German President: Kazakhstan Is Region’s “Anchor Of Stability”

German President: Kazakhstan Is Region's "Anchor Of Stability"

ASTANA (Alliance News) – German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday hailed the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan as an “anchor of stability” in the often turbulent region of Central Asia.

Steinmeier, who was greeted with military honours earlier in the day by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the capital Astana, noted to reporters a “pleasing development of bilateral relations” between Germany and the world’s ninth largest country.

Nazarbayev expressed a similar sentiment, saying: “We are interested in expanding our relationships in all areas.”

Steinmeier, however, also noted room for improvement in Kazakhstan’s rule of law. Nazarbayev, who has ruled the country for more than two decades, is known to tolerate little dissent.

“We are also talking about reliable regulations, more rule of law and building trust,” Steinmeier told reporters.

Steinmeier’s visit was connected to an international exhibition dedicated to the future of the energy sector. The German pavilion in Astana promotes a transition to more environmentally friendly energy sources.

Kazakhstan is a major exporter of oil and natural gas, with Germany being a key customer. The exhibition’s topic of what constitutes a clean energy source is under debate. Russia is presenting nuclear power as the energy source of the future, while Germany has decided to abandon atomic energy.

Steinmeier arrived in Astana on Tuesday evening with his wife Elke Buedenbender and a business delegation. On Wednesday he visited a new Lutheran church and met with local members of Kazakhstan’s ethnic German minority. Some 180,000 residents of Kazakhstan – about 1% of the country’s population – are of German descent.

Many of the ethnic Germans in Kazakhstan are descended from settlers around Russia’s Volga River who were deported by Soviet authorities to Kazakhstan during World War II.

By Thomas Lanig and Peter Spinella