Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 123

The Kremlin announced yesterday that President Boris Yeltsin’s official visit to Kazakhstan, planned for June 30-July 3, is being postponed until September. No specific date was announced. The Kremlin cited scheduling conflicts as the reason for postponing the visit, during which Yeltsin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev were to have signed an “eternal friendship treaty.” However, disagreements between the sides may have been the main factor behind the postponement. Just hours before the Kremlin’s announcement, the Kazakh ambassador to Russia and the Russian ambassador to Kazakhstan, each acting on the assumption that the visit was still on, held briefings which exposed some of those differences.

According to Ambassador Tair Mansurov, disagreements persist on: –Delimitation of mutual maritime borders in the northern part of the Caspian Sea. –Russian use of the country-of-origin principle in levying value-added taxes in bilateral trade. Kazakhstan favors the country-of-destination principle, in accordance with international practice and World Trade Organization standards. –“Big questions” concerning Russian use of Kazakh military testing ranges, which, Mansurov said, amount to 4 percent of Kazakhstan’s land area.

According to Ambassador Valery Nikolayenko, disagreements persist on: –Trans-Caspian pipeline: Due to ecological and seismic “dangers that can be taken for granted,” Russia opposes the construction of oil and gas export pipelines from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan across the Caspian Sea. –Baikonur and other testing ranges: Russia will agree on financial terms of their use only after Kazakhstan ratifies agreements that would guarantee a Russian long-term presence at those ranges. “Russia was, is, and will be in Central Asia.” –“Large-scale joint industrial complexes”: Moscow wants to sign an agreement on creating such complexes in Kazakhstan.

On June 24, Moscow had announced that Yeltsin had declined to stop in Kazakhstan’s new capital, Astana, during the planned visit. That decision–and the public announcement–could only have shocked Nazarbaev, who attaches enormous political and symbolic importance to the new capital. (Russian agencies, June 24 and 25)–VS