Austria and Kazakhstan have signed a new bilateral investment agreement, it has been announced.

People's Party (ÖVP) Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger also revealed yesterday (Tues) Austria has been helping the central Asian state in its preparations to chair the Organisation on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) this year.

The minister said: "As host country (of the OSCE), Austria has an especially close relationship with OSCE, and its current chairmanship is of special importance. A dozen Kazakh diplomats have taken courses at the (Austrian) Diplomatic Academy in preparation for their country's chairmanship. We will continue to assist them during the chairmanship."

Kazakhstan is the first former Soviet republic to chair the OSCE. Its term as chairman began on 1 January 2010 and will end on 31 December 2010.

Spindelegger also expressed concern about the situation in Kazakhstan. He said: "The success of its chairmanship (of OSCE) will be measured in part by how seriously the country takes its OSCE obligations in the areas of human rights, democracy and the rule of law."

Spindelegger and his Kazakh counterpart Kanat Saudabayev also signed a bilateral investment agreement at a meeting this morning in Vienna.

He said: "Austria has great interest in closer cooperation with that large Central Asian country. The investment agreement signed today is a good basis on which to build closer economic relations in the interest of both countries."

The minister added he also saw room for more bilateral cooperation in the energy area and facilities for industry and mining.

"The opening of an Austrian embassy in Astana in 2007 was a clear signal of our engagement in Central Asia. We want to intensify our relations with countries in the region in the economic, cultural and political areas," he added.

Austrian Times