Syrian Peace Talks Launch Astana’s 2017 PR Campaign

Kazakhstan: Litany Of Abuses Continues, Even Under EXPO 2017 Spotlight

Kazakhstan has good relations with all participants but is likely to help sway the talks in Russia’s favour, the bne IntelliNews writes.

Kazakhstan aims to raise its international profile to a new level this year. The Central Asian nation will host the Winter Universiade – an international sporting event for university students – and the EXPO 2017 World’s Fair dedicated to “Future Energy”. It will also launch a financial services hub, namely the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC), which is to be run as a free zone with special economic perks and a legal regime based on English common law.

Astana will push all these events as evidence that Kazakhstan is a successful breakout nation and to burnish the image of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. This push will start on January 23 with an international “front page” curtain raiser when Astana mediates the Syria peace talks.

At first glance, you might assess Kazakhstan’s stake in the Syrian conflict as being somewhere near zilch, even though, embarrassingly, there are apparently 300 Kazakh nationals fighting for the so-called Islamic State (IS). Several terrorist attacks were perpetrated on the territory of Kazakhstan during 2016, but nobody has ever confirmed a direct link to the IS, let alone Syria.

Yet that did not stop Nazarbayev from volunteering for the talks as Kazakhstan took on a non-permanent membership role in the UN Security Council – something that will be promoted as another facet of the country’s big 2017 PR campaign.

To nobody’s surprise, Kazakhstan’s role as mediator has so far been widely dismissed as inconsequential. The talks were arranged by Moscow and will include officials from Russia, Iran, Turkey and the United Nations. An invitation was extended to the US by Russia, despite Iranian objections, but the incoming administration of President Donald Trump said it was too busy to attend.

Analysts don’t expect Astana to get much of a look-in, with the real business to be handled by the tripartite of Moscow, Ankara and Tehran. But independent Kazakh political analyst Dosym Satpayev says it might not be correct to completely reject Nazarbayev’s role in the talks.