyzstan but to date "we haven't been able to find 
anyone in Kyrgyzstan who can make deals stick."  Masimov 
added that he would lead a delegation of investors to 
Kyrgyzstan during the second half of June.  Imashev told 
Boucher that the Kyrgyz government's "weak control" was of 
increasing concern, as it had led to a "concentration" of 
Hizbut Tahrir in the country.  Imashev then claimed to have 
"records" from criminal cases which confirmed that Hizbut 
Tahrir members in Kyrgyzstan had been "trained in terrorism." 
17. (C) Boucher raised the topic of the upcoming Shanghai 
Cooperation Organization summit with several of his 
government interlocutors, telling them that the U.S. strongly 
preferred that the issue of the Manas airbase not be 
discussed officially during the meeting.  Saudabayev promised 
to talk with Nazarbayev about the issue and try to keep it 
off the agenda. 
Assessing Rakhat Aliyev's Arrest 
18. (C) Interpretations of the Rakhat Aliyev case (Ref G) by 
Boucher's interlocutors fell into two camps:  government 
officials, when asked, tended to minimize the importance of 
the case, and explain it as an example of the "rule of law" 
which would play out in the court system.  The opposition 
representatives and political scientists, by contrast, 
largely spurned the "rule of law" argument in favor of the 
view that Nazarbayev's hand had been forced by Aliyev's 
abuses and a resulting groundswell of complaint by important 
elements of Kazakhstan's business / political elite, many of 
whom were familiar with Aliyev's "predatory" seizure of 
business interests, and were keen to eliminate any 
possibility of Aliyev succeeding Nazarbayev. 
19. (U) Assistant Secretary Boucher has cleared this cable. 


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