David Cameron became the first serving Prime Minister to visit Kazakhstan yesterday, as he began a visit to the mineral-rich country with hopes of boosting British trade.
Discussions were set to focus on trade and using Kazakhstan as an exit route for British equipment, as combat forces withdraw from Afghanistan. But the Prime Minister confirmed he would raise allegations of human rights abuses when he holds talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
An open letter to the Prime Minister, signed by Human Rights Watch’s UK director David Mephan, said the group had been documenting human rights abuses in Kazakhstan for over 15 years. Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said: “Kazakhstan might be knee-deep in oil and gas wealth, but David Cameron shouldn’t let lucrative energy deals prevent him from raising human rights during his trip.”
The Prime Minister responded by saying: “On human rights, in all the relationships we have, there’s never anything off the table.
“We raise and discuss all these issues and that will be the case in Kazakhstan as well.”
Stressing the economic benefits of the visit for the UK, Mr Cameron said: “We are in a global race for jobs and investment. This is one of the most rapidly emerging countries in the world.
“I have over 30 British businesses with me. We’re hoping to sign over £700 million worth of deals. That means jobs back at home and also investment in this rapidly growing economy.
“That’s what this is about. But of course nothing is off the agenda including human rights.”
Earlier, on a visit to Pakistan, Cameron promised to “stand together” with the country in the fight against terrorism following talks with his newly-elected counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
The Prime Minister said the battle required “tough and uncompromising” action but also efforts to combat the roots of extremism and radicalisation.
Mr Cameron also urged Pakistan to co-operate in creating a stable Afghanistan and pledged to go “further and faster” in boosting trade links between the two countries.
Speaking at the Pakistani Prime Minister’s official residence, Mr Cameron said both countries had a shared interest in the “battle against terrorism”.He said: “This is a battle that requires a tough and uncompromising security response.
“But it is also a battle that has to go so much wider.
“Countering extremism and radicalisation, investing in education, tackling poverty, dealing in all the issues that can fuel extremism and radicalisation.”
He added: “In this battle the friends of Pakistan are friends of Britain and the enemies of Pakistan are enemies of Britain.
“We will stand together and conduct this fight against extremism and terrorism.”